What to Know Before Riding a Motor Scooter

The most difficult part of planning a trip to a foreign land or a different city is figuring out how to see all you can see in a limited amount of time. Exploring an unfamiliar area can be rather difficult. Of course, you could walk, but besides taking longer, it is also uncomfortable during the hot season.

Though public transportation is great, it can be hard to understand, especially in an unfamiliar place. As a result, it may take even more time than usual. Another option is hiring an Uber, Grab, or another type of taxi. Though convenient, it does not give you the same freedom to stop whenever for however long you please. Renting a car gives you that ability, but is often ill-advised, especially in a country where you are unfamiliar with the traffic laws. The last option is renting a scooter or a moped, allowing you to experience the fresh outdoors and easy transport without having to deal with a large vehicle.

Should I rent a scooter or a moped?

Scooters and mopeds are very different. The latter is a mix of the words “motor” and “pedal,” referring to a motorized vehicle that could be pedaled. However, genuine mopeds are no longer as widely available and the word is frequently used to refer to a small motorcycle that has an engine under 50cc and doesn’t move much faster than a bicycle.

Scooters are motorcycles that have gaps that you can step through, and a place to put your feet. At anywhere from 50 to 250cc, they have larger engines than mopeds, but not as much power and speed compared to a real motorcycle.

These two options are known to be generally safer than motorcycles because of the restrictions of the engine. Drivers can only drive so fast with so much power. They are also much more easy to maneuver than motorcycles, making them a good choice for quick errand run and exploring expeditions in a country where it is easy to travel by bike.

How can I rent one?

If you are looking to rent a scooter or a moped, make sure you have your local license, home driver’s license, and passport on hand. Many Southeast Asian countries request that you leave your passport with them to ensure that you will be back with their property. That being said, it is a good idea to keep your passport with you at all times when you are travelling. You may be able to talk the rental shop into leaving a cash deposit or a passport photocopy instead.

After the rental shop employee has given you your rental, make sure you take some pictures of every part of the bike. Photos are a great way to record the original state of the bike. If the bike has scratches before you leave, you will have proof that you did not damage it - it was already damaged. Ask the following questions as you inspect your rental:

Body: Is the bike body in good condition? Are there any scratches or damaged areas?

Tires: Are the tires flat? Are the treads intact?

Brakes: Do the hand brakes work well? Do they bring the bike to a full stop? If they do not, request a change of bikes.

Ignition: Does the bike turn on?

Lights: Do the turn signals, high beams, and other lights work?

How do I drive?

One of the best things about scooters and mopeds is that they are extremely simple to drive. First, you bring the bike down from the center stand, and start the bike. If you do not know how to start the bike, the rental agency will show you how - different bikes often start differently. Try to practice a couple of times at the shop before you take off on your own, just to make sure you’ve got the hang of it. If you do not have any driving experience, you may want to travel with an experienced driver before you try to drive yourself. Sitting in the back allows you to get a better idea of how the scooter or moped moves.

Where can I ride a scooter/moped?

There are wonderful benefits to taking a scooter or a moped rather than other modes of transport. However, there are some places where it is ill-advised. Big metropolitan cities in Southeast Asia are one of them. Some roads are packed full of drivers moving in no organised fashion. Horns are used to signal rather than lights, and everyone drives aggressively. Of course, you could learn to drive this way. That being said, it definitely isn’t the best idea to go right in, especially if you aren’t that experienced at driving. In such areas, it is a better choice to take a taxi or other modes of local transport.

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