There are lots of scooter rental places in Chiang Mai all over town. Most are small shops, for example on Moonmuang Road, the street along the moat north of Taphae Gate there are quite a few. The Honda Click, Honda Scoopy and Yamaha Fino are common scooters for rent; the cost can vary widely but most are in the range of 150 – 250 baht a day. The more powerful 125CC scooters will be over 200 baht a day. A scooter rental shop with good ratings is Cat Motors on Manee Nopparat Road (the road just north of the moat). Bamboo Bike Rentals has also good ratings; it is located on Chaiyapoom Road (on the eastern moat road, opposite Somphet market) and has the cheapest scooters starting at around 120 to 150 baht a day, but they are not the newest or best scooters.
In Thailand all motor vehicles and scooters have by default third party insurance of a maximum of 80.000 thai baht. This Compulsory Third Party Insurance (CTPL) is already in place when you rent a motorbike. The thai name is Por Bor insurance; it covers limited personal injury of up to 80,000 baht. Any material damage is not covered by the Por Bor insurance.
You can also buy additional insurance when you rent a scooter. The material damage is then covered by this insurance, which is around 100-250 baht a day. Mr.Mechanic has this insurance included in the rental price, but it has an own risk component (Excess). The ‘excess’ is the amount of money you will have to pay the rental company if your hired motor vehicle gets damaged.
Scooter rental is very easy and scooters and motorbikes can be rented at almost every corner; helmets however are a problem. Motorcycle helmets are usually free with a motorcycle rental; however most of them are low quality helmets and may not fit very well. Many drivers in Thailand wear horribly bad helmets which are almost useless. Take your time to find a good one. Wearing a helmet is compulsory and carries a fine of 500 baht.
The daily police checkpoint in Chiang Mai for Motorcycle IDP.
Notice the old blue "Half helmet".
Open face 3/4 helmets (left) are better than these Half helmets.
Police Checkpoints and IDP drivers license.
Since 2017 the Thai police have set up daily checkpoints in Chiang Mai where all foreigners' licenses are checked. Motorcycle and scooter drivers need to show an International Driving Permit which should include a motorcycle license. They will also fine you if you don't wear a helmet.
In many European countries one does not need a motorcycle license for mopeds: small bikes of 50CC. This is not the case in Thailand where scooters are more powerful. Most scooters for rent in Thailand are 100 to 125CC and can easily do 80 to 90 km/hour (50-60 miles/hour). Therefore all scooter drivers need a valid Motorcycle license and an International Driving Permit.
For Thailand you will need to show an IDP of the 1949 Convention.
An International Driving Permit or International Drivers License is required for motorcycle driving in Thailand but this is not checked when you are renting a bike. The International Driving Permit (IDP) is NOT a license to drive, only a translation of your countries license. At the Thai police checkpoints the police will ask for your IDP which should show the motorcycle endorsement if you drive a scooter. If you don't have a motorbike license then your international permit won't cover scooter driving. The fine for not having an International Drivers License is 500 Baht.
UPDATE 2019: In some places the fine for not having an IDP has been doubled to 1000 Baht. It seems in most of Thailand it is still 500 Baht.
Many scooter drivers who are stopped at Police checkpoints complain of extortion. They seem to believe that since they are valued foreign tourists they don't have to obey any road rules and can get away with anything.
However, if you were at home and the police wrote you a ticket because you did not have a motorcycle license, would that be extortion? If you do not have a motorcycle license at home, you shouldn't be driving a motorcycle in Thailand, period. Many scooter drivers are under the impression that they can do whatever they want because they are on holiday. They get annoyed at police checkpoints and fines; however the police are simply enforcing the law.
International Driving Permits (IDPs) are just like your home license. If you have a motorcycle endorsement on your home license, you will have a motorcycle endorsement on your IDP. In a European license that is the A1 or A2 category; in the USA a motorcycle license is class M. If you do not have that endorsement, then you are not legally permitted to drive a motorcycle or a scooter, so the police can give you a fine.
The times when a tourist could drive whatever they liked in thailand are well in the past. And that may be a good thing, for road safety in general and for your health in particular. One positive point: your fine will give you an exemption for new fines for three days. If you can show your ticket you won't get another fine.
Travel insurance companies have in the fine print that you must have a motorcycle license and an International Driving Permit in the event of a claim for accident damages or medical costs. You are not covered for any medical cost if you rent a scooter without a proper license.
+MORE on the Licence requirements for car rental companies.
Licence requirements for car rental companies.
Here are the licence requirements for the major car rental companies:
Avis rent a car:
Renter must hold Driving License or International Driving License at least one year.
Budget rent a car:
All drivers must hold a current, non-probationary license. The license may either be Thai, or from a renter's country of residence (with an English translation) or an international drivers permit.
Hertz car rental:
Must hold a valid Thai driving license / International Driving Licence or a driving license from a renter’s country of residence (with an English translation).
National car rental:
All renters must produce a valid Driving license, Passport and/or Identification Card with their name when pick up the car. An International Driving Licence or a Notarised Translation of driving license is required where the driver’s licence is not in English.
Sixt car rental:
All renters and drivers must present a valid driving license and a valid passport upon collection of their Sixt car rental in Thailand.
Licence requirements for Motorcycle rent
A passport is asked for by all rental companies; but not an International Driving Permit (IDP). However, at ALL the Thai police checkpoints the police will ask for your International Driving Permit.
Leave your big backpack home when you go to Pai..
Road Safety statistics.
One in ten killed are foreigners!
Chiang Mai News reports on road safety 2018:
In Chiang Mai province from January to November 2018 there have been 13.051 accidents resulting in 246 deaths and 14.465 injuries. Of these, 25 deaths were foreigners and 1.100 of the injured were foreigners.
More than 1000 foreign tourists and expats dying or injured in Chiang Mai province alone so far in 2018. Ten percent of the people that die on Chiang Mai’s roads are foreigners.
The statistics also reveal that the overwhelming majority of deaths and injury were on motorcycles. Most deaths were 16-25 year olds and occurred between 6 pm and 10 pm.
So it is best to drive safe, get your International Driving Permit and try not to end up in hospital. It could spoil your holiday somewhat.
Thailand is on the nr. five highest spot on the list of countries by traffic-related death rate, after four African countries: (Road fatalaties per 100.000 inhabitants per year)
Links on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage
Any comments or improvements? Please mail me at : bytelife AT gmail.com
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