Riding a Scooter in Thailand
Regular followers of this blog might think that after our last experience of riding scooters up the side of a volcano in Java (in the rain), that we might never get back on South East Asia’s favourite form of transport.
You may have thought you’d never see us writing about riding a scooter again, but here we are, sharing our tips for riding a scooter in Thailand.
Oh yes, gone are the tears, the falling off and general death defying traffic manoeuvres that seemed to keep cropping up in our Javanese scooter adventures.
Our ‘ride’ whilst staying in our friends’ villa in Trang
We have discovered that the key to happiness when riding a scooter is for one half of the Vegan Food Quest (Paul) to do all the driving.
Vegan Food Quest official driver
But we’ve also discovered a few other really useful things to consider if you are thinking of riding a scooter in Thailand (and can’t delegate all the driving to Paul).
Make Sure You’re Legal
Before you arrive in the land of smiles, get an International Driving Permit and carry it with you on your scooter at all times – here are the details for applying for a permit if you are based in the UK.
Protect Your Swede
Despite the widespread lack of helmet wearing in Thailand, it is actually the law to do so and may actually just save your life if you are involved in an accident.
However, check the quality and fit of the helmet offered to you when you are renting your scooter and consider digging deep to invest in buying the best helmet you can find.
Under the radar with our ‘black-out’ visors
As it turns out, Caryl has an unusually small head and most Thai scooter helmets don’t fit…
We spent an entire day trying on around 50 different models which all seemed to be made for people with giant, round heads…
Eventually we found one that was made for teenagers that was a reasonable fit, and cost about £15 / $25 which is a small price to pay, so don’t give up.
Learn To Ride
If you’ve never ridden a scooter before then try to get someone to give you a lesson in the basics, we were really lucky to learn everything we needed to know about a scooter from Andy, our home-stay host in Java.
His lessons and tips have proved really helpful and probably kept us safe whilst on the road.
Learn to ride a scooter with the best teacher in Java
Consider taking a lesson at home, this link is for a CBT in the UK, or see if there are any places offering lessons in the area you are visiting (more likely in areas that are well visited by tourists).
Rules Of The Road
In Thailand, the traffic rules that you are used to at home don’t apply. It’s common to see people driving up the wrong side of the road to take a quicker route and people turn left on a red light (which is allowed if it’s safe to do so).
We were advised to keep left and keep up with the speed of the traffic around you and these tips have both proved useful.
We used common sense and assessed the safety of each individual situation. Keep looking around you at all times, in all directions, because you never know what might be coming your way…it could be a dog, a car, a food cart, a person, a truck or a pot hole big enough to swallow you and your scooter!
The Hard Shoulder
The hard shoulder often doubles up as a scooter lane so if there is one it can offer you a degree of safety.
However, it might be worth noting that people like parking in the hard shoulder and Thai dogs like to sleep in it (and are generally not phased by a scooter hurtling towards them at speed which means they rarely move quickly), so do be aware of these.
Make sure you have waterproofs and a waterproof bag cover, you wouldn’t believe how wet you get when it rains (we would because being British we attract rain and so we have often found ourselves riding a scooter in Thailand, in the pouring rain).
Also, don’t forget to wear sunscreen or, even better, cover up. It’s easy to get sunburnt as you drive around exposed to all the elements.
Don’t Run Out Of Petrol
There are petrol stations everywhere in the big towns and cities, which is handy as the scooter you hire will have a very small tank.
But when you get out in the country you need to keep one eye on that petrol gauge and the other eye on the lookout out for a DIY petrol pump in someone’s front garden.
This DIY petrol pump was in someones front garden
Follow our tips and like us, you can safely join the masses and abandon walking in favour of the scooter.
Check out our video of the best use of a scooter in Thailand ‘Khanom Krok Drive Through’ Vegan Food Quest style.
If you have followed our adventure you will know that WE LOVE KHANOM KROK.
So there you have it, our tips on riding a scooter in Thailand, please feel free to add your own tips, comments or exciting scooter adventure stories below.