The Five Types Of Drivers You’ll Find In Thailand
There are five common types of drivers you’ll find on the streets of Thailand. Let’s vivisect them so you know what to expect when you rent a car in Pattaya or Bangkok.
This is the category of driver you’re most likely to fit into when you first come to Thailand. The clueless expat is driving a rented car, rented motorbike or his girlfriend’s vehicle. You can quickly identify a ClulEx if you see a frightened Thai woman in the passenger seat. Thai people are fearless passengers and it takes some seriously dodgy maneuvering to scare one. If you see a wide-eyed Thai lady beside a western-raced driver you can be pretty sure he’s new to the country. Watch out for these guys making cut-off right turns into oncoming traffic, driving slowly in the fast lane and quickly in the slow lane and driving on the wrong side of the street for longer than is normal in the kingdom.
The daredevil is almost always riding a tiny motorscooter of the typical variety found on Thai roads while wearing tough-guy motorcycle gear. You know you’ve got one of these guys on your hands when you pull up next to a 110cc puttering clunker with a rider wearing five leather garments decorated with various motorcycle branding and a helmet that could take a howitzer shell. These guys – and girls – are sometimes absolute motorcycle riding experts and sometimes simply madmen. One thing is certain, traffic rules mean very little to them and the only reason they stop at a red light is so they can burn rubber when it turns green and briefly fulfill their motocross fantasies.
The Little Old Lady
The LOL is not necessarily little, old or a lady. But she drives like she is all three and can only reach the gas pedal enough to press it just far enough to make the car go 30 km/h, max. This type of driver is a true menace on the streets of any city. They drive far to the left, popping out into traffic to avoid parked cars. They take up the entirety of the narrow streets causing tourists to lose patience and Daredevils and ClulExs to zip around them and into danger. They stop unexpectedly, blink their hazard lights, then continue seemingly just to confuse you. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road and have a meal. Yes, really. The LOL will quite often be driving a scooter with an attached sidecar that has been converted into a rolling noodle and sausage shop, or is transporting an entire Thai family.
The King of The Road is a commercial driver. He (and, rarely, she) drives a tuk tuk, motorcycle taxi, meter taxi, chartered van or big rig truck. But the true epitome of this driver type is the VIP bus driver. The bigger the vehicle the bigger the crown, but all Road Kings share some common traits. First, they do not yield unless you’re damn polite about it or their life depends on it. Next, they do not slow down. They got places to be and, dammit, ain’t no silly thing like physics going to make them late. Third, they will race you. If you pass them when they didn’t specifically allow it they will be sure to pass you. If you pull up next to them, it is a challenge. If you, god forbid, cause them to feel any apprehension, you might get run off the road or simply buzzed. Do respect the King.
The Good Driver
The majority of Thai drivers fall into this category, but it doesn’t mean exactly what you think. A good Thai driver does, indeed, follow the traffic laws. But they also have to adapt to the Thai driving environment. This is one of the more alarming things to a rental car driver: Driving in Bangkok means dealing with incredibly tight spaces and close calls while still trying not to block the box and paying attention to signs and lights. This requires an almost precognitive ability to read traffic patterns the way a dolphin can read the sea – and a good Thai driver can do just that. To be one, yourself, you’ll have to learn to estimate the time it will take to get to an intersection while reading your fellow drivers’ eyes to see where they want to end up. Remember, two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time but a tuk tuk can indeed bounce.