When in Thailand, one of the best ways to zoom around and explore the area is on two wheels. If you are brave enough, consider renting a scooter or motorbike for a day for a genuine Thai experience. Wondering how? Let us guide you.
Where to Rent a Scooter
You can rent a scooter just about anywhere in Thailand. Whether you rent from a small roadside rental shop or a travel agency, there is no shortage of rental places around. That being said, the type of scooter, the quality, and the price you pay will vary. You may find better options at places close to big hotels or tourist areas. Some resorts run by westerners also offer scooters for rent, and they are typically safer and in better quality compared with those in roadside shops.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid every single roadside shop. It just means that if you do choose to rent one from a local shop, you need to exercise a little more caution. Your safety is important and you want a bike that will be safe to drive. Don’t just rent the first bike you see because time is running short. Opt for one that you know will be safe to drive.
Unless you have a Thai speaker in your group, try not to rent a bike from a shop that doesn’t speak English. This is not to say that they don’t offer good bikes, but the difficulties in communication may prove to be disastrous in the case of emergency. You won’t be completely clear on the terms of the insurance and may have trouble communicating what happens. A lot of local shops in tourist areas do speak some amount of English, however, so don’t be afraid to greet them and see if they are able to respond.
Types of Scooters Available
Most rental shops will give you an option of three different types of bikes: automatic, semi-automatic, and manual. Automatic bikes have no gears and are typically the easiest to ride. Semi-automatic bikes have five gears to shift through but no clutch. They are a little bit more challenging to drive compared with automatic scooters but will give you more control when riding up and down slopes, particularly in mountainous terrain. Manual bikes require more practice and are not recommended unless you are already a solid manual driver.
Scooters for rent are usually anywhere between 110 to 125 cc. The ones with a larger engine will certainly deliver more power, but you’ll have to pay for it. That being said, if the bike is going to carry a heavy load and/or you plan to travel up and down slopes, go for the more powerful engine.
Choosing New or Old Scooters
New bikes have safer brakes, better tires, more power, and usually more energy-efficiency. Older bikes have been in use for longer so they are typically more worn down. If you are renting a bike for the day, there probably won’t be much difference in price. However, the monthly rental fee for an old bike will be significantly cheaper than a new bike. You may even find one that costs you a mere 500 baht! That being said, always consider your own safety. Money savings are not worth your life, so make the choice that you are comfortable with.
Once you have found a good rental shop and a scooter you wish to hire, make sure you carry out a good safety inspection. Every shop typically has someone to go over the bike and inspect its condition before handing over the keys, but make sure that you are a part of this process. If you scrape or bump the bike, you may have to pay damages. To carry out a proper safety inspection, do the following:
Take a look at the bike and take photos of any scratches and marks that were there before you rented it.
Sit on the seat and bounce up and down to ensure that the suspension is adequate.
Adjust the mirrors to your view so that you can see what is behind you.
Take it off the kickstand and make sure you can sit comfortably.
Start the bike and check whether the brakes work properly.
Accelerate it, ensuring that it powers up fast enough.
Take a look at the tires and ensure that they still have treads.
Grab a good helmet and keep it on as you ride.
If the scooter doesn’t pass your inspection, ask for a new one and go through the process again. If it does, congratulations! You’re ready to zoom off on a new adventure.