Why I Recommend You Rent A Motorbike

As long as you know how to drive a car, renting a motorbike is perhaps one of the best and most convenient ways to explore an area. Motorbikes allow easy on and off access and getting in between areas cars normally wouldn’t be able to get to.

Rent a motorbike and go into the distant local areas. Buy local food where tourists may not have been for awhile,  if ever. You’ll have an unforgettable experience driving the distance. If you can, go out there for a few days and just make sure there are guest houses or hostels along the way. I found SE Asia to be very motorbike friendly.

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Driving down southern Laos

Simple Tips

  • This is important for obvious reasons. Always wear a helmet and if the rental store doesn’t provide one, move onto the next store.
  • Bargain if you can, especially if there’s more then one of you and if it’s for a few days.
  • If the rental owner seems to be taking extreme notes of the condition of the bike before you take it on the road, be wary. They could be picky on every little itty bitty detail and may charge you a big number upon return for the most ridicules things.
  • Take pictures and videos of the bike before you leave. Don’t be fooled into them telling you about a bump that may have already been on the bike before you left.
  • Take a map, a bottle of water, and a day-pack.
  • If you’re in a non-English speaking country and you don’t know the native language, have someone who knows English as well as the native language write down the translation of where you want to go.
  • Mind the weather and prepare ahead for the conditions of the road. Many roads may not be paved and if it’s raining, motorbikes don’t drive very well in messy dirt roads.
  • Take your time and don’t rush to get to a destination. Better to stay safe and drive slow. Motorbike accidents are not pretty!
  • Be mindful of your fuel. Luckily motorbikes can go a long way on little fuel but always keep it above half way just in case there are no stations up ahead.
  • Enjoy the view and the breeze as locals come rushing to you from the distance waving to say hello and remember to stay safe!

Have you driven a motorbike? How was your experience? Where did you go?

23 Comments

  1. Luke on October 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I’d have to add another couple of recommendations, based on personal experience:

    – Wear solid footwear. If you do come off the bike, your feet will probably be one of the first parts to hit the ground, and whilst you may see locals riding around in flip flops, that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily do the same. I had an off in Koh Lanta and barked the top of my foot quite severely (along with my knees, elbow, cheek and half an eyebrow). The other injuries were easy enough to cope with, but backpacking with a ruined foot was less than pleasurable.

    – Wear appropriate clothing and sun protection. A ride may feel nice and cool, with the wind blowing past you and keeping you cool, but if it is a hot day, you run a very real risk of getting sunburnt on your arms, face, legs. One of the most painful places to be sunburnt is on the backs of your hands, and as you will have them on the handlebars all day, they are ripe for a roasting. Also, try and wear clothing (if possible) which might stand up to a scrape with the roadway should worst come to worst. There is a reason why people back home wear leather jackets and heavy jeans when riding, and whilst that may not be appropriate for a Vietnam summer day, boardshorts will just melt should you find the road the hard way.

    I have, obviously, ridden in Vietnam and Thailand. In Vietnam, I rode around Nha Trang (including an unexpected and somewhat surprising wandering onto the airstrip of Cam Ranh Bay Airport) and Dalat. In Thailand, I rode around Koh Lanta (dropped the bike, and tore myself up a bit – US$50 in medical bills and US$200 in damage to the bike, plus a week or so of daily hospital visits to recover and some rather unsightly scars).

    It is a great way to see a place, and breaks down the bubble of a bus window so you can see/smell/feel everything around you.

    • Michael on October 19, 2009 at 6:51 am

      Very good tips Luke!!

      The clothing and sunscreen I can’t believe I forgot. I’ve gotten extremely burnt before and didn’t take notice until after the ride. With the wind blowing and all, it’s hard to notice just how strong the sun rays really are.

  2. Luke on October 18, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I’d have to add another couple of recommendations, based on personal experience:

    – Wear solid footwear. If you do come off the bike, your feet will probably be one of the first parts to hit the ground, and whilst you may see locals riding around in flip flops, that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily do the same. I had an off in Koh Lanta and barked the top of my foot quite severely (along with my knees, elbow, cheek and half an eyebrow). The other injuries were easy enough to cope with, but backpacking with a ruined foot was less than pleasurable.

    – Wear appropriate clothing and sun protection. A ride may feel nice and cool, with the wind blowing past you and keeping you cool, but if it is a hot day, you run a very real risk of getting sunburnt on your arms, face, legs. One of the most painful places to be sunburnt is on the backs of your hands, and as you will have them on the handlebars all day, they are ripe for a roasting. Also, try and wear clothing (if possible) which might stand up to a scrape with the roadway should worst come to worst. There is a reason why people back home wear leather jackets and heavy jeans when riding, and whilst that may not be appropriate for a Vietnam summer day, boardshorts will just melt should you find the road the hard way.

    I have, obviously, ridden in Vietnam and Thailand. In Vietnam, I rode around Nha Trang (including an unexpected and somewhat surprising wandering onto the airstrip of Cam Ranh Bay Airport) and Dalat. In Thailand, I rode around Koh Lanta (dropped the bike, and tore myself up a bit – US$50 in medical bills and US$200 in damage to the bike, plus a week or so of daily hospital visits to recover and some rather unsightly scars).

    It is a great way to see a place, and breaks down the bubble of a bus window so you can see/smell/feel everything around you.

    • Michael on October 19, 2009 at 7:51 am

      Very good tips Luke!!

      The clothing and sunscreen I can’t believe I forgot. I’ve gotten extremely burnt before and didn’t take notice until after the ride. With the wind blowing and all, it’s hard to notice just how strong the sun rays really are.

  3. sarah on October 31, 2009 at 11:34 am

    I would love to rent a bike, Ive never really ridden one and even if I didnt get very far I would say it would be funny.

  4. sarah on October 31, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I would love to rent a bike, Ive never really ridden one and even if I didnt get very far I would say it would be funny.

  5. Millican_Jorrit on November 10, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Bang on, Luke. Though, Michael, your comments also took me back to exactly what motorbiking is like abroad. Absolutely on taking a photo of the bike – or any vehice – before you leave base. You can get really cornered otherwise when you return it. But I so agree that for independence, freedom, and the spirit of adventure, there’s nothing to beat a bike.

  6. Millican_Jorrit on November 10, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Bang on, Luke. Though, Michael, your comments also took me back to exactly what motorbiking is like abroad. Absolutely on taking a photo of the bike – or any vehice – before you leave base. You can get really cornered otherwise when you return it. But I so agree that for independence, freedom, and the spirit of adventure, there’s nothing to beat a bike.

  7. Tran on November 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Agree. I rented a moped on Honeymoon Island in South Korea several years ago. At the time, I was traveling alone. I was able to leave my main pack at the airport and took off with just a day pack, which was small enough to stuff in the compartment under my seat. That was one of the most liberating moments of my trip, and it is still one of my more treasured travel memories.

    • Michael on November 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm

      Sounds amazing! I usually take a small bag as well.

  8. Tran on November 18, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Agree. I rented a moped on Honeymoon Island in South Korea several years ago. At the time, I was traveling alone. I was able to leave my main pack at the airport and took off with just a day pack, which was small enough to stuff in the compartment under my seat. That was one of the most liberating moments of my trip, and it is still one of my more treasured travel memories.

    • Michael on November 19, 2010 at 12:51 am

      Sounds amazing! I usually take a small bag as well.

  9. ottsworld on February 15, 2011 at 5:22 am

    I rode a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City for the year I lived there and my best advice is to wear a helmet…but not just any of those crap helmets the locals wear. Make sure you have a real helmet – not a glorified bicycle helmet like you see all over Asia. I wouldn’t even get on a bike until I had a real helmet that covered my entire head. Also – take a rain poncho with you if you are in SE Asia…it’s invaluable! You wrote all about my experiences in learning how to ride a motorbike in HCMC here – http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/tag/motorbike-diaries/

  10. ottsworld on February 15, 2011 at 6:22 am

    I rode a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City for the year I lived there and my best advice is to wear a helmet…but not just any of those crap helmets the locals wear. Make sure you have a real helmet – not a glorified bicycle helmet like you see all over Asia. I wouldn’t even get on a bike until I had a real helmet that covered my entire head. Also – take a rain poncho with you if you are in SE Asia…it’s invaluable! You wrote all about my experiences in learning how to ride a motorbike in HCMC here – http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/tag/motorbike-diaries/

  11. Kelsey Freeman on April 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I’m a big fan of renting motorbikes. If you’re going to be somewhere for long enough, it’s often actually an even better deal to just buy one. I got my slightly used 175cc bike in Korea for $450, and after a year of riding it at least 2 hours a day, the only repair I ever had to give it was a new tire and a replacement gas cap.

    • Michael on April 15, 2011 at 3:54 am

      Two years off of a $450 bike? Damn good deal.

  12. Kelsey Freeman on April 4, 2011 at 10:32 am

    I’m a big fan of renting motorbikes. If you’re going to be somewhere for long enough, it’s often actually an even better deal to just buy one. I got my slightly used 175cc bike in Korea for $450, and after a year of riding it at least 2 hours a day, the only repair I ever had to give it was a new tire and a replacement gas cap.

    • Michael on April 15, 2011 at 4:54 am

      Two years off of a $450 bike? Damn good deal.

  13. Jess on November 2, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I totally agree…my best travel experiences are on the back of a motorbike! The sore butt is totally worth it! 😉

  14. Jess on November 2, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I totally agree…my best travel experiences are on the back of a motorbike! The sore butt is totally worth it! 😉

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