I’ve driven a motorbike in many areas of Thailand, from Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan.
I’ve also been stopped by the police in Chiang Mai while riding, so I know the answer to if you NEED to wear a helmet in Thailand.
According to Thai law, motorbike drivers and their passengers must wear helmets. However, the vast majority of motorcyclists and passengers do NOT wear helmets. So in some areas like Phuket, police launched a 100% helmet campaign where you can be fined if you don’t wear a helmet.
I do not wear a helmet. When I got stopped by the Thai police in Chiang Mai, the police did not care about me not wearing a helmet. He stopped me to verify if I had a motorcycle license. What happened to me? You can read my article to find out.
Don’t go anywhere. This article will detail whether wearing helmets is mandatory and who is exempt from wearing a motorcycle helmet in Thailand.
Are Motorcycle Helmets Required in Thailand?
In 2011 Thailand’s Labour Ministry Instructed all employers to promote the use of helmets. Violators will face a fine for breaking the law and be liable for disciplinary action from their employer.
Fast forward more than a decade later, and barely anyone wears helmets in Thailand. Admittedly, helmet use is more common in Bangkok than where I live in Koh Phangan, but it’s still common to ride without one.
Thai law states that all passengers should wear a helmet. However, I’ve taken countless Grab Motorbike Taxis in Bangkok, and only a few times did the driver give me a helmet to wear. So technically, this is breaking the law.
Compare this to taking motorbike taxis where I used to stay in Medellin, Colombia, and EVERY time the driver would give me a helmet to wear.
It’s just not part of the culture. I understand why Thai people don’t wear helmets, and it’s because of peripheral vision. If you crash, the most likely reason is you didn’t see something in the corner of your eye.
When I see foreigners riding a motorbike for the first time, wearing the BIG helmets that obscure their vision, I guarantee this causes more accidents than it prevents. Below is a helmet you SHOULD NOT wear if you can’t drive a motorbike.
I’m not saying not to wear a helmet, but if you’re a new driver, you MUST develop a 360-degree awareness of your surroundings, which a lot of people lack because of smartphones.
You may think you are more protected, but a full-face helmet completely blocks your 360 vision. You do NOT want this, especially when driving in difficult areas with sharp downward turns like some parts of Koh Phangan.
The helmet above is designed for protection when driving 60+ MPH(100KM) on flat roads on the freeway, not for everyday 24mph-50mph (40-80km) driving which is the speed you will usually drive.
I’m not saying DON’T wear a helmet; I understand you feel safer wearing one. Instead, pick a helmet like the one below. It will offer protection while giving you the 360-degree view you need while driving, especially when you are a beginner driver.
I know you want to drive a motorbike in Thailand. A common question is whether renting or buying a motorbike outright is better. To discover the truth, you can read my helpful article.
Who Is Exempt From Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet in Thailand?
According To Thai Law, only monks and priests are exempt from wearing helmets.
In an article by the Bangkok Post, Wittaya Chadbanchachai, director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre and Khon Kaen Hospital Trauma and Critical Care Centre, said 2,500 Thais aged under 15 die every year from motorcycle accidents.
It is not uncommon to see entire families, mum, dad, brother, sister, and occasional dogs all be driven on a 125cc Honda Click ALL without helmets. I guarantee I will see that today on the road, except maybe the pet.
Kelly Larson, Director of Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety, said the following about the official figures from Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, which shows the percentage of motorcyclists wearing helmets in Bangkok has increased from 56% in July 2015 to 65% in June 2018.
We follow these campaigns with the help of the Royal Thai Police in toughening the enforcement on traffic law, and we do see results.Kelly Larson
I’ve noticed this myself. In Bangkok in 2022, most people on the road wore helmets, aside from motorcycle taxi passengers, which is still breaking Thai law.
However, as I write this article, I’m looking outside the window of a coffee shop and filming a quick video that you can see, which shows NO-ONE wearing a helmet.
In the VAST majority of Thailand, while it may be ‘illegal’ to wear a helmet, barely anyone does, as the law is not enforced aside from a few areas like Bangkok and Phuket.
I’m an experienced traveler. So it blows my mind when I see seemingly intelligent people use normal bank debit cards, which charge ridiculous fees abroad and cost the user thousands $.
Want to know the BEST way to spend your money in Thailand and anywhere else? Look no further than my insightful article here.