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I am going to visit Thailand for 8 days (Phuket) and I have been advised to consider renting a motorcycle.

Currently my Australian driver's license is only for cars. However I also have a Spanish driver's license, and that one allows to drive cars and motorcycles (up to 125cc engines).

The main problem for me is that I have never driven a motorcycle. I do ride a bicycle every day in Sydney, sharing the road with many cars, but I do understand that it is not the same.

Now my question is, granted that I will get a proper travel insurance that will also cover medical costs and granted that I will rent the motorcycle with insurance, is it a terrible idea to rent a scooter over there? My plan is to spend 30 minutes (or one hour!) in the hotel parking practicing (also, the hotel is not in a super-crowded area, so that should help).

Any advice?

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It really doesn't matter that you are allowed to drive 125cc motorbikes in Spain, unless you can get that drivers license "translated" into an international driving permit. Also, while 30 minutes of practice in a parking lot is better than nothing, it really doesn't give you the experience that you would have if you take a motorbike driving course. Things such as braking technique, steering in low vs. high speed, countersteering, risk awareness, vehicle safety inspection, etc. etc.

I would not recommend renting a scooter or motorbike in Thailand without a valid international driving permit for the type of vehicle you intend to drive, as I'm pretty sure any sensible insurance company will not pay you anything if you have an accident. Just look at the number of rookie tourists who have motorbike accidents in Thailand and end up having to resort to crowdfunding to try and pay their hospital bills. And those are the lucky ones, at least they're still alive...

I agree with Nick that it's safer to rent a car - not to mention more comfortable when it starts raining. Note that you still need an international driving permit though! The downsides to a car compared to a scooter is of course that it's a bit more expensive (but still cheap compared to the rest of the world), it will often take you longer to drive (can't pass between cars) and you'll have a harder time finding parking sometimes.

Finally, I would recommend anyone who wants to travel in Asia or anywhere else by motorbike, to do the only sensible thing - do the training to get a valid motorbike license in your home country (and get it translated into an international driving permit). Also, avoid leaving your passport as deposit - it's not only illegal to hand over your passport, it's also a huge risk. Shop around for a place where you can leave a copy of your passport and/or cash. And shoot a detailed video of the bike when picking it up, detailing every tiny scratch and other damages. That way you'll be in a much better position should the renter claim that you damaged the vehicle when returning it.

  • Great advice. If only I red it 16 years sooner! I rented a motorbike in Phuket to save money over a car and had an accident the next day, spending the last week of my vacations in bandages. The Thais will rent one to anyone but that does not mean they should. I did not even have to present any kind of driver's license. – Itai Dec 14 '17 at 3:05
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You are sure you are allowed to drive motorcycles up to 125cc in every country? According to EU law and given your information that you never sit on a motorcycle before, you are only allowed to drive motorcycles in Spain (driver's license guideline article 6, number 3b - here in German ). So far from the legal point of view - you should consider this especially in the terms of insurance (medical and motorcycle insurance as well). You might also consider to get a scooter according to the EU AM driver's license - scooter up to 45 km/h. This would be legal.

However, everyone goes with a motorcycle in Thailand. You should not have problems getting a 125cc machine if you want to. Regarding the "experience" question - I had the same problem like you. After driving 10 minutes in a rural by-road I had no problems handling my bike. Maybe you should avoid crowded areas at the beginning. But if you are experienced with bicycles you should handle an AM scooter or even a 125cc motorcycle.

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Don't do it. The traffic can be heavy on those twisty island roads. The vehicle maintenance can be poor. The accident rate for novice bike renters in Thailand is very high and can result in life changing injuries or death. And your insurance company will almost certainly try to get out of any coverage if your license in invalid, or you rented from someone who was happy to ignore the law.

Rent a jeep instead. I did that in Ko Samui and had a nice day out. Just make sure you check the vehicle carefully, tyres, engine, lights, bodywork, fittings - 500m down the road in the first jeep I got, I found the drivers seat wasn't properly fixed to the floor, so I took it back and insisted they changed it for a different one.

One last thing: don't hand over your passport as security. A common scam is to claim some minor but expensive damage, and them holding onto your passport until you pay up.

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    I would recommend it. Renting a motorcycle in south east asia and driving around for 2-3 days was one of the best travelexperiences I had. Nick is right, it is not 100% save and you might have problems with the insurance company. However, in my opinion we western people have an exaggerated need for security. Of course something can happen. But also during diving, rock climbing, skiing, going with local buses in south east asia and and and.... and I want not to miss those things. – Gnusper Dec 12 '17 at 8:54
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....is it a terrible idea to rent a scooter over there?

Hard to be objective with a question like this, but I suppose some experience would help you along.

If you drive the automatic scooters that are 110-125ccs (Honda Scoopy, Yamaha Fino/Filano, Honda Moove, Honda click, Yamaha Nouvo, etc....) within the last 10 model years or so^, and

  • you drive at a speed that is compatible with road conditions (generally 40-60km/h)
  • stay to the left when in doubt
  • keep your head on a swivel

You should be fine. Practice on local side streets first before going into crowded areas. In fact, I would recommend FIRST using a motorbike taxi a few times, then ride with a local friend 2ND, then ride by yourself.

@Gnusper has a point in that Westerners tend to be neurotic. But you will see Thai-style driving is NOT the same because the thinking and safety considerations for self and others are structurally different. #1 reason I see tourist who get into motorbike accidents here are because they try to drive like a Westerner in Thailand.

It's unlikely that you will get travel insurance that will properly cover motorcycle driving in Thailand. Don't be surprised if in your search the insurance contract specifically excludes Thailand or has ridiculous restrictions on riding motorcycles. If you do find it, please leave it in the comments or update your answer.


I hope I didn't scare you. Motorbike is a [relatively] cheap and convenient way to move around quickly. You will have lots of fun and most tourist will never have a serious incident or notice anything too out of the ordinary during their month or so stay. Stay long enough (start growing some roots like having children) you will begin to lose some of your innocence.
^If you are over 125kg, you could opt for 150cc...anything over that for an inexperienced rider is likely overkill.

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