Driving a motorbike in Bangkok isn’t such a bad idea
Even if on paper riding a motorbike in Bangkok can seem like the worst idea you can ever get… it’s not as bad as it seems.
I admit there’s a lot to figure out and it takes practice, but this city 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 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 take you some time to get use to the traffic and how people drive, but in the end you will save countless time and ฿฿฿.
You don’t need experience to drive in Bangkok
Wait before you burn me alive! I’m not saying you should take a scooter and start driving right away across Bangkok.
But whenever I read that it’s dangerous to learn driving here, well, it's like everywhere else when you got no experience.
But 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 I’m driving everywhere, everyday. I’m not talking going to work and back. I’m drove over 6,000 kms last year, only in the city.
Start by driving in an empty street, get used to it.
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. Night time is great for 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 to people behavior.
Oh, and wear a helmet! It’s not optional.
There’s organization in Chaos, even in Bangkok traffic
When you see it from the sidewalk it really seems like Chaos, 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 pull anytime to pickup or drop a customer.
- Buses (often) don’t respect anything or anyone, always keep your distance with 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. I 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.
Choose your motorbike carefully
If you spend all your day in Bangkok’s traffic, which is really horrible, you better have a really small motorbike or scooter than can squeeze anywhere.
That will save you precious minutes and even probably allow you to avoid 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 a year 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 partying. (this 60฿ for 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° 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 400฿ in gas every months (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 be 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 in Bangkok?
Let me know in the comments, I'm curious to get your take on that.