A scooter is my favourite kind of transportation in Thailand. There’s no better way of seeing all the sites than on your own 2 wheels. Thanks to them you can be independent and travel on your own.
During my stay in Thailand, I had my own scooter, which I bought at the very beginning of my move. After that, I sold it and bought a new one, which I sold, too. Before I came back home to Europe, I drove a rented scooter. In this post, I will tell you all I know about owning and renting your motorbike in the Land of Smiles.
Thailand has the most dangerous roads in the world. Accidents happen often and the victims are usually expats or tourists. Think twice before you decide to ride a scooter in Thailand. I have never had an accident nor have I been in any minor crash. However, I know a lot of people, who have been hurt at least once. Knowing how easy it is to be in an accident, makes me very cautious about driving in Thailand.
If you have never driven a motorbike before, practice in your own country first. Learn how to balance, how to put an indicator on and how to turn without falling. It’s also good to drive on the street and get used to the traffic. Of course, the traffic in Thailand is different than in other countries, especially those in the west, but you will still have an experience of moving around cars.
Driving license, bribes and police
In Thailand, traffic rules are just suggestions and for breaking them you won’t get a ticket. However, police officers are quite keen to take your money and they will always find something to fine you for.
For example, in Chiang Mai during the day police is on every street corner in the center. If they catch you, they will ask for your driving license. You should have one from your home country, which allows you to drive a scooter and an international driving license. If you don’t have them, you will get a ticket, or the officer will suggest a bribe. A ticket over 300 Baht is a hefty fine and it’s only up to you if you want to negotiate.
Even if you get a ticket, you don’t need to worry too much. They will take your driving license and keep it until you pay the fine at your nearest police station. A bribe is often more expensive than a ticket, but you don’t need to go to a police station and waste your time queuing up. My advice? Get a driving license and an international driving license.
Your safety is the most important
Buy a good insurance policy before you go. If you’re visiting Thailand for just a few weeks, a normal tourist insurance will be enough. If you’re an expat or a digital nomad, then think about something long term. I always recommend World Nomads, which is perfect for people, who stay abroad for longer. Remember that if you don’t have a valid motorbike license, but drive a scooter nevertheless and then have an accident, your insurance company might refuse to cover your medical bills.
Remember to have a helmet. Rental shops offer them for free, but they are made out of cheap plastic and won’t protect you properly. You will find good helmets in shops that sell car and motorbike equipment. Invest more than 200 Baht. A good helmet costs around 1000 Baht. In most cities, helmets are available in shops around markets and busy streets. It’s also good to go to a Honda or a Yamaha dealer – you will find addresses on the Internet.
Roads in Thailand are dangerous, so be safe and observe the traffic first. If at a certain crossing people don’t stop at a red light, then don’t do it either. Stick to the left side and drive slowly, but not too slowly. Those, who drive for the first time think that going slow protects against accidents. The problem is that they often block other vehicles, causing jams and because they are so careful, people driving behind them never know what to expect.
Use your indicators. Thais try to do it all the time, especially in the cities.
Drunk driving is not punished in Thailand and that’s why there are so many people, who drive under influence. Try not to do it and instead take a taxi, an Uber or a tuk-tuk if you have one too many.
Renting a scooter in Thailand is not a problem. Rental places are almost everywhere in bigger cities.
To rent one you need your passport. In some places, it will only be copied and handed back to you, but some shops insist on keeping them until you give the vehicle back. If you’re staying longer, you can negotiate the price and the deposit to keep the passport.
Your deposit depends on how long you want to keep the scooter. One day costs 250-300 Baht. Having a driving license is not required, even when you want to rent a bigger bike.
Before you drive off, take photos of any scratches. Make sure that the staff knows about them and marks them on the rental form.
It is a bit more complicated to buy a scooter in Thailand, but it’s probably easier than you think. First, you need a couple of documents to register the scooter and enjoy it fully.
Where to buy a scooter?
You can find a scooter on Facebook groups and Facebook shops. In high season, or straight after there are a lot of offers. You can also buy one straight from a dealer. Although, they sometimes cause some problems for the buyer and require more documents. Cost of a new Honda Click is 30,000 Baht and a used one costs 16,000 – 25,000 Baht.
Before you pay, you should take a test drive and check for scratches, check cables and the kilometers made. However, you can never be sure if the scooter is fully functional until you drive it for a bit. You won’t get a warranty when buying a used scooter. It’s best to buy something newer than pay for something old, which will require many visits to a mechanic.
How to register your scooter?
A scooter, or a motorbike, you want to buy needs to have a green book (registration booklet, or in Thai tha – bian rot ทะเบียนรถ). It’s a very important document. If your name is not in the booklet, you’re not the owner of the vehicle. Never believe in excuses that the previous owner didn’t have time to register the scooter. Also remember that as a visitor you have the right to own a car or a scooter, and the booklet should be included in the cost of the car.
To register a scooter you need to have:
- A copy of an ID of the previous owner with his/her original signature.
- A copy of the address confirmation of the previous owner with his/her original signature.
- Documents, which you can get in the transportation office, which needs to be filled in by the previous owner.
- A copy of your passport with a valid visa.
- A copy of a work contract or your accommodation contract and a confirmation of your stay, which you can get from the immigration office.
- The green book.
If you have all of the above documents, you can go to your nearest Department of Transportation, where you can apply to register the scooter.
When you get there, you might see total chaos. Fortunately, the staff is usually friendly and helpful. Receptionists see a confused farang and help with the application. The whole thing takes about 2-3 days, after which you become a lawful owner of your 2 wheels.
How to sell a scooter in Thailand?
Selling a scooter is very easy. Take some photos and put your advert on Facebook groups. Ask around if anyone knows someone who wants to buy a scooter. Once you find a potential buyer, meet up with them and allow them to check your scooter and go for a test drive. Just make sure they leave you their ID, or a deposit, so your ride doesn’t disappear forever.
Remember that it’s a common custom to bargain. It’s best to request a higher price for your scooter, so you can lower it if necessary.
People don’t really look after their motorbikes in Thailand. Many drive old, used vehicles and only go to a mechanic if they have a flat tire.
It’s good to invest a bit in your bike as you can ask for a higher price if you want to sell it. Change your oil and do a quick MOT once in a while. Mechanics are very cheap in Thailand and you will pay around 200 Baht for new oil.
Try to put air in your tires often as it’s easy to get a flat one on Thai roads. There are rubbish and nails everywhere! When you have a flat tire, get your scooter to the nearest workshop. Drive very slowly, on the side of the road. Mechanics in Thailand don’t speak English, but as soon as they see you, they will know what to do.
To me, my scooter was the best thing I had in Thailand and I was very proud of it and proud of the fact I could drive there. I would recommend it to almost everyone, but if you’re not prepared properly, then stick with taxis. It’s better to be safe than sorry.