Okay, so this is a hard one. You really can’t beat the cost-effective, freedom giving and just general all round fun of renting and riding motorbikes in Thailand.
But saying that, it’s not for the faint hearted, and I find it difficult to recommend.
There’s a few things you need to take into account when deciding whether to rent motorbikes in Thailand.
Especially if you’re not a very experienced rider!
Travel insurance is a must, whether it be a holiday to the Greek islands or a longterm backpacking adventure. The chances of you needing that insurance is slim, but accidents happen, and the leading cause of accidents among tourists in South East Asia is of course, motorbikes.
You only have to be in Asia a week to see first hand and hear the stories of the countless foreign scooter victims. I think in our first week we saw two crashes, and many limping and bruised backpackers.
Yet the issue is, most insurance companies do not cover motorbiking. And the ones that do only cover if you hold a motorcycle license in your home country.
You may be thinking well I have a full car license that allows me to ride a 50cc bike back home (like I do in the uk). But most of the motorcycles you can rent in Thailand are 100+ cc, so again not covered.
So it’s safe to assume, in most cases you are completely not covered for any accidents you cause to yourself, or others when you’re riding around.
This is not something to take lightly when deciding if it’s the right way to travel for you. Chances are you’ll be alright, but the risk is very real!
There are a few scams to watch our for when you’re looking to rent your wheels. The main one being payment for damage.
A lot of rental shops require you to leave your passport as collateral when taking out a bike, effectively holding your passport ransom. I strongly suggest trying to avoid this, either go to the next shop, or offer cold hard cash instead.
I’ve done it once or twice and it was not ideal, it left me quite unsettled knowing they have the most important thing in my backpack.
Imagine having an accident, or even just a little bit of damage to that bike. They can charge you an absolute fortune and you have no choice but to pay to get your passport back.
When taking out your bike make sure you walk around and have a good look, take pictures of previous scuffs and scratches and point them out to the person in charge. This is backup incase they try to say that you caused it, which has been known to happen.
The best way I have found to avoid this is to rent from your accommodation. They already have your passport on record and know you’re not going to run away from all your belongings in your paid for room.
So again, more food for thought, a fun days ride could easily turn into a hellishly costly day if you have an accident. Bear in mind that rented bikes don’t have insurance like you would back home. If you damage another bike/car, you personally are liable for payment.
Know you wont be paying Thai mechanic prices to fix it, what they’ll be charging you is more than likely more than the bike itself!
Basically, there are none.
If you drive back home in your western country, be it a car or a bike, you pretty much have to forget everything you’ve ever learned.
In Asia green lights mean go and so do red lights. Be prepared for dodging dogs and cows, being run off the road by speeding minibuses.
Thai drivers are absolutely crazy!
I think they work on right of way being given to the biggest automobile, so as a scooter driver, you’re right at the bottom of the list!
Riding a moped in Asia is so much fun, I love it. I want to recommend it to you, but I have to hold back.
It’s not without its risks, you really have to weigh up the pros and cons for you personally.
But I will say the roads of Thailand are not the place to learn how to ride. One little slip-up and you can end up injured with huge hospital and mechanic bills.
If you do choose to go for it, I guarantee you’ll have a great time!
Just remember that most accidents are caused by overconfidence!
Take it easy and ride safe!