There are tons of ways to get around Thailand. If you have read our article about all the different transportation methods in Thailand, you know there are tuk-tuks, busses, trains, taxis and private cars. There is one mode of transportation that far surpasses the rest: renting scooters.
No Thailand vacation is complete without a moped rental. Whether you’re bargaining your motorcycle rental in the bustling city of Bangkok or whipping out your English to Thai dictionary in hopes of scoring the best price from a local in Chiang Mai Thailand, you will not be disappointed. Out of all the places, we recommend Phuket scooter rentals and rentals on Koh Samui the most as we loved the freedom to explore all the many Thailand beaches.
After living vanlife for so long, there is no better feeling for us than getting some wheels underneath us and having the freedom to explore deeper. We are HUGE advocates for renting scooters in Thailand and have never encountered any issues personally. We have rented a scooter in every place we have travelled through in the country except for Bangkok as we didn’t spend very much time there. While we never had any problems, we have met a lot of people who have gotten in accidents on their scooters and ended up getting quite injured. This isn’t to scare you but to remind you that while there may be fewer rules in Thailand about scooters, you will still want to take some obvious precautions and have emergency travel insurance.
The prices for scooter rentals vary greatly depending mostly on location. In the north of Thailand in areas such as Chiang Mai, everything is quite a bit cheaper than in the southern islands. While the prices will vary a lot, they are still incredibly affordable compared to the prices you expect to pay in other parts of the world. Most times in the south we paid between 200-350 baht for 24 hours.
We always base our rentals on 24-hour periods. While this is how most of Thailand works, we have been faced a few times with people saying “day rentals” but simply meaning we take it at whatever time we’re there until 7 pm that night. I am not sure why we have heard this a few times but we always just end up saying no thanks and insisting on the 24-hour rentals.
You may be enticed to go for the scooter rental that has the best price but this isn’t always the best idea. Oftentimes, these prices can be bargained down, especially if you are in a group renting multiple bikes. While this is possible, the prices are more than fair and the truth is you’d be paying at least 10 times more in your own country so make sure you are being fair.
While a cheap price is appealing, keep in mind it is much wiser to pay a few baht more and rent from a trusted source. Be sure to always see the bike you rent before you do any exchange of money so you aren’t fooled by shiny bikes up front only to be left with an older one once the exchange has been made.
Where To Rent
In Thailand, you will find a place to rent a scooter on almost every single corner, especially in cities and large tourist areas. While you can rent from just about everywhere, we recommend putting a bit of thought into where you choose.
We found the best thing to do is to ask the person at the front desk of the hotel you are staying with where to rent from. Many hotels do scooter rentals or partner with trusted places to rent a bike. If you can’t do this, we’ve had success renting from travel agencies as well. Again, this is something we have never had a problem with but there are too many horror stories out there to not play it a bit cautious.
Before Your Rental
The moment you decide to rent a scooter it’s important that before you get on your bike you whip out your phone and start recording. Don’t feel rude about doing this, everyone does it and it is to protect them as much as it protects you. Go slow and make sure to record every single inch of the bike making note of any and all damage to the bike before you leave the premises. This will ensure that you return it in the same condition you got it and act as a witness to protect you in case of any future discrepancies.
We recommend paying specific attention to Thailand’s weather. We failed to look at the Thailand news in Koh Phangan one day and found ourselves in the middle of torrential downpour miles away from our hotel.
As with any rental, you can expect to give some sort of collateral for taking the scooter. Most places ask for either a passport or a large cash deposit (often 10,000 Baht). Neither of these are the most appealing of options which is why it is so important to go somewhere somewhat reputable.
As you will likely be giving your hotel your passport anyways (or allowing them to make a photocopy of it) you will not need to do anything else when renting a scooter. As you will be renting from a reputable business that relies strongly on customer reviews, you are far less likely to be scammed as well.
While we have heard people say that it is illegal for someone to require that you give your passport for a rental, the reality is these aren’t big established corporations that you are renting from. In fact, oftentimes it is just a guy with a few extra bikes lying around.
Getting A License
One of our most asked questions here is do you need a license to drive a scooter in Thailand? While you may not think that you need a motorcycle license to drive a scooter in the country, it actually is required by Thai law. This is a very loosely enforced rule as police here have bigger issues to worry about. It is worth noting that the majority (I’d bet 70%) of tourists in Thailand ride a scooter with no license and most of them never encounter any issues.
After 3 times visiting Thailand and riding a scooter every single time, we only had issues once. We found ourselves in the middle of a roadblock while driving through Phuket and we didn’t have a license. Despite our nerves in the situation all this meant was a ticket given to us by the Thai police. A total of 500 THB (~$21 CAD) was all we owed and simply carried on our way. We asked the police if we would just get pulled over again down the road and they assured us that we just needed to show the ticket and prove that we had already paid.
It is also worth looking into the travel insurance that you get. If you were to get into any sort of accident that requires any hospital time or medication, your insurance may not cover it if you are driving a scooter without a license.
We learned afterward that the police were not concerned with our license but rather it was a common way to get money from tourists. The next time we went to Thailand we came prepared with an international driver’s license and asked them to tick off the scooter allowance (in Canada you can operate a scooter of fewer than 50 ccs with a regular license). While we have never had any trouble since it was still nice to have that peace of mind and the license itself cost about as much as the ticket. This is one of our best Thailand travel tips as it is so affordable and can give you a ton of peace of mind.
After You Rent
You’ve found your bike and dealt with all the deposits and other logistics. Now it’s time to jump on and explore! One of the most important things for you to figure out when jumping on your bike is which brake (right or left) controls the front brake and which controls the back. We have seen some pretty gruesome accidents from people hitting their front brakes and flipping over their handlebars. Be sure to always squeeze your back brakes first and your front brake simply to support your stop.
Before going too far, you will want to do is check the fuel level. Popping the seat up you will find access to the gas tank. In Thailand, you can expect to find places to fuel up everywhere however they won’t all look as you’d expect. While there are some big typical gas stations as you’re used to, more often than not you will find a small store on a corner selling mysterious bottles of fuel that you can put into your scooter. These work and are safe to use but are no doubt diluted quite a bit making them not as good of a bang for your buck.
You will also find random singular pumps in the middle of nowhere that somehow always provide quality gas for an affordable price. Realistically, the fuel is quite cheap in Thailand and scooters don’t require very much of it making it safe to fill up with any of these sources.
Have you rented a scooter in Thailand? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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My advice is to always have your driving license, as well international driving license. The helmet is the most important thing. Please buy your own good helmet. The rental shop helmets are not good. Since they do not change helmets. it is hard to see through them in the nighttime when the light hits your face.