Motorbike Insurance for Southeast Asia – What You Need to Know!

Two Girls on a Scooter in Chiang Mai

Southeast Asia is home to motorcycles of all stripes. You’ll see everything from high-end superbikes to mopeds held together with cable ties and duct tape! Motorbikes are the number one form of transport for most people in the region and using one will allow you to explore like a local and get off the beaten track. 

But riding a motorbike isn’t risk-free – which is where motorcycle insurance for Southeast Asia comes in. 

Unless you’re on an epic adventure using a motorcycle as your primary mode of transport, you don’t need to get a specialist motorbike insurance policy. Good travel insurance will likely cover you for occasional use – just make sure you read the policy wording carefully and have an understanding of what you are and aren’t covered for. If you’re unsure, contact your insurer to find out. 


Disclosure: Some links on this page are affiliate links. We always write our articles before checking if affiliate links are available.


Travel Insurers That Include Motorcycle Cover

Genki
No License Required!
  • Medical cover for riding any motorcycle 
  • Cover offered even if you don't have a motorcycle license 
  • Cover offered worldwide 
SafetyWing
Popular Backpacker Insurance!
  • Cover medical expenses for motorcycle accidents
  • You must be properly licensed in your home country
  • You must have all the correct paperwork (including an International Driving Permit)
True Traveller
By Travellers For Travellers!
  • Medical cover for motorcycle accidents 
  • Cover only up to and including 125cc bikes on the basic insurance package
  • You must be licensed in your home country and riding legally with the correct paperwork

Key Takeaways:

– You need to be riding legally which often means having an IDP (International Driving Permit), as well as a motorcycle license. 
– Even if you don’t need a motorcycle license to ride in the country you’re in, your insurer may require you to have one from your home country. 
– You need to wear the correct safety gear – a helmet at minimum.
– If you’re intoxicated, you’re uninsured. No ifs, no buts.
Forgot Your IDP?
International Drivers Association

Stop!
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! 😉


Related: (links open in a new tab)


Everything You Need to Know About Scooter Insurance in Southeast Asia

What Is Motorbike Insurance?

Motorcycle insurance generally covers you for accidents, injuries or damages sustained or caused while riding a motorbike. While the level of coverage differs between policies, you’ll want to ensure you have medical cover for motorcycle-related injuries and treatments. Liability, legal and third-party cover are also important to prevent you ending up in hot water in case of a traffic accident! 

Motorcycle insurance protects you, so you can enjoy the open road!

Not all travel insurance providers offer cover for motorcycle use while abroad – and even when they do, there are stipulations, like needing to have a license in your home country or needing to be legally riding in the country you’re visiting. Make sure you shop around and understand exactly what you’re covered for before buying insurance! 


Scooter Insurance Offered by Rental Companies in Southeast Asia

When you rent a motorcycle in Southeast Asia, you may be offered (read: pressured into buying) motorbike insurance from the rental company. This insurance can be very worthwhile, or it could be a con. You can try to understand it by reading the insurance paperwork – if you’re even shown any – but it’s best to check reviews of the rental firm online and see what other travellers experienced with the insurance. 

Even if the insurance is good, chances are it’ll only cover damage to the motorbike or scooter rather than offer medical cover for you. Always make sure your travel insurance covers medical issues related to riding a motorcycle. Never rely solely on insurance you purchase from the rental company. 


Motorbike Insurance vs Travel Insurance

Specific motorbike insurance differs from travel insurance because it only covers you for motorcycle-related issues. It doesn’t cover anything else. Only overlanders and those using motorbikes as their main form of transport will need to look into specialist international motorbike insurance. 

For most backpackers to Southeast Asia, a good travel insurance policy should cover you for occasional motorcycle use. And if it doesn’t, there may be an option to bolt on additional cover for a small fee. 

Motorbike riders at Ha Giang, Buffalo
Make sure you understand your insurance before setting off on a bike in Southeast Asia!

Just remember to read the policy details closely and make sure you understand whether you’re covered for motorcycle use in each country you visit. If in doubt, get in contact with your insurer to ask. And remember to always get their answers in writing! You never know when you might need it… 

Our Favourite Travel Insurers That Offer Motorcycle Cover:


How to Get Motorbike Insurance for Southeast Asia

The above travel insurers all offer some level of motorcycle insurance for Southeast Asia. However, you need to make sure you truly understand the level of cover offered before swinging your leg over your trusty metal steed and riding off into the sunset. 


What to Look Out for When Choosing Motorcycle Insurance for Travel

Are There Any Requirements You Must Fulfil to Be Covered?

Often, insurers will have stipulations and requirements for your motorcycle insurance to be valid. While they differ between insurers, this is a general overview of what you can expect.

Requirements:

License – Most insurers require you to be licensed to ride a motorcycle in your home country (or in the country you’re visiting). The license must be suitable for the size and type of motorcycle you ride while travelling. 

Foggy day with motorbike experience
Make sure your licensed for the type and size of bike you’re riding!

Bike Capacity – Even if you’re fully licensed to ride any motorcycle in your home country, your insurer may have engine capacity limits on their coverage. Capacity limits vary between travel insurance providers but there is usually a focus on small capacity cover, with many travel insurers only covering bikes below 200cc.  

International Driving Permit (IDP) – International Driving Permit requirements vary from country to country and often, even when they’re mandatory, they’re rarely checked. However, if the country you’re visiting requires an IDP for you to legally operate a motor vehicle of any kind, your insurer will want you to have one. If you’re operating your motorcycle in any way that can be deemed illegal, your insurance will be invalid.

Different countries require different International Driving Permits. Make sure you understand which you need for each country you’re visiting!  

An International Driving Permit from the UK.
Get your IDP before leaving home!

Age – You may find your travel insurance only offers motorcycle cover if you’re over a certain age. The level of cover offered may change depending on your age too. Make sure you read the policy statement carefully, so you don’t get caught out! 

Safety Equipment – Your insurer will probably specify that you need to wear a helmet to be covered by their policy. Sometimes they may specify other safety gear too but a helmet is the most common. Even if it’s not to meet insurance requirements, you should always ride with a helmet – the ground is hard and your brain is fragile. Protect it. 

Ha Van Pass Motorbike Tour
Make sure you’re wearing a helmet!

Sobriety – It should go without saying but your insurance provider will not cover you if you’re riding intoxicated. Whether you’re over the drink drive limit, had a cheeky smoke before heading out or riding back from a drug-fuelled Full Moon Party, kiss goodbye to any insurance cover. That’s what taxis and tuk-tuks are for. 


What Should Motorbike Insurance for Southeast Asia Cover?

Your exact coverage will vary depending on your insurer and type of policy. But, as a general rule, if your travel insurance provider offers motorcycle cover, it won’t be as comprehensive as a dedicated motorcycle insurance policy. 

Medical Cover – This is the bare minimum you want from motorcycle insurance coverage. If your insurer doesn’t cover you for medical expenses related to motorcycle use, the policy isn’t worth having. If you fall off and end up with gravel rash, kiss goodbye to a big chunk of your travel budget. And if you break a bone or do even more damage, it’s not your travel budget that will be impacted but your life savings – and if you don’t have any, it’ll be the life savings of your loved ones!

Doctor performing an operation.
Medical treatment can be expensive in Southeast Asia!

Vehicle Cover – Having some level of protection against theft or damage to a motorcycle is recommended. It won’t be included with all policies but if you can get it, it’s worth having. 

Liability Cover – While not ubiquitous in travel insurance policies, having some sort of liability cover for riding a motorbike in Southeast Asia won’t go amiss. Liability cover helps you pay for damage to persons or property caused by your use of a motorcycle. For example, if you crash into someone else riding a motorcycle and it’s deemed your fault, liability cover should cover their medical bills and the cost of fixing their bike.

Legal Cover – Much like liability cover, legal cover isn’t very common when using travel insurance with motorcycle cover but if you can get it, it’s worth having. Legal cover ensures you can pay for legal help should you need it. 


Where Can I Ride a Motorbike in Southeast Asia?

Motorcycles are the most common form of transport throughout much of Southeast Asia. Renting one for yourself is simple in most Southeast Asian countries but beware that just because you can rent one, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re legally allowed to! 

And remember, even if you’re legally allowed to rent a bike or scooter without a license, your insurance provider may not cover you if you don’t have a license in your home country!

Can I Ride a Motorbike or Scooter in Cambodia? 🇰🇭

Yes, you can ride a motorcycle in Cambodia. For any machines under 125cc capacity, you don’t even need a license! The law was changed in 2016 to allow anyone over the age of 16 to ride a bike or scooter below 125cc. If you want to ride a bike larger than 125cc you can convert your home driving license, assuming you have a motorcycle license, into a Cambodian license at the Department of Public Work and Transport near Phnom Penh. 

Cambodia Drone Image 3
Cambodia has some beautiful locations just waiting to be explored by scooter!

Ensure you have an IDP with you when riding motorcycles in Cambodia and prepare for the police to stop and ‘fine’ you for almost anything. These ‘fines’ will be a few dollars at most. If they ask for more, ask for an official receipt, this is usually enough to get them to drop the price. It’s also worth noting that tourists cannot rent motorcycles in the Siem Reap area. 

Can I Ride A Motorbike or Scooter in Indonesia? 🇮🇩

To ride a motorcycle legally in Indonesia you need a valid motorcycle license in your home country, plus an IDP. However, if you don’t have these things, you can still rent a bike or scooter with ease – just be prepared to pay the ‘fines’ when the police inevitably pull you over in an attempt to boost their monthly income. 

Ubud, Bali Rice fields
Be careful when renting a bike in Bali – the rules are only getting more strict!

In Bali, things are stricter. Officially, you can only rent a motorbike or scooter from a properly registered agency – not from locals or your accommodation. However, this isn’t stopping anyone trying to rent you one and you’ll be the one who has to pay the fine if the police catch you. The long-term plan is to completely stop tourists renting scooters in Bali but that’s still a little way off. This is all part of Indonesia’s approach to remove backpackers and only attract ‘quality tourists.’ 

Can I Ride A Motorbike or Scooter in Laos? 🇱🇦

You need a motorcycle license to ride legally in Laos. You’re also required to have an IDP. While many travellers rent motorcycles without a license in Laos, it’s illegal, so you should avoid doing so. 

Can I Ride A Motorbike or Scooter in Malaysia? 🇲🇾

To ride a motorcycle in Malaysia, you officially need a valid motorcycle license and an IDP. Without these, you won’t be riding legally. Malaysia tends to be a little more strict than other Southeast Asian countries, so you may have a hard time even renting a bike without a license! 

Can I Ride A Motorbike or Scooter in Thailand? 🇹🇭

Officially, to ride a motorbike or scooter in Thailand, you need a valid license from your home country, as well as an International Driving Permit. These are rarely checked by rental companies, so backpackers often choose to ride without them. Just be aware that this is illegal. If you’re pulled over, you’ll need to pay a fine. The fines may be increasing dramatically in the future too!

Scooters drive down a dusty road
Not all roads in Thailand are paved – be prepared!

If you are fully licensed to ride in your home country, you can often convert your license into a Thai license which can save plenty of hassle when riding around the country! 

Can I Ride A Motorbike or Scooter in Vietnam? 🇻🇳

Legally riding a motorcycle in Vietnam is complicated. By law, you don’t need a license to ride a bike below 50cc. But you won’t find many of these available to rent. To ride anything bigger than 50cc, you need a valid motorcycle license and an IDP. 

The View From a Scooter in Vietnamese Countryside
Vietnam offers some wild riding experiences!

However, Vietnam is only signed up to one of the IDP conventions – the 1968 Vienna Convention. If your home country hasn’t signed up to or ratified the same convention, you will be unable to get an IDP for Vietnam and will not be able to ride legally without getting a Vietnamese license. You can try to get a Vietnamese license if you’re in the country for more than three months but you can’t do it on a shorter tourist visa.

Note:

It’s common practice in Southeast Asia for rental companies to keep your passport until you return the motorcycle. If you’re not comfortable with this, you might be able to negotiate a cash deposit or some other means of guarantee instead. 

Other Tips for Motorbike Travel Insurance in Southeast Asia 

Copies

Make sure you have copies of all your important documents with you when riding a motorbike in Southeast Asia. This includes:

  • Driving License 🪪
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) 📑
  • Passport 🛂
  • Insurance Documents 📄

It’s good practice to keep digital versions of all these on your phone, as well as saved in an email account you can access from any device (just email them to yourself and you’ll have them saved). You should also carry hard copies. The police may ask to see them if you get pulled over. 

Know Your Cover

Make sure you read the policy details of your chosen insurer properly before setting off on your adventure. This is true for every aspect of travel insurance plan, not just motorcycle cover. 

Understanding the exclusions is the most important thing – it’s all good and well knowing what you’re covered for but unless you understand when you’re not covered, you could be one slip away from causing big problems for your family and loved ones

Ride Within Your Limits 

While not stipulated on any policy wording I’ve ever read, you should always ride within your limits. This means not taking big risks while riding. If you know you can take a corner at 40mph, do it at 35mph. Sometimes, you can’t control an accident but often you can reduce the risks. Riding sensibly is the number one way to limit the chance of needing to claim on your travel insurance! 

Motorbikes on Hanoi roads
The traffic can be hectic – make sure you know what you’re doing!

Safety Gear

As previously mentioned, most motorcycle insurance will be invalidated if you don’t wear the correct safety equipment – so, make sure you’re always protected! Riding without a helmet can be more costly than just invalidating your insurance. It really could mean losing your life. Be sensible – wear the right gear. And if you don’t have a helmet or the motorcycle rental place doesn’t give you one, go and buy one from a proper motorbike shop. I really can’t overstate this – wear a f@¢k*ng helmet.

Have the right gear – and wear it!

Motorcycle Insurance for Southeast Asia – A Round-Up

While many travellers get away without proper motorcycle cover for Southeast Asia, they’re idiots. Don’t be like them. You don’t have to be the one to make a mistake when riding. It’s easy for a distracted driver to slam straight into you – and completely ruin your trip in the process. If you’re not insured, you’ll be relying on your family and friends to bail you out. Or if the worst happens, you’re lumping them with the cost of bringing your body home. Just get insured. 

You don’t need specialist international motorcycle insurance to have the right level of motorcycle coverage for your trip. Most good travel insurance policies offer some level of motorcycle cover. This is enough for most travellers. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting though – you don’t want to be caught out!

Got something to add about bike and scooter insurance for Southeast Asia? Let us know in the comments!

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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