Car Rental in Thailand: Where History Meets Modernity
Thailand is a wonderfully multifaceted travel destination, where supreme beaches are mixed with ancient and modern temples, busy cities and serene rainforests, and excellent food is to be found everywhere, from the cheapest to the finest of dining experiences. Automobile hire is a great way to get off the beaten track and explore specific regions of Thailand in more intimate detail. Explore, for example, the orchid farms, elephant camps, and waterfalls of northern Thailand by renting a car in Chiang Mai and heading towards Chiang Rai. Phuket is also a great place to explore by rental automobile, as other modes of transportation are limited, and you will definitely want to explore the island far beyond the poolside!
The most popular time to visit Thailand is during the cooler season, November to February, though this dry season extends into May in the north. Particularly in southern Thailand, monsoon season extends from May through October.
Thai is the official language of Thailand, a tonal language like Mandarin and Vietnamese. Since 2011, English has become increasingly compulsory in schools, meaning that the younger generations are likely to have some proficiency in English. Road signs are also typically in both Thai and English.
Economic exchange takes place in the Thai baht, which is easily accessible via ATMs in any metropolitan area. If you are planning on travelling to remote areas of Thailand, it is recommended to bring sufficient cash with you, as currency exchange or ATMs will be increasingly scarce.
Car rental is available in all the major cities and tourist destinations of the country, particularly Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai.
Driving in Thailand
Road conditions are significantly better in Thailand than in neighboring countries, but it will still be necessary to be alert while driving and to drive defensively, as there’s an awful lot taking place on Thailand’s roadways – and with good reason! Hire a car – and consider also hiring a driver – to experience Thailand’s landscape and cultural variety at its most intimate.
- Traffic proceeds on the left-hand side of the road, though you may find that many rental cars are right-hand drive.
- The speed limit on motorways is 120 km/h.
- On highways, the speed limit is between 80 and 90 km/h.
- In towns, the speed limit is 50 to 60 km/h.
- You can expect traffic congestion in any metropolitan area. Plan to add an hour or two to your drive into any of Thailand’s cities.
- Parking in cities can be challenging, but is typically made clear via signs. If you do have to pay for parking, you’ll be approached by an attendant, who will give you a marker to place under your windshield wiper.
- An international driver’s license is required, as many rental agencies won’t lease a car unless you have one, and your insurance will be invalidated without one. You can drive on an international driver’s license in Thailand for a full six months.
- Most motorways and expressways are tolled as you enter them, and you pay by cash, often around or slightly less than 45 baht per toll.
- It is mandatory to carry both your driver’s license and passport with you whenever driving.
- The minimum driving age is 18.
- The inhabitants of over sixty nations are permitted to visit Thailand visa-free for between 14 and 90 days, depending on your country of origin. Double-check which category you belong to before you book your hotel or hire your car.
- In any of Thailand’s larger cities, avoid driving in the far left lane, as it is typically used for brief halts and the loading or unloading of trucks.
- Keep an eye out for the ubiquitous and surprisingly daring moped and motorcycle drivers, and leave them some extra space between your car and the next when in traffic jams or at red lights. They’re going to squeeze into the smallest of gaps anyway, so you may as well avoid any inadvertent damage to your car from the start.
- Drive defensively in Thailand. Be alert, and use your side and rearview mirrors to keep a good sense of your surroundings, particularly in city traffic.
- Driving at night, particularly cross-country, is not recommended. Many trucks reserve transport to the nighttime and a lot of locals drive without headlights, making night driving a busy, surprising, and dangerous ordeal.
- Particularly in Bangkok, the flow of traffic can change on specific streets depending on the time of day or the mood of the current government. Take pictures of the car you rent when you pick it up and drop it off, and ask your rental provider to write down any damages to the car that he or she can see before and after you rent it. Keep a copy of these documents to avoid any unfair additional charges.