Driving In Chiang Mai Thailand. Can I Should I

Having had my Driver’s License for​ 47 years now and​ having driven manual transmissions and​ automatics from Volkswagen bugs, to​ Corvettes, to​ Nissan 300 ZX Turbo’s to​ more refined Lincoln luxury cars you​ would think that I could drive anywhere in​ the world.

My driving record is​ excellent. No accidents and​ no points off in​ the last 6 years and​ that qualifies me for​ the best rating and​ the best insurance rate in​ Canada. an​ experienced driver with the best driving record.

Coming to​ Chiang Mai, Thailand​ and​ renting a​ car to​ see the sites and​ get around town should be a​ breeze you​ would expect. Well anyone who thinks so is​ dead wrong.

Driving here has to​ be seen to​ be believed. Do not try it​ unless you​ know someone here who has educated you​ as​ to​ What to​ Watch Out For.

Here is​ my list:

The lines on​ the roads do not mean a​ thing here. you​ can drive on​ them, you​ can drive on​ the side of​ them, but do not expect drivers to​ drive between them. Why? Because on​ the left side of​ the road you​ will find motorbikes so cars move over knowing that this​ is​ the preferred route of​ the motorbikes. That is​ one reason. Another is​ that both red taxi’s (converted pick up trucks used as​ taxis) and​ tuk tuk’s (three wheeled motorcycles used as​ taxis) move over from the fast lane to​ the middle of​ the two lanes in​ an​ attempt to​ pick up more passengers and​ yet not lose out on​ positioning in​ a​ fast lane of​ traffic.

Traffic signals do not mean a​ thing here. Vehicles can jump the green and​ make a​ turn against the flow of​ traffic if​ they are hmmm. the first, second, third or​ even the fourth vehicles in​ line at​ a​ red light as​ you​ want to​ cross an​ intersection​ with the light just having turned green. Expect vehicles to​ run the red if​ it​ just turned red hmmm. what one, two, or​ perhaps three seconds ago.
Watch out for​ the 3 wheeled bicycles. These are normally driven by slim men in​ their sixties who have doing this​ for​ years. this​ may have been a​ fashionable and​ popular means of​ transportation​ 50 years ago or​ so but now it​ is​ a​ danger out on​ the roads as​ they move along at​ 4 mph on​ streets full of​ cars and​ motorcycles, all of​ which are in​ a​ hurry to​ go somewhere.

Watch out for​ vendors pushing their carts at​ 2 mph down the street on​ the left hand​ side of​ the road.

Watch out for​ dogs who lay on​ the road and​ refuse to​ move or​ move reluctantly as​ the last second.

if​ you​ are keeping up with the flow of​ traffic on​ a​ fast moving road at​ 45 mph in​ bumper to​ bumper traffic EXPECT someone to​ tailgate your​ vehicle. Oh maybe 10 ft from your​ rear bumper or​ perhaps 5 ft. from your​ bumper. Nice, polite, quiet people that they are Thai’s when they get behind the steering wheel change they make a​ transition​ from Mr. Hyde to​ Dr. Jekyll.
in​ my opinion​ most drivers here only have the mandatory basic insurance which is​ almost useless should they have an​ accident. So they try to​ be careful and​ not hit other cars by driving 3 ft away from vehicles on​ their passenger side. Either they cannot judge the distance as​ they are inexperienced drivers or​ they are extremely careful, either way they will drive down the street using part of​ your​ lane forcing you​ out of​ your​ lane.

Overtaking can be done regardless of​ whether you​ do it​ by passing the vehicle in​ front of​ you​ on​ the left or​ right side. So if​ you​ drive down the road EXPECT to​ see a​ vehicle coming straight for​ you​ in​ your​ lane passing a​ slower vehicle. They will pass and​ expect you​ to​ slow down or​ move out of​ your​ lane as​ they are going somewhere in​ a​ hurry.

Overtaking another vehicle will happen by vehicles going uphill and​ not seeing what is​ ahead of​ them, overtaking will occur on​ turns and​ the drivers not seeing what is​ ahead of​ them, overtaking will occur whenever and​ wherever.
Pedestrians crossing with the traffic light green DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT of​ WAY, vehicles go first and​ you​ should cross when you​ it​ is​ safe to​ do so.

Now having said all of​ that you​ may be thinking to​ yourself, is​ this​ guy trying to​ scare me, is​ he trying to​ be funny, does he not want me to​ drive in​ Chiang Mai? The answer to​ these questions is:
I want you​ to​ know what you​ will be facing should you​ decide to​ drive here. I want you​ not to​ injure yourself or​ someone else thinking you​ can go ahead and​ rent/drive a​ vehicle without having driven here before or​ without some advice.

When I first arrived and​ saw the traffic I thought that I would never be able to​ drive here. Well now I do drive here. I know what to​ watch out for​ and​ drivers running greens or​ red lights does not surprise me or​ anger me. I merely expect it.

The Thai drivers here have probably not had any formal driving instruction, they may not have any decent insurance coverage, and​ they may be pushy when it​ comes to​ driving as​ they may be in​ a​ hurry to​ earn money so that they can feed their family. So nothing against them, I try to​ understand​ their driving habits and​ adjust mine accordingly. No matter how they drive they are happy go lucky, cheerful, hard working people and​ I love them.

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