Many people choose to rent or buy a scooter in Thailand. Read about riding a motorbike in Thailand safely.
By Todd W John
Staff Writer, XploreAsia
Thailand is a country where the preferred mode of transportation, especially for the individual, is the motorbike. Every city, town and village seems to have motorbike rentals available at reasonable prices. They can often be purchased without breaking the bank.
If you do decide to get a scooter, there are some considerations you should make. First and foremost is you should have ‘some’ experience driving a motorbike, hopefully previously in your home country. If you do not have any experience it is not a deal breaker, however, be realistic. Start out slow, very slow. Look for an outlying, low traffic area to practice getting comfortable with your new skills as a ‘biker’.
Next, take the time to acquaint yourself with the rules of the road and how they may differ from your home country. Americans, for example, must come to terms that Thais drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This can be very disorienting, especially with the way people drive in Thailand.
You must understand that the Thai people interpret traffic laws as ‘polite suggestions’ as to how they should drive. They are very free form and abstract in their driving behavior and this presents a whole new world of challenges when motoring in the Land of Smiles. As westerners we have been taught very strict rules and even a minor failure to adhere to the law is quickly enforced.
You will quickly find that this is not quite the case in Thailand. Ignoring a traffic signal in Britain? That’s a ticket. Broken taillight in Chicago? That’s an ordinance violation. Does your vehicle have a headlamp that is even just too dim on your vehicle in New Zealand? That’s a fine you’ll have to pay.
While these are technically against the law in Thailand, enforcement is largely nonexistent. That being said, there will be road blocks and occasional safety checks that are essentially random in their time and location. As a foreigner living and driving in Thailand you will be stopped as a matter of course so that they can make sure your papers are in order.
Note: It is a good idea to get an international driver’s license in your home country before traveling here, which is usually quite easy and inexpensive.
There is a mandatory helmet law in Thailand. Authorities began enforcing it with much more vigor a few years ago. Indeed you will notice that locals will often forego wearing one and get away with it. For a foreigner it is much different… so make sure and wear one.
The same can also be said when it comes to general traffic rules and signals. It is not unusual for Thais to drive down the wrong side of the street to make it to the side road or business. Thus be careful to look both ways when pulling into traffic, not just in the direction of where you expect traffic to be coming from.
Night time driving may also be precarious. People driving motorbikes, and even cars, operate in what some people have come to refer to as ‘stealth mode’. This is when the vehicle has absolutely no lights on. There is no rational for this but it happens, a lot.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then is Thailand, on a per capita basis, consistently ranks as one of ‘most dangerous places to drive in the world’. You must take care to look after your own safety and drive defensively and be very alert.
As in any country, drinking and driving is a miserable choice. As the XploreAsia video discusses, there are a myriad of ways to get around Thailand via public transportation that will keep you safe should you decide to have a night out on the town.
Above all be aware of your environment and use sound judgment when taking to the roads. Thailand is a beautiful country with a vibrant culture and you’ll want to make sure that you are around to enjoy it for a long time.