How To Get An Australian Driving Licence For Thai Nationals
While my wife thinks that the public transport in Sydney is the greatest thing on earth, she still needed to drive on occasion, so I suggested that she should get her Australian driving licence.
She was not over keen on driving at first, although it is something I thought would be much easier to do in Australia than it was in Thailand due to the law-abiding nature of our roads. I was forgetting about Thai logic!
Pim on the other hand thought it was much worse driving in Australia due to the law-abiding nature of our roads. Whereas in Thailand you can just get behind the wheel and generally won’t be stopped by police no matter what you do, in Australia if you do the slightest thing wrong you can expect to be pulled over.
This makes for much safer roads, but also increases the chances of fines (heavy fines) and loss of licence much more likely. It probably didn’t help that in our first week there I got pulled over and fined $250 for going 10 kilometres over the speed limit.
It was with this in mind that we decided to start from scratch and get Pim some driving lessons before she hit the road.
Pim already knew how to drive, she had been driving in Thailand for 6 or 7 years and she even had a licence for 5 of them (this is important). With this in mind we looked for a driving school where they would instil in her the confidence to drive and teach her the rules of the road.
Using a quick google search we located an instructor nearby who would focus on the theory and give also give a handful of practical lessons. It cost us $450 for 3 practical lessons and 4 theory lessons.
We could not locate a Thai instructor and ended up with a lovely lady by the name of Tracey who had a tremendous amount of patience and with whom Pim was extremely happy.
After the 7 total lessons Pim was a lot more confident and ready to get her licence.
Getting your Australian Drivers Licence
There are a few things to keep in mind for a Thai person getting a licence in Australia. First of all, you can drive in Australia for up to 3 months on a foreign licence, only after that do you need you Australian licence.
If you have a settlement visa and have held a Thai licence for less than 5 years, you need to complete your theory test and the practical driving test. If you pass you will receive your “P” (provisional) licence, this allows you to drive by yourself up to 90 kilometres an hour.
If you have held a Thai licence for more than 5 years, you still need to complete your theory test and the practical test. The difference is that assuming you pass you will receive your full Australian licence.
As Pim had held her licence for just over five years she would receive her full licence……if she passed.
The Driving Test
Having had lessons from Tracey Pim was now ready to take the test. As we are in Sydney this involved going to our local RMS (formerly RTA) to book in. I would suggest doing this as early as possible as there can be long waiting lists for driving tests, we had to wait four weeks.
At the assigned time and date Pim headed down to the local RMS to do her theory test feeling pretty confident and with good reason, she had studied the book remorselessly every night for a month.
One thing to keep in mind about the theory test is that is not entirely common sense, here is a question that got wrong on the online practice test:
Question: How many drinks is it safe to drink in an hour to remain under the limit?
I answered “a” and I was wrong despite common sense saying the safest way is to have zero drinks. The correct answer was “one”. This was clearly explained in the book they give you to study, so it is better to memorise that than attempt the test with only your wits.
As Pim has virtually memorised the book from all her studying she passed the test with flying colours, she actually got 100% which is something I didn’t manage on any of my practice tests.
Now that the theory was out of the way, it was time to book in the practical test. She was lucky as they had a time available a few days later for the practical test….
For those that don’t know the New South Wales practical test involves you driving a car with an instructor from the RMS sitting next to you telling you where to drive and what manoeuvres to pull while they give you marks on a clipboard.
One thing to keep in mind about this is that if you do the test in an automatic car, your licence is automatic only. I convinced Pim to do her test in a manual car so should could drive both.
The test itself took around 20 minutes and they drove around the local area and some quiet streets to do the manoeuvres, these involved: 3 point turns, hill starts and reverse parking. Things we had practiced ourselves a hundred times and Pim completed them with flying colours.
Unfortunately while exiting a roundabout(I don’t think they even have roundabouts in Thailand) she forgot to indicate left…….
Passed!!!! Fortunately in both the theory and practical tests there is room for error. If you break the law (speeding, going through a stop sign etc) you will receive an automatic fail, however for minor errors like forgetting an indicator.
You still need above 90%, so don’t go forgetting your indicator every time, but once is ok.
Overall it was a relatively easy process, so long as you have a Thai licence it shouldn’t be too hard to get an Australian one. If your partner does not currently have a Thai licence, it is probably best they get one before leaving otherwise they will have to start on a learners licence.
Now that Pim has a job, a car, a licence and bit of local knowledge of Sydney we are feeling completely at home and settled in.