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Rental and Self Driving

Many tourists in Thailand use a rented vehicle when traveling in the country. Some of them, however, without knowing the differences or being aware of the traffic laws, the written and unwritten ones.
Traffic Rules and Regulations

Foreigners must have an international driving license.

Thais drive on the left. If you are not used to this, you will need more concentration for the first days. However, it is easy to get accustomed to it.

Passengers on the front seats must wear seat belts.

Helmets are obligatory for motorcyclists nationwide.

Major cities and tourist attractions are signposted in Thai and English language as well. The road numbers are indicated on small, white signposts as well as on the kilometer stones on the roadside recognized by the engraved god-bird Garuda.
A good road map, with road numbers indicated, is a must.

The traffic signs correspond with international standards. The yellow sign for:  “attention – sharp curve” is very useful as its black arrow exactly describes the following bent.

The speed limit is 50 km/h within towns, 90 km/h outside built-up areas and up to 120 km/h on motorways. However, many Thais do not keep up with this regulation and it seems that especially in cities everything is permissible. Driving on national roads and highways, be aware that the stronger ones will win, meaning that buses and trucks never give way!

It is recommended to drive defensively. Do not follow the careless overtaking of some local drivers.

Do not drive at night. Furthermore, unknown routes and unlit bicycles or motorcycles can be very dangerous. It is strongly advised to stay overnight in a hotel or guesthouse; most of the hotels have a car park for guests. 
Rental Agencies

Most of the places where you can rent a vehicle will hold on to your passport for deposit. Only a few of them accept a copy. Unless you pay by credit card, there is no need for deposit of any document.
Motorcycle Rental

Unfortunately it does not happen rarely on Ko Samui or Ko Tao to see a nicely tanned tourist limping over the street with the arm in a sling – most probably a victim of a motorcycle accident! In Pattaya nearly every day during high season one motorcyclist is killed in an accident.
In all touristic places motorcycles for rent (150 to 250 Baht/day) are available. Even many guesthouses and bungalow resorts include motorcycle rental in their services.
The small Hondas are suitable for day trips, for long journeys with two people and luggage there are not recommended! The road safety of many rented motorcycles leaves much to be desired. In Thailand it is obligatory to wear a helmet and most rental agencies offer helmets as well. Driving without helmet is almost everywhere fined with 500 Baht and there often are controls. Many tourists like to ride a motorcycle only wearing shorts and thongs, therefore even small crashes lead to severe skin-abrasions.

Occasionally the international driving license is demanded, however most rental agencies ask for deposit of the passport. We advise you against this procedure in Ko Samui, as it already happened that some rental agencies kept the passport even when there were only small scratches on the bike. It is recommended to deposit there your identity card instead.

If you plan to rent a motorcycle often, it is better to put your own jet helmet in your luggage. The rented helmets do not always fit very well. To turn on the headlights in daytime helps you from being overlooked. It is advisable to drive as much on the left as possible, especially in corners. The bag or day pack should be well fixed in the basket, as there are some motorized pilferers.
Liability insurances for rented motorcycles in Thailand only cover bodily injury, but not material damage. In case of an accident foreigners are obliged to pay a compensation. The other party is usually unable to pay. In Thailand a motorcycle is involved in every fourth road accident, in the countryside even in every second one.
You can ask your airline for special conditions, when you intend to bring your own motorbike to Thailand. Usually the fully packed bike can be driven on a pallet and then it will arrive in Bangkok with the same airplane.
A very interesting route for motorbikes leads from Ubon in the East along the Thai border to Mae Sai in the North and Umphang in the West. You can enjoy amazing experiences while riding through rural Thailand. It is recommended to do this trip in about six weeks. Everywhere you can easily find accommodation as well as staying in the National Parks where you can put up your tent.  

Very helpful for motorcyclists in northern Thailand is the website of the Golden Triangle Riders at

In many tourist places you can find bicycles for rent. However, they are sometimes not roadworthy and not very comfortable either. Also mountain bikes are in a similar condition. If you intend to cover a long distance by bicycle, it is better to bring your own bicycle or to buy one in Thailand. Dedicated cyclists can ride on quiet countryside roads using a good map and our brief descriptions, for example from Bangkok to the North, the Northeast and the South. Our cards indicate the recommended bike routes, especially the countryside road from Kanchanaburi to Ratchaburi, from Phetchaburi via Cha-am and Hua Hin to Kuiburi, from Ban Krut via Bang Saphan to Chumphon and from Lang Suan to Surat Thani – or across the mountains to the Andaman Sea to Takua Pa.
You can charter a pick-up for a short distance or you can transport your bicycle by train (except in Express and Special Express Trains). Buses may even put your bike in the luggage compartment or on the roof, if there is space for it. If not, you have to dismantle your bicycle.
In Thailand only poor people in the countryside ride a bicycle. When they can afford it, they will buy a motorcycle or a car. It can occur that a tourist on a bicycle is looked down and many times they will be pushed from the road by trucks.
Generally spoken, large cities, especially Bangkok, is not suitable for cycling. The roads are dangerous and the pavements are busy and full of traps. The best time for a planned tour is during cool season (November to February), away from the main roads, for example along the Mekhong from Chiang Khan via Nong Khai, Bung Kan, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan to Ubon Ratchathani. Many guesthouses who rent bicycles offer a map with interesting routes for day trips as well. In Pai and Chiang Khong you can rent good quality mountain bikes.

Organized tours are also offered in Chiang Mai and Nong Khai. In some provinces (for example in Phang Nga) there are very active cyclists who can recommend excellent round trips.
Every year on the third week of October the Mekhong Challenge Tour takes place in Chiang Khong. This two-week trip leads through China, Laos and Cambodia.
Car Rental
In order to rent a car in Thailand, the international driving license is required. However, it is not recommended to make your first driving experiences with Asian traffic in Bangkok. Besides driving on the left-hand side there are a few other traffic rules, but they are not taken very seriously. The traffic chaos in Bangkok is only the beginning. In the countryside large vehicles such as buses or trucks always have right of way and you should be prepared to accept the misconduct other drivers. The side-strip is used for slower vehicles and to give way for cars overtaking from the opposite direction. The speed limit on highways is 90 km/hour, on motorways 120 km/hour. Thai people who are caught by the police for committing a traffic offense often get away with 200 Baht. The red tape as well can be accelerated with small amounts of 'speed money'.
When traffic policemen claiming the radar detected that you broke the speed limit, you should pay the fine they ask you. The fine for breaking the speed limit is normally 200 Baht. A receipt will not be issued.
In remote areas you will not find signposting at highways or main roads in Latin letters. A road map that indicates the places in both Thai and Latin letters is very helpful. The maps in this website are especially designed for this. By far the best road maps are new maps from ThinkNet, which you can find especially at 7-eleven shops at the petrol stations on the highways (120 Baht). The Thailand Highway Map A to Z is quite practical. This is a road atlas with maps (Thai and Latin names) on a scale of 1:1,1 million and several city maps as well.
A liter of unleaded petrol costs 35 Baht per liter on large petrol stations. Smaller petrol stations where the petrol is pumped out of barrels charge up to 40 Baht per liter and the same amounts to the 0,7 liter bottles sold on street stands.
Middle class rental cars cost everywhere in Thailand about 1500 to 2200 Baht per day, for rentals of 7 days or more for 1300 to 1900 Baht. In Phuket you can find inexpensive local rental agencies that charge only 1000 to 1500 Baht. In tourist places Jeeps (about 1000 Baht per day) and pick-ups (800 Baht, suitable for up to 10 people) are available for rent. It is a common procedure in most places to bargain for the price when renting for a longer period. The renter who holds a credit card has to be prepared to leave an open charge to secure the vehicle rental, which is not a problem at all with reputed rental agencies. However, to deposit the passport is grossly negligent.?? unverständlich! Oben, unter 'Rental Agencies' habe ich überstetzt, dass die meistens eine Passporthinterlegung verlangt wird??
Avis (www. and Hertz offer one way rental service between Phuket, Ko Samui, Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Budget (1800-283438, toll free number, between all offices from a rental period of 7 days or more, no supplementary charges. You can find addresses of car rental agencies under our destination pages, chapter “service”.

It is not recommended to pay the full rental in advance, but a deposit of a security instead. In case of a breakdown you will find yourself in a more favorable position. Liability insurance is required by law. International insurance companies offer an insurance with low excess payment for tourists. According to Thai law the person causing the accident has to pay for bodily injury a compensation of 10,000 to 200,000 Baht to the victims, depending on the gravity of injuries. A foreigner who is involved in a car accident in Thailand will always be guilty! In case of legal advice you can contact your embassy.
International car rental companies such as Avis and Budget have offices in several Thai cities. Both of them offer reliable vehicles.

For reservation in Thailand:
Avis, phone (02) 2511131,; Budget, phone (02) 2030250,

Local car rental agencies advertise in local brochures distributed in many hotels. Information about address or phone numbers of local companies are also available at the tourist office. It is important to be exactly informed about the service they offer, especially if you plan a longer journey. Compared with Avis or Budget, local agencies have often difficulties regarding break down services or offering a replacement vehicle.
Before agreeing on any contract you are strongly advised to do a test run and to check the brakes, steering and the horn as well. Serious rental agencies check the car together with the customer and they will mark any damage (even tiny scratches) and keep it together with your contract documents. Besides Avis and Budget several local rental companies offer car insurances with an excess as well. But be aware: some contracts say that the rental company can charge you for every day that the vehicle is in a garage for reparation. And it can take some time for spare parts to arrive.
Car Insurances
Without insurance the person who rents a car has full liability for all costs in case of an accident. Even a small accident can lead to very high expenses.

Tip: The owners of credit cards should ask their bank before departure, if the insurance package which accompanies the credit card includes a liability and personal accident insurance (PAI) for rented cars as well.
Recommended: Avis and Budget offer personal accident insurance (PAI) and an additional insurance for collision damage waiver (CDW).
Accident – what to do?
A car accident where foreigners are involved can turn out to be a very long and difficult procedure. Most policemen speak little or no English. So, in the event of having an accident you should contact immediately the tourist police and your rental agency (you must remember to write these numbers down before you leave). Minor damages to a third party should be resolved by agreeing to pay an appropriate amount of money. It will be much more complicated, however, if people are injured. If the foreigner does not have enough cash or cannot rely on an insurance covering the costs, it can be expected to spend some time in jail.
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