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Riding and renting a motorbike in Thailand | Top 10 tips | VIDEO

Tanutam Thawan

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Motorbikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport in Thailand, and most of south east Asia. In many cases, they’re the ‘engine’ for the local economies. Most of them just go and go and go, they’re astonishingly reliable. Getting around on a motorbike is easy enough and will get you to your destination faster, whilst the cars and trucks are plodding along in the traffic.

But riding a motorbike in Thailand can also be very dangerous. If you stick to the common sense basics – ride within the speed limits, wear a bike helmet, obey the traffic rules and don’t drink and drive – it remains a perfectly reliable way to get around.

Here’s our Top Ten tips to make your journey on the motorbike safer, and, more comfortable.

Number 1. Wear appropriate clothes. Falling off a motorbike without anything covering your knees or elbows, is going to be painful enough – having at least some fabric between you and the road is going to reduce the painful grazes a bit. Long pants and a long shirt are a good start. Always wear shoes for the same reason. And a motorbike helmet as well – it’s the law and it could save your life.

Number 2. Keep your bike in good condition. As hardy and reliable as the modern motorbikes are, they will run better and for longer if you keep up the service schedule, and change the oil around once a month. Apart from changing the engine oil, keep an eye on the tyres as the road surfaces in much of Thailand, plus the heat and humidity, will wear down your tread quickly. Your brakes will also need checking. Then there’s the lights at the front and back, which are your best way to inform other driver’s what you’re doing in the traffic. Indicators may not be used much by the locals, but YOU should.

Number 3. Make sure you have a proper license. Your car license in your home country isn’t legal in Thailand to ride a motorbike. Your International Drivers License for cars, issued in your home country isn’t going to cut it either. Legally, the only document that will satisfy the Thai legal system, officially, is a Thai motorcycle license. Keep this in mind if you want to rent a motorbike! If you live in Thailand you simply must get a proper motorbike drivers license of you want to ride a motorbike here. And whilst we’re talking about a Thai Motorbike License, we’re talking about the ones you get from the Land Transport Offices, not along Khao San road for 500 baht!

Number 4. Check your travel and health insurance. Every week The Thaiger hears from tourists stuck in a Thai hospital with mounting hospital bills and an insurance company that won’t pay out because they didn’t have a proper drivers license. Or no insurance at all. And even if you have travel or health insurance, check the fine print because most insurance contracts don’t include driving on motorbikes in Thailand.

Number 5. Driving is different in Thailand. Many of the rules are the same as countries that also drive on the left-hand side of the road. But it is a totally different vibe. Apart from the lunatics that drive too fast, drink-drive or ghost ride…. That’s driving against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road…. there’s just a different attitude to driving. It’s a bit like swimming with a school of fish… if you just go-with-the-flow, and keep in the stream of traffic, you’ll generally do well. Be extra careful and mindful if you’re not used to the flow of Thai traffic. Number

Number 6. Green lights mean GO. Red lights also mean GO…. sometimes. You’ll see what we mean. Don’t even think about trying it. You’ll either end up fined, or dead.

Number 7. Have a practice. If you’re either new to driving a motorbike or new to driving a motorbike in Thailand don’t thrust yourself into a busy stretch of road immediately. Try something a little calmer and slower to get a feel of the subtle differences in Thai traffic movement. You’re sharing the road with trucks, cars, buses and passenger vans.

You’re meant to stay on the left hand side and you’d be well advised to do so, despite the behaviour of some Thai motorbike drivers that want to mix it with the ‘big boys’. Get some confidence with your motorbike and way it handles, and moving in and around traffic on a quiet road before you tackle the main roads.

Number 8. There’s pot holes, then there’s POT HOLES. The roads around Thailand have really improved in the past decade but you’ll still find pot holes in places there wasn’t one the day before. If you want a really good reason for giving plenty of distance between you and the car in front, it’s to see the pot hole before you end up IN it. Whilst car tyres might glide over these holes in the road, your motorbike is likely to come to an abrupt halt, with you continuing over the front of the handlebars – something to do with Newton’s first law of motion.

Number 9. If you’re not sure, don’t. Never ridden a motorbike? Didn’t ride a motorbike in your own country? There’s two good reasons not to try it for your first time in Thailand.

It can be a bit of a challenge for even experienced motorbike drivers, well different anyway. There’s plenty of other ways to get around and if you want THAT selfie for your Facebook page there’s thousands of bikes parked by the side of the road where you can get a photo. Just because your friends did it when they travelled to Thailand doesn’t mean you have to.

Number 10. Police will often arbitrate on the spot at an accident. If you are in the wrong and damaged someone or someone else’s bike you’re probably going to have to pay up. Now, there’s the ‘official’ way to sort things out in these case and the ‘unofficial’.

The policemen will get to the scene soon enough and, often, decide there and then who was at fault. They’ll often negotiate how much should be paid as well. The urban myth is that Thai police always side with the the locals – that’s not the case although, if you are indeed in the wrong then you’re IN THE WRONG!

If you are concerned that you’re being rolled by the locals in sorting out a simple motorbike accident then call the Tourist Police or your consulate immediately. DON’T agree to pay any money to anyone until you’ve spoken to at least the Tourist Police.
Getting into an argument with the local police will almost certainly guarantee you’ll come off second best. Demanding that you speak to the police chief, etc, will also usually end up in the situation not going well in your favour. Be patient and don’t lose your cool. You are in a foreign country, you’re a guest and they do things differently – end of sentence.

 

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sam

    Friday, September 18, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    Crazy drivers! Intersections with the traffic light just for decoration ! Drivers decide themselves if they can continue at lights and the goons in the box watching this (guess who) just let it continue as just part of the way things are !

  2. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Motorbikes are fun but so dangerous. The number one cause of death and injury for foreigners in Thailand is motorbikes. Always always always wear a helmet, and yes they do give tickets if you don’t . Oh and I’ve never seen an insurance policy that covers an accident while riding one. Last never hand over your passport to rent one. They will ask but tell them no. Let them copy it and if needed they can hold your drivers license. Thailand has one the highest number of stolen passports in the world. There is huge black market in them. Don’t worry they will hand you a passport back when returning the motorbike, it just won’t be yours.

  3. Avatar

    Perceville Smithers

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Every Thailand trip,I see tourists hobbling around in blood bandages. On my first visit, I found out these people experienced a motorbike mishap.

  4. Avatar

    Terence Adams

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Don’t listen to this story. Anyone driving a cycle or motorcycle on any road in Thailand for pleasure rather than necessity, must be MAD! It doesn’t matter how good a driver you are, your life is in the hands of some of the worst drivers in the world.

  5. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    Demand to see the police chief! You can demand all you want you will not see the police chief.
    After I read that I did not bother reading anymore.
    Anyone on a motor bike in Thailand is a police target.
    It does not matter that everything is legal, and you did nothing wrong – they will find something.
    Not every time true, but often enough for it to become expensive.

    • Avatar

      Halvor Eide

      Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 4:33 pm

      After 8 years, I have never had any problems with the police in Thailand. I have been caught on red light, without a helmet, forgotten driver’s license and speeding violation. Very low fines. I do not know if they take the money in their own pocket. But I do not care about that either. What is stupid is that we can continue driving without a helmet or without a driver’s license, after the fine has been paid. Not good, but easy for us.

  6. Avatar

    Halvor Eide

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    change the oil around once a month?
    Does anyone change oil once a month?

    • Avatar

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 5:08 pm

      Ummm The Thaiger does. But guarantee most don’t. We find the humidity and hot operating conditions ‘glug’ up the oil very quickly.

  7. Avatar

    Halvor Eide

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I use an international driver’s license. 3 year can not be used here. But 1 year can be used. They issue this to Thais, who will travel to other countries. I have been stopped 3 times with an international driver license, just remember the original driver license.

  8. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 5:18 pm

    In tourist areas, such as Pattaya I was stopped all the time.
    Maybe outside of tourist areas maybe they are not as greedy.

  9. Avatar

    Jeff

    Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 9:43 am

    I stopped after #3. Change oil every month….hardly. Yes, an international car license isn’t acceptable (duh!) but an international motorcycle license is acceptable. Get some informed writers/editors or at least writers/editors who aren’t lazy and will do research. Unbelievable what passes for “journalism” these days.

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