Downtown and older areas of many Thai cities feature narrow one-way streets. Therefore, smaller cars are best for easy navigation. Recommended models include the Nissan March or Note and the Toyota Vios or Yaris. Small electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model 3, are another good choice.
Drive Car Rental offers vehicles for short-term travellers as well as monthly car rental options for those staying long-term. Our cars can be picked up at major airports and larger cities throughout Thailand, offering unparalleled flexibility for visitors. Once the car is rented, understanding how to get around is the next step.
Navigating Thailand’s Streets
GPS navigation is by far the easiest way to get around in Thailand. GPS is available as an add-on for any Drive Car Rental vehicle. They can be selected as an option during booking or at the pick-up desk on arrival.
Visitors will find that street signs in Thailand are a work of art. Nearly always bright blue with an artful golden outline, they are hard to miss. Street names will be in both Thai and English lettering.
Streets, or ‘Soi’s,’ as they are known locally, are often numbered based on the district of town. For example, in Bangkok, the popular Sukhumvit district contains Sukhumvit Soi 1 all the way through to Soi 65. This sequential numbering system makes navigating easier.
Many of Thailand’s larger cities feature ring roads and highways that help drivers get from one side of a city to the other quickly. In Bangkok, some of these roads are tollways, but they are completely free in most other cities.
Small Cars Are Convenient, but Small Trucks Rule the Roads
Thanks to a quirk in Thai vehicle tax law, small pickup trucks are the most common vehicle in Thailand. We mention these trucks because the majority of Thailand’s delivery trucks are small pickups with a box on the back. They can be frequently found partially blocking traffic as they make their scheduled deliveries throughout the day.
Having a smaller car makes driving around these mini-roadblocks much easier. They can perform much tighter turns than the trucks, and will have little difficulty in even the narrowest streets.
Compact cars also have fantastic fuel economy, which is great for the stop-and-go traffic of the cities. Small vehicles also have a serious financial advantage over larger cars when opting for monthly car rentals in Thailand.
Finally, parking in compact cars is a breeze. Even on narrow streets, Thais manage to sometimes park their cars on both sides of a street. It can be amusing watching those in larger cars make a ten-point turn to turn around. Finding a parking spot is far easier in a small vehicle, and its tight turning radius means parallel parking is a snap.
Tips for Driving in Thailand’s Cities
The most important thing to know when driving in Thailand is vehicles drive on the left side of the road, and the steering wheel is located on the right side of the car. For those coming from the UK, this makes life easy. Anyone coming from America or Europe, however, should spend the first few days being extra careful until they get used to driving on the other side. Many drivers adapt quickly, and all of the vehicle controls are the same as they would be in a left-hand drive car.
Driving in Thailand is more art than science. Visitors will find that Thai traffic drives slower than the West, with speed limits on highways often limited to eighty or a hundred kilometres per hour. In the cities, traffic flows like a slow river. Expect other vehicles to make frequent lane changes and watch for motorcycles driving between vehicles.
Keep your eyes focused ahead of you rather than your mirrors, and be prepared to stop at any time. When changing lanes, signal well in advance and change lanes very slowly. This gives nearby vehicles and motorbikes time to react and make space for you.
In recent years, Thailand has seen an explosion in the number of electric cars on the road. Renting an electric car in Thailand is no exception. Drive Car Rental offers several electric vehicles for our customers, and you’ll find charging stations dotted throughout cities and across Thailand’s road network.
Hitting the Road
Overall, many Thai drivers are friendly and you’ll rarely hear a honking horn. Have a bit of patience with the slower pace of life, and simply say ‘Mai pen rai’–the Thai phrase for ‘No worries.’
At Drive Car Rental, we hope your experience in Thailand is as laidback as the Thai culture itself. Choose the rental car that fits you, and enjoy your stay!