Koh Samui road traffic and driving licenses
Thailand has left hand traffic and especially inexperienced drivers who are not familiar with left hand driving have to pay attention to this, in particular in the beginning when you arrange in order to change lanes, overtake or turn. During the last years the Koh Samui road traffic has steadily increased and during rush hour it is sometimes complicated and time consuming to cross the main road in Chaweng or Maenam.
Driving license for Thailand
For the duration of 3 month your national driving license is valid in combination with the international driving license. Even if you have a valid national license but no international license in case of an accident the insurance (and police) will treat this as driving without a license and refuse to cover any damage. Car and bike rental companies often do not (can not) check if your driver license is valid and some simply do not know about the need of an additional international license. For bike riders it is obligatory to wear a helmet. Many people do not know this or just ignore it because of carelessness, and the police charging a fine of 500,-THB for the driver and 1.000,- THB for the passenger and the hospitals benefit from it. At checkpoints they nowadays want to see a license, also fastened seatbelts are a must.
It is a big advantage to have a Thai driving license when you are living on Koh Samui. You can use it like a personal ID card. You can get the Thai driving license at the Department of Transportation. With a valid national license, together with a international license, a confirmation of residence here on Samui from the Immigration Office, a copy and your passport with a valid visa, a health certificate from a doctor and a view simple tests, it is easy to get. The license is valid for 2 years. 1 Week before the license expires you have to repeat the whole procedure to get a new allowance for 5 years and so on. If you want to drive a car and a motorbike you need two driving licenses and you have to bring a copy of every paper described bevor. Very important is to come properly dressed to the Office of Transportation ( no shorts or shirts with spaghetti straps) otherwise they send you away.
The speed limit on Samui is set at 60km/h and at 45km/h in towns. There is no official speed limit within cities, outside of cities the speed limit is 90km/h. On Tollways and on the Autobahn the speed limit is 120km/h. Traffic lights and U-turns on highways are as usual as sleeping dogs on the lane and water buffalos which can weigh up to 1.2 tons, crossing the road in the night. Instead of triangular safety reflectors branches are used and often are placed just a few meters ahead of the obstacle
Certainly there are traffic rules , but sometimes it seems nearly nobody knows them.
After gaining first experiences with the Koh Samui road traffic you will quickly notice that road markings and signs do exist, but are of little or no
importance at all. Also the driving style of the locals maybe makes you ponder. It seems that here often the right of the mighty rules. This applies to all traffic rules and if in a curve an other vehicle comes towards you overtaking an other one on your lane, don’t panic, drive as much as possible to the left side and you will see that three cars can pass each other on two lanes. Do not be surprised if a vehicle in front of you puts the emergency flasher on before it crosses an intersection. This simply means: I keep straight on. Often you can see a car coming from a side road waiting for a long time till you are nearly there, to then slowly pull into your way. Instead of triangular safety reflectors branches are used and often are placed just a few meters ahead of the obstacle
As always in Thailand the slogan is: keep calm and cool! Drive slow and adjusted to the situation and traffic. There is also no common agreement about the right of way. Some obey the rule: “Right before Left”, some:” Left before Right” and some: “ I always have the right of way!” Do not insist on your right of way, because if you have an accident with a local, as absurd as it may appear, but because you are a farang it is always your fault.
Koh Samui road traffic and Emergency rescue
There is no emergency rescue service by the Thai government, but private companies, often working with very motivated volunteers, but also often with very little medical knowledge. Emergency call 1699
Also all hospitals have their own ambulances see here:
Regrettably Koh Samui roads belong to the most dangerous roads in the world and you should always focus on the traffic when you steer a vehicle.