Driving a scooter in Thailand is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get around, especially on the Islands. It’s easy enough to arrange a rental, just show them your passport, pay and drive off. Still, there are a few facts you should consider before renting.
- You need a good scooter. Check tyres, breaks, if anything is bent, take pictures of cracks and scratches. If you don’t do that, they might screw you over and make you pay repairs. Even worse, you can’t break or steer properly and put yourself (and others) in danger.
- Go around and compare prices. If you rent a scooter more than once, you can save money. It might not be too much, but a dollar or 2 every time adds up (still go for quality though!)
- If you’ve never been ridden a scooter before, you’re better off taking a cap or truck or tuk tuk. If you’re an experienced driver, be careful! I’ve been driving scooters for 12 years and even I almost killed myself. They are faster than they should be and the breaks work in a strange way. The locals speed like crazy, but they are used to it and they don’t give a s*** about tourists.
- Should you have a friend on the back, make sure you’re even more careful. If that friend doesn’t know how to move in a curve, it could be really bad for you (I experienced that just now and almost crashed) and the other thing is, that you’re kinda responsible for your life and that of your friends.
- Make sure your scooter has petrol (or coconut oil or whatever they put in there). It’s not fun driving somewhere and then stuck for a few hours because you didn’t check your tank. Some rentals give it to you empty (I didn’t know that!) If you get a half full or full tank, make sure you put enough petrol in it before giving it back, otherwise they charge you ridiculous prices.
- Potholes. Be aware of them! They are everywhere. The street conditions aren’t always on a western standard. That was the time I almost killed myself. I was driving about 70kmh on a straight street. In front of me was nothing that really alarmed me, so I didn’t slow down (after 12 years I can tell when I have to slow down and when I haven’t, usually). Just then, in the middle of the curve was that huge pothole. I couldn’t break or drive around it, so I just drove straight in it. My brain told me to NOT LET GO or move or break, I just hardened my grip. Never had I ever felt so much fear.
- Sandy streets are usually okay to drive on with the correct tyres. That for sure changes, if you have to go up and down hills with almost 90 degree slopes. We’ve seen other scooter drivers lifting up the front wheel or losing control over their bike.
- They always want your passport as a safety. I have a friend living in Phuket and he said, NEVER leave your passport with anyone. You never know what they are doing with it and if you’re unlucky, you’ll never see it again. Ask to leave a copy and if they deny, look for another rental (I would do that everywhere, not just in Phuket, but then, my passport is my life and more worth than my credit card).
- Wear a helmet! It’s law for the driver (if you see locals without, they are breaking the law, but fees are almost to zero for them: high for tourists though) but not necessary for the passenger. Considering everything I just told you and the fact that you probably wear shorts and a singlet and drive about 60-80km/h, I would ALWAYS wear a helmet.
10. Carry either your international driver’s license or a bunch of cash with you. In case the police stops you.
Except for the one time I’ve almost died and the one time when we’ve seen scooters lifting their wheels on a hill, it was still a pretty good time. Cruising around the Islands and Krabi was awesome. If you want to replicate the scooter experience down under I am not too sure where you would go but maybe speaking to a travel consultant or just ask around on forums.