What it's like to drive a Motorbike in Bangkok ?
Even if on paper driving a motorbike in Bangkok can seem like the worst idea you can ever get… it’s not as bad as it seems.
Trust me, I've been driving motorbikes in Thailand since 2016 and that's for me the best way to get around the city.
I must admit there’s a lot to figure out and it takes practice, but Bangkok is definitely made for motorbikes !
Have you seen the traffic in Bangkok?
When I get asked what's the worst thing about Bangkok, my first answer is always the traffic.
But even though it's seems crazy and messy, it's actually quite easy to get around with a motorbike.
I know it looks bad from the sidewalk, I know you're gonna think I'm crazy.
Traffic is Bangkok and Thailand is one of the worst in the world and the country rank 2nd for Death on the Roads (after Libya).
But sitting in a car or trying to get in the BTS (Skytrain) at rush hour will drive you mad.
At least if you got a motorbike in Bangkok, you’re (almost) always moving.
It will probably take you some time to get use to the traffic and the way people drive, but in the end if will not only give you a new way to discover the city but also save you a lot of time and money.
You don’t need experience to drive in Bangkok
Wait before you burn me alive !
I’m not saying you should rent a scooter and start driving right away across Bangkok.
But whenever I read that it’s dangerous to learn driving here, I have to disagree.
It's like everywhere else when you got no experience.
Honestly, if you’re careful and take your time, you can do it too.
I’ve done it, and so did a lot of my friends.
I never drove a scooter or a motorbike before I came to Thailand.
After 2 years here I’m driving everywhere, everyday. I’m not talking going to work and back. I drove over 6,000 kilometers last year in Bangkok alone.
And if I can do, so can you.
Start by driving in an empty street and get used to how the bike feel.
Learn to turn, brake, find your balance… Then take the motorbike for a short trip.
Drive at a time where there’s no or little traffic. Driving at night is great to practice.
Now focus on your bike and on using your mirrors or turning your head (I don’t use my mirrors) before you turn.
Then don’t worry too much about the others, if they want to overtake you, turn, etc… they’ll find a way.
Focus on you and your bike first and stay focus.
There's a lot happening around you but you will get used to it and the way people behave.
Oh, and wear a helmet ! It’s not optional.
Tips to drive a motorbike in Bangkok
There’s organization in chaos, even in Bangkok's traffic.
When you see it from the sidewalk it really seems like madness, but when you ride a motorbike and you’re in the middle of it, you find some logic to it.
🚸A few tips:
- 🚖 Don’t overtake a taxi by the left, because they can decide to stop anytime to pickup or drop a client. No worth the risk.
- 🚍 Buses (often) don’t respect anything or anyone, always stay away from them.
- 🏍Park in front of a 7/11 if you don’t know where to park. (there’s always one nearby)
- 🛑 Don’t drive faster than necessary. It can be tempting to drive 100km/h when the road is clear but with things coming from every sides, that’s not the best idea.
- 👀 Stay Focus, pay attention to everything.
- 🤔Go with your guts. Sometimes, hesitating is the worth thing you can do. Either you go all in or you don’t.
Or and if you're living here, get your Thai Driving License.
Choose your motorbike carefully
If you spend all your day driving in Bangkok’s traffic, you better have a really small motorbike or a scooter that can squeeze anywhere.
That will save you precious minutes and even probably help you to avoid a ton of accidents.
We all want big bikes that look dope and impress people, but it’s no use if you get stuck in the traffic because it’s too large. Think about it. 👊
And if you got no experience with bikes and scooters (like me), buy a second hand.
Get something that is common and cheap to fix.
I never had any accident but my bike fell, I broke it during the floods, bumped into holes…
When that happen you’re happy to be able to fix it for next to nothing at any local shop. Trust me.
Don’t Drink and Drive
Anyone who has been in Thailand know someone who have a story with a ladyboy and someone who had a motorbike accident.
Most of the time here you drive without the necessary equipment, because it’s hot and because we don’t think about the risk.
One of my friend had a bad scooter accident after a night out and he’s still recovering from it years later (Hi Adrien). He lost mobility in his left leg and arm and had to go back to France to get treated.
I don’t say that to scare you, but keep in mind that it can happen to anyone, so stay careful at all time, don’t take unnecessary risks.
And in Thailand more than anywhere else, take a taxi if you don’t feel like driving or if you’re out partying. (this 60฿ for a ride home can save you from a lot of trouble)
Should you drive a motorbike in Bangkok?
At the end of the day, It’s up to you. But I would suggest you give it a shot !
It doesn’t have to be a motorbike, even a scooter would be better than wasting time stuck in the taxi or BTS.
Bangkok is perfect to ride a motorbike. It’s always at least 30 degrees everyday, you won’t get cold, and you will even get some air.
It’s also super convenient.. You got free or cheap parking in most places. (cars have to pay).
For me it’s by far the best way to get around Bangkok.
It’s without doubt the fastest and the cheapest too.
I spend maximum 300฿ in gas every month (more about my cost of living in Bangkok), I can spend that in 2 days or less if I take the BTS or a Taxi.
You also won’t get too stuck in traffic. Most of the time you will always find ways to keep moving.
It is still better than doing 500m in 1 hour in a taxi or being pressed between 100 people in the BTS.
Would you drive a motorbike in Bangkok?
Thanks for reading that post.
To know more about what life as an expat in Bangkok is like, check the rest of the blog, I've got a ton of posts about that.
And let me know in the comments, would you drive in Bangkok ?
I'm curious to get your take on that.