Tips For Renting a Motorbike (Thailand)

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Thinking about renting a motorbike on your next holiday in Thailand? Here are a few tips to help you understand and expect how the process will go.

First remember that the price of anything in Thailand is just about negotiable, so expect to have to negotiate to a fair price.
  • The average price per day in the north around Chiang Mai and in the south around Phuket is 200 baht a day (about 5.71 USD). If you aren't happy with a negotiated price that the dealer gives you, feel free to walk away and seek out other places. There are so many places to rent from, you won't have a problem finding another one.
  • TIP: If you plan on renting the bike for a while (many days) or more than one bike for your friend and you, ask for a discount. They may be able to drop the rate of 200 baht even lower
Never hand over your actual passport. Ever.
  • Upon renting the bike they are going to ask for your passport to hold as collateral in case you damage or scratch the bike. Although I haven't fallen victim to this scam myself, many other travelers have warned me about it. You go to return the bike, they say you put some major scratches on it, and ask you to pay a ton of money (around 600 USD I've been told), for scratches you didn't put on the bike. And since they have your passport, you're pretty much forced into paying it. When they ask you for your passport just hand over a copy of it, this should suffice. If they demand the actual passport, go to a different place you have many options. However do keep in mind that if you do hand over the actual passport and just a copy some places may ask for a 2,000-3,000 baht collateral charge. This is fairly normal, and if you don't feel comfortable paying it, remember you do have options in where you rent from.
Review the bike condition with the proprietor, and take photos of it.
  • I know your eager to just hop on the bike and drive away, but before you do so, you should really review the condition of the bike with the owner. Point out any damages, scratches, or marks on the bike ahead of time, and take pictures. If you can even get the man himself in the photos pointing to the scratches, it would be a big help. Remember to check the bottom of the bike or even under, as sometimes they will say that you put scratches down there, which you had no way of knowing if you didn't check it ahead of time. Make sure to take pictures of the bottom of the bike as well.
Test the brakes.
  • While you would hope that most of these places would have your best safety at mind, sadly they do not always. Before you decide to take a long drive to the countryside, make sure you test the brakes in front of them. Test the rear and front brakes, and make sure they are both operable. Your safety should be your first priority, and it is up to you to make sure that it is. If the brakes aren't 100%, ask for a different bike. They should have no problem swapping it out for another one.
Gas stations aren't always "stations."
  • While in the North (Chiang Mai area) you can expect to find actual Western gas stations, in the south (Phuket area) many fueling stations are a bunch of one-liter beer or wine bottles lining the street filled with gasoline with a sign that says 'Gasoline'. I filled up quite a few times at stations like this and had absolutely no issues.
The bikes usually come with almost no fuel.
  • One of the first things you'll have to do after you rent the bike is probably fuel up. Usually the bikes come on "E," and it's up to you to fuel them. Better to fuel them as quickly as possible to avoid getting stranded anywhere especially if you plan to go far. Fuel prices range from 23 Baht a liter outside the city center, to about 40 Baht a liter inside the city. If you are in the city center perhaps just put some fuel in, and wait until you are outside the center of the city to fill up.
Try to park the bike in the shade.
  • You'll thank me for this one especially after you just left your bike parked in the beaming sunshine on a 40°C+ day. The bikes get hot very quick, and it could make for some very uncomfortable riding if the seat is scorching hot. This may sound like a no-brained but if you can find an area that's somewhat in the shade, opt to park there you won't regret it.
Do not drive while under the influence.
  • Driving in Southeast Asia is a whole different playing field; why would you want to jeopardize your life just to save a few baht. If you know you are going out and planning to drink, opt to take a Tuk Tuk or taxi instead of driving. You don't want to have to be in a foreign country's hospital on your holiday.
Avoid the sand/dirt in the road.
  • This tip, I am speaking to you from personal experience. While the roads in Thailand generally are much better then the rest of Southeast Asia, there are still spots that have sand or dirt over them. When making a turn with the bike, remember that you need traction, and the sand/dirt takes away the traction from the tires. If you can avoid driving through these areas you should. You wouldn't want to end up like me, with a motorbike on top of you in the middle of an intersection, while trying to make a turn. Luckily since I was hardly moving, neither the bike nor me resulted in any damage.
If you're returning the motorbike and have any issues call the Tourist Police.
  • These men are usually volunteers, and their main job is to protect the tourists and make sure they are not getting scammed. They are actually there to protect you as a tourist if anything, and if you believe something is not right, feel free to give them a call. I've been told that they usually speak enough English to help you, and mostly always take your side. The number is 1115, and it is free to call from any phone. You may want to keep this number handy just as a precaution.
In general most of the people in Thailand are very nice, and are not trying to scam you. Their business relies on word-of-mouth with all the competition out there, and they generally want you to be happy so you come home with good fun stories, promoting tourism for their country. They are not all out to get you, it's just a corrupt few that reminds us to stay vigilant when renting these bikes. Now go out and enjoy your ride! Until next time, XoXo.