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This week I’ve decided to share a step-by-step guide of how to drive in Thailand. I’m talking about driving like the locals, learning the ins and outs of roads and how to blend in. After these tips no one will be able to guess that you’re a foreigner (but I can’t help it if you stand out because you’re pasty white or have light brown to blonde hair). You should maybe dress like this to help blend in too…
This is my Thai friend and how many people dress when they drive in Thailand. It’s not because they’re cold, but because they’re protecting their skin from the sun and getting darker. Maybe this is something Westerns should start doing!
Step One: Drive a Scooter (Or at least learn to drive one)
If you haven’t been to Thailand or seen any pictures of their horrendous traffic then you may not know that Thailand is full of scooters (or motor bikes…whatever you want to call them). It’s the go-to way to get around within the city and sometimes on highways. They’re perfect for darting in and out between cars, can squeeze into almost any parking spot, and are easy on gas (yay for helping save the environment!). Even if you don’t drive a scooter, but a car instead, still learn how to drive a scooter because cars drive just like scooters. And if you don’t learn to drive like a you’re on a scooter then good luck because you’ll be waiting to merge for a long time and have people passing you constantly leaving you stuck behind them in a long line of traffic.
Step Two: Learn the Rules
There are no rules. That’s all you need to know. Well technically there are rules, but no one follows them. I know this for a fact because I actually attempted to get a Thai driver’s license (it’s a long story) and went for training. But no Thai seems to follow any of these rules. See that stop sign? It means stop. But no one actually stops. And the rules of a round-a-bout? I asked my boss when I was living in Thailand and his answer was “whoever is the bravest.” So that means that going into a round-a-bout takes a lot of guts and hope that no one will hit you, which leads me to my next step.
Step Three: Have Some Guts
If you don’t have the guts to constantly pull out in front of speeding traffic then driving in Thailand is not for you. The first time I tried to make a right turn, which was on to the opposite side of the road, I sat on my scooter with the signal light blinking for over 10 minutes. Luckily eventually you get used to it. But when you first start it is not for the faint of heart.
Step Four: Wear a Helmet…or don’t
When I was in elementary school I remember wearing a helmet while riding your bike was deemed “not cool.” Thankfully in Thailand no one really cares if you wear a helmet or not. And neither is seen as more fashionable than the other. But in all seriousness you should definitely be wearing one and if you don’t you’re kind of an idiot (sorry not sorry for saying that).
Step Five: Learn to Weave
Weaving in between cars both moving and parked, avoiding people crossing the streets or opening doors from their parked cars, dogs or cats that suddenly decide to run in front of you, and other scooters cutting you off is a necessity. If you can’t weave then you will always be cut off, and always end up behind a long line of cars. Weaving is essential in Thailand traffic and helped me to get around a lot faster.
Step Six: Don’t Look
Feel free to skip this step, I totally did. But looking before you turn out onto the street is not really a thing in Thailand. In Canada we check our blind side before changing lanes, never mind looking before we turn a corner to see if there’s a car there that might hit us. That’s just common sense to us. I was blown away by the amount of people who just pulled out, especially while they were on scooters.
I hope by now you’ve realized that you should not follow these steps (sorry readers I’m not assuming you’re stupid, you’ve obviously already realized that it’s all a joke!).
I by no means consider myself a pro-driver in Thai traffic, but I certainly got a hang of it while living there for 3 months and driving daily. It’s a very dangerous place to drive and I hope that if you ever drive there that you are more careful than normal. Some things are totally out of your control and accidents happen, but you can protect yourself first, like wearing a helmet!
Thai drivers are very trusting. They pull out without looking, merge or turn without using their signal lights, they all drive at different speeds on the same road, pass on both the right and left hand sides, and disobey any and all “rules” that are actually put in place. These rules never seem to be enforced though.
You have to be constantly alert because even a quick check in your mirrors (pretty sure I was the only one who did this) could have you face to face with a car heading in your direction who is supposed to be on the other side of the road.
But don’t let the driving scare you away from Thailand, the country is obviously much more than that and is definitely worth being on your bucket list. I also hate driving, even in Canada, so Thailand was a little brutal for me to get used to.
Safe travels my friends!