As anyone who has been to Bangkok will tell you, the roads are chaotic. There are taxis, cars, trucks, tuk tuks and motorbikes to contend with. If that is not enough, street vendors have a habit of moving off the sidewalk onto the road. The rules of the road in Thailand are similar to elsewhere in the world, but the rules and the enforcement of these rules seem inadequate to deal with the traffic in the capital. Here are some tips for driving and parking in Bangkok.
The Rules of the Road
1) Drive on the left.
2) The legal age for driving is 18.
3) 15 year olds can drive motorbikes under 110cc.
4) Always carry your driving license and copy of the vehicle registration document.
5) Either a Thai driving license or an International driving license is valid.
6) It is compulsory to wear a seat belt in the front seats.
7) Motorbike riders must wear a helmet.
8) It is not compulsory for children to be in a child seat.
9) All driving fines should be paid at the local police station.
Tips for Driving in Bangkok
The one thing that everyone will tell you about driving in Bangkok is to avoid the rush hours, especially in busy areas such as Sukhumvit and near Hualamphong train station in China town. In the morning the busy time is between 6.30am and 9.30am and in the afternoon between 5pm and 7.30pm.
The other vital tip for driving in Bangkok is to watch both sides. Motorbikes zip between cars. Pulling out and opening a car door can be fraught with hazard if you are not alert.
Another good piece of advice is to know your route. If you miss your turning it can be very hard to turn around (legally), and you can lose lots of time.
As you get to know the city you will realize that some traffic lights take several minutes to change from red to green. If you are planning a car journey you should try and avoid these lights or factor in extra time.
Thai people are famous for being polite and gentle. This is not quite the case on the road. The high stress of the roads means that often the only way to get onto a busy road is to throw caution and manners to the wind and nudge your nose out. If an oncoming driver slows slightly take this as an invitation to join the traffic, if not then don’t push your luck.
Police in Bangkok have to buy their fuel, gun, their bullets and even their motorbike. They have a very small salary. Despite this, they do a decent job of keeping peace and order in the Big Mango. Everyone knows that if you get pulled for a driving offense, the fine down the police station would be 500 Thai Baht, whereas an ‘on the spot fine’ might be 400 Thai Baht or less. If you get pulled the best advice is to ‘play it by ear’. Don’t be cocky.
If you get in an accident then you should swap details. It is the law that every driver should have at least third person insurance. Don’t get angry – it is very rude in Thailand to lose your cool and can lead to an unfortunate escalation in violence.
Tips for Parking
It is obvious where you can and can’t park in Bangkok. Along side streets it is fine to park on the road. The fear is more to do with having your car stolen or broken into.
Most of the big hotels have parking for residents. The big shopping centers like MBK also have car parks. It is worth using car parks where possible as they are cheap and offer protection for a vehicle.
There isn’t a parking compare site for Thailand. Information for prices, number of available places and locations is patchy and inconsistent. It is best to ask Bangkokers for advice and to check forums.
Parking in Suvarnabhumi Airport is divided into short stay and long stay. The short stay is connected to the airport terminal and costs 25 Thai Baht an hour or 250 Thai Baht a day. The longer stay car park is far from the terminal and costs 200 Thai Baht a day. Your car is in the sun all day and less secure. Most foreigners pay the extra 50 Baht a day and use the closer car park.
It is easy to hire a car at the airport. A car can be very convenient in Thailand and gives you access to some great destinations that are otherwise hard to get to. However, if you are a tourist on a short visit, save yourself the heart ache and take taxis and public transport – it is cheap and far less stressful.