Renting a motorbike in Koh Tao is a must if you want to see the hidden gems of the island. Though at the same time this island is very infamous for its motorbike scams. So what to do? Miss the cool spots? Or take a leap of faith and go for it?
First of all you have to consider your own skills. Are you going to feel comfortable driving a motorbike and did you ever do it before? This is not your home country where traffic is properly regulated and roads are in a perfect state. You are on a Thai island with shitty and steep roads!
May you decide to rent a motorbike then there are a couple things you need to be aware of here in Koh Tao. Very important to know is the geography of the island. There a several hills on the island and to reach most bays, you have to cross them. Some roads can be extremely steep and on top of that not even paved. To reach for example a popular spot called Mango Bay some serious off road adventure is waiting for you. There are loads of tourists who drive to this bay every day without having any accidents or whatsoever, but it’s not for the faint-hearted! As I said not all roads are paved, you will for sure encounter loose sand and dirt tracks even some off road tracks as well.
Where to rent a motorbike
Renting a motorbike in Koh Tao is like buying a hot dog in the US. You will see the ‘motorbike for rent’ signs everywhere. Apparently a lot of locals have seen the potential of making money with renting out brand new looking motorbikes to tourists and that is probably also a reason why Koh Tao got infamous for its motorbike scams. Paying a ridiculous amount of money for some simple scratches you might not have even caused is daily business. Unfortunately scams happen quite often and you will find many bad stories on the internet about it.
A good way to avoid the being ripped off is first of all renting the motorbike in a reliable place. Always ask your hotel if they have motorbikes for rent. Hotels will not that quickly try to make money off you from a wrecked motorbike, as it is not their main business and they don’t want any bad reviews on the internet about motorbike issues.
Obviously another more stress free rental is if you find a motorbike that comes with insurance. I did not know they existed but lately I stumbled upon a smart Thai that started renting out motorbikes with insurance. You will pay about US$2 extra but at least you are covered for any scratches. That means you will definitely drive around with a lot less stress. Be aware though that this insurance will only cover the scratches, any dents or broken parts will still be charged! Breaking some parts will most probably only happen though when you have a serious accident. The place is called KP travel and is located on the beach road in Sairee next to Bar Next2. You will see the motorbikes outside with a sign saying ‘insurance included’!
The going rate for a simple motorbike will be somewhere around $5 for 24 hours. Although handing over your passport to an unknown Thai seems dodgy, this is Koh Tao. Without a passport, no motorbike! Regardless what people tell you, if you are not willing to hand in your passport, you wont get a motorbike in Koh Tao!
So may you decide to rent a motorbike then my advice is:
- Rent it from a reliable place, like for example a dive shop or a hotel;
- Make photo’s AND a video;
- Pay that little extra for insurance;
- Drive slowly and responsible, you are on a holiday!
Regarding the last point I unfortunately have to admit that there are a lot of dickheads on the road thinking they are driving around in a stunt movie. More and more tourists are finding their way to this little paradise and traffic gets busier. Drive carefully and simply look around you. Many tourists are bandaged and that is most likely not from diving or drinking cocktails on the beach. Sadly accidents are very common. Don’t let your holiday be ruined by a bike accident!
Keep in mind that despite the fact that you hardly see anyone wearing a helmet, it is officially illegal to drive without!
In case something might happen be honest about it when handing in the motorbike. Don’t try to hide it, these Thai guys know exactly what they are doing! Act like an adult admitting your mistake. Arguing with someone who holds your passport is not the smartest thing to do anyway. You were well aware of the consequences when you rented the motorbike; you even signed the document stating what happens in case of an accident. Try to change your attitude and be funny about it, you might get discounted!
A couple years ago I scratched my motorbike as I drove up an extremely steep road. It was impossible to make it, but I still wanted to give it a try. I ended up tumbling into the bushes and slid down the hill together with my motorbike. Luckily only a couple parts on the bottom were scratched but nothing too bad. As I handed in my motorbike I told the guy what happened he took a quick look and smiled. Nothing too bad he said and he told me he was not replacing the scratched items. Therefore he charged me only 50% and I ended up paying only US$20.
Longer on the island than a week or two? Consider buying a scooter and selling it at the end of your stay. Go and take a look at the Koh Tao trader Facebook page and you might find a bargain!