Bang Saen and Beyond - Motor Bikes

My Trip +

A typical motor bike that a Thai local would own.

Motor bike drivers will wear coloured vests with numbers. Outside Burapha University the coloured vests are orange.

Space to park motor bikes is just as, if not more common than space to park cars.

Motor bikes parked in front of a building.

General Information

Motorcycles are almost certainly the most common means of travel throughout the entire country of Thailand. Motorbikes are referred to in Thai as 'rot motosai'. Carrying 1-3 passengers (or, bizarrely and dangerously, sometimes many more), motorbikes are useful for distances long or short. The majority of Thai residents utilize their own motorbikes, or can be seen hopping onto motorcycle taxis and paying the driver. Outside institutions, street vendor areas, or just busy areas in general, it is common to see Thai motorcycle taxi operators in a row with their motorbikes, all wearing specific coloured vests with a number on the back. These are pay-to-ride motorbikes whose drivers will take you wherever you need to go. If interested in riding a motorbike, just approach the driver and tell him or her where you would like to go. It is not rare, but is not necessary to "taxi holler" a motorbike as they are easy to find as long as you know what you are looking for!

Motorbike rental is also an option for visitors interested in being in control of their own means of travel, but unfortunately it is extremely hazardous and not recommended. Up to 26,000 people are killed in road accidents every year in Thailand. Globally, this puts the country in the 6th spot in terms of road casualties. Of those killed, 70 - 80 per cent are motorcyclists or their passengers.

Estimated Fare

If you are an obvious foreigner in Thailand, it is very common to get overcharged. Motorbike drivers will take 1-2 passengers, and prices usually fluctuate based on distance travelled. Rides of less than 10 minutes duration are usually 30 baht or less per passenger; any more than 10 minutes it seems the driver prices as he feels. Motorbikes are a simple and speedy way for locals and visitors to zip through slow-moving traffic jams.


Why Motorbike Rental or Purchase for Tourists is not Recommended:

Motor bikes are ill-maintained, their insurance is usually worse than useless (despite assurances to the contrary), and rental operators may demand that naive tourists surrender their passports as collateral prior to rental (never, ever, part with your passport!). Tourist riders are almost always inexperienced with the road anarchy in Thailand, leading to many accidents and fatalities. Tourist overconfidence and machismo are common problems in tourist areas, combined with intoxication, lack of experience, and simple stupidity. The motorbike rental operators will also use minor accidents as opportunities to extort large sums of money from customers for repairs - and if injury or death is involved, the Thai police and the relatives of the injured or deceased may use it as an opportunity to threaten, blackmail, or extort large sums of money from the visitor, not to mention a very real threat of serious criminal charges. Don't rent motorbikes, and don't promote it.

For North American, European continental, and mainland Chinese drivers especially, getting used to everything being on the opposite side of the road can be dangerous enough on its own. Driving in Thailand is best left to Thais, not short-term visitors, and unless you are very experienced with a motorbike, speak Thai, and are just an overall risk seeker, it is [marginally] safer to just pay a motorbike driver to take you where you need to go. Be aware that most motorcycle taxis do not carry helmets for passengers, and if they do, they may be flimsy, ill-fitting, and - frankly - filthy.

Environmental Significance

Motorbikes make up roughly 75% of the vehicles on Thailand's roadways. New, well-maintained motorcycles emit less pollution and carbon dioxide than a single passenger car, van, or bus, potentially making bikes a "greener" alternative to other modes of travel. Bikes reduce congestion in heavily populated areas, although they don't promote car pooling as they can usually only hold up to 3 passengers - and safety risks increase with each additional passenger.


A MAJOR concern of motorcycle taxis is safety. Most do not offer helmets for their riders, despite nominal legal requirements to do so, and if they do they are often ill-fitting, flimsy, and may harbor head lice. Many overseas visitors are unused to motorcycle travel, and this may cause balance problems for the drivers due to the inappropriate reactions and shifting balance of their passengers as the bike weaves through traffic. Also, many visitors are considerably larger and heavier than Thais, and may cause the small motorbikes to be somewhat unwieldy, especially if they are not used to riding on motorcycles. Accidents are a common result.

The speed of motorcycle taxis is a definite advantage, but it is often obtained as a result of risky driving practices. Running countercurrent to traffic, weaving through moving traffic jams, passing on the inside or in the oncoming lane, and riding on sidewalks and pathways are all common practices which can result in accidents, especially if naïve passengers overreact in panic and precipitate an accident.

It is crucial to ensure that you as a passenger feel safe before departing. A good tip for your first time on the back of a bike would be to take it by yourself, unencumbered by baggage or shopping, in an area with very minimal traffic, and do not go a lengthy distance. Get a feel for how motorbikes are used in Thailand before travelling longer distances on the back of one.

The closest motorcycle taxi stop to Burapha University is in front of the Laemtong Shopping Mall on Long Had Bangsaen Road, opposite the main entrance. Other stops are located in front of the dormitories on the Burapha campus, and in Nong Mon Market near the southernmost pedestrian overpass.