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Last update: Sep 28, 2022

Scooter rentals.

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 Ratchamanka Road (just south of Wat Phra Sing).

Bamboo Bike Rentals has also good ratings; it is located on Chaiyapoom Road; the eastern moat road, opposite Somphet market (across the walking bridge). They rent the cheapest scooters starting at around 120 baht a day, but these are not the newest or best scooters. Next to Bamboo Bike are a Pop rental store, and Ann's Rental, which have newer rental scooters. Happy Days Shop is a bit further north on Chaiyapoom Road, they rent only scooters and get good reviews.

Some of the popular automatic scooters available in Chiang Mai:

  • Honda ZoomerX 110
    • Great for beginners: Low seat height, low centre of gravity and large tyres.
  • Honda Scoopy 110i
    • Easy handling for beginners.
  • Honda Moove 110
    • A regular scooter, not as fast as the Click.
  • Honda Click 125
    • A great option if you want to do longer trips. Clicks can handle the long trip to Pai better than the 110 CC scooters.

Yamaha

  • Yamaha Fino 115
      A scooter meant for city use, but they can be used on highways too.
  • Yamaha Mio 125 / 110
    • A zippy scooter, it has the same 125i engine as the Yamaha GT.
  • Yamaha GT 125
    • With a low seat height and low overall weight, it's a great beginner bike.
  • Yamaha Aerox 155
    • A crossover between motorcycle and scooter. The most powerful scooter to rent; much faster than the normal scooters.

 

Motorbike rent.

Most motorbike and scooter rental places in Chiang Mai are close to Thapae gate, for example Mr. Mechanic motorcycle Rental, Pop Motorcycle/Car rent (Kotchasarn Road), and Dang Bike Hire (Kotchasarn Road). Mr.Mechanic motorcycle has a few shops around town. Plenty of big bikes are available like the Honda CB500F, the Kawasaki Ninja 650 or the Kawasaki Versys. For mountain and dirt roads the Honda CRF300 Rally is the best and cheapest choice.

Pop has a few locations throughout the city, but they are one of the most expensive and they get some bad reviews for the service. At the largest POP store, the Pop Motorcycle main store on Kotchasarn Road, on the eastern moat there are dozens of big bikes on display.

Walk around a bit away from Tha Phae gate to find a cheaper rental office; with a bit of shopping around, motorcycles like the Kawasaki Versys or Honda CRF300 can be rented cheaper. I can recommend Ann's Rental, which is right next to Bamboo bikes on Chaiyapoom Road.

C&P Big Bike is a bit out of the way on the east side of the river, but gets very good reviews.

 Pop Motorcycle  main store.
Pop Motorcycle main store, Kotchasarn Road Chiang Mai.

Bike shops like to keep your passport as safeguard; but most motorcycle rental shops also accept a deposit of 2000 to 3000 baht for a scooter and 5000 baht for a motorcycle. An international driver is license is also a requirement but is not checked when renting a bike.

The longer you rent a bike, the cheaper the daily rate can be ... negotiate! A 300CC trail bike like the Honda CRF300 Rally rents for 900-1000 baht per day, but for 5 days or more 800 baht per day. Outside the high season a determined haggle can bring rental fees down; during high season this may be more difficult.

Comparison of motorcycle rental shops - 2022

Motorcyle MrMechanic POP Car rent C&P Big Bike Ann's RentalChiang Rai
Big Bike
Yamaha Aerox 155 THB 600 THB 400
Honda CRF300 Rally THB 1.000 THB 900 THB 1.000 THB 900 THB 1.000
Honda CB500x THB 1.300 THB 1.200 THB 1.300 THB 1.500
Kawasaki 650 Versys THB 1.400   - THB 1.800 THB 1.700
Suzuki V-Strom 650cc THB 1.600 THB 1.700 THB 1.800
Data: websites of rental shops.

 

Additional insurance

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.

Motorcycle helmets

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; but 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.

daily police checkpoint Chiang Mai.
One of the daily police checkpoints in Chiang Mai.
Notice the old blue "Half helmet".
Open face 3/4 helmets (left) are better than these Half helmets.

 


On The Road: Checkpoints and driver's license.

Since 2017 the Thai police have set up daily checkpoints in Chiang Mai, where driver's licenses are checked. All foreign motorcycle and scooter drivers need to show an International Driving Permit which should include a motorcycle endorsement - just a car driver's licence is not adequate. 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. The only scooters for rent in Thailand are 100 to 125CC and can easily do 80 to 90 km/hour (50+ miles/hour). There are no 50CC scooters in Thailand at all. 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.

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit or International Drivers License is required for motorcycle driving in Thailand, but this is often not checked when you are renting a bike. The International Driving Permit (IDP) can be obtained in your home country; for example, at the AAA office (American Automobile Association, USA), at the post office in the UK, or at the Automobile Association of your home country. You have to get one before you leave on holiday.

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!

In Chiang Mai, the fine for not having an International Drivers License is 500 Baht. The maximum fine for not having an IDP in Thailand is 1000 Baht; the usual fine is 500 Baht.

IDP.
IDP - International Driving Permit of the 1949 Convention.

Issued by the Dutch Automobile Association (ANWB).

 

 

Fines: "Police extortion!"

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.

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 essentially just a translation of your driver is license. If you have a motorcycle endorsement on your drivers 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.

Leave your big backpack home when you go to Pai.
Leave your big backpack home when you go to Pai.
Or leave your backpack at your hotel in Chiang Mai.

 

The busy road to Pai.

Many young backpackers travel by scooter on their first trip to Pai; which may not be the best choice if you are an inexperienced driver. The road to Pai (nr. 1095) is a 130 km long drive; it is very twisty with its 762 turns, and is a quite daunting mountain road for beginners - and even for experienced motorbike riders it is not a routine ride. There are few viewpoints and there is a lot of traffic; for example, the many minibuses travelling to Pai which usually drive at high speed. In short: it is not safe and not for beginners!

The Samoeng loop on the other hand is a much better road which has much less traffic and many interesting things to see: there are for example great viewpoints, elephant parks, and a famous botanical garden (QSBG; see below). And there are fewer potholes as well.

And keep in mind that the road to Pai is famous for all the wrong reasons. Twisty, potholed, and it is classified as one of the most dangerous roads in Thailand. A few years ago (2016) the road was widened in some places so you can now easily overtake that slow driver; who is trying to go uphill on an underpowered scooter with his girlfriend on the back.

But the proper superelevation (road banking) of the curves is still missing on most curves - the road curves have almost no superelevation. The cornering needs to be done with foresight and care - and experience. Unfortunately, experience is what you get - just after you need it.

superelevation.
A curve with superelevation (road bank).

The Samoeng Loop - some road are better than others.

The Samoeng loop is one of the most magnificent drives in Thailand; 100 kilometers of nearly perfect winding mountain road. And for the most part it does not have too much traffic. The Samoeng loop has what drivers call "Perfect Curves". The superelevation of the curves is just right, the road is smooth, the scenery is great; all you have to do is let the bike lean into that perfect curve and open up the throttle.

samoeng loop map
The Samoeng loop map, including Mae Rim.
The route is around Doi Suthep mountain.
karte vom Samoeng Schleife, Samoeng route map

More on the Samoeng loop on the Loops & Parks page: The Samoeng Loop.

 

motortours around Chiang Mai.
Remote route through the villages around Chiang Mai.

 

 

 

An accident on the twisty road to Pai - a cautionary tale.

In december 2019 I did a quick return trip to Pai and Mae Hong Son on a Honda CRF off-road bike. Somewhere on the twisty part of the road to Pai, I noticed 3 young people standing by the side of the road, their scooters stopped. They looked forlorn. Something had happened, so I stopped and walked back towards them.

Two young men and a young woman were standing there; two scooters were parked, and one scooter was laying on its side in the ditch. Hello, I said to the woman, "Did you go off the road here?" She was just standing there; covered in many small cuts all over her arms and legs.

"Yes", she replied.
"Are you OK? Do you want me to put on some bandages?"
"Yes please."

It was obvious what had happened. The road to Pai is busy, and most Thai drivers go quite fast around the tight bends. She had little experience on mountain roads, and had driven more slowly, and neatly steered into the corners. There is often gravel or sand in corners, and she had hit some gravel and slid off the road.

A typical beginner's mistake: the small round gravel stones will inevitably make you slide into the ditch. It is better to stay in the middle of the road; if you can drive fast enough to keep up with the other traffic. Wearing shorts is also no good, long jeans and a good jacket will protect you much better.

The woman seemed to be just a few years over 20. All of her limbs were covered in small cuts, cause by the sharp gravel stones. The cuts weren't very deep, but it didn't look good. I got my band-aids from my motorbike and started plastering the cuts one by one.

"You should go to the hospital in Pai, and get treated."
"Yes."

She was still in shock, trembling all over her body.
"You're shaking all over. Why don't you sit down?"
She refused.

"Will I need stitches? "
"No, I don't think so. They are all superficial wounds. You'll be OK"
I could see that she didn't believe me. She was still in total shock. But the cuts were not deep and none of them very bloody. A few of the cuts were so long that I didn't have large enough band-aids to cover them.

Luckily, a short time later a pickup truck stopped with two Thai men inside. The two young scooter drivers walked up to the truck and asked for a ride to Pai hospital. The Thai men looked at the girl, and the scooter in the ditch, and nodded. With a few hands, we lifted the scooter in the truck and tied it down. The girl got into the cabin, and they set off towards Pai.

That was that. I said goodbye to the two young men, who thanked me, and then went off on the last, very twisty stretch, of the mountain road to Pai. Never saw any of them again.

 

Road Safety statistics.

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. 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 young people, 16 to 25 year olds. 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 fifth highest spot on the list of countries by traffic-related death rate, after four African countries.

Thailand traffic deaths.
Thailand: traffic deaths per 100.000 inhabitants (chart).

Source on wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org

One of the reasons for the many accidents is that highways have a U-turn possibility every mile or so; with drivers waiting to make a turn and watching the traffic coming at high speed at them. Another reason is that there are speed limits, but no speed traps or cameras. The speed limit in towns is 60 km/hour, outside built-up areas 90 km/hour, and on highways 120 km/hour (since 2020), but many people drive as fast as they like. Some drivers go at speeds of 120 to 140 km/hour, passing slow traffic and very slow bikes and scooters.

Fortunately, most drivers slow down when passing markets or busy places. But even on a highway outside of town, there can be pedestrians crossing the road, people pushing carts or scooters going the wrong way on the verge. Anything is possible and everything should be expected.


A one-sided mishap on the 107 highway. Mind the curb!

 


Links on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage

 


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