Renting Scooters/Motorbikes in Thailand

28 May

Having grown up on motorbikes in Bolivia and having owned a scooter in Canada, I welcomed the thought of renting a scooter in Thailand. Sure enough, our first day in Krabitown we seen at least 3 scooter rental places and shortly after decided to go in and rent one.

Picture taken in Ao Nang

Picture taken in Ao Nang

It was very straight forward. You give them your passport, sign a piece of paper that states you will owe them up to 50,000 baht if you get into an accident, pay them for however long you are taking it, and then they hand you the keys along with a worn-out round helmet or two (as needed. The law requires you to wear a helmet there and – as a foreigner – you will be the first to get targeted and fined if you don’t).

I do not have a motorbike license but that was never an issue. I had driven motorbikes and scooters literally thousands of times before so, I knew what I was doing.

Anybody can rent a scooter in Thailand (with a passport and about 150 – 200 Baht per day) but not everyone should. It is very common for complete scooter/motorbike newbies to come to Thailand and get excited at the thought of learning to ride and it sounds like fun, but in reality it is not that great of an idea.

Especially if you come from a country that drives on the right hand side (Thais drive on the left). That alone can get confusing – never mind having to learn to drive still 😀

Case in point: We had 4 scooter newbies visit us while we were in Thailand, and 2 of them ended up dropping it and hurting themselves in the process. Luckily it wasn’t bad (in both cases) and no serious damage was done to either of them or the scooter – but it could have been real bad.

It is quite common to see tourists with badly scraped up body-parts in Thailand. A general conclusion always is
A.) they slipped while rock-climbing, or
B.) they had a scooter accident.

I always feel bad for them – especially when I see them at the beach – because I can only imagine how much those scrape wounds must burn in the salty ocean-water.

There are apparently 38 scooter accident related deaths in Thailand every day.  It sounds like a lot (and it is) but I suppose when you take into consideration that the majority of the traffic in Thailand is scooter based, it is not that surprising.

Either way, better scraped than dead 🙂

My honest opinion is: if you have never driven a scooter, don’t go renting one in Thailand to “learn”. As mentioned before, you will have to do too much learning while driving to also figure out how to drive.

I never had an accident there (thank God) and I ended up leaving Thailand without a scrape, but I will say: Thailand is not the safest country to be riding in. The laws/rules are just so different from what I was used to in Canada.

One thing we noticed in Krabi for example (and this drove us nuts), is that scooters making a left turn would never bother to take a look and see if someone was coming – even when turning from a small road on to a major road. They’d just whip out right in front of you (without looking).

As a result, I (and most scooter drivers) would keep more to the right side of the outside lane where possible.

I also learned to have my left hand hover over the brake (automatic scooters have the rear brake where manual ones have the clutch) – just in case I ever had to slam on it.

Once we got used to riding there though, it wasn’t all that bad and we have done plenty of road-trips with the scooter and never had an issue. It does take some time though before you feel the energy-flow of the traffic.

It was very different from province to province also. Chiang Mai, for example, is a more developed city (and significantly bigger than Krabi) so it has more of a familiar feel to it as well (more by the rules).

Rocket Bike Thailand

Picture taken en-route from Chiang Mai to Pai

About the picture: We booked a chopper in Chiang Mai to go to Pai one weekend, but come the day we wanted to go and the place we reserved the chopper at was all booked out.

We forgot to take into consideration that it was a major Thai holiday and everyone was out and about – enjoying a good long weekend ride. A long story short, we ended up booking a baby rocket (250cc) and took that instead – and though that had decent power and was a lot of fun to ride, it wasn’t the most comfortable for longer distances.

Just for the record, I believe I spent about 800 Baht to rent that one for a day (plus gas – which was quite a bit more than the 100 baht scooter fill-ups I had gotten used to).

What have been some of your best scooter or motorbike moments in Thailand (or in general)?

12 thoughts on “Renting Scooters/Motorbikes in Thailand

  1. Driving in Thailand is an adventure in itself. For people unfamiliar driving here, I always recommend they don’t drive motorcycles. Of course most people don’t listen as they are on holiday and invincible. This typically ends up with an accident down the line with varying degrees of severity.

    • Yeah, very well put Lawrence. Especially for someone coming from a right-hand drive country – it can get dangerous. The danger of course multiplies if one has never driven a motorbike or scooter before 🙂

  2. Hello

    We’re going to Thailand next month and I was just wondering what the roads are like in Krabi to drive on with a moped?
    We’ve hired a moped in Samui, Koh Tao and Koh phanang before and the last two places were pretty scary on the bike!!
    We’re staying about 20 mins from Ao Nang so will want to get a bike there at night.

    Thank you
    Alicia

    • Hi Alicia,
      the roads are actually really good in Krabi. Especially the main streets.
      Of course there are hotels/guesthouses off the main road. Those little dirt roads can be full of potholes and slippery in rain.
      But most places will have really good roads.

  3. I was in a motorbike accident in Ao Nang in Krabi. Was in coma for 2-3 weeks.
    I dont remember anything from the accident, but sure it was my fault.
    Living without pain now and on my way back to work! Im going back to Thailand but never Krabi!

    • Brother… that really sucks, wow!
      Tourists die every year in Thailand due to scooter accidents. What did they say happened though?
      Glad to hear you recovered,
      Konrad

  4. You should never, ever leave your passport with a bike hire company in Krabi and other areas for many obvious reasons.
    It is better to take the time to find a reputable company that will just photocopy your name page and hand the passport back to you.

    • Thanks for the comment Katie.
      There are now many companies that will let you leave a small deposit instead. I’ve done both (all over Thailand) and never had any grief/issues.
      To say they are not a reputable company if they demand either or is naive. Having seen dozens of inexperienced tourists crash and do major damage to rented scooters and – instead of owning up to it – pretend it was like that when they rented it, I can totally see why they want either or.
      I for one would hesitate to rent out my own scooter unless a passport and decent deposit was left, especially if the renter can’t present an actual motorbike license. I don’t see it as a “me not being able to trust them” issue, but rather “why should they trust me?”
      Over the years of being in (and out of) Thailand, I personally know of more tourists trying to take advantage of rental places than I know of rental places trying to take advantage of tourists. And as we all know, it only takes one bad apple (on either side) to ruin it for every body.
      Just my 2 (or 10) cent, lol!
      Konrad

  5. Hmmm it’s now April – and I am in Ao Nang with hubby. .. drive in England on tje left as the norm… but in a car…. can see the lite of hire (moped).

    But not sure ….

    • Hi Imran,
      Honestly, we’ve never run into any issues from any place we’ve rented bikes from in Thailand. We’ve always taken extra precautions though as explained in the post. Do report back if you run into any issues.
      Konrad

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