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Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019)

Tim Newton

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Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | The Thaiger

Motorbikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport in Thailand, and most of south east asia. The 110cc step-thru is ubiquitous. Most just go and go and go – they’re astonishingly reliable. Whilst you’re meant to change the oil once a month we suspect most don’t get their oil changed once a year, or ever.

Getting around on a motorbike is easy enough and, especially in busy traffic, 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 but 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.

It will be cheaper and you’ll see more. BUT make sure you have the correct insurance before you go anywhere near a motorbike or motorcycle!!

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

PLEASE NOTE: We’re not recommending that you should ride a motorbike but, if you do, these tips will help…

1. Wear appropriate clothes

Whilst you’ll see idiot tourists riding around on their rented motorbikes in their swimming shorts, and that’s all, you’re going to be much safer with a few clothes on. 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. The flimsy plastic ‘lid’ type helmets cost around 200 baht and will get you through the checkpoints but spending a bit more on a better helmet will provide additional protection in the unlikely situation your head comes in contact with the road. You’ll see the locals riding around with their jackets on the wrong way – they say it keep their clothes clean from the road muck and fumes.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

2. Keep your bike in good condition

It goes without saying. But 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. You will wonder how they can produce these 110-125cc step-thrus for little more than USD$1,000 brand new, but they do and the ones floating around the roads of Thailand are almost all made in the land of smiles.

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. Good tread and keeping your tyres at the prescribed pressure are your best bet for maintaining control at all times. Your brakes will also need checking although, like the rest of the part of these bikes, the brakes seem to last forever.

Whenever you’re getting your oil changed get the service man to check the brakes, tyres and make sure nuts and bolts are all tight – they shake loose sometimes. And 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.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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. It doesn’t matter much until a situation arises where you’re in an accident and the law comes crashing down on you.

If you live in Thailand you simply must get a proper motorbike drivers license of you want to ride a motorbike here. For tourists, the local bike hire shops will gladly rent you a bike, usually by simply showing your passport and giving them a deposit. Some will even tell you that their ‘insurance’ will cover you in the event of an accident – that’s just not going to happen. YOU are responsible for your own health if you get onto a motorbike in Thailand. Check YOUR situation and YOUR health and travel insurance.

And whilst we’re talking about a Thai Motorbike License, we’re talking about the ones you get from the Land Transport Office, not Khao San road for 500 baht!

(Here’s some info about getting a motorbike license in Bangkok, the same applies at the Land Transport Offices in most Thai cities).

We think you’re insane getting on a motorbike in a foreign country without the correct documentation, which leads us to #4…

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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 some insurance contracts preclude driving on motorbikes in Thailand.

In six years driving on Thai roads I’ve had one fall. It winded me badly and I got abrasions on my ankle and knee. But people ran to my assistance and helped me up. I didn’t need to go to hospital but I was grateful, lying in the middle of the road gasping for breath, that I knew I had good health insurance and a proper license.

(The fine print on your insurance, different country’s licences and the policeman that shows up at your accident will all play a part on how your accident will play out. The ONLY sure way you can prove your legal ability to drive on a Thai road is with a Thai motorbike license)

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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 you need to add ‘Thainess’ into the traffic mix. It is different. Apart from the lunatics that drive too fast, drink-drive or ghost ride (driving against the flow of traffic on the side of the road), there’s just the different attitude to driving. We say 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 do well.

The western attitude of driving defensively will go against the grain of Thai traffic movement where ‘personal driving space’ isn’t really honoured and people will cut in front of you as just a part of daily driving habits. It’s not wrong, it’s different and you’re best to learn the subtleties of Thai traffic flow before you immerse yourself in the middle.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

6. Green lights mean GO. Red lights also mean GO, sometimes.

You’ll see what we mean. Don’t even think about trying it. It will either get you fined or dead.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

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.

Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand (2019) | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: John Everingham

Bottomline about riding a motorbike in Thailand is that, if you 1) wear a motorbike helmet 2) never drink and drive 3) wear appropriate clothing 4) have a Thai motorbike license and 5) be aware of the traffic around you and concentrate at all times… you’ll probably have very few problems and be able to enjoy Thailand the way the locals do, au natural, with the wind through your hair and the insects up your nose.

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Looking to jettison some items before jetsetting away or chartering a yacht? Look no further than Thaiger Classifieds where you can find and post items, work, property and more for free. Be sure to check out YonderTours for things to do in Thailand and tours across the country.

Find more Travel top 10s and top 10s in Thailand on The Thaiger.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now CEO and writer for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He presented for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and provides stories for Feature Story News as the south east Asian correspondent.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    USPatriot

    March 8, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    I was hit by a semi truck on my motorbike, his fault.

    Even with his and my insurance. 2 seperate hospitals

    I was not allowed to leave the first hospital without the bill being paid in full.

    So expect the insurance company to pay you 6 months later.

  2. Avatar

    Ricky

    March 9, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I personally know of a EU tourist, who decided to rent and use a small motorbike while on holiday here on Phuket.
    I tried to warn him to NOT go on motorbike, but rent a small car instead. He said “I have big bike at home,” while he showed me his bike pics.
    A few days into his 3 week holiday, he was cut off by a taxi, and they (Mr. / Mrs.) ended up on the pavement. He had multiple lacerations and a broken hand, she had minor head trauma.
    They had insurance, but suffice to say the accident ruined their holiday.
    He needed his hand reconstructed, and she was in and out from hospital a few times. Their “holiday” was mostly spent in hospital.
    They flew home early, licking their wounds.
    You can learn from others. Rent a car for 800/bht per day (motorbike is now 250 per day?).
    What is you health and peace of mind worth?

  3. Avatar

    Harvy

    March 13, 2019 at 7:50 am

    Rule number one; don’t rent a motorbike.

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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Bangkok

Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | The Thaiger

Green Day, five-time Grammy Award winners, are embarking on a global tour in 2020, including a stop-over in Bangkok during March. The rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame inductees will perform a series of concerts throughout Europe, UK, North America and Asia.

“Green Day Live in Bangkok” takes place on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani. But it’s not their first time. Green Day sold out concerts in their last Thai live gigs in 1996 and 2010.

Formed in 1986 in Berkeley, California, Green Day is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time, with more than 70 million records sold worldwide and 10 billion cumulative online streams of their music and performances. Their 1994 breakout album “Dookie” is widely credited with popularising and reviving mainstream interest in punk rock, catapulting a career-long run of No 1 hit singles.

In 2004, Green Day released the rock opera “American Idiot”, selling more than 7 million copies in the US alone and taking home the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In 2010, a stage adaptation of “American Idiot” debuted on Broadway to critical and commercial acclaim. Entertainment Weekly called Green Day, “The most influential band of their generation,” while Rolling Stone said, “Green Day have inspired more young bands to start than any act this side of KISS, and that doesn’t seem to be changing.”

Green Day Live in Bangkok 2020 is on March 11, 2020 at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

Ticket prices start at 2,000 baht and tickets go on sale on November 2 at all ThaiTicketMajor outlets via www.livenation.co.th or www.thaiticketmajor.com or call: 02 262 3838 for more information.

SOURCE: The Nation

Green Day heading back to BKK in 2020 | News by The Thaiger

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