How to Hire Scooters in Chiang Mai, Thailand

December 9, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Thailand

Scooter Rental Chiang Mai. It was always a must do on my bucket list. In fact, before leaving Australia I specifically went out and got my motorbike license, just so I could ride them! As an exchange student in Bolivia some 22 years ago, riding motorbikes and scooters was a part of the experience that I loved and something I wanted to include in our adventure as a family. Today we share tips for hiring scooters and motorcycles in Chiang Mai.

Scooter Rental Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is an amazing city. In the old city area, everything is within easy walking distance, however to save money we had chosen to rent a few kilometers out of the city through AirBnB (if you’ve not yet discovered the joy of AirBnB, click here to save money on your first stay!) But this did mean that getting around was a little more difficult.

Motorbike parking at our AirBnB

From the many westerners we’d spoken to, we knew we could rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai quite easily, so we weren’t at all worried about our distance from town. However, in the lead up to our arrival, we began researching, and it was at that point our plans got a little shaky.

Why you should reconsider Chiang Mai Motorcycle Rental

Researching Chiang Mai scooter rental before we arrived did nothing but scare the living daylights out of me (find out more details at Chiang Mai Buddy). We’ve all heard stories of tourists riding scooters and motorbikes in South East Asia. As I quickly discovered the internet is rife with stories of horrific accidents and shonky hire businesses, scamming unknowing victims and leaving them with thousands of dollars of repair bills. The more I read, the worse things sounded, and I’d all but decided not to go ahead. I was excited to include scooters in our adventure, but the dream didn’t include hurting our wallets!

If you want an example of what I’m talking about, check this out!

The Dangers of Motorcycle Rental in Chiang Mai

Motorbikes and Scooters are everywhere!

The Roads can be Dangerous

Local roads in Chiang Mai have seen better days, and often fall into disrepair. Potholes and obstacles are not unusual and it wouldn’t take much for riders accustomed to smooth, well-maintained roads to take a tumble.

Rental Businesses Could Scam You

Scams are a fact of life for tourists in Thailand (did you see we got scammed in Bangkok?) – and the popularity of Chiang Mai motorbike rental makes for an industry full of scammers, conmen, and shonky businesses. As you stroll the streets of Chiang Mai bike rental shops appear every few steps, all with a small fleet of bikes for rent, and all places will off you hire deals and super low prices. They will promise you a scooter you will love, at a super cheap price, but not is all as it seems!

Scooter hire businesses are EVERYWHERE in Chiang Mai with scooter starting at 150 – 200 baht day

Poor quality bikes, bikes in need of mainenance and repairs and bikes that are just downright unsafe, are not uncommon and the unsuspecting, excited tourist may not appreciate this fact until after they have rented and fallen victim to a con. It is not unheard of for tourists to ride away on an unsafe bike and later need to pay a high price for repairs, or worse, be involved in an accident. In reality you get what you pay for.

This is not to say that all, or even the majority of Chiang Mai scooter hire businesses do the wrong thing – just that you need to be careful you aren’t caught out by one that does.

Thai Drivers can be CRAZY

As a spectator on the sidewalk or in a car, watching Thai drivers and the way they behave, one can be forgiven for thinking that Thai drivers are a crazy bunch. Close calls and near misses are not unusual, but as we discovered during our research, Thai’s consider these incidents lucky! Where we may think “wow, I nearly had an accident, next time I should be more careful”, a Thai local would think “wow, I nearly had an accident – I could have been hurt but I wasn’t. I am such a lucky person – luck is on my side”. They then go on their merry way, without feeling any need to learn from the experience!

The Police Could Fine You

On the spot fines (otherwise known as bribes) aren’t unheard of in Chiang Mai, in fact they are a serious issue. As a tourist, you stick out like a sore thumb, so if you stumble across a corrupt cop, the possibility of being stopped and inspected is a real reality!

The Way They Drive Doesn’t Make Sense!

The road rules in Chiang Mai (and I suppose Thailand for that matter) are extremely different to road rules at home. In fact, there are many rules at home that are the complete opposite to the way locals drive in Chiang Mai. Turning right at an intersection? Why on earth would you wait for cars driving straight ahead to pass? Just make your turn… they’ll wait for you!

Why we Decided to Go Ahead Anyway

When we finally arrived in Chiang Mai and spent a few days wandering around (on foot), it quickly became apparent that motorbike rental in Chiang Mai might still be a possibility for us. While there are certainly issues that we needed to consider, things weren’t as bad as we expected.

Having spent years on the road as part of my employment and now having driven in many crazy situations across the globe, for the most part, the traffic in Chiang Mai wasn’t nearly as crazy as we’d heard. Sure, around the outside of the old city could be busy, but there was still a sense of order amongst the chaos, which we could appreciate as a result of our experience.

With appropriate precautions, we were able to avoid any dramas and enjoy a fun and exciting adventure – including a couple of our own Chiang Mai motorcycle tours stretching out on the highway to the countryside.

Our bikes, courtesy of Chiang Mai Scooter Rental

How to avoid problems with scooter hire in Chiang Mai

If you do want to rent a motorbike in Chiang Mai, it is important that you are prepared. Know what you are in for and know how to avoid problems before they occur.

Take Your Time

The one thing you have going for you while in Chiang Mai is that you are more than likely on vacation. You have the time to slow down and take your time as you ride the streets. Leave plenty of space between yourself and other vehicles, slow down sooner rather than later, and enjoy a slower pace, all of which will give you time to react if things don’t quite go to plan.

Rent From a Reputable Company

While there are certainly businesses out there offering super cheap costs and are ready to scam you, there are also plenty that provide incredible service and make it their goal to help you rent a fantastic bike so you can enjoy your travels. These companies will have excellent insurance policies in place and by renting from a reputable company it will make sure that if things do go wrong or you breakdown, you are protected and not likely to be taken advantage of.

All popular models are available and most companies have a wide selection. Models include Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha. Automatic, semi-automatic and manual motorbikes are all available. Obviously, the larger the motorbike, the more the shop will charge you, for both the rental and the insurance.

Three popular, and reputable companies include:

1) Chiang Mai Scooter Rental

Chiang Mai Scooter Rental was the company that ultimately we chose to go through, and we were extremely impressed with the friendly service from their staff (you guys were the best – thanks!) The quality of the bikes was exceptional (both of ours were newer than most – less than 12 months old and in very good condition), they included free delivery and pick up at your accommodation (just message them your address), they treat their customers well and their prices were extremely competitive!

They took the time to answer any questions we had before we hired, had excellent English (which in this instance really does matter) and went out of their way to make our experience a good one.

We paid a 3000 baht ($AUD110/$USD85) cash deposit and knew ahead of time the costs of repairs or replacement in the event of an accident or theft. Please note that you will need to make sure you have your own copy of your passport and you will be required to pay for the bikes in cash at drop off. When you return the bike you’ll receive cash back.


They also have an excellent presence on Facebook, with over 40,000 followers, loads of positive comments and 130+ 5-star reviews, and can be very easily contacted (apparently at any time night or day I discovered).

You are able to lease bikes daily, or for whatever period you choose, but weekly and monthly rental options do attract a discount. The longer you hire, the more you save! (don’t forget to ask for it!).

Please note though, Chiang Mai Scooter Rental are VERY popular which means availability can be limited. You may have to wait a few days before you can hire a bike but you can contact them online a month or so before you arrive to order delivery to your hotel the day you arrive!

Chiang Mai Scooter Rental had an excellent range of 115cc and 125cc scooter options available for hire. If scooters aren’t your style and you are looking for a big bike with more power and gears, you may need to look at an alternative company.

For full details – visit them on Facebook here.

2) Mr Mechanic Chiang Mai

When we initially researched scooter hire in Chiang Mai, Mr Mechanic Chaing Mai was certainly one that stood out. Many expat forums recommend them and when we visited their outlets we were impressed by both the quality of their bikes and their customer service.

scooter rental chiang mai

Prices at Mr Mechanic Chiang Mai were on the higher side (which is a distinct difference to the shonky stores and their bargain basement prices), which for us, on our strict budget put them out of the running, however by all accounts, when it comes to finding a trustworthy business, they are one to be considered for scooter hire in Chiang Mai.

For full details visit them here.

3) Pop Motorcycle Rental Chiang Mai

Another popular business for scooter rental in Chiang Mai is Pop Motorcycle Rental Chiang Mai.

Pop Motorcycle Rental Chiang Mai offer both cars, scooters and motorbikes at really reasonable prices – and a fantastic website with full details to help clients make an informed decision.

The customer service was fantastic when I made an email inquiry, responses were quick and their English was also quite good. Their pricing was also quite competitive.

For full details visit them here.

Get your licence!

If you already have your licence, they you’re half way there, but if not, and you have any desire to ride automatic scooters in Chiang Mai, start off by getting your motorbike license. It may sound obvious however many excited people arrive in Chiang Mai each day, and jump on a motorbike without any prior experience (and have a greater chance of an accident). This is not only dangerous for them, but for those around them.

The other major benefit of having your license is that you are then covered by travel insurance. Sadly many tourists make the choice to take off on a scooter, only to discover later that without a FULL motorcycle license, travel insurance will be useless in the event of an accident. And that is not something you want to discover after the fact!

Another interesting point worth noting is that a standard car or motorbike license, does not always meet requirements in many parts of the world, whereas an “International License” is. For us in Australia this meant getting a passport photo, visiting our local automotive club, paying $35 and having them fill out a little book. Why this is any better than our official Drivers Licence I will never understand, but if pulled up, it’s better to have it than not.

Be Prepared to Pay a Fine

If you do happen to be pulled up by a Police officer, don’t argue with them. Just pay the fine and be on your way. For the most part, the fines are a few hundred baht, which is less than $AUD15/$USD10. Don’t make a big deal of it and you will be on your way quickly and easily.

We got trailed by police on motorbikes a couple of times, but cute little Sienna smiled politely, waved and said hello in Thai, and we were never pulled up. Whether it was because of Sienna or not we will never know, but there’s no harm in trying! LOL

Wear a Helmet!

Many people don’t wear a helmet, but I’ll be they have a lot more experience than you, given that scooters and motorcycles are a way of life. Despite this, why would you take the risk? Make sure you put your helmet on when riding your scooter!

Get Insurance

It will cost you a little extra for this but, at a minimum, make sure you get insurance for coverage against personal injury. Look out for signs in English with detailed info. Generally, shop owners may not have any concern for your personal safety and they will let you ride off without it, but the last thing you want is to discover the bike you hired has existing safety issues that lead to an accident. It really doesn’t add a huge amount over the base price and with insurance you will have more peace of mind!

Photograph your Bike

One of the scams that occurs in Chiang Mai (by less reputable companies) is that they rent you a bike and they then claim you’ve done damage upon it’s return, resulting in demands for payment. By taking photographs of the condition and quality of your bike (from all angles), and your helmet, you can use these as evidence in the unlikely event of this occuring. Be sure to do it as soon as you get the bike (even in front of the salesperson) especially so that the photographs are electronically dated. Besides, if they see you take photos, they are far less likely to both you later!

Photograph your bike from lots of angles!

Drive Like a Local

This may sound ridiculous but on the few occasions that I didn’t, the locals didn’t like it at all. At home in Australia, I hate it when motorbike riders sneak past cars at the lights. But in Chiang Mai, being a polite, patient rider just got me honked at. So follow the locals and do what they do. Let them lead the way and go with the flow. For what it’s worth, in Chiang Mai, ALL motorbikes ride through the gaps past cars, and traffic lights always have a mass of bikes in the lead.

Motorcycle Rental Chiang Mai – What does it Cost?

Chiang Mai bike rental doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact if you need to use their public transport (tuk tuk or songthaews) regularly, scooter hire in Chiang Mai can be extremely economical (and can also be considered entertainment while you’re there!)

For the small scooters we hired, we paid 1100 baht per bike, for 7 days ($AUD40/$USD30)! A cash deposit is necessary and can be paid at the time of delivery.

Should you Consider Scooter Rental in Chiang Mai?

At the end of the day, all the decisions are yours, but with careful preparation, sensible driving and a few safety tips and tricks, scooter rental in Chiang Mai can be a whole lot of fun. We enjoyed every second of our adventure… from getting our bikes to cruising the streets of Chiang Mai!

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