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How to avoid scooter scams in Thailand

12 May 2019

Have you ever rented a scooter is Southeast Asia? It is a convenient, common and cheap way to explore places individually and with the utmost freedom. Almost every backpacker will end up renting one sooner or later, however, it is important to know the scams and tricks you may face when renting a scooter in Thailand and how to avoid them. You are meant to be in possession of a Thai or International driving license however, here on Koh Phangan they will let you rent a bike without one but still bear in mind that you should at least be able to drive in your own Country.

Most common bike scams
Bike scams are amongst the most common in Thailand and since most places hold your passport for your rental period they can easily ask you for money even if you are not liable or at fault for any damages. The 2 most common tricks are

Renting out damaged bikes – be aware of damaged tires

Before renting the bike, you should carefully take pictures of every part of the bike.

That way, you have evidence that you are not responsible for any damages and scratches that were already there previously. It is also very common to rent out bikes with broken tires. The trick is that the hole in the tire is already there but you don’t notice much when you start driving but end up with a flat tire after some time. You are unable to proof that the damage was already there and will have to pay for a new tire. When renting a bike, they will usually have one ready for you to take. It is advisable to refuse the bike they want you to rent and to randomly pick another one!

Stealing your bike
Sometimes it can happen that someone from the rental place follows you and steals your bike with a second key while you are away. Never leave your bike in unsupervised places or remote parking lots. Local police will usually support their fellow countryman so don’t expect support from their side!

Rent your bike from a reputable place
It is hard to tell sometimes which bike shop is serious and which one is trying to trick you. You can rent a bike from Phanganist Hostel to be on the safe side. You will not have to pay more than anywhere else but can be sure that they are only cooperating with serious businesses and have no interest in scamming their guests and spoiling their reputation. They will also keep your passport but you can trust that nobody will mess with you!

Other precautions
If you have a bad feeling about a rental place and sense that something is off – leave. Check not only the cage of the bike, but also the tires at the nearest gas station before starting your scooter adventure. Avoid speeding, be cautious and respect the local law. Although you will see many people driving without a helmet, do not follow their bad example. Roads and traffic in Thailand are not to be underestimated since Thailand ranks second in the world for road fatalities per capita, so no unnecessary risks should be taken. Be aware of sand deposits on the road especially in bends on islands. Only take a passenger if you feel absolutely confident in driving a scooter and do not leave any valuables in the stowage under the seat when leaving it parked.

Driving around can be so much fun and exploring an island like Koh Phangan by scooter is probably your best option. Be aware and enjoy your adventure!