A self-drive holiday in Thailand is a great way to create your own itinerary, get off the beaten track and take in the abundant sights the kingdom has to offer at your own pace. Thai cities especially Bangkok can have extremely congested traffic at peak hours so hiring a car may not be the best idea for travel in urban areas.
It is recommended instead to use the extensive public transport system in Bangkok. Taxis in tourist hubs can be pricey so many people prefer to hire a car instead. Phuket and the north of the country around Chiang Mai are some of the more popular self-drive regions.
It is not a good idea to rent a car in Bangkok due to its congested traffic conditions especially at peak hours. But beyond Bangkok to other provinces, it is a very good idea to arrange car rental and self-drive. This way you can sightsee at your own pace, get off the beaten track and explore other places that you might miss with other types of transportation. It’s an especially good idea if you are travelling in larger groups. The best car to hire for groups is a passenger van or full-size SUV.
You might be wondering how long it takes to drive across Thailand? From Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north, the distance is about 700 km and takes about 9-11 hours to drive. The highways are in good condition and generally smooth with speed limits of 120 km per hour, and signs in both Thai and English.
As opposed to Bangkok, driving around Chiang Mai is pleasant and easy. Other drivers are polite and courteous. The drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is about 4 hours.
In the other direction, Phuket is about 867 km from Bangkok and takes approximately 11 hours or so to drive. The highway to Phang Nga province is scenic with lush mountains on one side and the Andaman Sea on the other. You will need to cross the connecting Sarasin Bridge on the mainland to get to the island of Phuket.
Keep in mind that most car rental agencies do not allow drivers to rent a car in Thailand and cross borders to drive into neighbouring countries. Many also forbid their vehicles from being taken on car ferries to nearby Thai islands. That’s why Phuket is a popular route to self-drive because there is a bridge connecting the island to the mainland making it an easy drivable crossing without the need for a ferry.
So if you are planning on driving across the border to Malaysia or Cambodia or intending to cross by sea to an island, it is recommended that you check first with the rental agency in advance to avoid any unnecessary complications.
Car rental in Thailand is affordable. The prices vary depending on the length of time of the car hire and the type of vehicle. Rental car prices can range from $16 a day for a compact economy vehicle to $38 a day for a full-size SUV then up to $85 per day for a luxury car for five adults.
You will be able to find a range of rental cars to suit your budget and travel needs. You can pay with your credit card or debit card if you do your bookings online.
There are many cars to choose from but a compact Toyota Corolla or a similar model is one of the most hired cars in Thailand.
You can search online, ask your hotel to recommend some companies or visit local rental offices near where you are staying.
Rental car offices are scattered across Thailand in various locations but mainly centred around major tourist hubs. You can arrange for pick up or drop off at any of those locations.
The most popular places to hire a car are Bangkok, Phuket City and Chiang Mai, the major tourism areas. You can arrange for pick up or drop off at any of those car hire locations.
Many travellers prefer hiring or renting a car when they visit Thailand especially when they are travelling with family, and/or going to several destinations because having one’s own rental car (or van) makes it easier, less tedious and more comfortable when moving from one accommodation to another, one destination to another.
Upon arrival at your destination, you can then go straight to your hotel instead of a bus station or train/ferry terminal from where you still have to negotiate with the local transport. During long drives to a destination, you can make as many stops as you want, to eat, take photos, stretch legs, etc.
Some traveller reviews also claim that travelling by car hire in Thailand saved them money. It allowed them to see more places at a cheaper price than if they had joined organized tours.
Most cars offered as rental cars in Thailand are automatic, but you can specify your preference when you make your reservation.
To do a car rental in Thailand, drivers should usually be at least 21 years old. An International Driver’s Permit (IDP) will be required, in addition to a valid domestic driving license from your home country.
There are many companies for car rentals in Thailand with offices in different locations at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. You can make your reservation and make your booking online before your arrival or you can include that service request in your deal with our travel expert.
Car rental companies or car agencies do not provide insurance because it is considered a liability product, not like if the insurance is for your own vehicle. If you are found to be the one at fault in a car accident, you are not covered for the damage to the other car.
You might sign a deal where the car rental company might have a policy for paying damages but that would be limited in damages (or even possibly very poor coverage) cover and the situation.
You must remember that before you take the car from the pick up or drop off point, you must inspect it thoroughly, make sure that any pre-existing damage is explicitly stated on the contract. If you do not have the chance to inspect the car, take before and after photos.
Check your agreement or contract before you sign and ensure you are provided theft protection, collision damage waiver or infant car seats service (if you have a child) included in the agreement.
It is also important to take note that most rental car company deals provide for the car rental company to deduct the cost of the damage from your credit card immediately. You must cancel any automatic authorization with both the car rental company and the financial institution of your card.
In Thailand, there is the “Por Ror Bor,” mandatory insurance for all motor vehicles within Thailand, which was effected in 1993 for all cars, all types of motorcycles, and electric-powered cars to provide insurance coverage for everyone affected by car accidents, regardless of whether the person is a driver, a passenger or a pedestrian.
In the event of loss of life or limbs or health, the deceased person’s heir will be covered. Responsibility for this mandatory insurance is the car owner or car hire buyer.
However, this law doesn’t have third-party liability coverage, meaning the other car, its driver and passengers, if any.
Beyond the urban centres and dealing with busy traffic conditions, the roads and highways are in good condition making them easy to drive.
Is it worth renting a car in Bangkok? The short answer is no. Bangkok is notorious for having extremely congested traffic at peak hours so renting a car may not be the best idea. It is recommended instead to use the extensive public transport system in Bangkok.
The city has an underground and sky train system, an extensive ferry and canal boat network, buses and tuk-tuks which will get you everywhere you need to go within the city and to major tourist spots on the outskirts.
In Thailand, cars have the steering wheel on the right (prior to 2014) and cars manufactured after then have the steering wheel on the left and drive on the left-hand side of the road. So the model of your car rentals will determine the side of the steering wheel location.
Bangkok is notorious for having extremely congested traffic at peak rush hours, so it is recommended to avoid driving at these times unless you want to be stuck in traffic jams for long periods. Instead, it’s better to use the extensive public transport system in Bangkok.
The city has an underground and sky train system, an extensive ferry and canal boat network, buses and tuk-tuks which will get you everywhere you need to go within the city.
Car hire agencies allow travel throughout Thailand but some prohibit their vehicles from being taken on car ferries to Thai islands off the mainland.
Always check with the car rental company in advance of making your bookings.
Yes, an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) is a requirement, along with a valid domestic driving license from your home country.
Thailand officially has the second-highest road fatality rate in the world. You will get a copy of any damage to the car like in any country when you rent a car. Make sure it is in the same condition as you received it.
Most foreigners find driving in Thailand easy. British and Australian visitors find it convenient driving on the same side as in their countries, the left-hand side. Traffic rules are quite similar and Thai drivers are not aggressive.
The greater danger on the road is from motorbikes, thousands of them. Most fatalities involve either two or three-wheel vehicles.
Tourists can rent or drive a car in Thailand as long as they have a valid driver’s license in English from their country of origin, or hold a valid International driving license. Thailand cars drive on the left side of the road and speed limits are in kilometres per hour.
A taxi can be rented for one whole day at a flat rate. There are popular metered taxi services you can check online from which to easily find a driver to take you anywhere you wish.
There are also car (or minivan) rental agencies with a private driver for hire for an entire day. That is a convenient way of exploring Phuket or Chiang Mai without anxiety on directions, parking or road safety. Most of all, the drivers would be knowledgeable about their job and will try to accommodate your schedule and requests as best as they could.
You can rent a car in Thailand with a valid Australian license. Most car rental companies additionally require an International Driving Permit (IDP) for signing the agreement, according to the Australian Embassy in Thailand.
To go around Chiang Mai, you don’t need to rent a car. You would if you want to go to, say, Chiang Rai, or the Golden Triangle. Within Chiang Mai, it is recommended to use the local modes of transportation mentioned above.
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