The first thing you notice is that Thai drivers drive where they like, hard shoulders become another road if there
are traffic queues, and not just to go the same direction as the traffic! In Thailand they drive on the left (some of the time), as they do in the UK.
Out of town too, the hard shoulders are another road to the Thai drivers so don’t be surprised when you see a motor cycle or pick-up coming towards you on the hard shoulder, and don’t flash your lights to let a car pull out, in Thailand a flash of the headlights means ‘I am here – don’t even think about pulling out’.
Do get an International Driving License, available from the Post Office, RAC or AA at only £7.50 for one year, in the UK.
At busy road junctions when turning on to a major road keep nudging out until the other cars have to let you go or you’ll sit there all day waiting. Like in the United States, if the lights are on red you can filter to the left (right in the states) but not if there’s a separate set of lights controlling the left turn!
Almost every house has at least one motorbike, they are mostly 100 cc – 125 cc Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki. Don’t be surprised if you see 3, 4, 5 or even 7 on one motorbike! How those little bikes cope is a mystery. Be aware that you will not get any indication of where the bike is going to go next, and they will often shoot across the road in front of you without looking and without any warning. Don’t be surprised if they drive towards you on the wrong side of the road, motorbikes in Thailand go where they like, when they like. Many of them have lights that do not work, are not registered or insured, and most riders have no
driving license. Not many wear crash helmets, although the government is trying to educate them that it is a good idea, and not expensive, as you can get a crash helmet in Thailand for as little as 200 baht (4 GBP).
Pick-up trucks in Thailand are far more popular that family cars, as they double up as a utility vehicle for transporting goods such as furniture, building materials, farming items, cows, bulls, pigs and almost anything you can think of. They also get used for transporting people in the back, I have seen as many as thirty people in the back of one pick-up.
Be wary of busses, most bus drivers are crazy, they drive very fast, never pull over from the outside lane, overtake when there is traffic coming the other way,
forcing drivers onto the hard shoulder or verge. This applies to busses, coaches and mini-busses.
There are not many speed cameras in Thailand, just a few in Bangkok, but they are relatively new. Everything is measured in Kilometres, so if you are used to miles per hour, speeds appear to be faster if you are looking at your speedometer. 100 Km per hour is approx. 63 miles per hour. The speed limit on most out-of-town roads is 90 Km per hour (55 miles per hour).
Petrol is cheap, about 30 baht a litre (about 40 p), all petrol stations are usually attended service, and at most of them you’ll get a free bottle of water or something else will a full tank. There is a higher percentage of diesel
engined cars in Thailand than in the UK, and diesel is cheaper than petrol. A large number of cars, taxis, and lorries use LPG, and they are lots of LPG stations around. This is much cheaper than both petrol and diesel.
Thai drivers don’t take a lot of notice of pedestrian crossings, In Thailand pedestrians don’t get the right of way! and when crossing the road ALWAYS look both ways, as bikes in particular, and some cars take no notice of one-way streets or dual carriageways, and will come the wrong way.
Watch out for the local Police on their little motorbikes.
Hiring a car is usually cheaper if you hire it from the local Thai Office of Budget or Hertz than if you book in
the UK. I’ve nearly always used Budget, the local office there speak good English and will meet you off the plane with the car, and collect it from you when you return to the airport. If you want a long-term car hire, that is for one month or more, then you are best choosing a local independent company, who will offer you long-term renting much cheaper.