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Tips for Expats Driving in Chiang Mai

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Chiang Mai.
Tips for Expats Driving in Chiang Mai

1. Understanding the Driving Culture

Driving in Chiang Mai can be quite different from what you’re used to. The traffic can be chaotic and the driving rules are not always strictly followed. It’s common to see motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic, and drivers often don’t use their indicators. It’s important to always be alert and cautious when driving.

2. Type of Vehicle

Many expats and locals prefer to drive scooters or motorbikes due to the heavy traffic and narrow streets. However, if you prefer a car, a small, compact car would be the most practical choice. It’s easier to navigate through the traffic and find parking with a smaller vehicle.

3. Parking

Finding parking in Chiang Mai can be challenging, especially in the city center. However, most shopping malls, hotels, and some restaurants offer parking spaces. Parking is usually free or very cheap, but it’s always a good idea to check beforehand.

4. Driving License

Foreigners can drive in Thailand with an International Driving Permit (IDP) for up to 90 days. After that, you will need to get a Thai driving license. To do this, you will need to go to the Department of Land Transport with your passport, a medical certificate, your IDP, and a proof of address. You will also need to pass a written test and a driving test.

5. Road Safety

Always wear a seatbelt when driving a car or a helmet when riding a motorbike. It’s not only for your safety but also required by law. Also, be aware that drink driving is a serious offense in Thailand and the legal limit is lower than in many western countries.

6. Be Prepared for Traffic Jams

Traffic in Chiang Mai can be heavy, especially during rush hour. It’s a good idea to allow extra time for your journey or consider alternative routes.

7. Be Respectful of the Royal Family

It’s important to note that when the national anthem is played (usually at 8 am and 6 pm), everyone is expected to stop their vehicles and stand still. This also applies when a royal motorcade passes.

8. Be Aware of the Weather

During the rainy season (May to October), roads can become slippery and visibility can be poor. Be extra cautious when driving during this time.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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