Before visiting Southeast Asia we found terrible reviews online about renting a motorbike. From accidents to being pulled over by corrupt police officers; everyone had a negative experience to share . Despite all of that we found the freedom and price of a moped very appealing. While the roads can be hectic and the traffic laws are virtually non-existent; driving a motorcycle through Southeast Asia was the best decision we could have made! Keep reading for all the information you`ll need to feel comfortable on your road trip.
You aren’t limited in where you can go and it is certainly the cheapest way to travel. Having a motorbike in Southeast Asia eliminates the need to book tours or hire a driver. With a few tips and a little practice the motorbike adventure will be the highlight of your trip! You drive through beautiful rice fields, amazing small towns and places you would never know about if you didn’t have a moped to get there. Most hostels or homestays will rent motorbikes for $50,000 IDR ($3.75 USD) per day and you can expect to pay about $1,500 IDR ($1.15 USD) to fill up the tank.
Keep reading for some of our top tips to help you feel comfortable driving a motorbike in Southeast Asia:
1. Drive a Motorbike Before Going into Busy Areas
Practice makes perfect right? We practiced in little towns in Vietnam and Thailand to get comfortable before renting a motorbike in busier areas. If a big city is your first stop; you could try driving a moped at home before you leave.
2. Get an International Driver’s License
I`m sure you`ve read stories of tourists being pulled over for invalid reasons and being asked for a payoff. In the rare event that this does happen to you; show them your license and tell them to write you a ticket. If they have no legitimate grounds to write you one, they will eventually give up and let you go. With that being said; we had nothing but positive experiences with the local people in Southeast Asia. The law enforcement and the locals were all very accommodating and helpful.
3. Drive on the Left Side of the Road
Keep in mind that some countries in Asia drive on the left hand side of the road; which may be opposite from what you’re use to. It can be particularly confusing on busy streets or when making right hand turns. This is where it helps to start driving in quiet areas first to get the hang of it.
4. Go Slow
We can`t stress this one enough! Even on the highways; the average speed of a motorbike in Southeast Asia is 30-40 km/h. The injuries you could face in a crash going faster than that are not worth the risk. Go slow, be safe and try to enjoy the scenic ride.
5. Wear your Helmet
I get it; you’re hot, sweaty and you want the wind in your hair while you drive to your favorite surf spot..right? The reality is that motorcycle accidents are VERY common in Southeast Asia. The roads can be busy and unpredictable so it’s important to protect yourself. When we got in our accident I skidded across the pavement on my knee and my helmet.. thank god I was wearing one!
6. Know Where You`re Going Beforehand
Trying to navigate and drive at the same time can be really stressful. Especially when driving in Southeast Asia; it is so important to stay with the flow of the traffic. Being lost, going too slow, or stopping suddenly will put you at a higher risk for an accident. Before driving anywhere unfamiliar; pull up a map in Wi-Fi or on the maps.me app to help navigate yourself.
7. Learn About the Traffic in the Area Before You Drive
Some cities are substantially more congested than the others making them intimidating to drive through. We chose to take taxis and buses in busy areas and rented motorbikes in the small towns where the roads are much less busy. This will totally depend on your comfort level but it`s best to try to avoid putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.
8. Stop Signs and Red Lights are Optional
In Southeast Asia; it`s less about traffic laws and more about following the flow of traffic. People will go straight through red lights or weave in and out of the lanes frequently. Instead of waiting for a break in traffic while merging; have faith that people will move over and accommodate you. You will be expected to do the same when others are merging. Use the horn to let other drivers know where you are on the road or if you are passing. There is no offence taken; if someone honks at you they are simply letting you know they are there.
9. Buying Gas
The larger cities will have gas stations similar to what you are probably use to. If you`re venturing to smaller towns or anywhere off the main streets however; you will be buying gas from small shops on the side of the road. They will likely have a wooden rack with old 26 bottles filled with gasoline (hilarious.. right?!) It costs between $5,000 -$10,000 IDR ($0.38 – 0.75 USD) per bottle; and an empty tank will take about 2 bottles to fill.