The most common form of transport in Thailand is the motorbike. Groceries, dropping the kids at school, sightseeing, literally everything is done on these horses of steel. Not only is it the easiest way to get around, it is also the most affordable one. However, for those of us that haven’t been to Asia, driving a motorbike is a challenge on its own, driving one in Asia is a whole other story. So, before you hop on that bike, here are some tips for renting and riding a Motorbike in Thailand.
Where to rent a motorbike
There is a huge variety of motorbike that you can rent in Thailand. You’ll see silly scooters, brand new cruisers and powerful beasts used for offroading. You’ll probably be a bit overwhelmed with the huge amount of places that you can rent from. These are some of the practical things you should do before you decide on a shop.
- Ask your hostel / hotel for recommendations.
- Find out where other travelers have rented theirs, how was their experience?
- Found a shop? Google: shop name scams (location).
What to bring when renting a bike
Photocopy of your passport
Contact info – name of your accommodation, phone number
An “experienced” rider
Camera (or phone with a camera)
Did you notice that I didn’t tell you to bring a passport? The most valuable item that you own whilst traveling is your passport, keep it with you or in a safe place at all times. Usually, shops will either ask you to leave your passport or a couple thousand Bath as a deposit. This is often around 2,000 Baht, the equivalent of €52 or 60 USD. It might seem like a lot of money at the time, but you’ll hate yourself when they try to scam you and you can’t get your passport back!
I would like to very much advice you to not give your passport as a deposit. As said before, your passport is way more valuable than cash. The smartest thing is to not bring it with you at all, this way you can’t be persuaded to hand it in anyways. It might be a bit of a hassle, but a different solution can always be found. If this is not the case, red flag, red flag. Get yourself out of there and look for a different shop to rent from, that does allow cash deposits.
There are a few random places that don’t ask for a deposit. They usually only want a copy of your ID or passport, or just your passport number.
Always take loads of pictures of the bike before you take it out on the road. Literally, take them from all angles, and don’t forget the bottom! Also, ask if they have a form (with a drawing of a bike) on which you can put down where damages/scratches are before you take it, and make sure they sign it. If you can, get a copy of that paper.
A motorbike costs between 100 and 300 Baht for 24 hours depending on where in Thailand you rent one. Touristy places such as Koh Samui and Phuket charge between 200 and 300 Baht. In reality, they shouldn’t charge you more than 250 Baht for an average quality motorbike.
I rented motorbikes in the following places, and these are the cheapest prices I could get:
- Koh Samui – 250 Baht
- Koh Tao – 200 Baht
- Koh Phangan – 200 Baht
- Koh Lanta – 150 Baht
- Chang Mai – 100 Baht
- Phuket – 250 Baht
Prices will be higher during festivities or when it is real busy at the location. A good example is Koh Phangan. During the week before the Full Moon Party, prices skyrocket!
Riding a motorbike
IMPORTANT: Before you step on the bike, make sure you check if your travel insurance covers riding a motorbike abroad. Sometimes it is only covered when you have an actual motorbike license in your home country.
You’ve never ridden before? No worries! Almost no one has when they first come to Thailand. Rent your bike and find a quiet street to practice for a few minutes before you start on the busier roads. If you’ve made some friends, ask them to teach you. If you’ve got friendly workers in your hostel, they are usually also more than happy to help you out. Some other tips that might help you are..
- Lay off the gas!! Especially in the turns accidental acceleration causes a lot of accidents. Before you know it your bike slips out from under you.
- Drive on the left side of the road.
Driving with someone on the back
- Drive around by yourself a little, don’t let anyone on the back before you get the hang of it.
- If it gets really wobbly, ask the person to not turn around too much. Another thing that really helped for me is if the person just looks over your shoulder on one side. Switching sides causes a lot of instability.
- Make sure they keep their feet on the bike. If they try to put them down during stops the bike gets very unstable.
Don’t forget to put some gas in your bike before you head off. You can find little stands on the side of the road where you can buy it for 30 or 40 Baht. Or you can go to a gas station where the prices are a bit better (but there aren’t as many around).
Take note at what level your gas is when you get the scooter. Most of the time you are expected to bring it back with the same amount (or more). Some companies give out ridiculous fines when this isn’t done.
This is my friend that unfortunately slipped and fell off her bike. The roads were wet and she had to stop suddenly.. I was videoing and happen to have caught the whole thing on camera. She didn’t get hurt too bad but was pretty scared and in shock. Please, always be careful on the road, accidents can happen to even the most experienced drivers!
Thailand’s roads are the 2nd most dangerous ones in the world (Namibia being number 1). On average 80 people died on the road EACH DAY last year in Thailand. This number terrifies me, and I hope it terrifies you too. This only means that you’ll be that much more careful when you hop on a bike. These are some things to take into account or do to guarantee your safety on Thailand’s roads.
- Wear a helmet! It might save your life..
- Never under any circumstance get on your bike while intoxicated. This might seem like a given to many of you, but so many still stupidly do this.
- Cover yourself, this might seem ridiculous in the blistering heat. But this will actually not only save you from road rash when you crash. It also prevents you from getting a sunburn, which is super easy when on a bike!
- Don’t get on the back of someone’s bike if you are not comfortable with their driving style. Just grab a taxi, you’re better safe than sorry!
I learned the hard way that a sunburn is easy to get on the bike. I covered myself, and put on liters of sun cream, but totally forgot the top of my hands. The day after, I discovered that my burns were so bad that I actually had blisters..
- So you’ve done it, you handed in your passport and after you brought it back the owner of the shop claims there is a scratch that you made. He needs to see 20,000 Baht for the repairs, if you don’t pay, you won’t get your money back. This is probably the most common scam, practiced everywhere in Thailand. Just make sure you follow my tips and tricks and never forget to take photos. This will hopefully prevent this from every happening to you.
- Research where you rent and again, don’t give your passport as a deposit. There are quite a few places that rent motorbikes, then follow you, find out where you stay, and steal the bike in the middle of the night. Then when you find out and go back, they charge you a ridiculous amount of money (think about 1,000,000 Baht) to replace the bike, otherwise, they won’t be giving your deposit back.
If you have given your passport as a deposit, and you are scammed, or you have an accident. Legally foreigners or really anyone can’t keep your passport from you, it is your property and belongs to you. If worse comes to worse you can go to the tourism police. The tourism police can be found almost everywhere in Thailand, just ask at your accommodation and they’ll be able to help. The tourism police might not be able to bring the amount down to zero when they ask for money, but they will definitely bring it down a lot. And you’ll definitely get your passport back.
Do you have any good or bad experiences with renting and riding a motorbike in Thailand?
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