Phuket for the Motorcycle Enthusiast
Phuket has a lot to offer the motorcycle and motorbike enthusiast. Riding these types of vehicles around the island can be a great deal of fun. There are some good roads on the island and most places will be accessible by motorbike. There can also be dangers associated with this type of transportation, and it is strongly recommended that people consider these before riding a motorcycle or motor scooter in Phuket.
Joys of Riding a Motorbike in Phuket
There are some great benefits to riding a motorbike in Phuket including:
- They are inexpensive to rent. Those who plan on staying in Phuket long term will also find that buying a motorbike doesn’t have to be too much of a financial strain.
- The running costs of a motorbike in Phuket are reasonable.
- It means not having to rely on local transport to get around. A motorbike gives people the freedom of the road.
- It saves a great deal of time that would otherwise be wasted travelling from A to B. People can travel directly from their villa or hotel to wherever it is they want to go.
- It is a wonderful way to travel around the island. People tend to see a great deal more from the back of bike.
- Using a motorbike usually means seeing more of Phuket than what is available to other tourists. It is perfect for those who want to get off the beaten track.
- Riding a motorbike can just be a great deal of fun.
Types of Motorcycles, Motorbikes and Motorscooters in Phuket
In different countries, there are different terms for different classes of motorbike. In the Thai language, there is one word: รถมอเตอร์ไซค์ or มอเตอร์ไซค์ – Roht Motorsai or simply Motorsai. In the United States, many of what the Thai people call a “motorsai” would be termed a scooter (disparagingly). There are four size classes and three kinds of transmission that can be found in Thailand.
100cc to 150cc Motorbikes (Scooters)
First there is the class of bike, which is 100cc-150cc, the most common class of motorbike. The Honda Wave and Honda Dream are the most common models, and come in 100cc, 110cc and 125cc. The newer models have efficient engines that reduce air pollution as well.
This class of motorbike has either the step-through automatic (no clutch, but with 4 gears), or full automatic. Automatic motorbikes are heavier and have smaller wheels, but can be very powerful, especially the top-of-the-line Honda 150cc PCX model. For those who have little or no experience on a motorcycle, the automatic motorbikes are recommended.
150cc to 250cc Motorbikes
A medium class of bikes includes the Honda Phantom and Honda Steed, which are from 175cc to around 250cc. These are a bit cheaper to rent but are still powerful enough to safely maneuver in traffic. They also have wide seats and steady handlebars, and a lower sitting position.
The newer model 150R and 250R CBR Honda models are another option. These are sporty, and have a lean-forward position, and the clutch on them is very smooth to handle. A different experience, more power and built for speed. There are also Kawasaki 250 Ninja models that might be available.
Offroad 150cc to 250cc Motorbikes
The Kawasaki D-Tracker which comes in 150cc up to 250cc is a popular motorcycle for street and off road activity.
400cc and up
Big Bike motorcycles are generally 400cc or higher and cost a bit more to rent. They are powerful enough to accelerate and brake quickly to adapt to traffic conditions. Their wide seats make the long trip more comfortable and the handlebars vibrate less, which keeps the driver’s hands from going numb.
Dangers of Riding a Motorbike in Phuket
There are definite dangers associated with riding a motorbike in Phuket including:
- Even a minor accident on a motorbike can completely ruin a holiday. It is a risk that some might consider not worth taking.
- Even the most experienced motorcyclists can come amiss on the roads in Phuket. This is because there are so many inexperienced motorcyclists to contend with.
- Sand can make it onto the roads in Phuket. If people are not familiar with riding on this type of terrain there is a good chance they will come off the motorbike.
- People who are on holiday tend to feel a bit invulnerable. This means that they may be willing to take risks that they would never normally consider taking.
- Most of those who ride a motorbike in Phuket have inadequate protection. They will wear poorly constructed helmets and ride around in shorts, t-shirt and flip flop slippers.
- There are inebriated individuals in charge of vehicles, making the roads unsafe. Many of the foreign visitors to Phuket suddenly feel that it is appropriate to drink and drive.
- Many people on the roads do not have adequate insurance. Even if the tourist ends up in an accident because of someone else’s incompetence they can be left with the bill.
- There have been accusations that the police will tend to side with the locals when there is an accident involving a tourist and a Thai.
- In Thailand roads are driven on the left-hand side, which is the opposite of some traveler’s home country (the same for Australians, Britons and South Africans, Japanese and Kiwis – the opposite for all North Americans, Europeans and Chinese, not to mention Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
- Traffic is a bit aggressive compared with some other countries.
Scams Associated with Renting a Motorbike in Phuket
The people of Thailand are predominately hard working and honest people who would never dream of ripping off tourists. Of course there are some individuals in every society who will have fewer scruples. Such individuals can end up in the tourist areas of Thailand where they will have no qualms about performing scams or just behaving unethically in the hope of making a few baht. Some of these scams do involve rented motorbikes and include:
- If the motorbike suffers some minor damage, the owner insists that you have it repaired at a mechanic of their choosing. The mechanic might charge an inflated price and share the profit from the scam with the motorbike owner.
- There have been claims that other motorbike owners have deliberately sought out their rented bikes to inflict minor damage. They then blame the individual and insist that they pay an inflated price for the repairs.
- The owner may try to charge people for damage that occurred before the bike was rented by this individual. This is why it is so important to fully check the bike before renting.
Learning to Ride a Motorbike in Phuket
It is not recommended that people should begin learning to ride a motorbike during their stay in Phuket. The biggest dangers for novice motorbike riders on the island include:
- There will be other novice riders who will increase the likelihood of accidents.
- There are some highly treacherous roads around the island.
- Many people do not follow the rules of the road.
- The traffic can be bad in places like Phuket Town and Patong.
- When people first begin riding a motorbike they are at increased risk of having an accident. When this happens in a foreign country it can make a bad situation much worse.
- In most cases the foreigners who have serious motorbike accidents will be beginners or those who have not ridden a motorbike in many years.
How to Stay Safe When Riding a Motorbike in Phuket
Those who are going to ride a motorbike on Phuket can decrease the likelihood of serious problems by:
- Wearing a good motorbike helmet can protect people from a serious head injury. It is up to the individual to buy their own or insist that those who are providing them with the motorbike also provide a suitable helmet.
- It is vital that people ride the motorbikes defensively. Even expert motorcyclists can have accidents due to the incompetence of other road users.
- Never ride a motorbike while under the influence of alcohol. Those who have been drinking heavily the night before should avoid riding a motorbike the next morning.
- Those who are used to driving on the right hand side of the road need to be particularly vigilant in left-hand driving Thailand.
- It is important to be always ready for the unexpected on Thai roads. Potholes and banks of sand can appear out of nowhere – even on roads that appeared clear the day before.
- Wearing reasonable clothes (at least a jacket and shoes) is recommended. Riding around in and t-shirts and flip-flops is taking a risk.
- Those who are stopped by the police should answer all questions in a polite way. It is never a good idea to behave rudely towards the local police.
- Do not depend on other people to follow the rules of the road. Do not expect people coming off side-roads to stop before joining the traffic in the main road.
- Always keep an eye on the gas tank level. It is common for people to run out of gas and this often happens on a stretch of road where there is no gas pump around.
- Motorcyclists need to be particularly cautious when riding in places like Phuket Town and Patong. The traffic in these places can be a nightmare sometimes.
- In Thailand, a car that flashes its headlights is indicating that they want the other vehicle to get out of the way.
- Those who are renting a motorbike need to ensure that the vehicle is kept secure when they are not using it.
- People are expected to have a Thai driving license or an International driving license. If people do not have these on them they will likely have to pay a fine when stopped by the police.
- It is vital that people check their travel insurance to see if it covers them for motorbike accidents. In many cases it won’t.
- Only hire a motorbike if it looks to be well maintained.
- Those who have rented a motorbike should never allow anyone else to use it.
- Fifteen year olds are technically allowed to ride motorbikes that are less than 110cc.
- Visitors should familiarize themselves with the Thai rules of the road.