Getting around Chiang Mai is very easy once you know about the Red Trucks in Chiang Mai. And of course you can get outside of town cheaply if you’ve read our previous post about using fixed route Songthaews. But 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!
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….
NOT THIS ONE!!!
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.
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!
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