For many people, including myself, the first time I drove a scooter was in Thailand.
The sense of freedom you get with a scooter is unmatched. Depending on where you are in Thailand, you will save SO much money renting a scooter compared to taking a taxi, and in the more remote areas, there ARE no taxis!
But can you get away with renting a scooter in Thailand without a license?
You do not need a driver’s license to rent a scooter in Thailand. Although if you are stopped by the Thai road police and do not have an international driving license, you will have to pay a fine of around 500 Baht ($13.16).
I’ve taken out scooters all over Thailand, in Chiang Mai, Pai, Surat Thani, and Koh Phangan, and I have NEVER been asked for a valid motorbike license to rent.
Thailand is not like the west. Laws are far more relaxed here. I guarantee that 99.99% of motorbike agencies will never ask for a license. Most of the time, they are family-run businesses.
Before you go anywhere, I will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do when renting a Moped in Thailand, based on my experience and what will happen if you get stopped by the police.
How to Rent a Scooter in Thailand (Best Practices)
Many motorbike agencies will ask for your passport as a deposit for the bike.
NEVER EVER DO THIS!
Your passport is worth a LOT of money in the black market, specifically the darknet (the section of the internet you cannot access via Google). And a fake UK passport is worth between $1792-$3490! But, of course, a stolen real passport is worth even more.
Thailand has some of the highest numbers of stolen and forged passports worldwide. This 2014 article from the Guardian described passport theft in Thailand as a “regular occurrence” after it was revealed that two men used fake passports stolen in Phuket to board the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared during a flight from Malaysia to Beijing in March of 2014.
Do you wonder why this happens? Foreigners are TOO eager to give their passports to any random bike shop.
Even worse are passport scams. Motorbike rental agencies will ask for ridiculous sums of money to return the passport. Google reviews have made these scams rarer, but they still happen.
Always argue for a cash deposit instead of a passport. Typically this deposit changes depending on the bike. For example, a normal Honda Click 125CC will be about 5000 Baht.
I’m currently paying 5500/month for my bungalow and motorbike. In this case, my deposit was 2000 plus my UK driver’s license, and I live in the motorbike agency, so I trust the landlord with my driver’s license.
Giving your driving license or another form of ID will be accepted in many places. However, losing your driving license compared to a passport is better if you think the deposit is too much to pay, and it’s nowhere near as big of a deal.
Your best option is to search for motorbike rental agencies in Google maps and pick the one with the best reviews. Remember, motorbike rental agencies are VERY common in Thailand. If one is refusing a cash deposit instead of a passport, look around and find an agent who will accept your terms.
In Thailand, you must pick the best way to spend your money, as many cards from your own country will cost you a fortune in fees. So I switched to Revolut as the main way I spend my money in Thailand, and I couldn’t be happier. Learn more about the world’s best global bank in my helpful article.
What Happens if You Get Stopped Without a Motorcycle License in Thailand?
The worst-case scenario is you get caught at a random traffic police stop, where the traffic police will search you for drugs and ask for an international motorbike license.
I lived in Chiang Mai for around two weeks and only got caught in a police stop once. You can either pay when you’re stopped (I didn’t have 500) or at the police station within 48 hours of when you were stopped.
Police stops happen once a week, although I recommend joining a Digital Nomad Whatsapp group to get notified of where one appears.
During peak school times (before nine and after three), the traffic police are occupied dealing with schools, likely you will not get stopped during these times.
Police stops exist only in areas where many foreigners live or travel, such as Chiang Mai or Phuket. I highly doubt the traffic police will stop you outside major tourist areas. I live on a Thai island and barely see the police, let alone get stopped.
If you get stopped without a license, always remain calm and listen to the officer. NEVER get angry, as this will only end badly for you.
Getting a Thai international motorbike license isn’t even hard, you do it via an agency in most major cities, and it only costs around 2000 Baht. With it, you can take out motorbikes worldwide and drive freely in Thailand, knowing a traffic police officer can do NOTHING to you.