Thailand has a very high rate of driving accidents involving cars, trucks, buses, vans, motorbikes, and scooters. The only person who should consider renting a motorbike in Thailand is someone who has a year or so of experience riding a motorcycle in their home country and someone who has studied Thai traffic laws.
We’re going to cover the essentials about renting and driving a motorbike in Thailand on this page. Scroll down if you want to see information that applies to you. We cover different areas of Thailand where motorbikes (scooters) are rented often and tell you what we think of you riding there as a tourist. We cover license issues. Insurance issues. Court issues.
First, lets cover the worst places in Thailand for you to rent a motorbike!
The Worst Places to Rent or Ride a Motorbike in Thailand
It’s the high tourist and traffic areas, and especially a couple of the islands!
Bangkok – Certainly the absolute worst place to ride a motorbike in the country is in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok and it’s surroundings. Bangkok has the highest concentration of unfriendly, unskilled, remorseless drivers, in the entire country. Please don’t rent a motorcycle or scooter here for god’s sake.
Phuket – Too many people packed into this island and even the locals are not friendly when on the roads. There are so many accidents here by foreigners, just look at how many people are all bandaged up in the bars at night. Many deaths each year as foreigners are drunk and have an accident after a little partying. Trust me, you cannot drive safely here sober or drunk.
Ko Samui – I see it every time I go here, probably the most people in bandages from accidents than anywhere else. WHY? Ko Samui is known for dirt and sand all over the roads. Mud. Stuff laying n the middle of the road nobody picks up. Holes in the road. Drunk people everywhere after 7 pm. There are some very steep hills here too. I’ve seen one motorbike crash on a hill. Then in 30 minutes another one going down the same hill. WHY? Apparently nobody tells them the RIGHT brake is the disc brake in front and it’s very strong. When you squeeze it going down a steep hill, your wheel locks up and either you flip the bike over forward or you lock the wheel and it slides straight until you crash.
Surat Thani – Samui is part of Surat, but I’m talking about mainland Surat. The roads are not wide enough in many places here and there are millions of students riding motorbikes fast in this city. Avoid riding here!
Krabi – Already we’re seeing tourists bandaged up, broken ankles, arms, heads wrapped up in bandages. It’s like the walking dead over here. Krabi combines fast roads with many clueless scooter riders. The roads here are not that great. There is often dirt and sand on the corners where it spills off the trucks and nobody cleans it.
Korat, Khon Kaen, Chiang Mai – These large Thai cities have too many cars and motorbikes which make it difficult to drive safely there. Only ride here if you are an expert on Thai style road rules.
Thailand Drivers Are Not Like in Your Country
When I was in high school I went to South Carolina with my girlfriends family. When we got there we rented mopeds which are basically scooters or small motorbikes. I did the same in Key West, Florida. And in Hawaii on the island of Oahu, I bought a small Honda 50 cc motor bike to ride around the Air Force Base. I had no accidents. I never even came close.
It’s fun right? It is fun in a lot of places, but Thailand is not one of those places. The places I mentioned all have low speed limits and not a lot of degenerates riding vehicles around you. You probably won’t get in an accident in those places because it’s fairly straightforward. And, an accident usually occurs when there are 2 more drivers at fault. The really bad accidents, anyway.
My Experience Driving Motorbikes in Thailand (300,000 km +)
I’ve been driving a motorbike (Yamaha Mio 125 cc, Suzuki Raider 150 cc, Honda CBR 150 cc, Honda Forza 350 cc) in Thailand for the past 18 years. I much prefer to ride motorbikes and scooters to cars and that works well for the wife who prefers the car.
I’ve put 130,000 km on our first Mio. I put 145,000 km on our second Mio. I put around 40,000 km on the Raider. I put about 10,000 km on the CBR. I put about a 1000 on the Forza. So, well over 300,000 km on motorbikes in Thailand in 18 years.
I’ve not had any major accident unless you count some clown flying into the back of me as I slowed down in front of him and he wasn’t paying attention. He smashed the back of my bike and I flew through the air, he flew over me and my motorbike and into the street. Nobody had broken bones, it was a miracle really. I was unconscious for a brief second but quickly came to.
As safe as you think you can be, it is very hard to be safe when the threat comes from directly behind you. Just something to think about. I do spend a lot of time glancing behind me to see what cars and motorbikes are doing back there. It helps you to avoid obviously drunk people swerving, asshats driving fast, and white vans and buses about to drive by you very close.
You should also know what is behind you, but pay far more attention to what is in front of you and on the side of you. Those are the things that will kill you or get you seriously injured.
Common Thailand Driving Practices and Situations
Here are some common things to be aware of while driving. Read these and read them again to try to get them to stick in your head. You’ll need these when you’re on the road. Knowing these things will help you drive safely.
Watch for These Dangerous Situations
- Oncoming traffic crossing the center line. Especially on curves, but can be anytime. The one accident you really want to avoid is a head-on crash. ASSUME that drivers WILL cross the line and give them lots of space so you stay alive another day.
- Sand, dirt, gravel, water, any liquid, branches, palm tree seeds, on the road. Especially on curves. Just be ready for it so you can swerve or slow down to avoid these things.
- Holes in the road. The road may look fine over 99% of it. Then all the sudden there is a big hole that is 20-30 cm deep that will cause you to crash when your front tire hits it, dips, and throws you over the handlebars. Make sure you’re holding both grips firmly all the time so at least you have a chance when you hit a bad bump.
- Maintenance signs missing. This killed the sister of my wife’s good friend. Riding at night and the road maintenance crew didn’t put signs up that they’d just torn up the road ahead. She hit it too fast and smashed into some guardrail. DOA.
- Cars, trucks, vans, buses, motorbikes behind you that are coming fast, too close, or swerving. They may pass you and cause an accident in front of you that you should be ready to avoid. Cars driving erratically can cause accidents fast and you need to be able to stay out of the danger area.
- Light turns green and motorbikes move out into your lane immediately. If you were stopped already, then you can just slow down. If you were driving at 70 kph+ and in an open lane and someone jumps out in front of you it’s easy to hit them. Always be aware that a vehicle or motorbike can jump into your lane at any time.
- Light turns green. Check both ways really good to see if someone is running through the redlight. This happens very often.
- Riding straight on a road. Thais on a motorbike come flying out of a sidestreet on your left without looking and smash into you. Happened to a friend in Ubon at 3 am. He needed 2 brain surgeries. He is still not quite recovered. This was 17 years ago.
Here are some more.
Here are some TIPS about driving in Thailand.
You might not want to drive in Thailand if you… are indecisive, adapt slowly, are impatient, have road-rage in your country, get frustrated easily, can’t read maps, expect driving rules to be followed, expect to be able to survive by asking for directions and distances in English, have unrealistic expectations about getting somewhere quickly or expect to find parking easily.
THAI ROAD RULES (or so it appears):
- The largest vehicle wins. A vehicle larger than yours has every right and expectation to do what it wants in regards to your vehicle. If a car wants to pass your motorbike only to then JAM on the brakes in front of you – skidding perhaps – to make a left turn in front of you – this is reasonable and should be accompanied by a weak “mai bpen rai krup” instead of a verbal tirade.
- The very large dump trucks that carry sand, dirt, rocks, concrete, bricks, etc – the ones with boat horns – are the kings of the road and everything, everybody, every one of god’s creatures must get the HELL out of the way or die. There is nothing else to be said. If you hear the horn of death, pray it’s not you that he’s beeping at because usually just as a courtesy before they PLOW INTO YOU with all 85 metric tons, they blow that confounded boat horn to prepare you for meeting your master. If you hear the horn – and it’s you he’s beeping about, it’s too late, you’re already dead but you don’t know it yet.
- A stop light ends 5 seconds before the light turns green. Meaning, everyone goes at that point.
- A stop sign means only to slow down a bit and verify nobody is going to cream you before blowing through it. Nobody stops. It doesn’t mean stop, so don’t you stop.
- When pulling into traffic there is no need to look at those vehicles you are jumping in front of because they are behind you and must react to everything in front of them.
- While driving a motorbike in Thailand… one must not move more than 4 inches in either direction – left or right before checking the mirrors thoroughly for other bikes, cars, trucks, and buses. But, never take your eyes off what’s going on in FRONT of you either.
- There is no such thing as “tailgating”. If you are experiencing what you think is tailgating it is actually YOU that is the problem. Go faster or get out of the fast lane (right side) so normal Thai drivers can go warp speed.
- If the vehicle in front of you has a left turn signal that is flashing he may be telling you that he’s going to learn left. Or he may be telling you that there is an obstacle on his left and he is moving into the right lane to pass it. Some Thais have this confused. What is the law? It must be to put turn signal on if moving in that direction. Either way – you need to really be careful passing.
- If the vehicle in front of you has a right turn signal that is flashing – he might be telling you that it’s unsafe to pass him on the right. This would be correct because either he’s telling you HE is getting into the right hand lane, or someone else already is and is flying up behind you both at warp speed.
- If a driver approaching from the opposite direction flashes his headlights it may mean, “police ahead, watch your speed”, or “don’t pass that car, you fool, I’m coming too fast!” or “I have screwed up big time by trying pass this vehicle so please give me some room by heading for the shoulder.”
Is It Legal for Foreigners to Drive Motorbikes in Thailand?
Yes, and no. 90% of foreigners on motorbikes in Thailand are driving illegally. That negates any insurance you think you have. You can ONLY drive a motorbike in Thailand with a Thailand Motorbike Driver’s License or an international motorbike license you can get from your home country.
To Be Legal to Drive in Thailand You Must Have:
- Thailand Motorcycle Driving License or International Motorbike Driving License. State motorcycle driving licenses are no good.
- Insurance that covers damage you do to someone else’s vehicle and occupants in an accident you are responsible for. Even if you have a proper license, your insurance may not cover the country of Thailand because accidents are so common and driving practices are so bad.
- A valid visa to be in the country.
- Motorbike registration for this year on the motorbike.
What Will You Be Liable for Paying in an Accident?
Because you’re almost surely driving illegally, you’ll be responsible to pay for your rental motorbike repairs or replacement, the other vehicle’s repairs, the hospital bills for other drivers and passengers with injuries. Insurance will cover nothing if you’re not legal to drive in Thailand.
Please note that in Thailand if you go to court and they rule that you were responsible for an accident that cripples someone, you’re going to have to pay some of their cost of living income for the rest of their lives. That’s not a joke.
Thailand police and citizens are typically going to blame you for any accident. Why? You don’t know the rules of the road, and even the unwritten rules of the road, which the police and Thais all know. If you aren’t following these written/unwritten rules, you can be blamed.
Say a child runs out into the street and you hit her with your motorbike. You almost certainly will be taken to jail and they’ll have a court case where you’re going to pay a hell of a lot of money for the girl’s medical bills or funeral.
Why? You were going too fast, regardless if you were or weren’t.
What Do Police Stop Motorbike (Scooter) Drivers for at Checkpoints?
- You need to wear a helmet on the motorbike.
- You need to have the registration.
- You need to have a proper license from Thailand or an international license.
The usual fine is 500 Thai baht for not having one of these. In high tourism areas like Phuket and Ko Samui, there are many places you will be stopped. They can only fine you once per 24 hours for the same offense, so save your payment receipt!
“Drink driving” is another reason they may stop you, or, they may smell alcohol and decide you can’t drive. They’ll fine you and possibly take you to the jail.
Stop Signs and Stop Lights (Thai Style)
Stop signs are more like cautions to slow down. Nobody makes a full stop at one unless they see traffic coming. Stop lights are usually obeyed, but motorbike riders often think they can do what they want and they’ll go through the light.
At a 3-way stop light often times motorbikes will continue straight through the light without stopping. They will probably look for cars though.
Thailand Speed Limits
Speed limit signs are largely ignored except around schools. I’ve seen motorbike riders try to go fast by a school with a policeman in the middle of the road and the police officer will take a swing at the rider to knock him off the bike!
There are now some cameras on main highways where they have a radar gun set up to catch speeders. In some places, they are used fairly often and you’re supposed to get a ticket in the mail to pay. However, we have never received one and I’m frequently around 10-20 kph over the highway speed limit.
Police spend very little time with radar guns on highways to catch speeders. And, if they do catch them, they will probably (always) accept a 500 THB note in lieu of a higher fine by mail or a court visit later.
How Much Are Motorbikes (Scooters) to Rent in Thailand?
Around here in Krabi here are the prices I see. Click links to go directly to rental agency. I will post the common day rate for these bikes and just know that you can get a good discount when renting by the week or month.
We strongly suggest you get the automatic transmission (no manual shifting) motorbikes so you can concentrate on the road and not what gear you’re in. It’s just safer.
- Honda Forza 350 cc – 1,500-2,000 THB/day. These have a massive under seat storage space. Like a suitcase. Find at Moto Krabi here.
- Yamaha Aerox, NMax, or Honda PCX 150 cc – 400 THB/day. You’ll appreciate the under the seat storage area for drinks, change of clothes, or shopping. Find at Moto Krabi here.
- Honda Click or Yamaha Mio, Fino, or Filano 125 cc – 300 THB/day. Find at Jeff Jeff’s Motorbike Rental here.
We may be able to help you with a rental if you contact us. Read this page >
Please be safe on the roads, many people die each year on vacation in Thailand, some of them on motorbikes they weren’t prepared for. Figuring out Thailand’s rules of the roads is not easy and you really should think twice or three times about whether you want to risk riding a scooter or bigger motorcycle on the roads in this country.
Krabi Expat and Visitor Resources >