10 Tips for Hiring a Motorbike in Thailand

A Motorbike Next to the Beach

Regarded by many travellers as the most dangerous vehicle on the road, scooters, if treated with respect, can also be the most fun! (Don’t tell your mum we said that!)

There is nothing better than riding in the beautiful Thai countryside, with the wind on your face and the sun shining, free to go wherever the road takes you… It is, without doubt, one of the best ways to get off the beaten track and away from other tourists as fast as possible! You can hire a scooter in almost any town and village in Thailand and set off on your own tailor-made adventure. Here are 10 tips that will help you get the most out of your experience and most of all stay safe and in one piece.

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10 Tips on Motorbike Hire, Thailand!

1. How & where to hire a scooter?

Most towns, villages and islands in Thailand offer the facility to hire a scooter and you will see many travel agencies/hotels/grocers with scooters lined up outside. The company will usually charge per 24 hours. You will need to pay in advance and leave your passport as a deposit.

If you don’t want to leave your passport you can also leave a deposit of around 5,000 Thai Baht. We have had no bad experience with companies failing to return passports so don’t worry too much about this, just make sure that you are hiring from a reputable place and take a business card with the company name address and phone number on.

A young couple motorbiking in Southeast Asia.
Feel the freedom of the open road! Motorbiking in Southeast Asia.

2. Types of motorbikes

There are three types of scooters available for hire at most motorcycle rental places in Thailand; automatic (with no gears) and semi-automatic (with 5 gears but no clutch.) If you are an advanced rider you can also plump for an off-road motorbike also known as a ‘crosser’ (5 gears and clutch). The automatic is the easiest bike to ride for beginners, yet with a little effort, most people can master the semi-automatic in less than a day which offers the rider much more control especially riding mountainous, windy roads.

3. Average costs

Costs are per 24 hours, however, it is usually possible to haggle if you want the motorbike for a longer trip, for example, one week, where your daily rate can be reduced.

  • Automatic motorbike – (150 Thai Baht – 300 Thai Baht/day)
  • Semi-automatic motorbike  – (150 Thai Baht – 300 Thai Baht/day)
  • Off-road motorbike – (600-1000 Thai Baht/day)
The open roads of Nan Province, Northern Thailand.
The open roads of Nan Province, Northern Thailand.

4. Travel Insurance

It goes without saying, you should always invest in good backpacker travel insurance before you leave for your trip! However, when it comes to motorcycle insurance coverage in Southeast Asia make sure you check the Ts and Cs.

Most travel insurances require you to have an International Driving Permit (as well as a bike license in your home country) in order to be legally able to drive in Southeast Asia. If you are not legal to drive, you will not be insured.  The below points are taken from the policy we used on a recent trip (subject to change, of course), referring to driving a bike in Southeast Asia. If you’re not yet covered for your trip, get a quick quote here.

  • In order to be covered to ride motorbikes in Southeast Asia must have a license from home/international license and comply with local laws of the country (if any). For example, holding a local license.* (In Thailand, this means that you need an international driving licence that states clearly that you are permitted to ride a motorcycle).
  • If the above is adhered to, you will be covered for medical expenses if you are injured whilst riding a motorcycle.
  • You will also be covered for the theft of personal items whilst on the bike (but it must meet the T+Cs of your personal policy).
  • There is no engine size limit, as long as you are licensed to ride that engine size, you are covered.
  • You will NOT be covered personal liability (damage to other vehicles, property etc.) or damage/theft of the bike.
  • You must wear a helmet at all times.
  • You must not ride under the influence of drugs/alcohol and you must ride responsibly,
  • You must not be racing or taking part in a professional sporting activity.
Forgot Your IDP?
International Drivers Association

If you forgot to arrange your International Drivers Permit, you're probably not driving or riding legally abroad.

So what?
Riding or driving without your IDP means you could be fined for riding illegally. Worse still, it means your travel insurance is unlikely to cover any claims you make relating to riding or driving!

What can I do?
Rather than ride or drive illegally, check out the International Drivers Association which can hook you up with an IDP even if you're already abroad! 

Don't say we never help you out! 😉

5. Helmet

It goes without saying, always wear a helmet on Southeast Asian roads. The rental of a helmet should definitely be free with bike rental so always ask for it before you ride off!

Motorbike Adventures in Kampot
Don’t go without your helmet! A hat will not do!

6. Checking the motorbike before you depart

Before you set off, make sure you give a thorough check of the motorbike. It is a good idea to take some photos on your phone from each angle to show any scratches on the bike that was there before you got your mitts on the handlebars. That paper that you just signed says that you hired the bike in pristine condition! If there was a scratch or a dent in the vehicle before you set off, you will end up paying for it upon your return, despite it not being your fault. Beware, some motorbike companies are sticklers for this so make sure you don’t get bitten!

7. What to do if you break down / fall off / lose your helmet

Don’t panic! This is Southeast Asia. There will no doubt be a friendly mechanic/grocers/hairdressers down the road who will help you get back on track in no time! Pumping tyres up is often free of charge, changing the oil around 20 Thai Baht and fixing a light around 200 baht. If you lose your helmet expect to pay around 200 Thai Baht for a new one and the same price for a motorbike key. Don’t let the company tell you that it is 1,000’s of Thai baht to fix!

8. Motorbike burns (Farang Tattoos)

Perhaps the most common injury in Thailand, Farang Tattoos are no joke! When you get off the motorbike, be sure to set off the left side to avoid brushing your leg against the boiling hot exhaust pipe on the right-hand side leaving a nasty burn on your inside calf. In the heat and humidity of Asia, the wounds take forever to heal and can cause scarring if not treated properly. If you’re unfortunate enough to get burnt, get to the chemist immediately and use antiseptic cream/bandage/iodine daily. Also, avoid getting the wound wet as in many places the tap water contains bacteria that could cause infection.

9. In rainy conditions

Drive slow and use your back brake on wet surfaces, Most accidents are caused by people braking with their front hand brake causing the bike to flip out and slide across the gravel.

A Man On a Motorbike In The Rice Paddies of The Philippines
Off-road biking in Southeast Asia!

10. Hazards!

There are thousands of stray dogs in Thailand and chances are that many will wander out as you are driving along the road. If you see a dog crossing the road, don’t panic and swerve dramatically to avoid it. Beep your horn, gradually brake and the dog will see you coming and slowly move (hopefully) out of the way.

Fantastic places to hire a scooter in Thailand:

KOH PHANGAN: Get away from the Full Moon Party enclave of touristy Haad Rin and explore the beautiful, natural island of Koh Phangan. Take the west coast road and head up north past Sri Thanu, Haad Yao and Haad Salad, ending in the fisherman’s village of Chaloklum… it is a stunning drive with sea views all the way.

A View of the Beach in Koh Phangan Taken From The Road
Koh Phangan, roadside views!

KOH LANTA: This chilled-out island is great to explore by motorbike as you curve along roads with views of deserted beaches and coves. Head to the National Park in the south for beautiful island scenery.

KANCHANABURI: The countryside of Kanchanaburi is a dream for motorbike riders… long roads open up into valleys of farmland intertwined with jutting limestone karsts. You’ll feel like you’re a lone explorer as Thai families wave and point at the brave foreigner who dared venture off the beaten track!

PAI & MAE HONG SON: The mountainous windy roads of Pai and Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand have been dubbed by experts as some of the best motorcycling countryside in the world! Grab a map and set off on the famous Mae Hong Son Loop which offers spectacular mountain scenery on this week-long journey. Stop off at hot springs, waterfalls, hill tribe villages and don’t forget to sample some of the locally grown organic Arabica coffee…

Views from the Mae Hong Soon Loop. Mae Hong Son to Pai.
Views from the Mae Hong Son Loop. Mae Hong Son to Pai.

AROUND CHIANG MAI: Would you believe that just half an hour outside of the city of Chiang Mai and you can find yourself in the beautiful rolling countryside? Not far from Chiang Mai, you can take the Mae Rim road north out of the city and complete the Samoeng loop, which takes 3-4 hours… Or why not head further north towards Chiang Dao, Fang or Waeng Haeng, there are many routes… or just head off in any which way the wind blows!

DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK: The highest point in Thailand, Doi (Mount) Inthanon located in the north of Thailand, is a feat for motorcyclists. Be sure to take some warm clothes up here as temperatures can plummet during November / December time when there has even been known to be frost on the peak! Coming from Chiang Mai, the ride up to the summit isn’t that spectacular, but the way back down is totally worth the trip… The scenery is more Tuscan than Thai as you pass by farmland with smiling workers in the fields wearing cowboy hats!

So there you have it! Better than a bus, faster than a bicycle and more fun than walking, the motorbike could become your new favourite way to travel!

Nikki Scott - Founder South East Asia Backpacker
Nikki Scott | Founder & Editor

Nikki is the founding editor of South East Asia Backpacker and The Backpacker Network. In her early twenties, she left her home in the North of England on a solo backpacking adventure and never returned! After six months on the road, she founded a print magazine that became legendary on the Banana Pancake Trail. The rest is history.

Find me: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

21 thoughts on “10 Tips for Hiring a Motorbike in Thailand”

    1. Hi Nguyen,
      I can’t give you the name of any particular place, but it won’t take you any time to find one once you start looking!

  1. James Nardell

    For what it’s worth, I think that you have to be suicidal to ride a motorcycle in Thailand. [Even if you wear a proper helmet, which most don’t]. A number of Thai friends and acquaintances have been killed [over the 18 years that I have lived in Thailand] on motorcycles — in most cases, not their fault.

    I suggest people who plan to ride motorcycles in Thailand watch the video below. It will hopefully make them think twice…


  2. Nikki Backpacker

    Hi Arnande,
    There may not be companies online but you can definitely ask when you get there in the travel agencies and hostels – sure some shop will rent bikes for around 250 baht / day.
    Best of luck!

  3. Where can I hire a motorbike or scooter in Surat Thani (Mainland). I would like to go to Khao Sok.Can’t seem to fine a place on the internet. Please advise!!!

  4. Mustafa Sabuwala

    Can any one give addresses of some hirer in bangkok. And yah can I travel on this bike to pattaya and than come back and return it back when I am back

  5. A WORD OF WARNING –2 american women rented a motorbike in Pai thailand. they rented from a company did not have insurance for sale . they had a small mishap. they returned the motor bike and the owner said they have to asses the damage and pay for the damage before he could release their passport. the motor bike rental company then said the damage was 10,000.bahts iand he said we do not accept credit cards so you must visit the ATM and pay the money in cash before he would release their passport. in my opinion the women were scammed for 8,500.00 bahts.
    NEVER RENT A MORTOR BIKE FROM PEOPLE WHO DO NOT OFFER INSURANCE . the police are useless in helping you.

    1. The Moralizer

      So this is a scam? The 2 women had an accident and they had to pay for the motorbike they damaged, you call this a scam? ‘In your opinion’ the women were scammed of 8.500 THB so I’m asking you if you are a damage assessor? Are you working in Thailand and you know the prices of the labour of a motorbike shop and spare parts? I have an idea of what you are dear Willie but is a bad word and I don’t want to write it. BTW there are no motorbike shops or insurance company that will insurance a foreigner tourist driving a motorbike in Thailand, so live with it or walk.

  6. AWORD OF WARNING –2 american women rented a motorbike in Pai thailand. they rented from a company did not have insurance for sale . they had a small mishap. they returned the motor bike and the owner said they have to asses the damage and pay for the damage before he could release their passport. the motor bike rental company then said the damage was 10,000.bahts iand he said we do not accept credit cards so you must visit the ATM and pay the money in cash before he would release their passport. in my opinion the women were scammed for 8,500.00 bahts.
    NEVER RENT A MORTOR BIKE FROM PEOPLE WHO DO NOT OFFER INSURANCE . the police are useless in helping you.

  7. Which travel insurance can I get that will cover Motorcycle accidents in SE Asia, I only have a Learner bike licence which in my home country allows me to ride up to 600CC bikes between the hours of 6am-10pm will I still be covered if I ride outside of these conditions and on I need a international drivers licence, world nomad have specific conditions when riding bikes on road can you tell me what they are.

    1. Learner (provisional) licences are only valid in the issuing country. Check with your national authority.

  8. We just discovered that we have to pay almost $400 for a few scratches on ours, it fell over onto the pavement. Be careful!! These people look nice but when they see an opportunity to screw you over, they take it. ( they don’t do insurance here, Ko Phangan)

  9. I would like to know the same as Alex. We’re planning a trip from north to south and would rather fly back than ride all the way. With major brand car rentals you can usually have a different drop off location, but motorcycles/scooters in Thailand, anybody knows?

  10. Hi just wondering if there are any companies that let you hire a bike in one place and finnish in another, i know this is unlikely and if it were possible would be a lot more expensive but would be good to know if this kind of thing existed!!

  11. POINT 1 is WRONG, If you leave your pssport with them your an idiot. By law you need to carry your passport at all times. Also remember if you don’t have a License (both your domestic and interntionl license) to ride a bike and you have n accident then insurance won’t cover you same as if your not wearing a helmet.

  12. You should never hand over your passport. For two important reasons:

    If the police stop you for any reason and you don’t have a passport, you will land yourself in a lot of trouble.

    Secondly, if you cause damage to the bike, someone retaining your passport is a heftier insurance policy for them than a 3000 baht deposit, and if they refuse to return it then what will you do?..

    Always leave the deposit, you’re legally required to keep your passport with you.

  13. Hi,
    just wondering if you need a license to rent a scooter? It seems not, but with no experience, perhaps it’s a little unsafe? Are there any charges for going abroad, to Indonesia for example?

    1. Phil Sylvester

      If you don’t have a motorbike license you will be riding illegally. Not really a problem with local police, who will take some “tea money” (also technically illegal) and let you on your way.
      It WILL be a problem if you need to make a claim on your travel insurance as a result of an accident. It’s not possible to be insured for illegal activity, so no license means you’ll have to pay your own hospital bills. If it’s a few baht for ointment for your farang tattoo, so what, but sadly a lot of foreigners get badly injured on motorbikes and the claims can run into many thousands of dollars.
      Read a bit more about licenses here:

  14. Would just like to say,rode pai to chiang mai back in April 2011. Iv never rode a scooter on the rode and did there,as friend who went with rides bikes.Got scooter from aya ( I think called that) in pai, anecdote through some of the best scenery on a road.It’s a must do, when get to chiang mai gets little scary, but after fee hours riding your fine.A must do for anyone.

  15. claudiochaingmai

    About the point 6) what I always do in Asia but with special focus on Thailand is make some pictures of scratches and every damage of the motorbike in front of the renter, so he know he better avoid to cheat me.. heard stories about foreigners where they have been accused for scratched that were already there…

    Then it’s funny I got a burn with the motorbike one week back I didn’t know it’s so common among (stupid) foreigners that they named it.. farang tattoo.. made me smile ahaha 🙂

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