Thailand is a fantastic country globally known for its majestic beaches, and lush mountain ranges. However, it is also notoriously known for having some of the most dangerous roads in the world too. The decision to drive on your trip whether you are over for business, or simply taking a vacation isn’t one to take lightly.
In today’s article by Kwiksure, we will highlight 10 safety tips that we consider important to know before you take to the roads in Thailand.
1. Drive on the left side of the road
For foreign visitors, the most noticeable difference is that driving occurs on the left side of the road. It can be strange to parallel park on the left, make a left turn at the traffic lights or halt to oncoming traffic when making a right turn at the junction. Nonetheless, we recommend doing your research on Thai traffic laws and understanding road behavior to help you drive safely but also responsibly.
2. Indicate to others of your presence
In Thailand, a polite honk from your car horn will make another driver know of your presence. Roads in Thailand can be narrow especially the small - Soi (alley) - that you may find yourself driving through. In places where vision is obscured or lighting is poor, using your car horn can alert others of your presence.
Honking, like in any other country, is not to be used to express anger or frustration. Remain calm and composed by driving assertively and confidently.
3. Don’t assume that drivers will stop at intersections
Our tip here is, not to underestimate other drivers at intersections where roads meet. Thailand is well known for drivers passing through red lights only to meet the demise of oncoming traffic from another road. You might find a small intersection without traffic lights which means you have to slowly - creep and crawl/peep - whilst making observations for on-coming traffic. More than anything, check for motorcyclists trying to squeeze pass within inches of your vehicle or whizzing past at high speed without bothering to check for you emerging.
4. Be wary of crosswalks
You will find designated crosswalks for pedestrians, often paired with traffic lights in many busy areas. Unless there is a footbridge nearby, pedestrians will most likely cross at these points.
So be sure to keep an eye out for pedestrians crossing spontaneously even when the traffic lights indicate green for vehicles. It is best to observe the movement of pedestrians around you and drive forward slowly until you know it is safe to continue forward on your journey.
5. Use lanes as guidelines
Thailand’s main roads especially in the city are well marked and highlighted with guidelines to ensure that traffic is directed correctly. However, it is important to be aware that some drivers and motorcyclists weave back and forth, in and out to the point you might be concerned about your safety.
To be safe, use the guideline and never assume that drivers in front or beside your vehicle will stay in their lane.
6. U-turn with caution
U-turning requires special care and skill as you navigate to the road heading in the opposite direction. What is important to note is that at U-turns you are effectively moving into the fast lane which can be a serious hazard to oncoming traffic, if not done correctly.
Here is how to do it safely:
- Firstly, make the necessary observations around you, especially for possible pedestrians that might be crossing and weaving motorcycles that are passing by.
- Now at the point of turning, you will need to slowly creep and crawl, allowing on-coming vehicles to clearly see you. Remain visible at all times to approaching traffic.
- Next, make the right judgment and estimate the distance and speed of oncoming traffic. By making sure you have sufficient time and distance between your vehicle and oncoming traffic, you can choose to accelerate and gain speed without causing oncoming traffic to significantly slow down.
- Once you are across into the lane, indicate any lane change or continue at the right speed for that particular lane.
Parking in Thailand is generally unrestricted and dependent on the location you visit. On roads in suburban areas, you are likely to find cars parked halfway into the bushes, or along narrow streets, where they often go past the curbs and onto the walkway.
When looking for parking, as a driver you should respect the space of other road users and park sensibly where the vehicle does not pose as a hazard.
Drivers should look out for signs that indicate any parking restrictions such as, ‘No parking between 7 am - 7 pm’ and also think of whether your parking maneuvers will affect other road users.
8. Wear your seatbelt
Since April 2017, a new law came into effect mandating passengers in the rear of the car to wear seat belts. You may be wondering why but this is due to Thailand’s poor record when it comes to road safety.
According to the World’s Health Organisation, Thailand’s roads were ranked as the second most lethal in the world after Libya. So whether you are the driver or on a road trip with your friends, it is imperative that you have your seat belt on at all times to abide by the law.
9. Be aware of carts, food stalls, and taxis along the road
When on the road, you will find endless food stalls lined along the walkways selling some of the best street food you can ask for. The problem is that there will be drivers that drive up to these stalls and park abruptly especially taxis.
Many food carts can also be seen being pushed along the road which makes for a road hazard if you are driving too close.
The best advice is to drive slowly and have the vehicle at least a meter from them to avoid contact. Always check your side mirrors and rear mirrors and indicate your intentions so other road users are aware.
10. Hiring a car in Thailand
You have made a conscious decision after reading the above tips and ready to drive, only to realize that you have no vehicle. Well, do not despair as Thailand is full of reputable and globally accredited rental car companies.
These car rental companies will request that foreign visitors who wish to rent cars have their overseas (international) driving license together with an International Driving Permit (IPD). Hiring a car in Thailand is relatively easy and can be organized before your visit, to be picked up at certain airports and branches.
Our main tip here is to check the reviews and research as much information on the services offered. Always do the basic checks for your vehicle and check that it is roadworthy. Also, take note of the prices and options when requesting a quote from car rental companies. Motor (car) insurance is not normally added to the final price for renting cars so be sure to ask.
Secure car insurance before you drive
To make your driving experience safer and worry-free, we would suggest drivers secure motor insurance from a reputable insurance broker such as Kwiksure, which offers many insurance products such as motor, travel, and life insurance to name a few.
Our article a few months ago discusses travel insurance for driving in a foreign country and goes into details about the type of rental car insurance available. We would recommend our readers to engage in other related articles from our blog page for the latest trends and updates.
If you are looking to learn more about car insurance, contact the experts at Kwiksure today.