Learning To Drive In Thailand

learning to drive in thailand

I took the day off last week to go and watch my girlfriend learn to drive…Now, had we been in the UK, this would’ve involved me waiting in a centre or agency of sorts for her to return after enduring an hour of beeping white van men. But this was learning to drive Thai style…something I was yet to experience.

For starters, I was pretty shocked that she’d only paid 3,600 Baht for 20 lessons (70 quid) – that would get you two lessons back home, and even more shocked when we pulled up to what resembled more of an assault course than a driving centre. Okay, I’d seen these places before….but it still takes some getting used to, thinking that people here don’t learn to drive on roads. There is no getting stuck behind a first time learner driver in Bangkok, no, instead learners are confined to wasteland learning areas to bump cones and tyres and try to reverse park into makeshift spots.

I made sure I was fully kitted out with Buddha amulets before leaving the house, and I did warn the staff that they should probably close off near by roads. I also told my GF that pretty pink bowed sandle type shoes weren’t appropriate for learning to drive, however, in reply I got the “this is Thailand not England”.

learn to drive in bangkok

Four newbies were bundled into a Toyota Vios and shown the ropes by a fairly uninterested instructor, and after what seemed like only 30 minutes, each lady was given a ride of her own to start driving. My girlfriend was given the biggest car of all, at which point I told everyone to stand back – she is known for slight acts of clumsiness. Jokes aside, she did brilliantly. I was super-impressed. She kept a steady pace with no jerking (ooh err missus!) and didn’t run over any of the resident dogs.

She went for another lesson two days later and told me that she was left in the car alone for an hour to “figure it out for herself”, and apparently got quite cross with the instructor for not doing his job properly. It would seem that there is no “cotton wool” here when it comes to learning to drive. “This is how you do it, now get in and drive!” Seems to be the method. It’s a touch harsh, but considering by lesson 2 she was already whizzing round on her own, perhaps this approach works well.

bangkok driving

One thing I can’t figure out, and the centre hasn’t yet told her, is whether she will be doing any road driving at all, or whether the test is conducted on waste land or real roads. Most of the advanced students at the centre seem to be practicing reverse parking alone, and not on a street somewhere, so I assume it is all done off-road, which will make finally hitting those Bangkok streets pretty nerve wracking.


  1. says

    Ha sounds like quiet an experience, you think the Thai system is slack the USA is worse. So far I have taken two tests (No i’ve never failed!) one in the USA and the other in the UK. The test in the US was ridiculous, I never had a lesson. I had to put up with my father screaming obscenities at me for a few months until we booked the test.

    The day of the test it was snowing quite heavily and I was sure it would be cancelled but when we arrived all the test instructor decided to do change the test slightly. All I did was reverse in a straight line then drive for 5 mins on very quite snowy roads and return to the test centre safely. All this was done in an automatic! I then had a license to drive anything I wanted at the ripe age of 16.

    Do you drive in Thailand?


    • TheThailandLife says

      Wow, that makes Thailand seem pretty much the norm :) I have driven in Thailand and always hire a car when we go out of town, but to be honest for me a car is pointless in Bangkok when the subway is so efficient – they have extended the line another 5 stops too. I had a bike for a while here but feared for my life so sold it. You must be days away from your flight…enjoy your last few days in the yukes!


      • says

        Yeah only a few days left now, will be in Bangkok for one evening on the 24th with a very early connecting flight to Chiang Mai in the morning. Looking forward to it with a wee bit of trepidation!


  2. says

    In Thailand, they don’t teach you how to drive, they teach you how to pass your driving test. My girlfriend just went through all of this, passed her driving test on the first try, and she doesn’t know how to drive at all. She really should not be on the road, but the Thai government was willing to give her a license that stated otherwise.


    • TheThailandLife says

      that is pretty sad…perhaps that is why there are such a high percentage of road traffic accidents here. I guess more stringent testing will mean higher costs that most can’t afford…something should be done to raise standards though.


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