People who live in or visit Thailand will always mention three things when telling about this fascinating country. They will tell you that the people are the friendliest, most gentle souls on the face of the earth. They will also expound on the incredible foods and dishes that are unique to Thailand. And last, but always in the mix, will be horror stories of riding or driving in traffic, especially in the larger cities.
There are some aspects of Thai driving behaviours that aren’t going to change and we farangs will just have to adapt. That said, here are a few suggestions to increase your chances of survival when travelling from one point to another in Thailand.
- There is no escaping the fact that driving a car in Thailand is more dangerous than in many countries such as Japan, Singapore, The USA and Western Europe. The most obvious way to avoid that danger is to avoid travelling by car when possible or practical. Regional air travel between many cities in Thailand is frequent and reasonably priced. You can avoid the roads, other drivers, and the tedium of long distance travel via car by taking a plane. If you live in Bangkok, the BTS and MRT transit systems are well developed, clean and safe as well.
- Know where you are going. This sounds elementary, but there is nothing more dangerous than trying to locate a turn off or figure out which exit to take while trying to drive in traffic at the same time. Plot your course and when possible, have someone with you who can read a map and give you verbal directions as you are driving. The advent of GPS is also a great development that provides a tool to help you know where you are going, although not all of Thailand’s roads are mapped out yet.
- Don’t abandon the good driving practices you have developed and refined in your home country. Just because the local population is driving like they are all Formula 1 racers, doesn’t mean you have to embrace their driving culture. Tailgating is never a good idea. Leave yourself plenty of room between yourself and the car ahead of you. Seat belts are a must, for you and your passengers. Try to travel at the same speed as the majority of the cars on the road. There will always be the hot rodder going 160 KPH as well as the motorbike fruit cart travelling at 20 KPH, but it is important to stay in one lane as much as possible and travel at a reasonable speed that is keeping up with the majority of the cars on the road.
Driving in Thailand is a challenge, but it is a challenge that can be met with a little bit of patience and common sense.