Trouble Free Motorbike or Scooter Rental in Thailand
First Riding a Bike is Great!
Let’s face it, riding a bike is fun. If you have not tried then you should, and right away!
Cruising along a road, the wind in your hair, the sound of your bike, and the open air all around—it makes life worth living. Exhilaration! Freedom! Contentment!
If you happen to be in Thailand, then all the better. Cruising down the roads of Thailand: the busy highways, grinding slowly over unpaved backstreets, meandering your way through a town, riding along a jungle road, and gazing at the majestic countryside, is a fantastic experience. Thailand is an ideal bike destination.
However, don’t be an idiot. Don’t endanger yourself or others. Learn to ride your bike first.
Renting the Bike
There are a few things you need to do first before you ride.
First, you need to get your bike or Scooter.
Finding somewhere to rent a bike is the easy part. Every city, town, and village has local folk who can get you a bike, but finding someone reliable is trickier. Some of the major tourist destinations, Phuket in particular, have a bad reputation. You rent you a bike, then the day before you leave, the bike is stolen from your hotel—it is as if someone else had the key—and you must pay the replacement cost. Another scam is to claim that the bike is damaged upon its return. This leaves you with the option of paying an inflated repair price or missing your flight.
Find a rental company with a reasonable reputation. So, ask. Ask your guesthouse. They know the local market. (If you don’t trust your guesthouse staff—move.) Also, ask your fellow travellers, online and offline. If you see a couple of lads on bikes tooling around town, ask where they rented their bike. Look for a renter at a good location, say outside a classy hotel or other notable spot. This guy has a good spot and will want to avoid trouble. Also check online, the past experiences renters have had with that company.
Lastly, take a look at who you are dealing with. Chat to the guy for a few moments. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to him, don’t rent a bike. There will be several other people in town. Take the time to check. It will save you a great deal of money is something goes wrong.
Bike prices vary but expect to pay around 200-300 baht ($6-$10) a day. For a month, around 3,000 baht. Much cheaper. The price is not negotiable, and in fact, this price is cheap. If the bike looks ok, this is a fair price.
Here is the tricky part. The actual rental. Some renters will want to retain your passport as security. Don’t. For one, it is of dubious legality. In most countries, your government and not you own the passport. The other, the possibility of theft.
Renting a scooter in Chiang Mai in 2016
What should you do? First, a request for ID is fair. Show the guy your passport, and give him a copy. Show him your guesthouse receipt. Invite him to phone your guesthouse. Then leave your home country driver’s licence with him.
After your identity has been established you will need to pay a deposit. This is usually 1,000b. Sometimes 5,000b. Fair enough, you do have the bike. Keep in mind that it is a major capital investment for the Thai guy.
Selecting a Bike
There are a few things you need to check other than the colour. The most important part is its gearing. Is it automatic? Automatic means no gear changing, just hop on and drive. For a beginner, this is the way to go. Get an automatic bike. Then the colour. Yellow is good. Yellow is highly visible. You will be safer with a yellow bike. Yellow.
Get travel insurance that covers all costs: bike repair, theft, your medical, and the other guy’s medical. Check this before you leave. License, do you have a valid bike license for this type of bike, in Thailand? If not your insurer may decline to pay your medical bills. Get an international drivers license.
Things to be aware of
Helmet, wear a helmet (if this hard to figure out?). One helmet always comes with the bike, maybe a little extra for a second helmet. A yellow helmet? Theft, don’t leave the key in the ignition. The thing is, Thai towns are safe, and as a foreigner, you are as safe as anyone and safer than most, but things happen. Take the usual precautions. Keep track of the bike, when you park the bike, take a photo.
Make a thorough check of the bike before you ride out. Look for scratches and dents, missing paint, and anything that looks off. Test the controls, do the indicators work? Take it for a 1 min drive down the street and back, check the brakes.
But, before you drive off, take a photo of the guy, the bike, and your paperwork. Put his business card and number into your phone. Also get from him the number of a mobile mechanic, someone who can fix a flat tire or transport your bike to a repair shop. All JIC.
Last, check your petrol. Most renters will give you a bike with low gas. Embarrassing to run aground.
Now you can drive off. Zoooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Having given all of this advice, and all of these warnings, the reality is that 99% plus of these small business chaps are fine. They will give you a good bike, a map, and travel advice.
What happens if there is a problem?
Don’t panic! If it is a minor problem, a flat tyre, then use the number on your phone. A mobile mechanic will soon appear. For more serious problems phone your guy. He will come and recover or repair the bike. If it is stolen, he will deal with the cops (just have your money and insurance ready!). If you are injured get to a hospital. Drive if you can, if not wave down the Buddhist version of a good Samaritan, and be chauffeured to the local emergency ward. Have your insurance details visible in your wallet, money also helps.
Having given all these warnings, don’t panic, don’t even worry. Stay sane, stay sober, exercise good sense, and you will have no problems, and have a great time on the roads of Thailand!