was successfully added to your cart.

Cart

Renting a car is a fantastic way to explore Thailand. Your own set of wheels gives you the freedom to discover the best destinations, in your own time, and without depending on public transport. But before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few things you should know. For example, the best place to rent a car in Thailand, how much it costs and, importantly, if it’s safe. We rented a car in Thailand over several weeks and tell you all about it in this blog!

The freedom to go anywhere you please, whenever you please. Sound good?

Well, it is!

With a rental car, you can plan your travels through Thailand as you see fit. You’ll have the opportunity to take a last-minute beach trip; travel down side-roads you otherwise notice; pull over to take holiday snaps and decide for yourself when you need to take a break.

In short, renting a car means complete independence.

Advantages:

  • You decide where to go
  • You decide when to leave
  • You don’t have to carry your luggage from A to B
  • You can always travel together as a couple, family or group of friends
  • You feel a sense of adventure that comes with absolute freedom!
You can easily and safely rent a car in Thailand online. Rentalcars.com offers car rental with all the necessary insurances.

Driving a rental car in Chumphon

Still not convinced?

There are a few things you need to consider before you rent a car in Thailand. Driving in Thailand may be challenging for people unused to driving a car with an automatic transmission. Or to driving on the left side of the road. You’ll also be required to respond quickly to unexpected occurrences, such as vehicles going against the flow of traffic and dogs crossing the road.

If you can handle that, we believe that renting a car in Thailand is well worth the challenge! In this blog post we cover the how, what, when and where of car rental so you can collect those keys with confidence.

Contents of this article

1. Conditions
1.1 International driver’s license
1.2 Age restrictions
1.3 Additional driver
2. Rental procedure
2.1 Renting on the spot
2.2 Car rental agencies
3. Expenses
3.1 Insurance
3.2 Deposit
3.3 Fuel
4. Insurance packages
5. Safety
5.1 Roadside amenities
5.2 Thai traffic rules
5.3 Damage
5.4 Car breakdown
5.5 Accidents
6. Extra tips
7. Our experience

1. Conditions

You must be at least 21 years old and have a category B driving license for at least one year before you can rent a car in Thailand. Certain car rentals set an even higher minimum age limit of 23.

You’ll also need the following documents:

  • Passport
  • International driver’s license
  • A credit card registered to the main driver with sufficient funds to cover the deposit and fee

Conditions differ between car rental companies, but there’s usually no mileage limit. Leaving Thai territory in a rented car is not allowed.

1.1 International driver’s license

An international driver’s license is simply a translated version of your original driver’s license. Therefore, it is only valid when presented alongside your original category B driver’s license. For more information on how to obtain an international driver’s license, we recommend that you contact the relevant travelers’ association in your country.

If anyone in authority asks to see your driver’s license, they always mean your international one.

Dutch International Drivers Licence

1.2 Age restrictions

As mentioned, age restrictions vary in Thailand. The minimum age at which you can rent a car with Hertz and Budget is 21, while with Avis en Sixt it is 23.

If you’re under the age of 26, you might be asked to pay a young driver fee of between 100 and 250 baht per day. If you’re above the age of 65, you may be asked to pay a so-called senior driver fee, although rarely.

Age restrictions on which type of car you may rent are quite common. The more high-end and powerful the model, the higher the driver’s minimum age restriction will be.

Rental company Age requirement
Avis 23 to 99
Budget 21 to 70
Europcar 21 to 99
SIXT 23 to 99
National 21 to 99

1.3 Additional driver

Registering an additional driver is practical, as you’ll be able to share the driving and cover more ground. Most car rentals allow you to do this free of charge. Of course, an additional driver must fulfill the same requirements as the main driver and carry an international driver’s license.

Should an unregistered additional driver have an accident, the insurance company won’t cover any damages. Moral of the story – don’t drive unregistered!

Jungle roads in Thailand

2. Rental procedure

The easiest way to rent a car is to apply online. That way, you can see a broad comparison of different companies’ plans, prices, insurances and conditions of rental. You can also choose the type or model or car yourself and arrange a hotel drop-off. Filling in the rental application online means no annoying trips to the rental office with only half your documentation. You’ll even process the payment online. Now nothing is standing between you and the open road!

For online bookings, Rentalcars.com is a great website. They offer an 24-hour English support line, which is incredibly convenient.

2.1 Renting on the spot

Renting a car on the spot is also super convenient in Thailand. There are agencies all over the country, especially close to airports. With the help of a staff member, you will:

  • choose a suitable car (keep in mind that rental cars will almost certainly have an automatic transmission.)
  • choose a rental period
  • choose an insurance policy
  • choose the number of drivers
  • choose a drop-off point
  • read and sign a contract

Preparing the necessary paperwork can take some time. Don’t forget to ask what insurance policies are included (more on that later) and what the cancellation policy is. Some car rental agencies accept cancellation over the telephone, while others ask for a cancellation agreement signed in person.

Your agency of choice may be unable to meet your requirements. Your preferred vehicle might no longer available or they’ve run out of car seats for your kids. Luckily, airports usually have more than one car rental agency and you can shop around until you find what you need.

Renting a car with AVIS

More on renting a car…

Once you’ve signed the contract, you must pay the entire rental price plus the deposit (unless you already did that online). To pay, you must have a credit card in the name of the main driver.

Next, a staff member will escort you to the car so you can check for any damages. If there is damage, we advise that you take pictures. After that, check the contents of the gas tank and ensure there is a spare wheel. The staff member will tell you anything you need to know about the car before handing over the keys.

Now it’s time to start your adventure!

2.2 Car rental agencies

In Thailand, you can choose between big international rental firms or local rental agencies.

While renting through a Thai company will almost certainly cost less, we advise going with an international company. This is because the cars offered by Thai companies are often older and not always well-maintained. Service can be less professional and rental agency staff don’t always speak good English, making phone calls in case of car breakdown or an accident very challenging.

We recommend putting safety first and renting with an international company. Reliable international car rentals include:

  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Europcar
  • SIXT
  • National

These are the major players and have tons of branches all over the country. If you have any issues with your car, these companies will help you more quickly.

Views during the Mae Hong Son Loop

Go To Thailand Guide

The No #1 Preparation For Your Trip To Thailand

Start Planning Your DREAM Trip

3. Expenses

The cost of a car rental depends on the car model, the rental period and rental rates set by the agency. You must pay the entire rental price and deposit in advance, so double-check your available credit card balance can cover it.

  • You can rent a five-door, economy car for approximately 1,200 baht per day. Models include the Honda Jazz or the Suzuki Ciaz, both of which have automatic gearboxes and space for four to five passengers.
  • You can rent an SUV for approximately 2,000 baht per day. Models include the Toyota Fortuner and the Isuzu Mu-X. These cars also come with automatic gearboxes and will fit up to seven people.

There’s no limit on the number of miles you’re allowed to drive.

The rental price includes VAT but excludes gas, insurance costs, and any additional requirements such as child car seats or GPS-systems. If you need car seats, reserve them in advance as companies may not store them on the premises.

The minimum rental period is 24 hours. Make note of the time the car is due to be returned, because if you drop it off late you will be charged for another 24 hours. If you drop it off early there is no refund.

3.1 Insurance

Once a rental agreement is signed, we highly recommend that you insure yourself against accidents and damages. Full coverage insurance policies cost about 400 baht per day.

(We will talk more extensively about different policy options in part 4 of this blog post.)

3.2 Deposit

The deposit is usually between 10,000 and 20,000 baht. The more valuable the car, the higher the deposit amount will be.

Roadtrip around Mae Hong Son

3.3 Fuel

When you rent a car, the gas tank should be full. You must also return the car with a full tank so you’ll definitely need to refuel at some point!

In Thailand, most cars run on Gasohol 91, Gasohol 95 or diesel. The price for one liter of fuel is around 36 baht so filling a tank (about 42 liters) costs around 1,500 baht.

To refuel in Thailand, you don’t have to leave your car. The gas station attendant will ask you how much fuel you need and takes payment in cash after they’ve filled your tank. You may be asked if you would like to have your windshield cleaned during refueling. The full service, including windscreen-cleaning, is free, though tips are appreciated.

Refueling the car

4. Insurance packages

Most rental agencies offer a range of insurance packages, but some may not offer any at all. Renting a car in a foreign country will definitely not be covered by your domestic car insurance. Even most travel insurance packages will only partly cover for damages to rental cars.

In short, you always need a separate car insurance plan which is almost always provided by the car rental agency.

Before signing an insurance document be sure to read through the contents carefully and check how much damage waiver contribution is required.

We would also advise that you take out as much insurance as possible. This means fully covering yourself, the car, passengers and third parties.

There are many types of insurances to choose from:

  • Liability Insurance
    Liability insurance compensates you for any damage the car you’re driving causes to someone else. It is mandatory and often included in the rental price.
  • PAI / Personal Accident and Effects Insurance
    This insurance compensates your passengers in case of severe trauma or death.
  • TP / Theft Protection
    Theft protection covers damages to the car as a result of theft.
  • CDW / Collision Damage Waiver
    A collision damage waiver covers damage to the car resulting from vandalism or a collision with another vehicle on a public road. The amount of coverage offered and the cost can differ significantly from vendor to vendor.
  • SCDW / Super Collision Damage Waiver
    This full insurance also covers your damage waiver contribution.

Renting a car at Chiang Mai Airport with Hertz

5. Safety

Damage, car breakdown, theft, accident, all of these things could happen to you. And you need to know exactly how to handle it if they do.

As the driver, you need to be prepared for anything. Here are some random hazards you may encounter while negotiating Thai traffic:

  • Oncoming vehicles overtaking at a curve
  • Motorbikes squeezing their way between traffic
  • Pedestrians on the open road
  • Cars overtaking from both sides
  • Cars that brake suddenly and make a U-turn
  • Cars going the wrong way in the emergency lane
  • Dogs crossing the street or sunbathing in the middle of the road

As we’ve already mentioned, in Thailand, people drive on the left side of the road and all rental cars have an automatic gearbox. This might take some getting used to, but the unfamiliarity can help you stay focused while driving.

5.1 Roadside amenities

Thai roads are generally well-maintained. You may encounter dirt roads or small holes here and there, but most roads are smooth and have clear signage.

The roadside lighting, however, isn’t great. Avoid driving after dark (after 6.00 PM) as most roads are either poorly-lit or not lit at all. Moreover, many road users drive without their lights on.

On most major roads, you’ll have access to large gas stations with restaurants, a coffee shop, a 7-Eleven and clean toilet facilities. Just remember to bring your own toilet paper! The largest gas station chains are PTT, Bangchak, Shell, Esso, Susco, and Petronas.

You can even take your rental car to some of the largest and most popular islands via ferries. Tickets are usually bought at the ferry counter on arrival.

Islands you can enter by car are:

Keep in mind that the terrain on many Thai islands is hilly and challenging to negotiate by car. This is another reason to avoid driving at night, or during or after heavy rains. If there’s no car ferry to the island of your choice, you can usually park up at the ferry terminal for between 50 and 200 baht per day.

A big gas station near Mae Hong Son

5.2 Thai traffic rules

Thailand has traffic rules but they’re not always observed. For instance, few people adhere to speed limits and overtaking happens on the right and left. Motorbikes seem to follow their own rules and often criss-cross their way through traffic. Also, cars don’t stop at pedestrian crossings.

Traffic in Thailand also follows several unwritten road rules. For example, the largest car usually has right of way. The left lane is used by motorbikes and slow vehicles, and using the emergency lane to park or as an additional lane is pretty common. When a driver turns on his full-beam headlights, he is not asking for but is taking the right of way. You must get out of the way!

The safest way to drive is defensively. Take your cue from the rest of the road users and stay alert.

General Thai traffic rules include:

  • Road users overtake from the right and the left.
  • You may overtake from the left on roads with two or more lanes going in one direction.
  • Turning left at a red traffic light is permitted, provided it can be done safely.
  • You may honk while overtaking.
  • On mountain roads, it’s mandatory to honk before a blind turn.
  • Drivers on the left always have right of way.
  • Drivers on the main road have right of way.
  • If you want to overtake, you must use your left indicator. If it’s not possible to do this safely, you use the indicator on the right.

If you drive in adherence to traffic rules, you probably won’t come into contact with the traffic police. The only exception might be if you encounter a police checkpoint. Usually, these officers will check you’re wearing your seatbelt and you’re carrying your driver’s license. In this case, show them your international driver’s license. They’ll take a quick look at it and send you on your way.

Traffic in Thailand

5.3 Damage

On our last trip, we rented three cars and each time we (slightly) damaged the car.

Yes, it’s that easy!

Small scratches or dents won’t usually cause any problems. After returning the car, you inspect the vehicle with a staff member from the rental agency and agree on what damages, if any, the car has suffered.

Afterward, you return to the office and sign a damages form. If you have proper insurance, you’re free to leave. If not, you have to pay for the damages.

We were fully insured for all three rental cars and didn’t pay for any damages.

5.4 Car breakdown

No-one wants to be stuck by the side of the road with car breakdown, especially in a foreign country. Still, it happens and it did happen to us!

We were making our way to Koh Lanta on the car ferry. With the island in sight, we followed the example of the other car owners and tried to start our engine. Except… nothing happened! No. Not here, not now, we thought. Some very friendly Thai men helped us to push the car onto the pier, where we found a tiny garage. Using jumper cables the garage staff managed to restart the car.

Once we’d checked into our hotel, we wanted to explore the island by car. Unfortunately, the engine wouldn’t start for a second time. We called the car rental agency, which was Avis. Incredibly for an international company, the person who answered could not speak clear English. After about an hour on the phone, we bumped into a sweet Thai lady who offered to translate for us. The problem was solved within five minutes. The next day a new car was delivered to us on the island.

Most international car rental companies have a free service in case of car trouble and a phone line you can reach 24/7. Make sure to ask for that number and save it to your phone.

What to do in case of car breakdown:

  1. Pull your car to the side of the road and turn on the warning lights.
  2. Call the emergency number and wait for help to arrive.
  3. If there’s no answer or you can’t communicate properly with whoever answers, use your phone to find the nearest branch of your car rental agency.
  4. Try to find someone to translate for you and call again.

No signal while in the middle of nowhere?

Try to flag down a car or ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how helpful people are. Getting your car fixed can take time, so always make sure you have lots of drinking water in your vehicle. We always keep a 5-liter bottle in the trunk.

Our car broke down on Koh Lanta

5.4 Accidents

Accidents in Thailand can be an absolute nightmare.

To avoid accidents, always be alert while driving, be prepared for any eventuality and, even if you’re an experienced driver, stick to the rules. Unfortunately, even the best drivers may be involved in an accident.

Here’s what to do if it happens to you:

  1. Stop and park the car somewhere safe.
  2. In case of injuries, call an ambulance on 1669.
  3. If you need police assistance call the tourist police on 1155.
  4. Call the rental agency’s emergency number.

The Thai police and your insurance broker will both photograph the accident. The police write a final report that they must run by the driver, the insurance agent and the car rental company.

In the majority of cases, the tourist will be named as the guilty party. Unfair, but true. Even more reason to take out quality, comprehensive insurance.

6. Extra tips

1. Things you should always have in a rental car:

  • All the rental paperwork
  • Your driver’s license and international driver’s license
  • Your passport
  • A fully charged phone with a Thai SIM-card, 4G and credit
  • Bottles of water
  • Pre-packaged snacks or fruit

2. Use Google Maps or Maps.me (works without signal) to plan your route. Ensure all emergency numbers and rental company numbers are stored in your phone.

3. We advise against driving in Bangkok, the traffic there is just too unpredictable. You can rent a car at the airport (Suvarnabhumi or Donsak), but it’s best to take the freeway directly to another destination.

4. Don’t drive for long periods. Take lots of breaks and switch drivers if possible.

5. Expect the unexpected and be prepared for any eventuality.

Navigating is easy with Maps.Me

6. Our experience

The very thought of driving a car in Thailand used to make us very nervous.

Busy roads, driving on the left… it all seemed quite scary.

Then, after three years of traveling around Thailand, we rented a car for the first time to drive Mae Hong Son Loop.

And guess what? We absolutely loved it! Renting a car allowed us the freedom to go wherever we wanted, whenever suited us!

We liked it so much that we decided to tour the south of Thailand by car, as well. In short, car rentals in Thailand aren’t going anywhere and we’ll definitely continue renting our own wheels during our trips!

Roadtrip from Pai to Chiang Mai

Do you have any further questions about renting a car? Or would you like to share your experiences or tips? Leave a comment below!

Mariska

Author Mariska

Traveler, entrepreneur, book lover, foodie. In Thailand, you'll find me driving around on my motorbike, on the lookout for new hotspots.

More posts by Mariska

Join the discussion 4 Comments

Leave a Reply