Foreigners wanting to drive in Thailand – but do not yet have a Thai driver’s license – must hold an “International Driving Permit” (IDP) issued in their home country.
Please note that the IDP is technically not a license, it is a translated version of a license issued by a country that signed the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (!968), which replaced the Convention on Road Traffic (1949).
Under the Convention notes that countries that signed the Convention recognise “any domestic driver’s licence drawn up in their national language or in one of their national languages, or, if not drawn up in such a language, accompanied by a certified translation.”
.That means any person wanting to drive in Thailand by using a driver’s license not issued in Thailand – and especially those not issued in English — must have BOTH a valid license issued in their home country AND an IDP in order to legally drive in Thailand.
This applies to foreigners staying in the country long-term and to tourists driving motorbikes or cars rented for their short holiday here.
Having a valid license is critical, not just to avoid being fined by police for breaking the law, but especially in case you are involved in an accident.
If you do not have a valid license and an IDP, you can be held fully responsible for any accident you are involved in and any insurance coverage may automatically become void as you were driving illegally.