If you’re planning an upcoming visit to a foreign country, you might also be thinking about renting a motorbike or scooter. These forms of transportation can make it easy to get around, and there are a lot of places where these are residents’ primary way to get around, so you’ll fit right in.
Motorcycle, scooter, and bike safety are incredibly important, however, whether you’re traveling or not.
Thailand and most of southeast Asia are places that are popular for renting scooters, as is Europe. Sometimes travelers in Europe will also rent motorcycles.
There’s often no better way to explore the scenery of a foreign country, and many food roads are well-suited to motorcycle or motorbike use.
The following are tips if you’re traveling in a foreign country and you want to rent a motorbike, scooter or something similar.
Be Aware of the Risks
If you’re traveling somewhere like Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Thailand, or the Philippines, you’ll see motorbikes and scoots all around you. For example, in Vietnam, motorcycles outnumber cars 57 to 1. That can make it feel like it’s somehow inherently safe, but that’s not the case.
For example, in Thailand, where the numbers are similar as far as the scooters on the road, driving is incredibly dangerous. In fact, Thailand is the second-most dangerous place to drive in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), behind only the Dominican Republic.
The Philippines has more than 16,000 deaths a year because of motorcycle and scooter crashes, and in Cambodia, these motorbike crashes make up almost 70% of all roadway deaths.
Scooter vs. Moped
Before you rent any piece of equipment, you should be clear about what you want and what you’re getting. Mopeds and scooters are examples of two pieces of equipment people often rent when they’re on vacation.
Actual mopeds are used less commonly now, but the term is often used to describe motorbikes with a small engine that go fairly slowly.
A scooter is more like a motorcycle, but they have smaller engines and are less powerful than motorcycles. Scooters also have a frame opening where you can step through and a platform for your feet.
Scooters and mopeds tend to be considered safer than motorcycles because of engine capability limitations. When you’re on a scooter or moped you can’t hit very high speeds and they’re easier to operate.
What Are the Rules?
If you were to rent a scooter in the U.S. or Canada, there could be certain limitations.
For example, you might have to be a certain age or be prohibited from driving at night. You might also have to pass a particular test to get your license.
In many countries around the world, there are less rigid restrictions when it comes to operating a moped or scooter as compared to a motorcycle.
Internationally, if you’re going to operate a scooter or moped, you’ll need an international driver’s permit.
An international driver’s permit isn’t a license in and of itself. To get an international driving permit, you need to have a license in your home country, and then you can get your international driver’s permit for around $50, including from AAA.
If you get a local tourist license, you might not have to get an international driving permit.
Check on the rules at your destination before you go to rent a scooter or moped because you may have to show your IDP or local license before they’ll let you rent.
What to Expect at the Rental Shop
Renting a moped or scooter can be really inexpensive, and when you get there, you may have to leave your passport as collateral. It can feel strange to do so, but that’s a fairly common request. However, what’s smarter in this situation is to refuse to leave your passport and instead give them a copy of your passport.
You should then make sure you take a picture of all the parts of your rental. This will show what the original condition was in case anything happens or the rental company tries to blame you for damage.
Look at the body and note any damage or scratches and check to ensure the tires are inflated all the way. You should test the brakes before you leave the property of the rental shop, check the ignition for damage and test out the lights and turn signals.
Check the tread on the tires and make sure the engine isn’t leaking oil.
If you’re unsure of anything with the scooter, ask the staff of the rental company before you take off. You’ll need to take the scooter off its kickstand and start it, so you might want to practice this while you’re still at the rental shop.
If you’ve never been on a scooter or motorbike before, it might be a good idea to ask someone from the shop to take you for a quick ride so you can see how it feels as a passenger.
Other tips include:
- Make sure you bring your IDP with you at all times when you’re riding a scooter and also bring any necessary paperwork the rental company gives you.
- Check your travel insurance before you head out—it should provide scooter coverage in case you get in an accident.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Figure out which side of the road you need to ride on and pay careful attention to everything but especially roundabouts and intersections.
- While the scenery might be beautiful and interesting around you, make sure you keep your eyes on the road and don’t try to take any videos or selfies while you’re operating a motorbike.
If you’re interested in motorcycles rather than scooters, one fun idea is to do a motorcycle holiday tour. These are especially popular in Europe, and the company will arrange your rental and also plan out your itinerary.
Renting a motorbike or scooter can be fun and convenient, but you need to be cautious as well, particularly in a foreign country.