Recently, I got my Thai Driving License here in Chiang Mai and wanted to share my experience with you today.
I already had my Australian license, so I didn't have to take any driving lessons or similar.
Short form: No.
If you have a valid international license, you don't really need a local Thai Driving License. You get some benefits like you can use it as a form of ID but if you're in Thailand only temporary there is not really a point to get it.
I actually just got it, to have it, some people say you need one for the insurance policies, but I don't think that's applicable for short term visitors.
You can either get it by yourself or work together with an agent. I personally did it with an agent, because it made it a much faster process, it saved me an unbelievable amount of time. So I can definitely recommend, working together with an agent.
You don't necessarily need a driving license, but if you don't have one yet, then you have to take driving lessons and do a theory test.
A friend only had a foreigner's license for a car and wanted to get the motorcycle license. He had to do a few hours of practical training and after the instructor saw he is able to safely drive, he didn't even have to do a practical exam. The theory was a video in English, which apparently wasn't really interesting and you don't have to pay attention to much because the theory exam is only common sense questions like this one below.
"What do you do when you see a stop sign?
B: Spit on the ground
C: Honk the horn
D: Keep driving
You pick your agent, if you're in Chiang Mai I can recommend Laurie from Chiang Mai Visa Shop he is from Australia, so the communication was perfect.
He asked me for some documents, like passport, passport photos, international driving license and a copy of proof that I'm living at my specific hotel.
The next day, he made an appointment for us (It was me and two other foreigners). So they took as to a doctor, which literally just asked for our height, body weight and took our blood pressure, then signed a form and that was it.
This was maybe 60 min all together, with the drive there and back.
The day after that, Laurie got our "Certificate of Residency" back from the immigration, which he applied for us in our name. And we were ready to go to the transport office.
They took us there, showed us the right counter we had to go to (because there are so many, really confusing). Handed in our documents, waited in a Que for a while, then had to go to another counter to pay a fee and do an eye test. The eye test was literally just a traffic light, and you had to say which Color the light was (green, orange, red). Then we had to wait another few minutes to get a picture taken for the license and after that, we waited about 5 minutes and got our licenses handed over. All together with the drive probably around two hours.
For a total price of 7,000 baht (200 USD), I definitely recommend working with an agent. It speeds up the process to less than a week and makes it so much easier for you. As a foreigner, you get two license cards, one for your car license and one with a motorcycle license, it's not like in Europe, that both are on the same card. Your License will be valid for 2 years, then you have to go back to the department and renew them.