Renting a motorbike in Phuket is perhaps the easiest and most convenient way of getting around the island and seeing the sights. The nippy little scooters are extremely simple to operate and can dodge through the worst of the traffic, getting you from place to place in the quickest time, with ample parking space available almost everywhere. They are also one of the cheapest modes of transport, with prices starting from as little as 150 baht per day.
Naturally, motorbike rental in Phuket has its hazards, as does driving anywhere in the world. This page will take you through the potential pitfalls and hopefully ensure that you have a worry-free time exploring the island on two wheels.
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- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
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- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Bike Rental Shops
Motorbike rental shops are quite common around Phuket, particularly in the resort towns like Patong, Kata and Kamala. They are especially easy to find around the cheaper hotels away from the beach. Most hotel information desks will be able to direct you to a nearby reputable place.
Look for well-established businesses which keep their vehicles in good condition. During the hiring process, the renter should inspect the vehicle and document pre-existing damage. You should never give up your passport under any circumstances, least of all when renting a vehicle. Let them take a photocopy, by all means, but the original should never leave your possession.
It is important to distinguish between the reputable and the disreputable shops as this is one of the more common scams in Phuket. It works exactly the same ways as the infamous jet ski scam, where you return your vehicle after having your fun and the renter points out some probably pre-existing, if not entirely imaginary damage and insists you pay well over the value of the vehicle to get it repaired.
What You Get When Renting a Bike
The most common type of rental bike in Phuket is the Honda Click - A 125cc twist-and-go scooter. It is as simple to operate as it sounds, with no gears or clutch to worry about. Twist the handgrip to move forward, pull the brake levers to stop; that’s all there is to it. More powerful bikes and even those with more complicated controls are available from some shops, but are largely unnecessary as a Click is more than capable of getting you around.
Rental prices for a Honda Click start at about 200 baht per day. Some shops increase their prices during the high season (November to April) to about 250 baht per day. If you know that you will need the bike for a long time, you can save a bit of money by renting by the week (1,200 – 2,000 baht) and even by the month (3,500 baht or more). In all cases, you will usually be required to pay a deposit, which will be the cost of one day, one week or one month, depending on the duration of rental. Assuming there is no damage to the vehicle, this will be returned to you when you return the bike.
Be sure to ask about what insurance you get with your rented motorbike. Most shops provide only the bare minimum government insurance, which covers the rider for medical costs up to 15,000 baht. This means that any damage to the bike itself and all other expenses from an accident will have to be paid for by you. Bigger and more reputable rental shops may have more comprehensive coverage, but the cost per day will also be higher. The shop should provide you with at least one helmet, though this may come at a small additional cost (about 20 baht).
Paying for petrol is your own responsibility. Most motorbikes use “91” (which denotes the octane level), which costs 30 baht per litre from petrol stations. The price per litre from the stand-alone pumps dotted around Phuket and from the whiskey bottles full of fuel sometimes sold by the roadside is higher. You will be expected to return the bike with as much or more petrol than you hired it with. If you don’t, you might lose some of your deposit.
Driving a Motorbike in Phuket
Motorbike accidents are among the most common causes of injury for tourists visiting Phuket. The roads of Thailand can be highly dangerous, particularly to foreign tourists who are not used to the idiosyncratic nature of Thai driving. However, with adequate care and vigilance, it is entirely possible to drive right across the island without mishap.
A Thai or international driving license is a requirement for riding a motorbike in Thailand, with a fine of about 400 baht if you are caught without one. Helmets are required for both the rider and passengers, with a similar fine and the ever-present risk of serious head injury if you don’t wear one. Police might stop you if you are driving around in just your swimsuit, though there is rarely a fine attached for this – they’ll just ask you to put a t-shirt on. Police checkpoints are common around the tourist hubs of Phuket, particularly Patong, Karon and Kamala.
The roads in Phuket are quite old and many are littered with potholes and surprise bumps, so it is best to drive slowly and carefully, particularly at night, and to give the road your full attention. Flat tyres are common, but are quickly and cheaply (usually no more than 200 baht) replaced at any of the countless small repair shops around the island. Remember that, regardless of how good a driver you are, your biggest threat is from other road users, so be wary of vehicles coming up behind you or out of side-roads.