Category Archives: Tips/Tricks

Scooter Hire – 9 Tips for Getting around Chiang Mai like a local.

Getting around Chiang Mai is very easy once you know about the Red Trucks in Chiang MaiAnd of course you can get outside of town cheaply if you’ve read our previous post about using fixed route SongthaewsBut what if you want a chance to see Chiang Mai through the eyes of the local?  Taking the road less travelled(by tourists with a copy of Trip Advisor clutched in there hand).   Want to see the other temples, waterfalls, and hill tribe villages on Doi Suthep?   The absolute cheapest and easiest way is by scooter!



9 tips for getting around on a scooter

1. Do you know how to ride a two wheeled vehicle?  If not, Thailand is not the place to learn.  Use a Red Truck!

2. Rent from a reputable shop.

Does the place look on the up and up?
Are they renting quality brands? Honda? Yamaha?
Are they willing to walk you through the specifics of your scooter?
Does this look like the type of place you would use if not in Thailand?   You may not want to rent from the massages parlour that has two old scooters to rent out front….


3. Look for a scooter in good shape, preferably under 2 yrs old. 

 Also look for a scooter with few or no scratches. Most likely, a previous renter has paid for them and the shop never actually fixed the scooter.  Older, scratched up bikes are a tell tale sign to look out.  Don’t ruin your holiday trying to figure out what to do because the bike decided to stop working on the side of a mountain.   BTW, this scooter above is actually too small to be legal as well, but the general state of the bike should have already sent you running!

4. Make sure the scooter is legal.  

Ask about insurance. Does the bike insurance meet legal requirements?  In Thailand, that means 3rd party liability.   ***Note: you will see many vehicles in Thailand without license plates.***  This is usually due to the delay in registration and waiting for new plates. It is still legal to drive as long as the a copy of the reg documents and insurance are inside.

5. Wear your helmet!!! 

First and foremost it’s stupid not to.  Scooters do no go very fast, so most accident end up with scrapes and bruises unless your not wearing a helmet.  A 30km/hr crash can still cause major damage to your head.  WEAR A HELMET!!! Also keep in mind that the police generally will not stop foreigners as long as you have a helmet on.  The fine for not having your helmet on is 400THB.

6. Start by driving around the block. 

Make sure everything feels right.  Take a few laps around to make sure you are comfortable with your new scooter before heading out into the main traffic.

7. When you are entering traffic, stay to the left. 

Pay attention to what you are doing.  The locals will just drive around you as necessary.   There is very little honking of horns.  Look out for yourself and the traffic will move around you on its own.

8. Learn the timing of traffic.

At first blush, the traffic in Thailand looks like chaos.   In fact, there is a specific cadence to the driving that keeps everyone moving.    Learn the cadence.   People will move in and out, while still letting you get by as necessary.    It all works very well once you get the feel for it.   

9. Deposits

Rental shops will ask you to leave a passport as deposit for the scooter hire.   This is the easiest way to put down a deposit.    Most shops will offer a secondary option of a passport copy and cash deposit, usually between 3,000B – 5,000B.    To this day, we have never had nor even heard of an issue of a passport not being returned in Chiang Mai.  If there is no damage, there is nothing to worry about, if there is damage, the right thing to do is to pay to have the scooter repaired.
***As with anything else you do in life, use your common sense.   Don’t act like a fool, drive after drinking, race the scooters, or believe that the Thai’s general philosophy of acceptance  means that you can do anything you like.    Stick to the road rules, drive carefully, and have fun!


Please feel free to contact us by emailcontact form, or comment below.   We’re happy to answer any questions and look forward to ideas about future blog posts.   What would you like to know about Chiang Mai?


When Red Trucks aren’t red?

Chang Puak Station
Chang Puak Station


What are they?

So if you read the first post on Red Trucks in Chiang Mai you know the basics of using Red Trucks to travel the old city and the outer areas.  So what happens when Red Trucks aren’t red?  If you’ve been in town more than a day you’ve seen the same trucks but they’re not red.   These trucks (of any color, including red) are actually called seelors(4 Wheels) or songthaews(2 Benches) and they operate more like buses, going further afield on specific routes.   Once you know the routes these are actually very simple to use. 

Who can take them?

Anyone is welcome to use the various colored trucks.    Just make sure you know where you are going, and more importantly, know how you are getting back.   Either get yourself to one of the truck depots or hail them on the road as they are coming by and tell driver where you are heading.   Then jump in the back and press the “stop request” button when nearing your stop.   Finally, just like the Red Trucks, go around front and pay for the ride.

Where to start?

Start off by learning where to find the correct color/route trucks.    You can get to any of these depots by walking or by taking a Red Truck as described in the previous article.   


Yellow Truck at Ping River
Yellow Truck at Ping River

– Wararot Market – Ping River

The majority of Songthaews can be taken from the transport depot near the river.   Its locally referred to as Kad Luang, Wararot Market, or Chinatown.    Along the river you will find queues or Yellow, White, Green and Blue trucks waiting their turn to fill up and take off on their way.   

  •      Yellow – This yellow truck will head North to Mae Rim and East-North-East to Doi Saket
  •      White  – The white truck will head East to Sankamphaeng
  •      Green  – The green truck will head North-North-East to San Sai and/or Mae Jo
  •      Blue    – The Blue truck will head south through Sarapee to Lamphun
Orange Truck at Chang Puak Gate
Orange Truck at Chang Puak Gate
White Truck at Chang Puak Gate
White Truck at Chang Puak Gate
Green Truck at Chang Puak Gate
Green Truck at Chang Puak Gate

– Chang Puak Gate – Northern Bus Station

About 400 meters north of the north gate is the small bus station/Songthaew depot.    This depot is almost as large as the one near the Ping river and has Yellow, White, Green, and Orange trucks going along the following routes
  • Yellow  – This yellow truck will head South to Chom Tong
  • White   – The white truck will head East to Sankamphaeng
  • Green   – The green truck will head North-North-East to San Sai and/or Mae Jo
  • Orange –  The orange truck will head north through Chang Dao to Fang
Yellow Truck at Chiang Mai Gate
Yellow Truck at Chiang Mai Gate

– Chiang Mai Gate

The smallest depot is just outside of the south gate serving only the Yellow(not the same as Wararot Market) truck route heading south towards Hang Dong and San Pa Tong.  

How Much?

 – Generally you can expect to pay 20B for any of these rides.    The prices can vary depending on your destination and which “zone” it may be in.    The price could be 10, 15 or 20B, but this is one of those cases where I don’t mind leaving the change!

When can you go?   Hours of operations?

These guys start early.   You can catch most of them anywhere from 6 am to 6pm (18:00)
Keep this in mind for your return trip.   If you’re not on the last run back you may find it tough to get a ride, or at least very expensive!     


Please feel free to contact us by email, contact form, or comment below.   We’re happy to answer any questions and look forward to ideas about future blog posts.   What would you like to know about Chiang Mai? 


Red Trucks in Chiang Mai

Red Trucks in Chiang Mai – The nod means 20 Baht!

Red Trucks in Chiang Mai

Travelling in Thailand can be a daunting experience.   Different language, different modes of transport, and for most of us, they drive on the wrong side of the road.  To add another twist, Chiang Mai does not use metered taxis.

For local travel, your choices are either the Tuk-Tuk or Red Trucks.  The locals will generally advise you to use the Red Trucks [AKA Rot Daeng(Red Truck), Songthaew(2 Aisles/Benches),  or See-lor/(4 Wheels)] for price and safety.   Operating much like a taxi/bus hybrid, Red Trucks in Chiang Mai will take you pretty much anywhere you like, but may also pick up and drop off other people on the way to your stop.

Red Trucks inside the Old City.

     As most people realize during their planning stages, Chiang Mai’s Old City is a small 1 mile square(~1.5km), edged by a protective moat.  The moat also defines the going price for those in the know.  Anything starting and ending within the outer edges of the moat is an assumed price of….20 Baht 30THB(2018)!  But there is a trick to it.
You have to be a local or act the part.   

Using a Red Trucks like a local in 4 simple steps.

  1. Wave for the red truck to stop. (Underhand, almost like you’re pointing where you want them to stop.)
  2. When stopped, look into the front window and tell them where you are going (Within the Old City)
  3. Wait for the nod.  If they nod yes, just jump in the back and wait for your stop.
  4. When stopped, walk around to the front and hand the driver a 20 Baht bill. (have 20B ready)

Sounds simple enough, but pay attention to these specifics…    

  1. Inside the moat, don’t ask “how much?”    The answer will almost always be more than 20 Baht30THB(2018)!
  2. If the driver quotes a price instead of nodding, let him pass and get the next red truck.
  3. Do not use large bills to pay.   Always have a 20 Baht bill ready.   They may decide they don’t have change.

Red Trucks outside the Old City.

     While some of the steps for traveling within the Old City can still apply, they are not as hard and fast.    The hailing procedure does not change, nor does letting them know where you are going.   Generally, the prices for non-Thais will be greater than 20 Baht 30THB(2018) if traveling further outside of the moat.   In this case, you should ask the price and agree before getting in the back. Also. you need to be willing to negotiate.   

So, the 4 easy steps to traveling past the Old City:

  1. Wave for the Red Trucks to stop.
  2. When stopped, look into the front window and tell them where you are going.
  3. Ask them how much. (Use common sense on pricing and expect to pay more for night travel or if you want to go without stopping)
  4. When stopped, walk around to the front and hand the driver the exact change.

A couple of considerations for traveling outside.

  1. Plan your return trip.  The further out you go, the less likely to find a red truck to get back.
  2. Go with a group and split the costs.
  3. Consider paying for the Red Truck driver to wait for you and drive you back as well. This is for Red Trucks without any other riders)
  4. Negotiate. This applies any time you get on a Red Truck, but especially here.
– Some places and estimated prices for hiring a driver for a return trip:
                Doi Suthep – 400B,  Tiger Kingdom – 500B,  Hot Springs – 500B,  Baan Tawai – 400B,

                Zoo/Aquarium – 300B, Sticky Waterfalls – 600B

 – Special note about leaving town: Airport, Bus Station, Train Station.

One thing about these three places, they may be just around the corner but drivers know you are worried about being late and obviously you’re not going to walk with all your luggage.  Drivers are going to charge like these places are way out of the way. Expect the quoted prices to be more in the 100B to 250B range.  Actual prices will range from 50B to 150B depending not on your negotiating skills. 








*** Check out the next installment,  When Red Trucks aren’t red?*** 


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