Tips for driving a motorbike in Thailand

Tips on driving a motorbike in Thailand

Motorbikes are one of those things I love about Thailand. They provide great freedom of movement. It’s also very fun to drive.

Thailand have countless of good spots to drive motorbikes.

You can rent a motorbike all over Thailand with very little bureaucratic interference. No need for licence, insurance or any other boring paperwork. Freedom! 😀

Of course, that freedom comes with a small risk, but the freedom you get from motorbikes are worth the risk in my opinion.

So don’t listen to those pussies that tell you to never rent a motorbike in Thailand. They miss out on a lot of fun, freedom and experiences. And to be honest. You’re not any safer in a pick-up truck, or songthaew as the Thai people call it, if you think so.

You need to live your life.

Here are some great tips on how to survive driving around in Thailand with a motorbike. In this post I will cover:

  1. Driving a motorbike on Thai roads
  2. Tips on driving a motorbike in Thailand
  3. Renting a motorbike
  4. What to do if stopped by the police (without proper papers)

 

crazy traffic thailand
What happens if you brake? 🙂

 

Driving a motorbike on Thai roads

The traffic dynamic in Thailand is very different from the Western world. In the US and Europe we follow traffic laws like yield, red lights and road marks. In Thailand they don’t.

It’s pretty much anarchy on the roads here, and people do what the fuck they want.

A motorbike with an entire family on it, a dog and two infants, will drive straight through an intersection without even bother to look right and left, on red light. I see that shit almost daily, and every time I see it I freak out inside.

Sometimes you’ll see drivers in the cities driving on the sidewalk while honking to tell people to get the fuck out-of-the-way.

Yield is unheard of in Thailand, and the rule is more like “the biggest first” or “the most aggressive” first, combined with a lot of honking and flashing of lights.

As soon as you get outside in more rural areas, you will notice that not only adults are driving around town, but kids! I’ve seen kids as young as 8 year driving around on motorbikes with other kids on the back!

Kids driving in Thailand
Not uncommon at all!

Then you have the pick-up trucks that are filled to the breaking point with propane tanks, driving around like a fucking racing car.

I once saw one if these trucks brake heavily. The propane tanks on the top flew off like they were catapulted of the truck, landing 30 meter further ahead the road. What if some motorbike with a family was in front of that truck??

At night Thai people, and tourists, will drive wasted back from the bar. Sometimes they crash, and because they are drunk, they have zero reflexes and will dive head first into a sidewalk curb or road sign.

The next day you’ll find a CCTV video on liveleak with human brains splattered all over the pavement.

 

Some tips on driving in Thailand

Well. You always need to be on your alert. You can’t space out for a second down here, especially in the cities. Always wear a helmet, and if you are going to do some serious biking. Get dressed properly.

Falling of a motorbike at any speeds faster than 30 km/t will take off some some serious skin if you fall of the bike.

Always have your hands on the breaks, as you never know when a dog, a kid, or just a reckless Thai driver will cut you off. These guys don’t bother to look in mirrors to see if the road is clear. Some even take of the mirrors because they don’t use them anyways.

Watch out for dust and gravel in the roads. There is a lot of that down here. I see tourists everywhere that have big bruises on their legs and arms. When I ask them what happened, they tell me that they drove too fast in a curve, and slipped because of gravel.

Don’t start to drive in the cities. Start out in the country side, or on a smaller island with calmer traffic. You don’t want to start your driving career in Thailand in Bangkok or Pattaya. That is almost certain to end bad for you.

When you start to understand the flow of the traffic here. You can drive in the bigger cities, or rent a bigger bike. But start easy!

Left side, left side, left side, left side….

Get that shit printed inside your head. It’s so easy to forget, especially on smaller roads with no road marks. If there is no traffic on the road, you will probably use the entire road, and when someone is coming towards you, you will move over to your side.

That’s a good time to remember what side of the road they drive on in Thailand, namely the left side.

 

Renting a motorbike in Thailand

Renting a motorbike in Thailand is very straight forward. You don’t need to show any driving licence or insurance papers. All they require is for you to sign a contract that you are renting a motorbike from their shop. They will also need to take a copy of your passport. And you’re good to go!

Most places will also require a deposit. This can be anything from 1000 to 4000 baht.

Insurance

The motorbikes you’ll rent in Thailand are not insured. Most contracts you’ll sign will say this. That means if you wreck the scooter for some reason, you’ll have to pay for the damage. If you wreck it beyond repair you’ll have to pay for a new one.

How much does a new scooter cost in Thailand? 

If you are renting a new scooter in Thailand, and you wreck it (worst case scenario). A new scooter can be anything from 40.000 to 70.000 baht.

On my third trip to Thailand I crashed a scooter slightly and ripped up a cap on the right side. I had to pay 4000 baht for that damage. Shit happens. 🙁

Scams

Don't pay for stuff you didn't do!
Don’t pay for stuff you didn’t do!

In my experience scams are uncommon when renting motorbikes. One scam however is that a shop will try to charge you for a damage you didn’t make. This could be deliberate, but it could also just mean that the owner didn’t see the damage before you deliver it back.

It’s important that you go over the bike before you set off. Look for scratches and missing parts. If you find anything that’s not right. Take a picture of it. That way they can’t really try to rip you off when you deliver it back.

Some shops have own forms where they will write down damages that is already on the bike. I would still take pictures just to be sure. Maybe they ‘lose’ this paper?? You never know.

Prices per day

Scooters: 150 – 300 baht
Dirt Bikes: 250 – 500 baht
Harley’s and sport-bikes: 1000 baht and up

 

What about the police? 

The police is usually never a problem in Thailand, and most of them are very friendly. The risk of getting stopped by the police is very slim. And will only happen in two situations:

  1. You don’t have a helmet, a police man sees you, he needs money, and he stops you.
  2. The police have planned a road block because they need money and will stop everyone.

I’ve been stopped once in one road block outside Chiang Mai. They asked me if I had been drinking. I said no. Then they asked me to see my licence.

Well, I don’t have any licence. Fuck..!

After about 10 minutes of friendly talking. They let me go without paying anything.

Why?

Because I was calm and friendly the entire time. Cracked some jokes with them at the right moment, said I love Thailand and I tried to speak Thai with them lol.

I said that I drive very careful (which is true), but that I don’t have a Thai licence or international licence. Only my European licence, but that was at the hotel at that moment (not really).

Here is a little secret about Thailand – As long as you are polite, patient, smile and stay friendly. You will get away with a lot of these minor offenses. Thai people don’t take traffic rules nearly as serious as we do in the Western world, and a polite smile could solve a lot of stuff!

At worst case scenario you will have to pay some kind of ‘fee’ for wasting their time (bribe) on 500 baht or something like that.

 

Curvy roads at Koh Pha Ngan
Curvy roads at Koh Pha Ngan

I love to drive motorbikes. As long as you take it easy, don’t wander to far outside your own comfort-zone and wear the right gear. You will most likely never have any incident.

Driving motorbikes in Thailand is awesome as there are some many great places to drive. So many awesome routes, curvy roads, steep hills, and amazing sceneries. 

 

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