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I'm aware of IDP, but I've read that I don't need one as some companies rent the scooters just on the passport.

If it's so, what risk do I have renting a scooter when having non-IDP EU driving license (cat. B)?

In example when stopped by police, I'm driving illegally? If yes, I'm assuming also that in case of any accident, my travel insurance won’t cover any costs?

Or you don't need a driving license when driving a scooter under certain power output?

Does it make any difference if I'm on tourist island (such as Langkawi, Phuket, Ko Samui) far from the city?

  • Do you carry a EU driving license for this class of vehicle, would be good to add this information in the question – skv Nov 17 '14 at 1:01
  • @skv: It's category B, but usually with B you can still drive some lighter motorbikes. – kenorb Nov 17 '14 at 1:14
  • Worth adding to the question (for those of us not familiar with EU license categories): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_driving_licence – Burhan Khalid Nov 18 '14 at 4:06
8

I've been to Thailand renting a scooter from different hotels, agencies on different islands and they never ask you for driving license when renting a scooter. Renting a scooter is very popular and it costs only around 200-250baht/day. The only trouble is that sometimes they could hold your passport during rental period (See: How to avoid letting a rental business hold my passport in Thailand?). It should be similar in Malaysia.

So as a tourist, it is not necessary to have a Thai or international (IDP) driving license when renting a scooter. Although it is still good to have your foreign or international driver licence issued by a foreign government which should be accepted when stopped by the police.


In Thailand: Driving - License Requirements article at Trip Advisor we can read:

According to the UN Traffic Act of 1949 and the Thai Traffic Act of 1979, an IDP (The international driving permit) is not required if you are a tourist/visitor in Thailand as long as your license is in English, has a photo, and your country is a contracting state of the 1949 treaty, which most are. (See motoring law below) If you are a resident, however, you require a Thai drivers license. As a tourist, rental car companies, insurance companies and police will all accept your home license. Still, it not a bad idea to obtain a legitimately issued INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT (IDP) before you leave your home country.


MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ACT (Thai Law)

Section 42

  • Anyone who wishes to drive a motor vehicle on public roads must possess an appropriate driver licence.

  • The driver must carry the driver licence and a photocopy of the registration book and show them to competent officers upon request.

  • This does not apply to those who are learning to drive a motor vehicle according to the provision of Section 57.

  • If the driver is an alien who doesn't have an immigrant visa, he may drive a motor vehicle with a driver licence specified in the Section 42-2.

  • In such a case, he must carry documents specified by the treaty between the Thai government and the government which issued such driver licence, and show them to competent officers upon request.

Section 42-2

  • In case there is a treaty between the Thai government and a foreign government regarding mutual acceptance of driver licence, an alien who does not have an immigrant visa may drive a motor vehicle with a driver licence issued by such a foreign government, or an automobile association authorised by such a foreign government.

Once you obtain a non-immigrant visa or establish you are a resident (such as enrolling kids in school, buy a car etc,) and are no longer a tourist, you need a Thai drivers licence as your national license and international driving permit is only legally accepted if you are a tourist. Several insurance companies have fine print stating that the driver should hold a valid Thai driving licence to be fully covered after a certain amount of time in Thailand.

Sources:

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  • My reading indicates this answer is plainly wrong. Thai laws are based on the 1949 international convention which has a motorcycle class. So if your foreign drivers license does not have a class A designation, then you will be illegal and your insurance will possibly be void. It's true that you will be allow to rent a scooter or motor cycle, but if you get in an accident you will be considered to be driving illegally. And Thailand has one of the worst traffic accident fatality rate in the world. – 42- Nov 10 '19 at 17:29
  • Renting a scooter isn't the same as renting a motorcycle. For a 250cc class scooters you most likely don't need a driving license. – kenorb Nov 10 '19 at 21:31
  • Can you share the link on what you're saying? – kenorb Nov 10 '19 at 21:32
  • Thailand only has treaties with the 9 ASEAN countries so most foreign nationals are not covered under section Section 42-2: driving-in-thailand.com/motor-vehicle-act/#03 If you are not legally able to drive a motorcycle in the country of origin, then you are not legal in Thailand. The rental agencies are not liable for enforcing the laws nor are they liable for the accidents. They have no reason to give you correct information and have financial reasons to let you drive illegally. The cops can make up their own fines, typically 400-2,000 baht for violations detected at traffic stops. – 42- Nov 11 '19 at 17:58
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I've been to Thailand 7 times i the last 5 years, and rented scooters and vehicles many times. I've been stopped by police twice. My experience was my California DL was always accepted when renting a car. I have never been asked for license when renting a scooter, or by police when pulled over. One of those times that I was pulled over, my girlfriends scooter registration was expired. I think I had my passport on me, was given a ticket for $20 or so, and that was that. Most scooter rentals only care that you will not damage or steal there scooter, and your passport is collateral. My .02

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By law in Thailand you are required to have a drivers license to operate a scooter of any size and by law you are required to have an IDP if your home country license is not fully in English. It doesn't matter where you rent or drive the scooter, the laws are nationwide.

If your home country license specifies certain size motorcycles that you are allowed to drive, then you technically should have the correct license / endorsement from home for the vehicle you are renting.

These are of course the technicalities, enforcement of the rules is a whole other can of worms. Most stops by police of foreigners on motorcycles tend to end with a "fine" being paid on the spot and then the scooter pilot heading off on his/her merry way. But the laws do give them more power to arrest or fine, if you don't have the proper license.

Check with the folks who issue IDPs in your home country and find out if your license qualifies for scooter endorsement on the IDP. IDPs tend to have a broader definition of class qualifications (ie because my DL allows me to drive up to a 20 passenger van, my IDP has me listed for a full size bus).

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2

I have rented a scooter several times in Krabi in the south of Thailand. They don't really care about your license.

As a general rule, you can use your EU license abroad for a stay of up to 3 months. That is true in other countries that have more strict laws like Australia. Beyond 3 months, officially you must get a local license.

As for Thailand specifically, the country relies very much on tourism, and people are usually very "kind" with tourists. I think the authorities would not be too annoying if you are not fully compliant with whatever laws related to your bike (I.e your light dysfunction or your insurance missing). As far as I know, there are mostly 2 things you really should comply with in Thailand, it is to not consume drugs and not say/write something about the King. Or you would put yourself in very very serious trouble.

In Malaysia, I drove my Honda wave (125cc) for years without insurance nor license. I never had any serious issue. I was driving everyday to any place in Kuala Lumpur, and taking highways. The police would usually not arrest foreigners (I mean white foreigners).

I was arrested once by the police on the highway. They were behind and didn't see my face until I stopped the bike. They probably assumed I was a local as there are very very few Europeans driving bikes in Kuala Lumpur. They clearly looked upset to see they arrested a European dude, but had to go through the process. My bike was fully functional and I was wearing a helmet. I just didn't have any license nor insurance with me. I just had a local car driving license which doesn't allow you to drive a 125cc bike (I always thought a car driving license was good enough until that day). I got fined for that. My Malaysian friend sitting behind me on the bike was laughing all the way during the arrest. She told me not to worry about that because I would be fine not paying the fine. The fine was of RM 200, which is 40 over euros (rather kind compared to what you would get in a similar situation in Europe). The 2 policemen went through the official procedure of writing a fine and didn't ask for a bribe.

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