Scooters in Thailand

Scooters in Thailand are dangerous, even for Thais. I know because I’m a trained rider and I had two spills. But if you’re going to ride a scooter, get the safest. Here’s a road test video of the Honda Click:

And here’s a reminder about riding scooters in Thailand:

Riding a motorcycle or scooter in Thailand comes with unique responsibilities and dangers. Scooters are wonderful in traffic but they have 4 drawbacks:

  • You’re vulnerable to any mistakes in road design and construction.
  • No matter what or who you hit, you lose.
  • They’re a bitch in the rain.
  • Range.

1. Road design, construction and maintenance create hazards.

  • Lethal obstacles are often built into Thai roads. My favorite? Where freeways cross an overpass, they build raised footpaths out into the motorcycle lane – withno warning. These deathtraps freaked me out until I learned to anticipate them.
  • Though roads are well maintained, safety is casual. A Thai friend was killed riding her motorcycle home in the rain when she hit an unmarked pothole on a main street.
  • I slid off because someone  spilled cooking oil around a curve.

So understand the physical situation and be far more vigilant than at home.

2. No matter what or whom you hit, you lose.

You already know that you’re much more vulnerable on two wheels than on four. But driving anything in Thailand carries an additional responsibility: you pay all costs for an accident. Because you’re a farang you are rich and the rule here is that the party with more money pays the costs. (If you have first-class insurance, even your insurance company will agree to pay, despite your innocence) If you are clearly not at fault and there’s been no injury, either leave the scene asap or offer the other driver a 1,000 Baht note ($33), apologize, and drive off.

When an old Thai on a motorcycle drove along the curb past stopped traffic, straight through a stop light, he hit me hard. Bystanders wanted to call the cops so I would be forced to pay for the accident. To his credit, the gentleman waved them off, but commonly, people you collide with will refuse responsibility. Thais’ main goal is to prove that they were not responsible for the accident (or anything, it seems sometimes). 1,000 baht is usually sufficient to prove that they’re correct.

3. Bikes and scooters are a bitch in the rain.

Thailand’s rainy season makes motorcycling a watersport. You’ll need a poncho, which can be had for as little as $2 in many shops, that has high visibility and you’ll need plenty of tread on your tires. And, of course, you’ll need to drive very cautiously. It’s a white-knuckle experience that’s best avoided. I simply follow elderly Thai drivers. They’ve been doing it all their lives.

4. Mileage Vs. Range

Exhilarated by the fact that your scooter gets 98 miles to the gallon, you set off for a pretty village 40 miles away. After a beautiful day in the mountains you head home and, along the way, discover that you’re running low on fuel. Of course, gas stations have disappeared and there’s no sign of another one. How could this be happening when the scooter gets such great mileage? Simple: its tank holds as little as 1 gallon of gasoline. So…top up your tank whenever it drops below half. A backup plan: most country stores sell gasoline. Yep, in beer bottles, for a couple of bucks. Just ask for N̂ảmạnbensin pord while pointing plaintively to your gas tank and you’ll soon be back in the saddle.

Comments

  1. Wear your helmet at all times. You know the name for bike riders without helmets who have accidents are called? Organ donors.

    • Godfree Roberts says

      Absolutely right! At best you’ll faceplant on the back of an SUV and spend $20,000 on reconstructive surgery. Even in Thailand that’s a lot of money.

  2. David Walden says

    I find it very hard to believe your story of a motor cycle road accident victim from Fremantle in Australia where the cost of treatment whilst waiting for transport to Australia from Thailand would cost Aus $20,000 per day at a Thailand hospital. Sounds like a made up story to me of you trying to and drum up business. Would need more facts to believe this… Aus $20,000 per day Rubbish!!!…Yes and I just saw a flock of polar bears flying past.

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