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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hiring a Motorbike around Pattaya

Hiring a Motorbike around Pattaya

Many people who come to Thailand, and particularly Pattaya, for a holiday see all the local people going around on motorbikes, many without helmets, the ladies balancing gracefully sideways on the back. They see whole families of four or even five all on the same bike.

Many people visiting Pattaya and seeing these sights think it would be a good idea to rent a motorbike for a day or week. They are jolly cheap to hire. You can get one for 150/180 baht a day or less, and discounts are given for weekly or longer rental.

This saves you having to get a baht taxi (10 baht) or motorbike taxi (30/60 baht depending upon distance), and gives you a certain independence even though taxis and motorbike taxis are everywhere.

One of the many motorbikes for rent in Pattaya

However, before you take this course you may want to bear a couple of things in mind. The traffic in Pattaya can be lethal, and indeed the number of fatalities not only in the city itself but especially on Sukhumvit (the 4 carriageway each way main road) are frightening.

Small accidents are commonplace and can, due to the very heavy traffic at times, not only spoil your holiday but put you in intensive care in one of the local hospitals.

The quality of medical care in Pattaya is very high, fortunately, but if you are not insured for medical expenses this could cost you an arm and a leg, literally. The top hospitals are of international standard, but so are their charges.

The local hospitals are very good and cheaper, but many westerners are not keen on staying in a place where most people don’t speak their language and the food is very local.

Motorbike insurance is often not part of the hiring package, or if it is it is not exactly fully comprehensive. If you do hire a bike (the same applies for cars too) please do spend some time looking at the insurance aspect of what you are getting for your money.

Also have a good look at your own personal holiday accident cover. You could discover that it does not include riding a motorbike or that these machines are classed as “dangerous sports”. Sounds stupid doesn’t it but many people have ignored these clauses at their peril and ended up having to foot the bills for their own stays in hospital.

Another important thing to remember is that most Thais who you are likely to ‘run into’ or indeed ‘run into you’ probably have not got a lot of money and are frequently uninsured themselves, whether they are driving a car, truck or motorbike. It’s no good proving an accident is their fault if you are not going to receive medical fees for your injuries, let alone compensation.

Taking all the above into consideration, if you are already proficient on a motorbike in your own country and want to have a go it can be quite fun as long as you don’t try to ride like the locals do. They have been riding these things almost since birth and they understand the way the local traffic works. You don’t!

Apart from driving on the left hand side of the road, which is OK if you come from Britain or one of the other few countries who do this, road etiquette in general is completely different from at ‘home’. You will be undertaken and overtaken, squeezed past in the tiniest gap, be forced to wait for pedestrians, cars, local bikes and trucks, taxis and motorbike taxis who know what they are doing.

Before renting a motorbike it’s quite a good idea to get a motorbike taxi around a couple of places at busy times so that you can get the hang of the traffic. This could save you an awful lot of aggravation later.

Oh, and do wear a helmet. Pattaya police often have spot checks on helmets for you and your passenger. Fine 200baht each (cash), a lot of hassle, your bike will be inspected and the least infringement will ensure further fines, particularly if you are a ‘rich foreigner’.

I’ve personally seen almost 20 motor bikers, both Thai and Foreign stopped for helmet infringements in less than an hour. Of course it’s much safer as well if you do happen to be run into.