If you are in Thailand for a longer time it is worth to get a Thai drivers license. I know that many expats drive their cars with their their regular license and get away with it. If you get stopped you bribe the police man. Another group drives their international license. But Usually those are not valid longer then a year. But why going through the trouble of getting a Thai drivers license? There are several reasons.
First it is the law (even in Thailand) to have a valid drivers lisence. An international lisence is okay, but it has to be valid.
Second. If you ever get in a bad accident, you want to have a valid drivers license. (This is especially with motorbikes). You will have enough problems without an invalid license.
Third. You can use the drivers license as a ID card for banking business, at national parks or any kind of place in Thailand and get treated more respectfully and not just as a tourist. Therefore get the Thai price at the parks and zoo’s. Be aware that you can’t use the drivers license to board a plane!
I found the Car registration office in Chiang Mai quite efficient. You still have to take about a day off to do this. Because you need to get an amount of papers and copies first. Then at the place you need to apply, do a reaction test, a color test and watch a forty minute video about Thai traffic laws (I must say I learned alot from the video and was surprised that there are laws in Thailand for traffic).
Here I wrote out the note I got from the office. This is for the renewal of the license.
1. Non-Immigrant visa and Passport copy (bring the original Passport as well)
2. Certificate of Residency from the Embassy or consulate, or from the Immigration office, or Workpermit, or Residence book(the yellow book) copy and original.
3. Medical certificate
4. Your old Thai drivers lisence
5. Pay the fee of 505 Baht for car, 255 Baht for motorbike
If you have to do a license for car and motorbike you need to make 2 copies of the documents
You also need to come in 9.00 A.M. or 1P.M. to watch the video and do the testing. Of course everyone who lives in Thailand knows that those things and regulations change about every year a little and you need to inform yourself about what you need. For example the last time they didn’t want a medical certificate.
Finally. Take something to read along or a friend to talk etc. Even though I think they were very efficient, you still have to wait because there are so many people.