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Driving on Koh Samui

Since many years I drive on the island of Koh Samui and never had an accident. I do not want to scare you with the following but to make sure that you can enjoy an easygoing holday I would like to draw your attention to a potential danger: road traffic on Koh Samui.

on the roads of SamuiThailand 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 traffic on the island of Koh Samui has steadily increased and during rush hour it is sometimes complicated and time consuming to cross the main road in Chaweng or Maenam.

Driving licence for Koh Samui

For the duration of your holiday your national driving license is valid in combination Nathon beachroadwith 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 drivers it is obligatory to wear a helmet. Many people do not know this or just ignore it because of carelessness, and the police charging 500,-THB fine and the hospitals benefit from it.

Traffic rules

crossing in NathonThe 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 in Thailand, but sometimes it seems nearly nobody knows them.

After gaining first experiences 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 after havy rainmaybe 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.

As always in Thailand the slogan is: keep calm and cool! You are on a vacation. 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.

Emergency rescueNathon car ferry

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.

Regrettably Thailands roads belong to the most dangerous roads in the world and you should always focus on the traffic when you steer a vehicle.

Wolfgang -

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