How to Rent a Moped or Motorcycle Abroad

I’ve wanted to write about renting a moped or motorcycle abroad for a while as it turns out there is quite a bit to know. Renting a moped abroad is something I’ve done several times now; from on the tiny Thai island of Koh Tao to the bustling beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

Mopeds rule the roads of Southeast Asia and renting one gives you the freedom to travel independently. Plus, it’s fun to do with a big group when everyone has their own bikes!

While prices vary around the world, renting a moped is incredible cheap in Southeast Asia- I usually paid 100 baht ($3) for a 24 rental in Thailand  and about $6 in Cambodia.

Aside from checking to see if your travel insurance covers motorized vehicle hire (most don’t), here are some other ways to safely rent a moped or motorcycle abroad.

Koh Tao DSLR1

On a moped in Thailand and a motorcycle in Vietnam.

1. Bring your passport and cash

When renting a bike abroad you will always pay the full price upfront in cash. While in some countries the bike shop owners will want a cash deposit as collateral, in Southeast Asia they will keep your passport  until you return the bike.

Also bring enough money for gas, snacks and maybe a little emergency money in case you need a bike repair.

And normally in Southeast Asia the rental shop owner will ask to see your visa too, to make sure that you are legally allowed to be in the country. A friend of mine with dual-citizenship brought his non-visa passport to the rental shop and he wasn’t allowed to rent!

2. Read the fine print before you sign

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Before riding, always check how much you will be charged in the event the bike is damaged, lost or stolen. I’ve heard horror stories of tourists being charged upwards of $300 USD for only a few scratches, and I met one girl who was charged $600 for totaling the bike even though a brand-new 125cc motorbike costs around $250-300!

When choosing a bike consider how much horsepower you need the engine to have. Most bikes are 125cc, which means the engine is pretty small- getting up hills will be a challenge, or in some cases, impossible. And make sure you know what kind of  transmission the bike has: automatic, semi-automatic or manual. As an American I definitely prefer automatic!

3. Take photos of the bike

Koh Tao DSLR

Before hopping on the bike, make sure to photograph every inch of it including the license plate. I’ve heard stories of rental shop owners accusing riders of damaging the bike when it was really damaged all along!

4. Request a helmet 1374993_10153357448440144_1457960914_n

Safety is not always attractive.

While many foreigners and locals alike may be riding without a helmet, don’t do it. Every time I requested a helmet I was given one free of charge.

Also make sure the rental shop owner gives you a lock for the front wheel. And before you leave, agree on what time you’re bringing it back- most rentals are for 24 hours.

And never, never lock up a bike outside overnight even if you lock the front wheel. As you may remember my friends had their bikes stolen in Sihanoukville!

5. Fill up!

The bikes always come empty so make sure to fill up right away. Gas is very inexpensive in Southeast Asia and will only cost you a couple of bucks.

6. Take it easy if you’re a beginner

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Dirt road in Otres Beach, Cambodia.

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Dirt road on Koh Tao, Thailand.

When renting a moped or motorcycle in a non-western country, remember that the driving conditions are not  optimal; roads in the developing world are often dirt, full of potholes or barely existent.

And the flow of traffic may be on the opposite side of the road- for example, in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia they drive on the left side of the road, and in Cambodia and Vietnam they drive on the right.

Also, you shouldn’t ride with someone on the back if you’re an inexperienced driver. Having an extra rider changes the weight distribution and can throw you off balance.

Finally don’t take on a challenging road if you’re a beginner. Many dream of the road between Chiang Mai and Pai but personally I know I’m not up for the task!

 

Other options

Consider a guided tour

I had an excellent time with my EasyRiders Tour in Vietnam, as I got to sit on the back and soak up the scenery without stressing out about stick shift. While it’s not for everyone, a guided tour is a good option for those who aren’t comfortable behind the wheel. Plus, having a local guide offers you insight into the local culture.

Consider buying a motorcycle

In order to avoid the rental scams and other dangers, consider buying a bike. My friend Victoria bought a motorcycle for less than $300 USD in Saigon and spent two months driving it up Vietnam- I was so jealous of her photos! It’s best to do research ahead of time and check out bikesales to find a used motorcycle which is usually much cheaper.

Here are some other resources on renting or buying a motorcycle and riding it on a long trip:

ADV Rider

Horizons Unlimited 

Have you ever rented a moped or motorcycle abroad? 

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16 Comments

  1. I crashed my motorbike within 5 seconds of getting on it…so be careful if you don’t know what you’re doing is a good tip ;)

    These are all good. Especially regarding the helmet. i don’t know why people don’t wear them. I hit my head pretty hard on the curb when I had my (ridiculously stupid) crash going about 2 mph and was glad I had a helmet even then…

    Looks like you had fun! I need to learn to drive before I do any more travels to places where I’d like to rent bikes. You are right it is a great way to see more things independently.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Snapshot Sunday: Louisville, KentuckyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Oh no! I’m glad you were alright. That’s why I always rode on the back, haha- I’m a terrible driver of cars and all other motorized vehicles.

    • Wow that’s great, enjoy! And I love your gorgeous photos of Valparaiso- it’s my favorite city in South America.

  2. If I were ever going to rent a moped I’d certainly go by your instructions.So clear and thorough.
    good job!

    Love, Gamma

    Reply
    • Thanks, Gamma. I just wanted to help out the next person who might be as unsure as I was! Love, Ashley

  3. Bikes are just so normal and accepted even in Southern Europe. I saw so many office workers riding in their suit to work in the morning, or couples going on a date to a fancy restaurant on their bike. But given the often overwhelming traffic a helmet is good to have even if it feels hot with the helmet on. Thanks for the post Ashley.

    Reply
    • Haha that’s so true! I love Europe for that reason :)

  4. Great practical advice – thanks!

    I’ve always been wary of bikes, having grown up on horror stories of motorbike crashes, but maybe that’s just something I need to get over…?

    I did try quad biking in Turkey about five years ago, and was dreadful at it, but I suspect I’d have fared better if I’d been allowed to get used to the controls at my own pace.

    Maybe this is something I ought to try. I guess I’ll either decide it’s not for me, or get over my reservations and love it!
    Katie recently posted..New Zealand: Abel Tasman National ParkMy Profile

    Reply
    • I promised myself I would never ride a moped in Thailand, but once you get here you realize everyone’s doing it and everyone’s fine. It’s not for everyone though! :)

  5. Great call on taking photos! Just incase you get the owner claiming something against you. I would for sure just look in to buying one just so I wouldn’t have to worry about returns then just sell it once I’m done.
    Shaun recently posted..A six hour layover in CopenhagenMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s actually what a friend of mine did, the one who drove from Saigon to Hanoi. She just sold it once she got there, and ended up practically breaking even!

    • It’s definitely cheaper in Asia than Europe so I’m sure you’ll try it over there! :)

  6. You are brave! I would love to do a SE Asia trip but am not brave enough to ride a motorbike. Can I still get around without driving one? Truth be told I am also scared to get on the back of one!

    Reply
    • You definitely can get around without one! It’s just nice having one for day-trips and stuff like that. But yeah, definitely NOT a necessity!

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