Making motorbike trips as part of holidays in Thailand is becoming very popular. Unfortunately that also means more people that end-up in motorbike accidents. To help prevent this here a few tips before you hit the road.
1. Before considering to rent a motorbike
- You should realise that riding (or driving) in Thailand is (probably) totally different as where you are coming from. Bad road conditions, bad road signs, bad drivers!
- Ask yourself "Is my riding (or driving) skill up-to level for Thailand?"
- Do you still want to rent & ride a motorbike or scooter?
2. Before really renting a motorbike
- Check the insurance of the motorbike. In Thailand motorbikes will have by law compulsory insurance. That only pays for third party everything and for the rider max. of 15.000 Thai baht. That is nothing when you have a serious accident. Preferably the motorbike should have a full-insurance and you should only have an own-risk of 5.000 - 10.000 Thai baht.
- Check your own travel-insurance. Do they pay for riding a motorbike? Mind you all motorbikes in Thailand are more as 100cc and considered motorcycles.
- Do you have a driver-license for motorbike? In Thailand by law you need to have a motorbike driver-license, also for scooters! Theoretically you need to have an International Driver Permit and a Motorbike Driver License from your home country. Although probably nobody will ask for it ... until you have an accident.
3. Before really riding your rented motorbike
- Check that everything is in working order. Head-light, rear-light, signal lights? Horn? Front and rear break? Break light?
- What kind of gasoline is the motorbike using?
- Preferably have you own lock to lock the motorbike. This is to prevent the owner will steal your bike and will ask you to pay for it.
- Check any damage to the motorbike, make photos of it and tell to the rental company. Also small scratches. Otherwise when returning the motorbike YOU will pay for all damage to the motorbike.
- Make a small test-ride with the motorbike, learn how it breaks, etc.
4. Always riding with protective gear
- At least always wear helmet, preferably a good helmet (not the plastic cup's). Also be sure to strap it on firmly so it will stay on your head. At BigC and Lotus are reasonable helmets for sale for about 1.000 Thai baht.
- Always wear shoes, NO flip-flop's. The best would be to wear at least a kind of mountain boots that go over your ankle.
- Always wear protective cloths, so at least a long jeans and a long sleeved shirt. The best would be to wear a good jacket. So NOT a short and singlet (or worse just a swimming trouser or for ladies a bikini).
- If you are going to rent a motorbike for longer period it might be worth-full to invest in buying motorbike gloves and a good helmet.
5. Riding Tips
- AVOID RIDING IN THE DARK. First of all your sight will be much less (and you will need sight on the roads here). Secondly the alcohol consumption of other people on the road are the biggest contribution to accidents.
- BE CAREFUL AT INTERSECTION's ..... running a red light is normal (or starting to drive / ride before the light is green is also normal)
- BE CAREFUL AT U-TURN's .... people might not see you or might just not stop / slow-down for you. Also there might be people coming from the other direction (driving against the traffic).
- Be aware of the fact that most other people on the road have NO RESPECT FOR THE LAW and have NO IMAGINATION or consideration about their actions on the road. So do not be surprised seeing people (also big trucks) driving / riding against the traffic. Do not be surprised that people are driving and drinking. Do not be surprised that people drive without lights in the dark. Do not be surprised that people are speeding and running red lights. Do not be surprised that people will start to drive when the light is not yet green.
- Be aware of the fact that EVERYBODY USES THE ROAD (yes also the so called highways). On the roads are cars, trucks, touring-cars, motorbikes, scooters, people walking, dogs, chickens, cows, people crossing the road, very old cars & trucks driving very slow, brand new BMW driving at high speed, Elephants, snakes, dogs (big problem), Tuk-Tuk's, 60-year-old-grand-pa-with-40-year-old-car, scooters with 10 years old kids and their all family on 1 scooter, drunk people.
- Be aware of the rule "BIGGER HAS THE WAY TO GO" .... that leaves you as motorbike rider very low on the right to go (and stay alive). Cars & Truck just go and it seems they do not care at all whatever happens to the other users of the road.
- Be aware of the fact that the roads are also used as shop .... yes SHOP. Right along the road will be many small shops selling food or whatever. And people will stop on the shoulder of the road to buy something.
- Be aware that road maintenance & safety is sometimes not good, that means riding in the mountains that after a curve the road could be heavily damaged, blocked by a landslide, blocked by a car. The road could look first fine but suddenly there can be huge put-holes in the road.
- After the first rain roads will be very slippery, like a ice-skating track (this due to oil and rubber on the road surface).
- There can be sand or gravel on the road, be aware in curves or when breaking.
- In Thailand the official speed limit is 90 km/h on highways and motorbikes are suppose to ride on the left shoulder. Although the law also says that in case of danger or overtaking you can ride on the left lane. And for overtaking on the left lane you can ride on the right lane.
- Be aware that the left shoulder of the road is also used as parking place. And if there is no left shoulder, the left lane will be used as parking place.
6. And of course always
- Pay attention to your riding. Do not listing to music, telephone or look to the stunning view.
- Do not over-take without full view of where you are going.
- Slow down in villages and cities. Or near big factories along the road.
- Do not DRIVE & DRINK! So at lunch do not drink a few beers because it is so hot. But drink plenty of water because you will be loosing a lot of water.