Rent a motorbike in Phuket
Renting a motorbike is a great way to get around Phuket and will give you the freedom to really explore this amazing island. These small colourful scooters are extremely easy to drive and even if you aren't an expert driver, driving carefully it will be a pleasure to across the island's spectacular hilly landscape. With a scooter you can avoid the chaotic traffic of Patong or Phuket Town, move from a beach resort to another faster than a car or a tuk-tuk and easily find parking close to the shorelines. Motorbikes are also the cheapest transport option on the island, with prices starting at 150 baht per day. However, as anywhere in the world, renting and driving a scooter in Phuket involves some risks and dangers. To avoid problems, you just follow a few simple rules: have a minimum of familiarity with the motorbike, drive slowly and carefully. If you have never used the scooter before, better not to start in Thailand, you risk a lot! Going slowly means not exceed 40-50 km/h, as beyond this speed can become very dangerous to control the motorbike for road conditions, weather, driving style of Thais and especially of the tourists themselves!
Bike Rental Shops - Motorbike rental shops are scattered practically everywhere around Phuket Island, particularly in the beach resorts like Patong, Karon, Kata and Kamala. They are set at every corner of the busiest streets or along the beachfront roads and offers small 105-135 cc motorbikes at prices ranging from 150 to 200 THB per day, although during the high season many of the shops increase their prices up to 250-300 baht per day. Most budget hotels and guesthouses also offer motorbikes for rent but, although they have usually newer models, they are a little more expensive. Discounts are available for weekly or monthly rentals, roughly 1,000-1,500 baht per week and 3,500-4,500 baht per month depending on season. The most common types of motorcycles to rent in Phuket are Honda Click 125cc and Yamaha Nouvo 135cc both equipped with a dual-braking system and powerful engines. More powerful and big bikes are available from some specialized stores at prices ranging from 400 to 500 baht per day, but are largely unnecessary as a 125cc scooter is more than enough to easily cross the island's steep hills with the rider and a passenger.
Hiring a motorbike, you will have to pay in advance and also leave a cash deposit that will be returned if you do not damage the scooter, though some rental shops also ask for your passport as a guarantee. Between two options you choose the first one, eventually offering them a photocopy, as you should never give up your passport under any circumstances. During the hiring process, the renter should inspect the vehicle and document pre-existing damage as well as how much fuel is in the tank, as the scooter must be returned with the usual amount of fuel. Be sure to ask about motorbike insurance, though normally the only insurance you will get is the bare minimum government insurance known as Por Ror Bor, which only covers third party personal injury costs up to 50,000 baht. This means that any damages to all involved vehicles, including your own vehicle, your medical expenses, and third party injury costs beyond the insured amount will have to be paid by you. Bigger and more reputable rental shops may have more comprehensive coverage, but the cost per daily rental will also be higher. The shop should provide you with at least one helmet.
Fuel & Tyres: The main vehicle fuels in Thailand are benzine 95, which is unleaded fuel, gasohol 95 and 91, and diesel. The old benzine 91 octanes has been phased out, as Thailand aims to get more vehicles running on gasohol, which is 80% gasoline and 20% ethanol. Most new motorbikes have been built to use benzine 95 that cost about 34-35 per litre from petrol stations, but you can also use gasohol 95 and even 91 although the engine delivers less power. If you notice that the engine is not running smoothly, it may also be a good idea to try a different fuel station, as the quality is not the same everywhere. There are plenty of petrol stations around Phuket, although only one in Patong on Phra Barami Road. In addition to major fuel stations, there are also roadside vendors selling fuel from hand-operated pumps, as well as endless small kiosks selling fuel-filled whiskey bottles. However, these kiosks must be your last resource only if your bike is running out of fuel, as the bottles they sell for 40 or 50 baht are only 750 cl. Flat tyres are common in Phuket, but are quickly and cheaply, usually no more than 150-200 baht, replaced at any of the countless small repair shops scattered around the island.
Tips - When it starts to rain, moderate the speed even further, the sand and the dust makes the road surface slippery as ice. The road network in Phuket is generally in good condition, but very tortuous especially on the coasts. Some of the inclines over the hilly terrain are steep and you should take more care, especially in the wet. On the sides of the roads there are often guardrails very dangerous in case of fall! However, it is not road conditions that cause problems but road users. Thais are unpredictable drivers, while many have good driving skills and are accurate drivers many others aren't and do not respect the basic road rules. There will be drivers who drive on the wrong side of the road, overtake on the inside or make inversions without indicating. Some Thais, as well as a few tourists themselves, drive at speeds most suitable for racing drivers while others drive very slowly. Many tourists are unaware of driving conditions and seem to feel they can do things in Thailand that they would not do at home. In addition to this, many tourists like Thais also drive when they are drunk. All this together is a powerful recipe for accidents, so it is not a surprise that motorbike accidents are among the most common causes of injury for tourists visiting Phuket.
Driving Licence & Traffic Fines - To drive motorbikes in Thailand, foreigners must hold a valid driving license. That means: a Thai driving license, a license from a neighbouring country like Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, or an International Driving Permit, IDP, released according to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic with a validity of three months. Note that: 1 - IDP according to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic valid for one year is tolerated but, in the event of an accident, you may have some problems with the Thai Police. 2 - Western driving licenses are no longer tolerated by the Thai Police and, moreover, with new laws the rental shops can not hire scooters to tourists without a valid license. You can easily obtain a valid IDP in your home country, while Thai driving licenses are only available to foreigners if they have a Non-immigrant Visa, i.e. business or long term visa. Driving a motorcycle without a valid license in Thailand is a traffic violation that involves a fine of 400 baht and will also invalidate the vehicle insurance. Paying the fine in Thailand usually involves leaving your motorbike or your passport with the police while you go to the nearest police station to make the payment. You can then return with the receipt of payment and continue your journey.
Motorbike drivers and their passengers are required by law to wear helmets. The fine in this case depends on the authorized officer issuing the fine, but is usually 400 baht for foreigners and 200 baht for Thais, and you have to pay that to get your drivers license back. In the unlikely event that you are caught even without the driving license, the authorized officer will release another fine of 400 THB and your scooter will be confiscated pending payment of both fines. Motorbike can carry only two people, you don’t care if Thais carrying the whole family, even 5 people, for you this tolerance does not exist. Be careful where you park the scooter, red and white stripes on the curb road indicate parking ban. Usually Police block the scooter with steel chains; once you paid the fine they open the lock. Drivers should also be aware that much harsher penalties for drunk driving were introduced last year. Under the new laws, the BAC limit for professional and drivers under 24 years old is zero, and the legal BAC limit for all other drivers is 0.05%. The new penalties for drunk driving are as follows: 1 - Drunk driving: Up to one year imprisonment or a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for six months. 2 - Drunk driving causing bodily or mental harm to others: One to five years imprisonment or a fine of 20,000 to 100,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to one year. 3 - Drunk driving causing serious injury to others: Two to six years imprisonment or a fine of 40,000 to 120,000 baht or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to two years. 4 - Drunk driving causing death: Three to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 60,000 to 200,000 baht and your driver’s license will be cancelled. Whether you will be allowed to apply for a driver’s license again during your lifetime is up to the court. In Phuket, Police checkpoints are common around the most popular beaches, particularly Patong, Karon and Kamala. Normally, they control license plate, owner’s registration, vehicle insurance, broken lights and above all your passport and driving license, and if you do not produce it, they can stop you until one is produced.