Luckily for myself, before I moved here to Phuket I rode a motorcycle back in my home country for many years. However, there seems to be a large number of people who arrive, not only to Phuket, but to many of Thailand’s other tourist destinations, that believe it is ideal to rent and ride a motorbike having no experience of driving a motorbike whatsoever. Moreover, they seem to think it’s safe to do so, A) without a crash helmet and B) under the influence of alcohol, late at night & C) without the required insurance.
There are a number of people who blame the island’s lack of public transport for the need for these people to rent motorbikes whilst here. However, it doesn’t take a lot of time searching on the internet to know about the island’s public transport, and in my opinion these people know full well they are going to rent a motorbike long before they arrive here.
As I said at the beginning of this article, I rode a motorbike long before I came to Thailand, and I rode a motorbike many times on my visits to various provinces in Thailand before I moved here. So once again in my opinion, I am educated and have experienced enough to give those of you who want it some advice on riding a motorbike on this paradise island. If you don’t want take my advice, the island may not end up being the paradise you intended it to be, and unfortunately, there are many who find this out many times every day.
- Ask yourself; is it the law you wear a crash helmet in your home country? It is also the law to wear a crash helmet in Thailand, and here in Phuket there is a continuing campaign to have 100% of people riding motorbikes wearing helmets. Just because you see people disregarding the law, especially if you happen to be staying in, or even passing through areas such as Rawai or Nai Harn, where there are an extremely large number of people, who are, and I’m sad to say it, westerners, who think it’s not necessary wear a helmet, DO NOT JOIN THEM, wearing a helmet, whether you think you look stupid or not, could save your life.
- When I was taking riding lessons in England, one of the first things they try to get into your head was to cover up. The way in which they done this were to remind you of when you were young and you came of your bicycle. Going at a speed of probably not even 5MPH just remember what happened to your skin. So now imagine it if you’re going at a speed of 30MPH or for those stupid enough, faster. Yes I appreciate that it’s hot, but try to cover up as much as possible. This will not only save the amount of cuts and grazes you will suffer, it will also protect you from the sun, and will reduce the amount of cleaning out of sand and gravel the hospital has to do, thus reducing your hospital medical bill.
- Do you drink and drive/ride at home? There are obviously some that would be prepared to admit that they do, but I’m hoping that there are a larger number that say they don’t. So why would you risk doing it here? We all know what the results can be of drinking and driving so I don’t need to explain. If you want to have a drink, which most of you probably do, do so making sure you don’t have to ride a motorbike at the end of the night.
- Please check your insurance coverage. There has been a growing number of news reports here where those unlucky enough to have been involved in accidents when riding a motorbike, have ridden in the belief they had full insurance coverage, including riding a motorbike. However, it does not come to light until they’re involved in an accident that this cover is not included or specifically excluded. Check your policy as soon as you can, and if it’s not clear make sure you get in touch with the insurance company to check. Don’t leave it too late and end up in hospital with bills that your insurance policy will not pay, and believe me they can be large. There are some that have ended up with bills that they have had to be paid by raising funds by any means possible.
Those are some simple actions which everybody can take to ensure they are a little safer when riding a bike here. What’s not so easy, and believe me they do take some time to get use to, are the rules of the road in Thailand. The rules of the road as you know them are not the rules of the road in Thailand. Here are just a few of the major Thai road rules you should look out for.
Patience is a virtue – not on the Thai roads. Everybody wants to be in front and this will be achieved in any way possible. If they feel there is a way of getting in front of you, however dangerous in our eyes, they will do it.
Red lights don’t mean stop – well they do, but as a when people want them to. This is one of my main causes of concern, and you can see why whilst waiting at any set of traffic lights, especially at the main crossroad where bypass road crosses at Tesco Lotus. More than often, when waiting at this junction your lights would have been green for at least 6 or 7 seconds and there are still vehicles flying past, obviously through lights which have turned red a good 5 seconds before yours have turned green. What’s even more surprising is the number of people on bikes who are unwilling to wait for the lights to go green before speeding across the road, quite a lethal combination when you think about it! Don’t be tempted to follow the crowd and don’t fly off as soon as the lights have turned green, make sure the all the traffic has stopped before moving of.
Some people are more than willing to cut corners. On divided highways, it is perfectly normal for people to drive the wrong side of the road if the place they are trying to get to is much closer than the next U-turn. And no they don’t slow down because they are doing so.
It’s a junction you have the right of way – not in Thailand. There is one very fine example of this very close to my house, a T-Junction. The rule of the law says if you are approaching a T junction, the traffic already on the road you are joining has right of way. This means any traffic on the road ending at the junction must wait for the other traffic to pass before turning left or right. I have lost count of how many times people have not stopped when they should have at this junction, and the first time it resulted in me breaking sharply, losing control and dropping the bike, and no the car didn’t stop to make sure I was OK. Now I have to stop at this junction just as a safety precaution for myself, as I can guarantee that should a vehicle be approaching 99 times out of 100 they won’t stop.
As a final pointer, if someone flashes you when you’re waiting to come out of a junction, they are not flashing you to let you go, they’re flashing to warn you they’re coming at a ridiculously stupid speed and aren’t going to stop.
If you have come here on holiday with no experience of riding a motorbike, please think again before renting one, it really isn’t as simple as it seems, and sometimes it certainly doesn’t end up the pleasant experience you expected it to be.
If you’re here and you have ridden a motorbike before, please do so as you would in your own country.
Phuketindex.com fully supports the 100% helmets campaign.