When you’re traveling through Thailand, it seems that everyone knows someone who’s hurt themselves on a Thai scooter. If you walk into a hostel and say “I’m thinking about renting a scooter for the day,” you’ll soon be flocked with backpackers who are trying to one-up each other on who knows of the worst scooter accident with all the gory details. With all the horror stories, you might think twice before you begin traveling via scooter, especially if you’ve never done it before. But, at less than four dollars a day and a sense of independence that can’t be fulfilled by public transportation, renting a scooter is an undoubtedly tempting option.
After discussing the topic with many a backpacker, my traveling partner and I decided that, as inexperienced motorcyclists, it would be wise to start off in a place that wasn’t bustling with thousands of commuters crossing major intersections without any sign of traffic signals. We decided to get scooters in the rural, northern mountain town of Pai, a couple hours outside of Chiang Mai. You could easily walk across Pai, but there was a loop outside the town where you could venture off on scooters and see everything the area has to offer. We walked from our hostel to the shop and rented a scooter for under four dollars for twenty-four hours. Because we didn’t know how to drive, someone brought us to a field close to the shop to give us a short, five-minute lesson, and then we were off to the races. I felt a bit unprepared at first, and my starting and stopping were jerky, but I left those uncertainties behind as I started to pick up speed on the old, country roads. We got to explore canyons, hot springs, and waterfalls. We got to see the beautiful Thai countryside at sunset, and the best part was that we could do it all at our own pace. After weeks of having been on the schedules of other travelers or tour guides, there was a sense of freedom I had been missing until I got onto that scooter and started riding.
After leaving the canyon we reached a portion of the loop that was partially under construction, and though we approached with caution, we still managed to slip across the gravel. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to send us to the ground, but it humbled us. An accident can happen to anyone, not just the backpackers in the stories. So, if you’re thinking about getting a scooter in Thailand, here are some tips that will make your adventure safer and worthwhile:
Although driving a scooter is somewhat dicey, I think these tips will help to lessen the risk a little bit. We ran into a lot of travelers that wouldn’t go near a scooter, even in the countryside, so in the end, it’s all about where you feel comfortable. I personally loved the experience and would definitely do it again in a rural area. Motorbiking in Bangkok, however, is another story.
One of the scooters we rented for the day.