There is nothing quite like the feeling of the wind on your hair, a travel buddy on the back seat of you motorbike and the sun blaring down as you drive some of the most scenic routes on earth. Don’t get distracted though, there is a lot that can go wrong. When talking to my doctor before leaving as to what shots I needed before I headed off, he said the best vaccination is actually advice and it’s not to get on a scooter. Most accidents happen from drunken or unskilled drivers colliding into one another or a ditch. Desite that, I’ve driven all over India, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines to name a few and I don’t possess a drivers licence. I just couldn’t help myself. I’ve seen a lot of limping backpackers with bandaged knees, arms and shoulders and even more with exhaust burns on the inside of their legs. I’ve one on the inside of my right calf, so I know it all too well. Do play it safe!
Now, you’re no good at taking advice and you wanna go and do it anyway. Awesome. You’ll have a blast. However, here is some helpful device to get you going:
- This is different from country to country but for the most part, it’s pretty cheap.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle especially if you are taking it for a few days. Everything is negotiable
- Get a receipt so you don’t end up getting charged more after returning it
- Does it come with a full tank? You may need to return it full so factor this cost in
- Tyre pressure. A quick press of your foot will tell you something but get them to pump them up a little more just to be sure.
- Do a test run of the lights to make sure the front, rear and brake lights are working. Check they’re not cracked or damaged
- If you are getting a vehicle with a throttle, check the grip on it and the tyres. May seem like something small but when it starts raining, you’ll be glad you did. I suffered a nasty fall from a bicycle with low tyre grip and lost a camera in the process too.
- Speedometer need to be working, it’s hard to know if you are within speed limits otherwise. Some countries it doesn’t matter all that much but for your own safety, I highly advice it
- Fuel gauge needs to be working or you could be in a sticky situation
- If your vehicle is electric, check the range of it before it requires another charge or you could be left pushing
- When you turn the vehicle on, check for warning lights
- Check the horn, you may well be using it a lot
- Bring it for a small test drive and test the brakes and steering.
Everyone I’ve rented off has had different rules. Some will charge you extra for a helmet or starting fuel. These are all questions you need to ask first. Make sure they say outright, the time they want it returned at and bring it back well in advance. Get their number in case of any troubles getting the bike back late or breakdowns/faults with the bike.
Never give your passport as collateral for your bike. If there is a cash deposit, give that or even give a copy of your passport and see will they accept that instead. If anything goes wrong, you won’t have to deal with some nasty people and fork out a huge amount of money in order to get your documents back. I’ve often used the excuse that my hotel has it as a deposit for my accommodation. Or even better, say it’s at an immigration office getting a visa extension. Sometimes it’s unavoidable but use your better judgement and see how reputable the firm is.
When you get the bike, make sure they see you taking pictures. Take pictures of the front, back and sides of the vehicle and any small damaged you may notice no matter how superficial they may seem. Scratches, missing parts, cracks, licence plate and dents. The idea here is to scare them from trying to scam you and if they try to accuse you of making any damage they forgot was already there, you have proof it already existed.
A lot of these happen and almost everyone has a small one no matter how careful they are, you just need to be careful to minimise any risk. Follow the guidelines below:
- Most accidents happen taking off and coming to a halt. We forget the weight of the vehicle or people moving around us in a blind spot. Take off slowly and check your peripherals carefully before coming to a halt. Many countries, the rules of the road aren’t really all that strict. In places like Vietnam, it’s essentially the bigger the vehicle, the more right of way you have. In India, there pretty much are no rules and as for China, a red light can sometimes mean it’s OK to go…if you are in a hurry. I’m not even making this stuff up.
- The roads can be made up of gravel or dirt sometimes and the wheels of your rent-a-car or cheap scooter will fly off the track pretty quick. Take these corners slowly and be aware of the surface. Driving from Goa to Kerala in India, had a series of sharp vertical blocks as “speed bumps” that sent me flying and there was no signage to point them out. Be alert. If you feel your self day dreaming, pull over and rest.
- Don’t get on someone else’s scooter. You don’t know their proficiency, experience or if they’ve had a few beers that day or not.
- Don’t take anyone on your scooter if you feel unsure about the added weight. It’s no worth it.