The Motorbike Guide to Thailand
Motorbikes may be the best (and cheapest) way to get around the cities in Thailand for a tourist, but a lot of backpackers are nervous about renting a scooter. I loved my motorbike experiences in Thailand, but I spoke to a lot of other travelers before renting my first scooter to make sure I did it right as there were plenty of stories of being scammed or falling.
When I first arrived in Bangkok, I saw motorbikes everywhere. They zip through the streets between cars. It looks like chaos. I thought it would be insane to rent a scooter in Thailand! I never did rent one Bangkok or get on any of the motorbike taxis. I never met any other travelers that did rented a bike in Bangkok because they had the same reaction: it is a big, hectic city for mopeds.
Once I traveled south to the islands, I saw the appeal of the motorbikes. In Koh Tao, Thailand a motorbike for the day cost 150-200 baht, while a single taxi ride would cost anywhere between 300-500 baht, so if you wanted to see the island, a motorbike was the best choice.
In Koh Tao, I heard numerous stories of people renting bikes and getting ripped off when they returned their scooter. Every shop on the island takes your passport as a deposit. When you return the bike, they may try to accuse you of scratching it and charging you thousands of baht, and since they have your passport, you have to pay.
The key to renting a motorbike in Thailand is to take A LOT of photos. Take photos of every little ding and scratch on the scooter. Check the mirrors and all of the light covers too for any cracks.
Secondly, when signing the rental agreement ask for a damages price list. There is a chance you could fall or drop the bike and scratch it, so it is good to know how much you will owe if that happens. When I rented my first bike, the back of the contract had a list of every part on the scooter and the cost to replace it. It ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand Thai baht. If you do break something, at least you know the maximum you will pay.
In Phuket, I found a motorbike shop that was willing to take just my drivers license as a deposit, but that is a rare case.
You can frequently rent motorbikes through your hotel or hostel. They partner with a motorbike company that will deliver you the bike to the hostel and pick it up from the hostel too, so it is really convenient! I took lots of pictures of the bike, and I am happy that I did.The next day a girl was arguing with the rental company about damages on her bike. Just because you are renting with your hostel, don’t assume the company is going to be fair.
Lastly, wear a helmet! I was shocked by how many backpackers I saw going helmet-less on scooters. If they motorbike rental company does not immediately offer you a helmet, ask for it. Every motorbike shop I spoke with included helmets at no additional charge.0