Finally, after three days of messing about, I got my Thai motorcycle licence. It was a close run thing. I failed the written test the first time. Didn't help that the same question came up five times and I got it wrong four times. I started to doubt myself after seeing it four times and changed my answer. Luckily, this being Thailand, the girl let me try again and I passed. Did you know it’s legal to drive a tank used for warfare (their terminology) on Thai roads but not a vehicle without a windscreen? Neither did I.
So here's your step by faltering step guide.
Step one is to get a medical cert from a clinic to prove you are healthy enough to cope with the extreme stress of driving on Thai roads. This is given on payment of approximately 100Baht without any sort of medical checks at all.
Step two is to go to immigration in Jomtien Soi 5 with two photos, your tenancy agreement and two copies of your passport. They’re quite quick and efficient, to be fair to them, but if you don’t go early enough in the day you have to come back the next day to collect the paperwork; which is, of course, what I had to do.
Step three: Drive for several miles out of town to the driver and vehicle registration office, near the regent's school on 36, without yet having a legal licence. Make sure you get there before 9 am as if you arrive later you’ll be told to come back the next day. And yes, that’s what I had to do.
There’s an eye test and more forms to fill out. They’ll help you but in a much more surly and world weary way than the immigration people. It is a very busy office and I can understand that us non Thai speakers are an extra irritation in an already hectic working day. Don’t worry about the eye test, the Thai man in front of me was blatantly colour blind and was just guessing when it came to green/red. In fact he just said red for both until the expression of the official warned him and he went for green a couple of times after that. I knew the word for red had forgotten the word for green. Luckily they let foreigners do it in English. I could probably have said bread, fellow and spleen and would still have got the nod.
Be prepared to be there until around two O’clock. Why? Because you have to watch some vaguely driving related soap operas in a little room packed with other foreigners, most of whom are asleep. I had a little nap myself. I never did find out if the boy injured in the accident recovered or not.
After the videos there’s a short break for lunch before taking the practical test. This involves driving around a very short course. It starts with a slalom followed by driving along a raised ramp about a foot wide, not sure why, but I nearly fell off. You have to stop a couple of times; only putting one foot down and then you're done. Next its into the office for the aforementioned computer based, multiple choice, written text.
There’s not much advice I can give you about the test except that common sense won’t really help you. When the question asks you which picture illustrates correct parking don’t be fooled by the cars parked neatly in car-park parking spaces. It’s some sort of trick. This question came up three times and I got it wrong three times.
It’s different if you already have a motorcycle licence from the EU or the USA. You’ll only have to do the eye test and they’ll give you the Thai licence. Just fill out the forms. There might be some other countries that are OK too. Australia and NZ probably but you can do your own research my fine antipodean friends. Anyone know why antipodean gets a red line on Word’s spell checker? Me neither.
The day after receiving my new licence I pulled out of Central Festival shopping centre straight into the sweaty arms of a lurking gang of police officers. I flashed my shiny new licence and they told me to be on my way. I have to say, that felt pretty good. I drove straight to the nearest bar spent the 400Baht it had saved me on a few celebratory drinks before driving home. Only kidding, but it felt good. I drove along beach road in the late evening sunshine with a happy smile of victory on my face and all the hassle of getting the licence was worth it.