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Information About Asia ¦ Riding a Motorbike in Thailand

Updated on September 16, 2014
Selling buckets for a living. 10/10 for organisation.
Selling buckets for a living. 10/10 for organisation.

Your experience of riding a motorbike abroad overseas.

What was your experience like riding a motorbike in Asia?

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Having never rode a motorbike before, I, like many of my other first timers to Thailand was faced with the daunting prospect of riding a motorbike in Thailand. When you live in Asia, riding a moped is part of everyday life, a normality. It isn't difficult, but the environmental conditions that come with it can be terrifying. Sink or swim, ride or walk! The choice was unnervingly obvious.

Standards of safety in Thailand are at best, poor. If you have road sense already from driving or riding in your home country, this will benefit you, slightly. Otherwise, forget rules of the road you have previously learned and strap yourself in for a scary and unique experience riding a motorbike in Thailand.

Outlined is advice and information resulting from a years riding experience whilst living in Asia. It aims to provide a useful insight for the first time traveller to Asia, highlighting potential dangers and incidents you might expect to encounter whilst riding in Asia.

A local looking for a parking spot in Ayuttahya.
A local looking for a parking spot in Ayuttahya.
At home, Chaiyaphum province. 5 hours N.E. of Bangkok.
At home, Chaiyaphum province. 5 hours N.E. of Bangkok.

Riding in Thailand


  • expect the unexpected! Life in Asia is full of unexpected moments.
  • expect to see families of four and the dog on one bike!
  • expect anything to pull out in front of you, regardless of whether you're nearly on them.
  • expect people to smile when they nearly cause an accident. Calm yourself and smile back (if your still alive).
  • wear a helmet. Apart from the obvious, the police enjoy fining you for not doing so. Prices can range significantly!
  • expect to see oncoming cars and lorries on the wrong side of the road flashing their lights at you. This is not a greeting or to tell you about the police further down the road. It is their way of warning you that they are coming in your direction. Slow down and get out of the way!
  • expect to hear many beeps of the horn from Thais. This can mean a number of things; I'm here, be aware, don’t pull out on front of me, I'm overtaking you, I'm coming. It’s their way of letting you know they are there. Use your horn like it's going out of fashion.
  • leave your western expectations of driving standards in the west. Riding a motorbike in Thailand is not the same as many western countries.Try to be accepting of how people drive here. This is life in Asia
  • remember to check your inside mirror! Undertaking, overtaking, anything goes here.
  • expect people to ride on the wrong side of the road, on pavements and generally where people walk.
  • expect to see Elephant's, Buffalo and thousands of stray dogs using the road!
  • expect car doors to open into your path without notice, keep your distance.
  • expect to see unguarded road works without safety perimeters; diggers often swing out into the road seemingly unaware of nearly decapitating passing motorcyclists!
  • expect varying standards of road quality; pot holes, sand traps (on the islands), oil leaks and random debris everywhere.
  • wear glasses when riding. The last thing you want is a bug the size of your fist hitting you in the eye at 50km’s. Or sand and dust for that matter.
  • expect people to stop anywhere in the road without warning.

Take a tuk-tuk instead, if your brave enough!
Take a tuk-tuk instead, if your brave enough!
A days work.
A days work.


  • come to Thailand without experience of riding a motorbike. Get some lessons in your own country first. Riding a motorbike in Thailand is not the place to get familiar. Especially on the islands where roads can be very unpredictable. Rolling steep hills, pot holes, sand traps, unlit roads and flash floods are just some of the dangers here. Not to mention Thai drivers who can be at best, careless. Take note if you want to live in Asia.
  • expect similar safety standards as you own country. Safety in Thailand is relaxed, probably too relaxed. Go with the flow but be careful.
  • expect people to look when pulling out into oncoming traffic.
  • expect Thai people to react kindly to western road rage. The roads are dangerous here, fact. Thais drive like this every day so it is normal. Try not to get angry if your prone to a touch of road rage!
  • expect people to indicate as they turn right or left.
  • expect people to give warning about stopping in the middle of the road directly, in your path.
  • get drunk and think you can ride a bike with no prior experience. Riding a motorbike in Thailand is something that needs to be done sober!
  • drive on the wrong side of the road! We drive on the left here.
  • drive at night in unlit areas if you can help it. This can be dangerous as road quality varies. Things can suddenly change, giving you no time to react.

Does you mum know where you are?
Does you mum know where you are?
Have you got a license to ride that?!
Have you got a license to ride that?!

Living in Asia?

If you want to live in Asia, these are some of the things one has to take into consideration before moving here. Large numbers of Thais own motorbikes as many cannot afford cars. Riding, for many, is part of everyday life in Asia. If you are visiting, have a great time but be aware of things mentioned when hopping on a bike. You don't want to be another statistic.

Riding a motobike in Thailand day in day out is dangerous, there's no doubt about it. Although after a while you get a feel for the way people drive and eventually adapt. Driving sensibly will help ensure that your going to be incident free on a short visit here. Make sure you've got travel insurance that covers you too, just in case.

However, there is a massive accident rate. I recently learned that insurance companies (Thai) will not insure motorbikes after their warranty period because of this. Here is a slightly dated but informative study about accident rates.

Life in Asia is great, don't get me wrong. Like everywhere else in the world though it has its pros and cons. Road safety standards and general safety in Thailand are not high on my 'like' list. Until there is high quality driving instruction and proper road safety awareness implemented, the road will continue to be a dangerous place. As a developing nation this may take a long time, if at all. Other standards in Thailand have improved greatly in recent years so I don't see why this will be any different. Let's hope so anyway!

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Submit a Comment

  • unknown spy profile image

    IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

    Wow! Thailand, here we come! Thanks for the experience you've shared. I love motorbikes, been drving it for almost 10 years now.

  • Brett.Tesol profile image

    Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

    Very good advice. Too many people assume that road laws and conditions are the same when abroad! WRONG!!

    A clear example of this is a car flashing its lights at a junction, crossing, or just in general. A classic Brit will take this as a sign to pull out, that the kind person is giving way ... when in fact in Thailand it means that they ARE NOT STOPPING.

    Sharing this, as hopefully it may save a few lives, or at least prevent some unnecessary pain. Up and useful.

  • livingabroad profile image

    livingabroad 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    Hi Virginia. Sounds like a lucky escape by your husband! Hopefully I'll get to see some of China one day, it looks like an amazing place. Thanks for stopping by!

  • VirginiaLynne profile image

    Virginia Kearney 5 years ago from United States

    I saw this sort of bike riding all over China too--my husband was bumped by one as we walked across the street once--no real injury, but he enjoyed saying he'd been "hit by a motorcycle!"

  • livingabroad profile image

    livingabroad 5 years ago from Wales, UK

    @ZandaDee, thanks for the comment. Some of the sights you see day in day out are bizarre! I don't know how this has become normal?!

    @SuzieHQ, great to hear from you again! Thanks for the comments! I wouldn't have imagined that it's the same in Italy, how interesting. Obviuously thee laws there are a little more relaxed than UK and Ireland!

    @Paul, Hi again Paul. Thanks for the positive feedback and sound advice. I don't have the license yet but have heard its's a walk in the park and worth doing if staying here for the long term.

    @Levertis, Hi there! I agree with you, first timers can literally be blown away with what's going on around them here! It's definitely an eye opener. Lots of people here make money in anyway they can, just enough to survive. Motorbikes are usually their only means of transport and many have shops attached to them! Thanks for stopping by.

    @leah, traffic here is crazy but you do eventually get a feel for it, after much trial and error! Thanks for your positivity! :)

  • leahlefler profile image

    Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

    What an awesome hub! I think I would have a heart attack while driving in Thailand - firstly, because I have no idea how to drive a motorcycle, and second, because I would be freaked out by the traffic patterns and honking. It sounds like a real adventure!

  • Levertis Steele profile image

    Levertis Steele 5 years ago from Southern Clime

    How interesting! I suppose newcomers have a more difficult time in this traffic than the Thai themselves. Of course, they are more used to it, I would think. If I decide to go to Thailand, I will remember to learn to ride a motorcycle first! Maybe.

    Oh, the many ways to make a living! No one should go hungry or without the minimal necessities in most places.

    Thanks for this information. I am voting up and clicking the positive buttons.

  • Paul Kuehn profile image

    Paul Richard Kuehn 5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

    As one of the "dos", I would strongly suggest getting a motorcycle driver's license, especially if you live in a big city like Bangkok. I have seen too many police check points on main roads with a lot of motorcycles pulled over. Then, again, if you don't mind handing a cop a bribe of 300-400 baht each time you are caught, trust your luck out in the countryside where a lot of Thais drive without licenses. Actually, it isn't that hard to get a motorcycle license in Thailand. This was a great hub, and I identify with everything you have said having driven cars, SUVs, and pickups in Thailand for a number of years. Voted up and sharing.

  • Suzie HQ profile image

    Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

    Well written hub! Excellent content, made me laugh! It is so like Italy in the "family and contents" aboard the bike!! Saw a driver, mama kids and office desk weaving traffic in Naples once!! Your pics are great,congrats on another interesting article! voted up and more!

  • ZandaDee profile image

    ZandaDee 5 years ago from Sydney

    Great Hub, I was amazed at what I saw when I was in Thailand. Common place to see a whole family, including baby riding along on a scooter!