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Renting a scooter in Asia – Tips and Tricks

Renting a scooter, moped or motorcycle is a very common thing to do in South East Asia. It gives you extra freedom and it’s fun! On the downside, driving a motorbike can be unsafe, there are many accidents and even deaths resulting from tourists on their bikes. In this blog we discuss all the pros, cons, Q&A’s and tips for renting and driving a scooter in South East Asia.


Experiencing the real freedom of travel – when you have access to your own means of transportation, you can go anywhere, anytime you want. This gives you a tremendous amount of freedom and will help you be even more independent whilst travelling.

Exploring off the beaten track – with freedom and independence comes the advantage of being able to explore the country outside of the tourist area’s. Just jump on the bike and start driving. Ensure you keep track of your whereabouts so you can make your way back home.

Cheap as chips – literally, for a few dollars a day you can enjoy the convenience of a scooter. We have never paid more than 6$ a day for a bike. Fuel is available everywhere along the road and almost costs nothing. Read more about fuel in our tips later on.

Always available – we have never experienced unavailability when renting a scooter. Taxi’s on the other hand are more difficult to get when you’re in a busy city. When talking about taxi’s, with apps like Grab and GoBike, you can easily book an instant scooter taxi for cheap.

Fast and easy – if you have ever seen traffic in S.E Asia you know it is very busy and hectic. Being stuck in a car is the worst when seeing all the motorbikes passing you by. We have put this to the test and on short distance trips you will arrive significantly quicker when taking the bike instead of a car.

Renting a scooter in Asia


Dangerous  driving a scooter or motorbike in S.E Asia can be very dangerous. In fact, motorcycles are 38 times more dangerous than driving a car and especially in S.E Asia where lunatics seem to take over the road. When travelling you will see multiple people with open arms and legs from accidents which happened on a motorbike. It does not always have to be your fault, but being sensible and knowing the do’s and don’ts already helps to reduce the chance of an accident, read more about this in the tips section.

Tiring – driving a motorbike for long trips can be very tiring, physically and mentally. You will need to pay attention constantly which will take its toll, as well as your body and arms exhausting. Take regular breaks to make sure you don’t get in dangerous situations due to tiredness.

Scams – it is unfortunate but it happens, locals renting out scooters pulling a scam on you. There are multiple ways this can happen to you. They can charge you for damage on the scooter which was already there, subsequently costing a lot of money. Always ensure you have evidence like photos highlighting the damage before you set off or before signing any contract! We have also heard of employers following you and your scooter, stealing the scooter and then making you pay for it. This is definitely worst case scenario but get a chain or locking device to secure your scooter from theft.

One or two people per scooter – alright, we have all seen that locals can fit 5 or 6 people on a scooter, but please don’t try this and follow the rules of the road. You can fit two people per scooter so if you are travelling with a group, you will need a few scooters. This is no problem most of the time but if you want to drink you might want to think of a taxi-van to fit everyone at once.

You can’t drink and drive – as well as everywhere in the world, it is not safe to drink and drive, also in S.E Asia. Of course you can drink one or sometime two during an evening but you don’t want to put yourself and others in danger. If you want to have a few drinks, ask if you can get a ride with a designated driver or take a (scooter) taxi.

Licence and insurance – you need both if you want to rent and drive a scooter in S.E Asia. There are people who drive without it but we would definitely not recommend this. Read more about licence and insurance in the Q&A section.

Breakdowns – it is not uncommon that a motorbike breaks down in S.E. Asia. You can rely on most scooters taking you everywhere you want but sometimes breaking down is just bad luck. Always check your scooter before setting off from the rental company but honestly there is no way to predict whether your scooter will break down.

Breaking down in Asia


What is the difference between moped, scooter and a motorcycle?

When you want to rent a scooter in S.E Asia there is a wide variety of motorbikes available. All have their different positives and negatives and there is a motorcycle for every type of driver.

A moped (motor-pedal) has a smaller engine than a scooter or motorcycle. With a 50cc or smaller engine it usually has a maximum speed of 40mph/64kph. You will only see mopeds in city’s as they do not have the ability or power to drive in the mountains. Mopeds are great for beginner drivers but we tend to go for a bigger engine like a scooter.

Scooters have engines ranging from 50cc to 250cc. They are more powerful than mopeds and widely available throughout S.E Asia. A scooter is our go to means of transport due to the ease of driving and flexibility. Scooters are more manoeuvrable and less complicated than motorcycles, which makes it the perfect mix of speed and comfort.

Motorcycles are usually bigger than scooters and with engines of 250cc and larger they have significantly more power and speed. This is great if you have your motorcycle license but can be challenging for beginner drivers. If you go for long trips or tours through the mountains you would want to consider a motorcycle, for its power and durability.

Last but not least you will sometimes have the choice for the type of motorbike you want. There are three types available; automatic, semi-automatic and manual. With an automatic motorbike you will only have to accelerate and break by hand. A semi-automatic will have gears and a manual has gears and a clutch. The manual motorbikes are more for the advanced driver but from experience, not hard to learn. If you just want a nice city motorbike, go for a automatic so you don’t have to worry about anything else but the road.

Do you need a driving licence to rent a scooter in South-East Asia?

Yes you do! To drive a motorbike in S.E Asia you need a scooter, car or motorcycle driving license. In addition to your license you will need an international driving permit which allows you to drive outside your home-country. These permits are really easy to get and don’t cost much. For UK residents they are available in a Post Office branch that offers the IDP service or online: Dutch residents can get the permit in any ANWB in-store location. Remember to take a recent passport photo and your driving license.

Can I rent a scooter without a license?

Sometimes yes, but you shouldn’t want to. Some shops do not check if you have a valid license when renting a motorbike. The problem is when you get stopped by the police, you will get a big fine when they find out you don’t have a valid license. As well as the insurance, when you have an accident on a motorbike without having a valid license your insurance will not cover you! It is irresponsible and not worth the risk, better safe than sorry.

Do I need insurance when renting a scooter in South-East Asia?

Scooter in Asia

When travelling around the world we always suggest to have a good travel insurance. However, regular travel insurance might not always cover you when something happens. Most insurance will cover you up until 125cc motorbikes as long as you have a valid license and wear the required gear and a helmet. Larger engine bikes can often be covered for an additional premium. Always check with your travel insurance if you are fully insured by accidents and damage.

How and where do I rent a scooter in South-East Asia?

When in S.E Asia you can’t miss the hundreds of shops selling and renting out motorbikes. They are on every street and almost every hostel will have a renting service. Whilst renting through a hostel can be a little more expensive it can be more convenient. The rental company will sometimes bring the bike to you at the hostel.

How much does renting a scooter in South-East Asia cost?

The price for a motorbike depends on the type of motorbike and country. The average scooter will cost 4-6$ per day, and fuel will be around 0.80$ a litre which is again cheap as chips.

What should I wear when driving a scooter in South-East Asia?

The most important garment: a good helmet. Locals and a lot of tourists do not wear helmets, which is very irresponsible. We all know that they’re not that fashionable and comfortable but it really is a must when you’re on (on the back of) a motorbike. When choosing a helmet try to find the right size so it doesn’t slide forward whilst driving. Also, check if the helmet is damaged as this decreases the safety of the helmet drastically. There are full-face helmets available (mostly when renting a motorcycle) and helmets with straps. These straps aren’t for show and please do secure and tighten these for your own safety!

When driving during the day we would recommend wearing sunglasses or a tinted visor (with a full-face helmet). This will help you see with bright sun and stop your eyes watering from the wind and bugs.

Shoes! It sounds silly but wear good shoes when driving a motorbike. Flipflops can fall off and will not help you stand steady when you have to break suddenly or wait for the traffic lights. Shoes will also protect you more if you are unfortunate to have an accident.

The trousers and jackets we wear depends a lot on where we’re driving. For quick trips within the city we tend to just wear shorts and a t-shirt. For longer trips we make sure we have our legs and arms covered, we wear jeans or zip-off trousers and a thin jacket. When making longer trips you are more than likely travelling a longer distance outside the big city where (with the wind) it can be somewhat colder as well. For long trips and tours like the Ha Giang Loop in Northern Vietnam we needed a lot more clothing than expected. The tour takes you through high mountains and therefore it can be very cold. We needed a thick jacket and warm gloves! Just be aware that the clothes you wear also protect you when falling, so it is recommended to always cover your feet, legs and arms. Another thing that most people don’t realise is that it is very rude to drive around shirtless or in a bikini. Especially in places like Bali, the locals are very religious, so please respect the locals and cover yourself accordingly.

Last but certainly not least; sunscreen! When driving you will probably not feel the heat of the sun burning your skin, even more reason to protect yourself from it. Especially when in the mountains (like the Ha Giang Loop) it is very important to use sunblock because of the strong sun. Whatever skin-type you have, it is always important to protect your skin from the sun!

Extra tip: always take a rain-coat/poncho with you, the weather can change very abruptly throughout S.E Asia.

Renting a scooter in Asia

Should I leave a deposit or my passport when I rent a scooter?

Most rental houses require you to leave your passport or something of equal value as a deposit whilst renting a scooter. If possible ask if you can leave a copy of your passport or a cash deposit, we always want to know our passport is safe and not in a sketchy rental shop. We tend to rent scooters via our hostel/hotel where they already have our passport or when it’s not required to leave any extra deposit.


  • When driving in S.E Asia it is actually polite and safer to honk, this way you let the people in front of you know that you’re about to overtake them or when driving around a corner. Don’t take it offensively when people honk at you, it is for everyone’s safety!
  • Experience is convenient but confidence is crucial when driving a motorbike in Asia. Drive with confidence or don’t drive at all!
  • Break with both breaks and not only with one break. Breaking must be done with both breaks to prevent slipping and crashing. Many people only break with one break, even worse their front break which can lead to losing control over the motorbike. The best way is to break with both breaks and a little more with your back break than your front.
  • Never break too suddenly, breaking very abrupt can cause slipping or losing control of the bike. If you have the time, break slowly.
  • Also, be very careful when breaking on a sandy road, sand will make it more likely to slip. Profile erosion on the tires also leads to a higher chance of slipping, so always check if the tires are safe enough to drive with.
  • When travelling through South East Asia it can get confusing to remember which side of the road to drive on. When you’re in a new country ensure you are aware of the rules of the road and pay attention to this so you don’t drive in auto pilot causing harm to you or others.
  • When you rent a scooter always save the shop’s phone number so you know who to call when the scooter breaks down. Most scooters will have a sticker with the number on it but not all the bikes do. Don’t freak out when you break down, it is fairly common and most of the time easy to get it fixed.
  • Try not to leave anything of high value in your seat compartment as it is easy to break it open.
  • Be sensible when driving, don’t be on your phone, go extremely fast or be distracted whilst driving. A small mistake can have catastrophic consequences.
  • It is very common for your bike to have some starting problems, there are some simple reasons that can help you; put your stand all the way up, squeeze the break handle as far as possible and make sure your battery is not dead. If it is, try to kickstart the bike. If nothing works, try asking a local or call the renting company.
  • One mistake we’ve seen people make a lot during our time on the Ha Giang Loop is stopping on a hill. When on a hill, driving away can be very difficult, finding the right balance of acceleration and breaking is crucial to be able to get away and not go backwards or make a dangerous wheelie.
  • The roads in South East Asia are not very safe, sometimes there are large holes which can make it very dangerous. Driving to avoid potholes and dodging oncoming traffic can be tricky and sometimes scary. Confidence is key!
  • Last but not least, be aware of obstacles like water buffalo’s !

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Drive safe! x

Travelling Translated

Travelling Translated

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