Riding motorbikes in Thailand or anywhere in Asia is kinda like a rite of passage. For as cheap as $5 a day- or sometimes even lower, you can have your own mode of transportation to explore your surroundings. However, if you haven’t been to Asia, and if you haven’t seen the way they drive around Thailand, there is one thing you should know, driving bikes here can be quite a challenge. So before you hop on a bike and sign away your rights, here are some top tips to help you rent a motorbike in Thailand.
What to Bring when Renting a Motorbike in Thailand
- Photocopy of your passport
- Cash (very rarely will bike shops accept credit cards)
- Drivers licence (surprisingly, this isn’t a requirement but we like to carry it with us anyways)
- Contact information
Editor’s Note: If you are traveling around Thailand make sure you check out our guides on where to stay in Thailand.
Rent a Motorbike in Thailand that has Insurance
If you rent from larger motorbike shops, some of them offer an insurance upon rental. We highly recommend spending a little bit extra for this as it would save you a bit of money. This insurance often covers damages, loss, or even accidents. Taking it to another level, ask how the insurance claim works and ask to see a draft of the policy. We personally don’t have any experience or have met anyone that was able to claim through the bike insurance so your best bet is to be sure that you have your own personal travel insurance. We’ve seen accidents happen on the road and they can get bad. Better be safe than sorry!
Related: How to Prepare for Traveling
Don’t Leave Your Passport
I know that more often than not, you would be half tempted to rent the first bike that you see. Believe it or not, it actually pays to walk around and see which store has the best options. Don’t go for the cheapest one, but instead, look for shops that have well maintained bikes. The more reputable stores will allow you to rent a bike without having to leave your passport. I usually carry a photocopy of my passport and leave this instead along with a deposit. We’ve heard of horror stories of shops refusing to return the customers passports over damages. However, if you are renting bigger bikes, that is an exemption. The shops normally hold your passport as a guarantee since you are taking out an expensive piece of equipment.
Take a Photo of Your Motorbike
As you do your initial motorbike inspection, take photos of the bike. Take photos of any existing scratches and dings so that the shops can’t charge you for these “damages” later on. This is something that we had to learn the hard way when we were charged over $200 for bike damage due to a small scratch. And because we were still bike newbies-we also left our original passport which is why in these cases, refer back to tip number 1!
ALWAYS wear a Motorbike Helmet
Motorbikes are pretty dangerous anyways, what more if you pair it up with bad roads, bad driving and an utter disregard for basic traffic regulations. Wearing a helmet is something that Tom insists on-even if we are only driving a couple of meters down the road. Go a step further and request for a full cover helmet over the cute scooter like helmets that won’t really do much in face of any accidents. During one of our motorbike trips up Northern Thailand, we rented a big bike and I got outfitted with a full jacket for protection along with a massive full helmet. Pushing aside the fact that I looked like Robocop, safety always goes first.
As much of an inconvenience it is, resist the urge to wear just a tank top, shorts and flip flops. We’ve seen so many people with nasty bike burns from bad crashes. Again, this is a lesson I learned the hard way as I now have a permanent scar on my right knee from the time we crashed while trying to reach a hidden beach in Koh Phangan. Long light trousers or leggings are best whenever taking long trips on a bike!
Related: What to Pack for Thailand
Most shops are used to tourists. Even more so, they are used to tourists haggling the rental price down. If you rent the bike longer, chances are, you can get the motorbike at a cheaper price as well. Always haggle with a smile, never be rude, and haggle reasonably. You also have to consider that this is how they make a living. It is best that you get a rough idea on how much the average cost of a bike is and then go from there.
Our Recommendation in Chiang Mai
Since moving to Chiang Mai, we’ve scoured the place for the best rental options and one company that stood out was Tony’s Big Bikes. This shop was professionally run by two British expats who are riders themselves. Their love for riding the awesome trails here in Thailand is what brought them to the country in the first place!
One thing that we LOVE about Tony’s Big Bikes is that every time you rent a bike, they also provide you with a pretty comprehensive accident insurance. They also have additional safety equipment which you can rent if you’re getting a large bike.
For more information on Tony’s Big Bikes, you can check out:
Apart from these basic tips, always ask for a map (they should be given free of charge) and ask for the nearest petrol station. Even if they say that there is already gas included, it is still best to know where you can get some in case you run out. You can often rent motorbikes for 24 hours at a time so make sure you plan your journey accordingly. Thailand is full of beautiful roads that take you to see some off the beaten undiscovered sites. Having the freedom to explore and discover them at your own pace is one of the beautiful things about riding a motorbike. So if anything, just be careful, retain common sense, and get ready for an adventure! Happy trails and safe riding!