For many travelers one of the first things they do, when they arrive in Thailand for a holiday, is rent a motorcycle. Cheap, and easily accessible, they are a good way to get around and see the sights of the country. Many shops offer motorbikes for hire, for little more than a couple of dollars a day. However, there are some very important things you should consider before you decide to rent a motorbike in Thailand.
1. Have you driven in Thailand before? For many people this is the first time in driving in an Asian country, such as Thailand. They are unused to the road rules, and too many people drive as they would at home. They are unaware that dangers lurk around every corner. In Thailand it is not uncommon to have traffic weaving in and out, or to not stop at traffic lights or junctions. It is normal to have traffic approach you on the wrong side of the road, sometimes with no lights on. Undertaking (overtaking on the right hand side) while illegal in the UK, is common in Thailand. And, unfortunately, drink driving is a common occurrence in the country and accounts for a large proportion the high death toll on the road.
2. How experienced are you on a motorbike? Many people are novice motorcyclists, and some have never ridden before at all. This makes you doubly vulnerable, not only because you don’t know how to handle a bike, but also because you are not experienced with driving in Thai traffic either. It pays to do a short motorcycle proficiency course before you leave home, just so you know the basics. It might not help you if you hit a patch of sand on the road (a common reason for a lot of motorbike accidents in Thailand), as is driving too fast, but it will enable you to be more confident and to ride to the conditions of the road.
3. Is your motorbike roadworthy? Many of the motorbike rentals are not in a roadworthy condition when they are hired out. Unfortunately there is little regard for maintenance, and if something goes wrong you could be in serious trouble. Always do a full check of the vehicle you are about to hire, before agreeing to rent it. Look carefully at the treat on the tires and check if the bike has enough oil in it. If the bike does incur any damage while you have it, you will be liable, and you will probably have to pay an inflated rate for any repairs.
4. How good is your helmet? Unfortunately the helmet law is not enforced in Thailand, and so most people don’t wear protective helmets when they are driving their bikes. Rental companies will often hand you a cheap, thin, plastic helmet that will do nothing in the event of an accident. Remember, your head is very fragile, and you can incur serious brain injuries in an accident, even at slow speeds. If you are renting a bike, invest in buying your own helmet. Make sure it is DOT compliant, and done up tightly enough that in the event of an accident it will not slip off. Many people die in bike accidents that could be prevented with the right protective headgear.
5. Are you insured? Many people take out holiday insurance, but few realize that many companies don’t insure you if you are in a motorbike accident. Read the small print and make sure that you are covered if you plan to rent a motorcycle as hospital bills can be expensive!
Don’t ruin your holiday with an unnecessary motorbike accident. Too many people end up in hospital as a result of hiring bikes in Thailand, and many wish they had just hired a taxi instead. If you are not used to driving a bike, don’t try to learn how to drive in Thailand, learn at home. Keep yourself safe and have a memorable holiday for all the right reasons.