When you come to Koh Phangan you will quickly realize that the most popular (and most cost efficient) mode of transportation to get around the island is a motorbike. In Thailand and a lot of other countries and South East Asia, you will see more motorbikes than anything else transporting people and animals from one place to another. Since you can get your license when you’re 15 years old here, people young and old, local and foreign, choose to rent and buy motorbikes to get around.
Maybe you have already ridden from Hanoi all the way to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam or you have never driven a motorbike in your life. Either way, there are a few things to keep in mind before you hop on a bike here on Koh Phangan.
Here we drive on the left side of the road.
This may not come as a surprise to some, but in Thailand we drive on the left side of the road.
Don’t be afraid to take it for a test drive before you pay.
The renters for motorbikes are often very understanding if you ask to take a bike for a test ride. And are equally accommodating if you request a different bike for whatever reason. Remember you are paying for a bike that is reliable and you feel safe on. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up if you feel uneasy about anything. You will be met with kindness and understating. And if you aren’t, then remember there are plenty of places to rent from and take your business elsewhere.
Test the brakes.
These bikes are rented by dozens of different people throughout the year, all with different driving styles. The island has a lot of steep hills and you want to know that the brakes will work when you need them to. When you take your test drive, make sure you break repeatedly testing the back and front brakes before committing.
You almost always give your passport as collateral
A bike rental is about 250 Baht a day on average (though I have heard of people getting a discount for multi-day rentals). Typically, you will be asked to pay up front. And don’t freak out if you are asked to also leave your passport there as collateral. These bikes are a huge investment for the people who own them and they just want to insure you will take care of them and return them at the end of your stay. If leaving your passport is not something you are willing to do, there are a few bike rental shops on the island that will take a cash deposit. But be mindful that this these deposits often have a price tag of 7,000 Baht or higher.
Take pictures of the bike
Take pictures of any scratches or dents anywhere on the bike before you leave with it. This way you won’t get stuck paying for damage you did not do.
A Helmet is a Must
You will see a lot of people riding around without a helmet and while it may look cool or you want to avoid the helmet hair, trust me a helmet is a necessity. If you aren’t offered one, just ask! And wear it every time! You only get one brain. Keep it safe!
Otherwise have fun and follow the general rules of the road. It is important to not get so comfortable that you start taking unnecessary risks. It is really thrilling to go down the big hills here but it is more important to stay responsible so that you can fully enjoy your vacation without injury.