The Risks of Renting & Riding Scooters in Thailand – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Wherever you are in Thailand, whether it’s Phuket, Koh Samui, Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you will find scooters everywhere. It is the mode of transport most commonly used by locals, and most tourists and expats will agree that there is no reason not to make use of this affordable and convenient method of transport.

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During our stays in Koh Samui and Chiang Mai, we too made use of this mode of transport and had a permanent scooter rental. We made a video of a scooter trip we did on Koh Samui.

When hiring a scooter, many tourists are not aware of what they are getting themselves into. In this post I’d like to help you understand the risks you take by riding a scooter in Thailand, and why sometimes it is better using a tuk tuk, a songthaew, a taxi or an Uber (in Bangkok only).

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Over the past two years we’ve heard horror stories where tourists were riding scooters during their stay and got involved in serious accidents. These accidents have not only ended vacations abruptly, but left certain tourists bankrupt and lucky to be alive.

These three simple questions will help you decide whether or not to hire a scooter:

1. Do you have a motorbike license?

If you don’t have a motorbike license that let’s you ride legally at home, then you will be riding illegally in Thailand. For most visitors not having a motorbike license won’t cause any problems because scooter rental shops and the police generally don’t check or care. However – this is an important one – if you don’t have a license and get involved in an accident, then your medical travel insurance will most likely not cover you or the person on the back of your scooter.

2. Does your insurance cover motorbike accidents?

Most medical travel insurance will cover common accidents including scooter accidents, however as mentioned above, your insurance will not cover you if you are operating a motorcycle without a motorbike license. It’s always recommended to check the fine print to make sure you’re covered.

3. Are you an experienced motorcyclist?

Have you driven a scooter before? Do you have experience with lane splitting or lane sharing – this is when you drive in between and overtake slower cars? Have you driven a scooter with someone on the back before? Do you know how fast you can take a corner and how to conduct an emergency stop?

Many tourists have never driven a scooter, yet they take the risk of figuring it all out on their travels – sometime with a partner or family member on the back, which I’d strongly discourage.

Many tourists take the risks and get away with it, but some end up being the unlucky ones. I recently heard of a couple that got into a serious accident on their scooter and their medical insurance did not cover them. They ended up paying almost US$ 35 000 to cover their expenses of their medical bills and to replace the scooter that had to be written off.

If you can’t confidently answer yes to ALL of the above three questions, then I strongly suggest that you rather avoid renting and riding a scooter in Thailand. If you’re willing to throw caution to the wind and take the risks, then good luck and be safe, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

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