Car rental and driving in Northern Thailand
If you want to hire a car in Northern Thailand that you will be driving yourself, you will need to be in possession of a driving license from your home country. In many cases the hire company will also ask to see an international driving permit (obtainable in your home country). Your driving license and passport should always be carried with you when driving in Thailand. All car hire companies also have a minimum age requirement of 18.
Highly recommend the trip out to Mae Hong Son. You’ll need to pick up Highway No.1095 to Mae Hong Song, the journey would take at least 4 hours one-way, the roads are twisty turny but offer spectacular views when the weather is clear. We’ve done the trip quite a few times now, in a hire car, in a hired mini-van (there was a few of us) and by local bus. I’m just your average driver and I actually find driving in thailand much nicer than at home, sure, it can get a bit confusing with road signs in the cities and towns, but we always found our way. Out of town the roads are clearly signposted with plenty of places to stop and very little traffic (compared with UK).
You wont need route nav up north just buy a good road map in Chiang Mai. Hire from a good company with breakdown back-up and a phone number to call and get First Class Business Rental Insurance and please don’t hire any 4 wheel drive suzuki jeeps, cos they are serious rubbish, handle like a boat and feel very un-stable at speed. Just get a brand new car. Reccommended car hire at BUDGETCATCHER – Nice people and will pick you up at the train station or the airport. Always check the car over with them for scratches and dents before setting off, any damage or scratches…point to it and make sure they note it.
I think you’ll enjoy it. Mae Hon Song is a fairly big town, plenty of places to stay and long neck hilltribes to visit, but don’t rush to get there, a few other places en-route are worth a stop. You’ll pass by Pai and Soppong (Pang ma Pa), both worth an overnight. Pai is bigger and more popular with tourists, Soppong is tiny, but still worth a stop. Fish cave is en-route and has some food vendors and makes a good stop for the final stretch.