If you’ve just arrived in Thailand and find yourself asking whether or not to rent a motorbike, you are not alone. This is the most commonly asked question for new travelers and we are here to give you all the information you might need before making this decision.
At Punch It Gym we have motorbikes available for rent. Almost 60% of our customers decide to rent one during their stay. Most people arrive in Thailand never having ridden a motorcycle before. Note that the motorbikes in Thailand are not the 50cc scooters you see in Western countries, they are motorcycles with 125cc or higher. These vehicles require training in order to be used safely. For this reason, we advise inexperienced drivers to avoid renting motorbikes as it can be dangerous and accidents are common. However, we know that for many people it is the most practical option for transportation and can be a fun part of your travel experience when done safely, which is why we want to provide you with as much information as possible before you hit the road.
Regulations for Driving a Motorcycle in Thailand
In Western countries, vehicles may only be driven with an official drivers license after completing the necessary training course, so why shouldn’t it be the same in Thailand?
Legally, to drive a motorbike in Thailand you need a valid international or Thai motorcycle license. Previously, the rules were more strict and required an international license issued by the Paris Convention on Motor Vehicle Traffic, but as of 2021, any International Driver’s Permit is sufficient. It is important to make sure you have the right license class. While in most countries you can drive a 50cc moped up to 45 km/h with a standard Class B (car) license, in Thailand you need an A1 license specifically for motorcycles. This is because, as mentioned previously, the bikes in Thailand are a minimum of 125cc.
If you plan to stay in Thailand for longer than three months, we recommend applying for a Thai driver’s license. You can present an international license and have a Thai license of equal class issued to you, or you can complete the full course and test in just two days at a local department of land transport. Please note this will require the presentation of additional paperwork including a medical check and certificate of residence.
Of course, the penalties for driving without a license here are not quite as dramatic as other places in the world, which is why many decide to risk it (though we don’t recommend it). The fine for driving without a license can be as high as 2000 Thai baht, or about 55 Euros. That being said, there are still some things you should consider before taking your chances.
Motorbike accidents are common in Thailand, especially for new drivers who are not aware of traffic laws and patterns. If you are in an accident involving another, as a foreigner you will likely be expected to assume all costs of damage to both yourself and the other victim. Without a valid license, insurance will not cover any costs which can burn a hole in your pocket very quickly.
In addition, you will typically be asked to pay cash on the spot for any damage done to a bike or the driver if you are involved in an accident. Most Thai people do not have good insurance. Therefore, it is their responsibility to cover their medical costs which is why they will demand cash on site for any injuries they suspect will require treatment.
Wearing a helmet is also required by Thai law, though you will see most Thai people do not follow this rule. Being stopped by the police without a helmet will usually cost you 500 Thai baht.
Police checks typically do not ask to see a license. As a general rule, expect them to check that the driver is wearing a helmet and that the owner of the bike has paid the tax. Be aware that foreigners are stopped more frequently and the police may ask to search your bike. Comply with their orders (within reason) and don’t try to fight with them as it will likely end in more trouble for you.
Where Can I Rent a Bike?
You can find bikes for rent all over Koh Samui. Of course, we recommend renting a motorbike from us directly. We typically have about 30 motorbikes ready to rent, all of which are in very good condition. We only rent the top, most reliable models that we feel confident will travel safely with you anywhere on the island. This is not the case with most rental companies.
In addition, our rentals are for Punch It customers only. We offer this service to supplement your experience with us. At most bike shops, you will be asked to leave a deposit or your passport until you return the bike. With us, that is not necessary. We trust our customers and want to make their experience as simple as possible.
We are not in the business to cheat anyone. Upon rental, we make a clear record of any minor damage to paintwork or other parts of the bike (if any) so that you will not be held accountable for damages you did not incur. In the event of an accident or damage to the bike, the repair costs are to be paid 1:1 by the customer. We will provide you with the invoice from the motorbike workshop.
Our prices are as follows:
125cc Honda Click
Price per day: 200 Baht
Price per month: 3,500 Baht
150cc Honda Click, PCX or Yamaha Aerox (model subject to availability)
Price per day: 350 Baht
Price per month: 5,500 Baht
You may be able to find motorbikes for less in smaller shops around the island, but then you should consider the condition of the bike and ask yourself if saving a couple hundred baht is worth the risk of complications on the road and/or with the rental company.
Safe Driving Practices
Please take time to read and consider the following advice before driving off with your motorbike rental.
Always Wear a Helmet
Wearing a helmet is not only the law, it can also save your life and should always be worn when driving a motorbike. Unfortunately, you will see many people on Koh Samui and in Thailand riding without a helmet. For this reason, Thailand has the highest rate in the world of serious injuries and deaths related to motorbike accidents.
Attention Left-Side Traffic
In Thailand, we drive on the left side of the road. Driving on the left can take some getting used to if you usually drive on the right. Here, slower traffic keeps to the left side of the road and faster vehicles overtake in the right lane. Our advice? Don’t overtake vehicles at all. You’re here on vacation and have all the time in the world. Driving too fast into oncoming traffic can quickly turn your dream vacation into a nightmare. Enjoy the ride and follow the flow of traffic.
Be aware that in Thailand, it is the speedy drivers or those who are in a hurry that flash their headlights. In most places, someone flashing their headlights is signaling to give you the right of way. In Thailand, it is quite the opposite. Flashing headlights say, “I’m coming and I’m not slowing down!” Some people may send the same message by honking the horn. Believe us, these drivers will not stop for you. We’ve seen many crazy maneuvers like this.
When preparing to turn or change lanes, a blinker is not always a sufficient signal. If you are driving on a busy road, it never hurts to signal with your hand to the side you are moving in addition to using your turn signal. If you are a passenger on a bike, it is good etiquette to display these hand signals when the driver turns on the blinker.
If you need to turn right across the oncoming lane, use caution. Sometimes during heavy traffic you will not be able to turn right away. We recommend that you do not stop in the middle of the road when waiting to turn. If you are standing still, you are at high risk for a negligent driver to run into you from behind. While moving you have the opportunity to avoid incidents like this, but when you are at a standstill you are at the mercy of the moving traffic.
If you are hesitant, it is best to pull off to the left first, wait until there is no more traffic and then turn right. Please, if you are going to stop, do it off to the left and not in the middle of the street.
Being Alert on the Road
It is always important to be aware of your surroundings when you are driving a motorbike. Big cars and trucks may not have a big problem if they run into your motorbike, but you certainly will. This is especially important to remember for those who do not have much experience driving a motorcycle in traffic or have not trained with an instructor.
You can anticipate obstacles in front of you and steer the bike around them, but what is even more important is to pay attention to what you can not see in front of you.
You must always keep an eye on your rearview mirrors to anticipate and respond to any potential threats from behind. Many cars will pass you by without warning or much margin for error. For this reason it is good to be aware of what is coming so that you maintain balance and your position on the road.
Summarized For You
Riding a motorbike around Koh Samui might be one of the most enjoyable parts of your holiday experience, next to Muay Thai, of course. That being said, be sure to ride safely and always follow the local traffic laws and guidelines. Do not underestimate the dangers of riding a motorcycle in Thailand and always be alert and drive responsibly. We do highly recommend you plan ahead and come to Thailand with a license or at least a couple hours of training. Ultimately, your health and safety is the most important thing and we hope you will do everything necessary to prevent accidents on the road. If you are cautious, everything will be fine 98 % of the time and you won’t run into trouble.
We are happy to provide our motorbike rental service to you as part of our complete Muay Thai training package, and we look forward to supplying you with the perfect bike to ride around, in our opinion, one of the world’s most beautiful islands.
Your Punch It Team
124/666 Moo 3, Maret
Surat Thani 84310
Translation & Pictures:
124/666 Moo 3, Maret
Surat Thani 84310