When you’re travelling around Asia, particularly South East Asia, you may find yourself thinking about scooter rental.
When everyone else is zooming around the streets and there are rental options everywhere, why would you want to walk, right?
But, even if you’re experienced in riding a scooter or moped at home, there are a few things you need to be careful of when riding one in Asia.
Here are the seven main pieces of advice I can give you from my experiences.
1: Don’t get scammed
It is very easy to unwittingly become the victim of a scam by rental companies.
In a lot of cases you are required to hand over your passport as a security deposit and then, when you return the bike, the owners can miraculously find a problem with it that they say was not there before.
They then refuse to return your passport until you have paid a sum much higher than what it would actually cost to repair the problem.
I have heard of this happening to many people on my travels and, while I’ve been lucky, it’s definitely worth taking precautions against it.
Make sure you check the vehicle all over for any breaks, bumps or scrapes before you hand over your passport or any money.
Ideally take a photograph of any problem areas and show the owner so that they clearly know of them in advance and can’t charge you for them.
This should help ensure you don’t get scammed for existing scratches etc.
However, if you do end up damaging the bike, whether it was your fault or not, you may end up getting charged more than the repair would normally cost.
And while they are holding your passport, you don’t have much choice other than to pay up.
2: Give way
One of the best pieces of advice I received in Cambodia while renting a scooter was this:
If it’s bigger, louder or faster than you, it has right of way.
Traffic can get seriously crazy in some areas of Asia!
You don’t want to find yourself going up against a huge truck or a bus, so just give way as often as you can and stay safe.
It’s not always a good idea to do as the locals do, especially if you’re inexperienced.
3: Take it slow
As you gain confidence you’ll start speeding up a little, but at first it’s a good idea to take it slow.
Get used to the feel of the bike and the movement of the traffic around you.
Take notice of the road conditions. Is it wet? Full of potholes? Gravel?
Take extra care in these situations.
I can tell you that it’s easy to have an accident even if you’re being careful!
When Theo and I rented a scooter in Thailand, we were riding downhill on a mountain road in wet conditions.
Even though we were careful, one wrong movement sent the scooter over on its side, throwing us down the road.
As the road surface was so slippery, we slid downhill on the tarmac for quite a long way before coming to a stop on a corner.
Thankfully, because the road was so slippery we managed to avoid any bad injuries to ourselves or scratches to the bike!
But our takeaway from the experience is to be EXTRA careful in bad conditions.
4: Wear a helmet
This should go without saying, really.
It is always a requirement to wear a helmet, whether it’s stated upon rental or not.
If the rental company you are looking at don’t provide helmets, go somewhere else.
Sure, they usually look a bit silly, but it’s better than breaking your head.
And sure, most of the locals may not wear them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Police are far more likely to pull over a foreigner than a local for not wearing a helmet, or for having a broken light or mirror.
5: Check license requirements
This can be a tricky one as it’s hard to know what the rules are and police differ in their opinions from place to place.
All rental companies I’ve been to have accepted my UK driving license before handing over a scooter.
I’m pretty sure some never even asked for it.
In Thailand I got stopped for random checks by police twice in one week.
The first time was in the small town of Pai.
The officer looked at my UK license, smiled and said it was fine, and let me go on my way.
The second time was in Chiang Mai; not far from Pai but a much larger city.
The officer looked at my UK license, told me it was against the law to ride a scooter without an international license and fined me 500 Baht (around GBP £12.80/USD $16.50).
If in doubt, get an international license.
6: Use common sense
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: common sense is our greatest asset!
Remember that you’re in a different country; respect the rules of the road for the country you’re in, respect the locals around you, be sensible and you’ll be fine.
I hope these tips have helped alleviate some of your worries surrounding scooter rental in Asia.
It’s great fun to be free to move around without relying on public transport or your own two feet!
I have now used scooter rental companies in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Taiwan, and I hope I can continue in the future.
So take my advice, wear the helmet and enjoy the ride!
Are you experienced with riding scooters or are you a first-timer? Did these tips help you decide to go for it? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- Chiang Mai to Pai: a stunning scooter road trip
- Bokor Mountain: Kampot’s eerie tourist destination
- Angkor Wat: why you should ditch the tuk-tuk tour
All images in this post are the property of lastminutewanders.com