Freedom in a Foreign Land: Scooter Rental in Thailand
Renting a scooter in Thailand means that you can get off the beaten track. You can explore the quieter beaches, zoom around the country lanes and find the best views.
You’ve arrived in Thailand. Explored the local scene. Soaked up the sun on the beach. What’s next? Tours can be pricey and you want to avoid the crowds. The easiest way to make exploring affordable and at your own pace? Rent a scooter!
This isn’t child’s play though. Thailand is notorious for scooter scams, treacherous roads and one of the highest road accident numbers in the world. Don’t let that put you off though! Armed with this guide and our top tips you’ll be ready and set to take to the road.
The Process of Renting a Scooter in Thailand
There are signs for scooters literally everywhere you look. It seems in Thailand that every man, woman, child and dog have a scooter to rent. So, don’t worry about there being a shortage of machines to ride on. That said it’s definitely worth finding a reputable company. It can be tempting to take the cheapest option from the gent sat outside of his shop but don’t expect it to be the best maintained, safest or most reliable bike.
Recommended shops change from season to season. You best bet is to ask around either at your hostel, hotel or a local tourist information point. Key points to think about when you’re looking for a place: are the bikes outside in good condition and do they look established?
When you find a place, make sure you cover absolutely everything in the contract explicitly. Thailand has regulated scooter hire and there are official looking forms that you have to fill in now. Some companies will ask you to leave your passport as deposit. Do not do this. By all means let them see it or take a photocopy but your passport is the most important document you own whilst abroad. Don’t risk it going missing.
Size Matters, Especially for a First Timer
The standard options are usually automatic Honda or Suzuki 110cc scooters. You’ll also find beefier 125cc bikes and some 150cc large scooters. What you can rent will depend on your travel insurance and your riding ability. Expect to pay around 200-250 baht a day for a 110cc twist and go automatic. More for the bigger numbers.
You could also go for a classic Asian semi-automatic model. The Honda Wave is the backbone of Thai bike riding. There must be millions of them. They’re great fun to ride. They have no clutch but you are in control of the gears using your left foot. If you’re an experienced scooter rider then they’re a fun option. Generally, the semi-autos are considerably cheaper than their automatic counterparts.
Expect to pay at least some deposit. Usually this is around $100, it can be less, it might be more for a bigger/newer model. The bikes almost always take ‘91’ gasoline, it’s cheap and readily available wherever you are. If you’re on the mainland just pull into a station and say how much you want to get filled up. If you’re on the islands pull over to one of the many roadside stalls with Sangsom bottles full of fuel. Use your fingers to say how many bottles and you’re done!
Avoiding the Most Common Scooter Rental Scam
Unfortunately, scams do happen, but you can avoid them if you’re switched on.
Once you’ve agreed on the bike insist on examining it for damage. The best idea is to take photos, or even better a video, of the bike from every possible angle. The most common scam in the book is the classic “That scratch/damage wasn’t there before” scam. Once you’re armed with photos then you’ll be fine.
There are other scams, but they’re becoming less and less frequent as Thailand becomes more and more regulated. As we said above, pick a reputable company and you’ll be worry free.
Driving in Thailand isn’t going to be your safest experience. Take your time and watch the road like a hawk. Always expect there to be a bus overtaking on that blind corner. Using the horn in Thailand is only used as a warning to other road users that you’re there or overtaking etc. Don’t use it in anger. Thai’s hate losing face and if they’re embarrassed you could end up in an unpleasant situation.
Insist on a helmet. We cannot express how much you need a helmet. Walk along the beach and you’ll inevitably see at least 1 tourist with some road rash bandages. That could be you. If you risk riding without a helmet it could be a whole lot worse than just a graze. Check the condition of the helmet, it won’t be new but if it has clearly been damaged or banged then reject it. Helmets are designed to withstand one impact only.
Once you’re signed, paid and documented you’re sorted. Time to hit the road! Just don’t tell Mum until you’re finished…
Renting a Scooter in Thailand Insider Tip
International driving licenses are a savior. We’ve ridden bikes in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Koh Phangan and more. In each one of these places we’ve been stopped by the police. Without an international driver’s licence from your home country you’ll need to pay a fine to the officer in question. This is usually 500 baht a time. The international license only costs around US $9-12. Save yourself some more beer money and grab one before you leave home.