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I knew hiring a scooter on Ko Phangan was a bad idea…

Years ago, in Vietnam, when we were on our first RTW, I had a go at driving the moped we’d hired. I got my twisting, pulling and pushing mixed up and mounted the pavement extremely inelegantly, scattering the picnicking Vietnamese family who were quietly enjoying their lunch. I hadn’t been near a moped since because I feared for my life and the lives of everyone around me. This post is about a bad experience with scooter rental on Ko Phangan, Thailand.

On Ko Phangan we were a little stranded, so I took my next, and last, foray into the world of scooter hire because there really wasn’t much by way of an alternative.

Read how we lost a lot of money, and just check the rules below before you make our mistakes.

moped ko phangan
it started so well…

UPDATE: This post is a personal account of what happened to us and not a directory of bike hire companies on Ko Phangan. If you are looking for the latter you need another site as I won’t be creating anything like that. The title should be sufficient to tell you that this is a story ( in the first person) from our very early days of blogging, not information on bike hire. I will not be taking the post down, it’s part of our story and an important one. Losing that amount of money was a big deal back then, as it would be to most people on a 12 month RTW, and we had to modify our first year of travel accordingly. We are now on year 6 and I don’t think we’ve hired scooters since because there has been no need and we generally think it’s too risky. We’ve seen a lot of accidents in the last 5 years, in Thailand more than anywhere else. I DO have a license to ride a bike of this size, it’s covered on my full driving license, maybe check your own. We’ve had great times hiring cars in Thailand in the north and on Phuket, it’s what we prefer.

Our experience hiring a bike in Thailand

This morning, on Ko Phangan, I thought it was time to face my demons and have another crack at the moped thing. It can’t be so hard. Everyone here rides one, usually with babies, toddlers, sisters and grannies riding pillion.

I spent an hour practicing, up and down our lane to Haad Salad Villa and went for a solo ride to Haad Yao, conquering the incredibly steep hills on the way.

Yesterday I published a post called Family Budget Travel. I clearly stated that I would never put my babies on the back of a moped. Well that was yesterday.

We had a lovely family moped ride to Thong Sala

Riding a moped on Ko Phangan is really pleasant. There is nice scenery and interesting things to look at. The other drivers are very thin on the ground and considerate to bikes.

The boys enjoyed the ride and were great passengers, Boo and I were singing and having a lovely time. I was feeling really proud of myself for learning a new trick.

We pulled into Thong Sala and decided to stop for an ice cream at the 7-11.

This is where it went pear shaped

Chef pulled into the pavement, I pulled in alongside him, both the kids hopped off.

For some reason that I will never understand, Chef reached over and tried to put my front brake on. I was stationary and about to take the key out of the ignition.

As he squeezed the brake he squeezed my hand on the ignition putting the bike back into motion. The bike and I mounted the pavement and I fell off.

I’ve bruised my knee and Chef has burnt a hole in his running shoes on my wheel ( which will hurt him a lot, he loves to run).

We’re fine, the kids are fine but this is GOING TO COST US.

We’ve maybe damaged just about every panel on the bike.  We didn’t check it over when we picked it up – rookie mistake. I don’t know how much it will be yet, but it won’t be cheap. So much for saving money on transport by being self propelled.

It could have been a lot worse

We were all wearing proper shoes and long trousers, they saved my knee and Chef’s foot. Everyone had helmets, although no heads were involved. Please take care.

Ours was a freak accident, we were ultra careful and rarely went above 20Km/hour and we still had a crash.

It’s hit us in the pocket but we’re all fine and I’ve learnt how to ride a moped OK. It’s a useful skill to have in SE Asia. The bikes cost us 150 Baht each per day. You couldn’t get a tuk tuk from Haad Salad to Thong Sala for that.

In conclusion I’d just like to say, IT WASN”T MY FAULT. Chef is totally to blame!


 Hiring a bike on Ko Phangan danger insurance

Hiring a bike on Ko Phangan check requirements, licenses and insurance.

They claimed that every scratch on the thing was down to us and saw us as a great opportunity to make money. Think about that before you hire a bike. I must say though, it’s about the only way to see the island, taxis, tuk tuks and water taxis are expensive. There is no public transport and you can’t walk. Lesson learnt, never hire a bike unless they will offer insurance. I can tell you exactly where NOT to hire a bike on Ko Phangan.

The Law and Road Rules for Hiring a Scooter or Bike on Ko Phangan or in Thailand

  • You need a suitable bike license.
  • You need an international drivers license or a Thai license.
  • You need to wear a helmet.
  • You need to be sober.
  • As a foreigner, you will take the blame, always.

So weigh it up. It’s great fun riding a bike in Thailand but their road death rate is shocking. I wouldn’t do it in a city, but I’d be tempted in country areas.

Make sure you have the right license and the right insurance. It’s easy to get. This is the travel insurance company we use. The same rules apply for car rental in Thailand, we’ve enjoyed driving around northern Thailand and Phuket, just because they don’t ask for a license, doesn’t mean you’re not required to have one and you will be at fault if you need to claim.

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Alex H

Tuesday 14th of August 2018

I spent 4 months in Koh Phangan back in 2006. Like you said it's not easy to move inside the island without a bike, especially if you want to discover the place, So after a couple of weeks, I rented a scooter. Never had driven this before. Had no licence at all, no insurance, I was drunk driving at least once a day, I mean totally wasted, and I pushed the little beast above 110 km/h, with no helmet of course. I've only had 3 minor incidents with no consequences on the bike, the only thing that cost me is when I lost the key at some beach party. Oh I also almost died once but some cool girls I knew from the bars drove me back on my bike.

I'm going back next week and yes, I will rent a bike again, considering the pros and cons:

Pros: - It's cheap. - It is really pleasant driving this thing on this beautiful island, great sensation of freedom. - It is ultra convenient. Just take a look at some videos on youtube of people riding from there to there on their bike, there's like 10 bikes for 1 car. And no traffic.

Cons: - It can cost you a lot, money and your health.

Being 12 years older, I will wear a helmet this time and will go more slowly.

Last advice: do not go to the Full Moon Party with your bike! I repeat: do not go to the Full Moon Party with your bike. You will get drunk.


Sunday 18th of March 2018

There's some good advice to consider here, and in the comments too.... some more useful than others and somewhat entertaining! I've never driven a moped and wanted to read the details of the experience. Here on the Greek island of Crete, a scooter can be rented for 15€ a day (that's what the sign says; there are probably extra fees).

When I'm driving my car, scooters sometimes surprise me by pulling up quickly in between the lanes, rotating slightly in order to avoid wing mirrors; something I don't envision myself doing if I were to rent a scooter. I have a friend here my mom's age (in her 70s) who is getting a scooter soon! Definitely some crazy riders out there but they don't all have to be.


Monday 7th of December 2015

You all might be interested to know that, on average, 2 people die every week in road accidents on Koh Phangan' most of them being motorbike riders. Only 3 or 4 days ago 2 girls (1 dead and one gravely ill) crashed into the cliff face on the twisty road that you mentioned around Had Yao. My advice is learn to drive a motorcycle before you come to Koh Phangan and risk killing yourself. The roads are extremely busy in high season and during the full moon parties and very dangerous!

Alyson Long for World Travel Family

Monday 19th of March 2018

I fully agree Tony.


Tuesday 11th of August 2015

A ripoff for Motorbikes is the first shop on the lefthand when you arrive with Songserm next to the roundabout. It is called BOW. They betrayed a lot of tourists with the scratch trick and slapped them if they dont want to pay. police cant help you. dont give your passport to them! I want to warn everyone who goes to Koh Phangan from this motorbike / scooter rental named BOW!


Friday 3rd of July 2015

Thanks a million for getting back to me so quick, really appreciate it! I'm not sure if he's still here, we just got here today but I'll do some digging around

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