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After I learned how to ride a motorbike, my guesthouse host dropped me off at the rental; I could barely contain my excitement. I was a ball of jumbled nerves running from thrilled to nervous and scared.
Everything was working out better than I imagined for a first time solo trip. Easy traveling, fabulous guesthouse and now, this would be my first solo experience on a motorbike in a foreign country!
I turned the key in the ignition, turned the gas handle and set off to explore the countryside. Wind in my face, the deep inhale of earthy “country Thai green”, I loved embracing my newly won motorist’s freedom. Best of all, I was motoring down one long road with very little turns to challenge me!
This doesn’t mean I didn’t hit snags.
I was on my way to see The Chinese Village and all seemed to be going smoothly, until…
7 tips for Riding a Motorbike in Thailand:
1: It’s common for rental shops to hold onto your passport as insurance.
Yes, the rental guy wants to hold onto your passport as insurance and this is common. If you want to rent a bike for a week, just make sure you gotten all your visas for other countries before you sign up. That’s how long you’ll be without your passport.
It’s up to you whether you’d like to take the gamble, but you’ll find many travelers do, if they really want to rent a motorbike.
2. Check that you have a full tank of gas.
Sound obvious, right? When I picked up my scooter at the rental place, I didn’t check my gas gauge and 45 minutes into the countryside, far from any gas station (most of them are in the Pai town limits), my scooter’s gas tank needle was in the red, the alarm light went on and night was falling ….fast!
Always clarify with the rental place, their regulations on an empty or full tank ~ whether you get a full tank upon start or if you have to fill it when you return.
3. Ask if there are many gas stations in the area.
If you’re going to rent a motorbike, ask the dealer or your guesthouse where some of the gas stations are located or if they’re easy to find. In Thailand, they have gas stations; however in other countries like India or Indonesia/Bali, you can also find petrol being sold on the roadside in glass bottles by independent sellers.
Do people in the Thai countryside speak English? Not really. Finding information on the nearest gas station only brought blank stares or a pointing finger towards the direction of town. Those “finger points” were correct however. The only gas station within the wide vicinity was in Pai.
I arrived at the Chinese Village only to spend my time there being worried about whether I had enough gas to make it back. Tourist buses were leaving and the thought of being stranded on the country roadside in the dark was beginning to crystallize. …And I did not have the number of AAA.
4. Always have the number of your guesthouse or hotel.
It does not good to have a Thai SIM, a GSM phone and to have copied the number of your hotel… if you forget that phone number in your room.
Always take a business card of your guesthouse or write down their phone number and keep it on you. In the case you’re lost, run out of gas or don’t know where the nearest station is, you’ll have someone Thai to call for help. Had I my guesthouse number I could’ve also called them up and had them translate my problem, asking for directions to the nearest station for me!
5. In an emergency, take a deep breath.
While a deep breath obviously won’t fill a gas tank, freaking out will only keep you from recognizing simple, intuitive and clear solutions. Look on the bright side, things could be worse.For instance…
6. If your bike’s alarm isn’t beeping…
You can probably assume your gas level is still in the clear and you still have a bit of time to find a station.
7. Wear goggles, glasses or a helmet with a protective eye shield
Wearing protective eye gear is to ensure that bugs don’t fly splat into your eyes, when you’re hitting scooter speed. When you get nailed in the eye, it stings like hell and you’ll be unable to open your eye for a good half hour! Not only was I trying to stay calm in my frantic search of a gas station, but now I was driving with only one “working” eye, afraid a bug would fly into that one too! Incidentally, my bad eye was traumatized for days.
The good news is, I made it to the town gas station before my motorbike could die on me.
Oh my Buddha- what a night!