Required documents to enter Thailand with a foreign car
Thailand is not part of the carnet de passage agreement between countries which implies that your temporary import document likely will not be accepted by the Thai government. Usually, if you want to enter Thailand by car, the Thai customs will issue a ‘TIP’ for you, which stands for Temporary Import Permit. But, and there’s a big one, in some cases your carnet will be accepted instead of issuing a TIP. There are no obvious reasons to opt for a CdP but it happens.
Requirements for a TIP:
– Two TM2 forms: this form has to be filled in twice because customs/immigration will stamp both and keep one for themselves. The other form has to stay with you until you exit Thailand. If you lose this form or cannot present it at exit, you will be fined THB 4000.
– Thai vehicle insurance: apparently there is a new rule that vehicle insurance has to be valid for at least a period of 3 months. You can buy this insurance before crossing the border from Malaysia. There are many shops selling the insurance and it shouldn’t take you long or cost you a lot of money.
– (optional) Simplified Customs Temporary Import Document: customs are not always aware of what they should do when a foreign vehicle wants to enter the country. Presenting this document will help you to clarify what exactly you want them to issue you with.
Make sure you print out at least: two TM2 forms, your Thai vehicle insurance and the example temp. import doc. to present these at the crossing.
All these documents and services can be gathered, filled in and purchased by yourself. However, David Goodchild, a fellow overlander currently living in Thailand, provides a service of helping you filling out the necessary documents, buying insurance for you before you enter the country and giving you information about which border crossing will be with the least problems.
Thailand has implemented a rule that prevents foreign campers/motorhomes coming in the country. Apparently, the reason for this was the flooding of the Thai roads and nature by mostly neighboring countries causing damage to the country in general without contributing to the Thai economy. This led to foreign vehicles designed for camping being technically required to take a guide with them at all times. However, there has been almost no case of anyone being forced to take a guide and if entry was not allowed at one border, overlanders often got lucky at a different one. Latter explains the reason why David’s services can be very useful. He can offer you up to date information on which borders have been best to avoid hassle when entering this beautiful country.
Fill up your tank before crossing to Thailand because Malaysia has crazy cheap fuel! Head to BLOCK B at the border and look for the customs officer. Give them your CdP, they put in the exit stamp and you head to immigration to get one in your passport as well. After this you’re good to go.
Head to immigration, they will ask for the passenger to follow a different path than the driver with the car. We didn’t do this and it was no problem. Before going to the actual window, you should look for a white form that you have to fill in and present to the immigration officer. We presented our form and passports and the officer issued a 30 day stay which could be extended once at immigration from seven days before expiration. We didn’t need a visa since Belgium is exempted from visa for Thailand. Keep in mind that getting a visa at a Thai embassy before travel will likely give you 90 days in Thailand instead of 60 (see visa segment). Immigration asked us for the TM2 forms and handed us back one stamped one to keep with us until exit. This should be happening at customs, but for some reason immigration did it.
Customs was next and we were a bit worried about the whole mandatory guide and documents. However, it was possibly one of the weirdest and most easy crossings after Europe (which has no borders due to Schengen). There was a massive line of Malaysian people waiting to get their TIP. Thai officials saw us being ‘different’ and guided us to inside the building where the customs officers were seated. We basically skipped a one hour queue this way. We tried to explain to the customs what we wanted guided by our prepared documents. However, when they saw our yellow carnet book below all the documents they just told us that the carnet is easier and faster and they opted to give us that instead of the TIP. The biggest advantage of the carnet being used is that you don’t have to extend your TIP every month at a customs office in the country since it’s validity is only one month. The officers had no clue about what they were doing with the carnet and we explained which parts had to be filled in. They didn’t even see the car, just signed our carnet and we were free to go. It took roughly 10 minutes.
Driving in Thailand
In Thailand you drive on the left hand side, just as in Malaysia and India for example. Roads are generally in good condition and drives are often smooth and nice. Traffic, especially around major cities can be a problem though. You’ll find asphalt highways all over the country and there all almost no toll roads! Most road signs have an English description as well and there are many signs which point out activities and scenic points so you can just drive around and discover things without planning too much.
Thai drivers are actually quite good. Don’t expect too much courtesy but it’s definitely not a fight as it is in India. There are a lot of bikes and scooters which can overtake from both sides and drive a bit reckless, but you’ll be fine if you just watch the road closely.
Diesel and petrol are more expensive when compared with Malaysia, but still cheaper than Europe. Diesel is around THB 33/liter in 2023, which is less than €1/liter. The biggest name is PTT but you can also find Shell, Esso, Caltex, … Both diesel and petrol are available at most gas stations.
PTT gas stations are often quite large and offer free toilets, water points and some garbage disposal options. There are 7-11’s and various restaurants to fill your tummy when taking a break.
Spending the night
Sleeping in your car is allowed, and you can ‘wild camp’. It can be difficult to find a really nice spot, especially in cities and very touristic places, although we often managed to find a peaceful place to spend the night.
There are plenty of truly breathtaking spots to spend the night, you just have to patiently look for them. The more rural and less touristy, the more chance you’ll have on finding your little heaven for the night. In the south, you can just drive to a beach and look on google maps for a grass field, a big parking area or even if you’re lucky a deserted beach all to yourself. It should be mentioned that being truly alone in ‘nature’ is becoming more difficult everywhere, and especially Thailand where exploitation or privatization of natural sites is increasing rapidly. However, Thai people generally mind their business and just leave you be. Even when an area looks like private property such as a parking lot, if you ask nicely for permission or just behave as a descent overlander, we doubt someone will bother you.
Same as we did in other countries, our location hunt existed of either using iOverlander or looking on Google Maps for most of the time.