Text page

Motorbiking in Asia

Motorbiking in Asia forum

Motorbiking in Asia- WARNING

Posted by mifox2 on 5/1/2010 at 13:19

Just a warning to fellow travelers of the potential consequences of renting a motorbike. We rented motorbikes on Ko Phangan, Thailand. We got them on Haad Salad Beach. The first day, everything went fine. The second day, we put a few very small scratches on one of the bikes. When we returned, the guy was a complete jerk and yelled and screamed at us and told us that we would have to pay 20,000 Baht ($USD600). After arguing, calling the police, and the embassy, there was nothing that we could do to get our passport back except to pay the money...some of the damage was not even caused by us. This was a total scam and there was nothing we could do about it. After this happened, we talked to the people at our bungalow and also people at a dive shop nearby. They said that this happens at LEAST 3 times a week to travelers, and is a scam for these people to make a TON of money for nothing. This really set our budget back on this trip and put a damper on our time there. We only hope that by warning others, they will not make the same mistake as us. While you might be thinking that there are more scams on Ko Phangan, this can happen anywhere. I would strongly advise against renting a motorbike, because if you put even just a few scratches in it you could be charged hundreds of dollars. Just pay a little bit extra to get around in a taxi. It's worth it. I also want to mention that as we were leaving Ko Phangan, we had about 10 people on our ferry with bandages, a broken foot, and a broken arm. All of this was caused by motorbike accidents. If you are on Haad Salad beach on Ko Phangan, DO NOT RENT FROM:
Haad Salad Shop & Travel OR
Haad Salad Travel
These are the places that will scam you.
If you ABSOLUTELY must rent a motorbike, we were told that Haad Salad Villa is OK to rent from.

#1 mifox2 has been a member since 16/9/2009. Posts: 6

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/1/2010 at 19:06 admin

Sorry to hear about the experience -- did the police actually get involved or were they no help at all?

I know it is a bit late in the day, but where possible it is good to hand over a photocopy of your passport rather than the real deal.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,079

Posted by sayadian on 5/1/2010 at 21:29

In all my years travelling in Asia I have never found one hirer willing to take a photocopy of my passport.Recently in Pakse we even offered a Thai ID card but he insisted on a passport.
Perhaps a better way of doing it is to hire from the hotel or guesthouse you are staying in.As long as they know you have a room there they will often let you keep your passport.Also,when I hire I make a point of indicating all the damage currently on the moto so that I don't get the blame for old damage.Obviously that is not going to help if it's a scam so I suggest a quick photo of the bike might help your case if there is a dispute.

#3 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by MADMAC on 5/1/2010 at 22:43

What's with this Haad Salad name? All three rentals have this for their prefix? WTF?

#4 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by busylizzy on 5/1/2010 at 23:13

When hiring a car or motorbike, be sure to point out (and document) any existing damage, and take photos. If there is any damage, take close-up photos.

Also, I carry around a laminated copy of my passport, although so far, I haven't been asked to hand it over for transport hire (in Indonesia, and Vietnam). Hotels also sometimes ask for my passport. Again, I just show them my laminated photocopy, and tell them that I don't want to leave it with them. In three months of travelling, I have only lost this battle a few times, and only in southern Vietnam. Apparently in Vietnam, hotel owners are required to take the passports of all guests to the local police station to be recorded.

#5 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by swag on 6/1/2010 at 04:49

I tend to agree with sayadian on this one. I have never been able to to use a photocopy in sth vietnam,thailand or laos.All rentals have asked for original.As I really don't like leaving the original for exactly the reasons stated in post #1 the times I have decided to rent a motorbike I too have found it easier through your guesthouse or were your staying.At least if there is a disagreement you probably have a little more time or bargaining power. The other point is the issue with your travel insurance in tne case of injuries due to an accident. I know the insurance I use when travelling requires the driver to be liscensed in their home and country and engine capacity not to exceed 200cc otherwise you have no cover full stop.

#6 swag has been a member since 28/3/2007. Location: Australia. Posts: 331

Posted by acidliam on 11/1/2010 at 21:56

Its a fair warning, a friend of mine lives there, and was watching a couple of guys coming back with mopeds each night and hiding them, then taking them away, then a few nights later coming back with the same 1 or 2 bikes.

Seems they were in cahoots with a hire shop, stealing them, the shop was charging the customers big money, then they would be on hire again a few days later.

With regards to the injury warning I think thats the most valid, you see so many people hobbling around bandaged. Its a case of knowing your limits really, and not getting steaming and driving. Something I should take heed of myself actually.

#7 acidliam has been a member since 29/10/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 11

Posted by mikethediver on 12/1/2010 at 04:07

I've rented many bikes around Thailand and not had a problem, but I've always had to leave my passport, photocopies didn't did it for me! However, I know this scam happens a lot; much more so than the jet ski scam in Phuket which received sufficient media attention for the local Phuket government to sort out.

With digital cameras it costs nothing to video & photo the bike, so do this in front of the rental guy, it may help but the police and tourist police are going to be no help at all and will be on the side of the Thai, but do complain to the TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) the more complains they receive about rental bikes the better. Also have your own chain and lock - don't trust theirs.

If you are unfortunate enough to have had an accident it is going to be cheaper by far to fix it before returning the bike to the rental shop; the local Thai bike shops are incredibly cheap.

As already stated here, most travel insurance policies do cover you for riding motorbikes (in the policy that I take out I can ride bikes of 50cc; but the rental bikes are 100 or mostly 125). In any event if you do not hold a license in your own country to ride a bike the insurance would be void anyway. You best bet is to claim that you took a motorcycle taxi and that you were a passenger!

Despite the norm in Thailand it is an offense (not to say stupid) to ride without a helmet for the driver; not so, but equally stupid, for the passenger however. It is also any offense to ride without having your license on you. Both of these incur a 300 baht fine - so be warned!

If you've never ridden a bike before is Asia the best place to learn??????? I think NOT!

#8 mikethediver has been a member since 23/3/2008. Location: Thailand. Posts: 206

Posted by exacto on 12/1/2010 at 13:32

As several folks have already suggested above, I've had really good luck this trip renting motor scooters directly from the guest house where I've been staying and therefore not having to leave my passport as a deposit. Anytime you can do business where you have already established some kind of connection with the people there will typically help make things go better.

I agree too that being on holiday isn't really the best time to learn to ride a motor scooter either. If you do, pick a spot that isn't all that busy and where there isn't much sand or other debris on the road either; e.g not Chiang Mai or Samui. Always wear a helmet and absolutely don't drink and drive.

Sorry to hear about the scam above, but even though it sounds like it is common at this one place, I don't think this type of thing is all that common everywhere, so apart from this one place I wouldn't necessarily let it change my plans on renting or not renting a scooter.

By the way, "Haad" more or less just means beach so I imagine Haad Salad is the name of that particular beach. Cheers.

#9 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,821

Posted by sayadian on 12/1/2010 at 21:25

Re: Haad
yes, I believe in means beach.So where is the beach in Haadyai?

#10 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by kynanr on 17/1/2010 at 00:07

yes this happened to mne on kho pangang a few years ago. if you stay calm and simply tell them you dont have that much money you can bargain them down. we got it froma similar 20K figure down to 2,000 baht. still unfair but a much better outcome.
the best way to avoid this is to give a cash deposit. usually 2,000 is enough. if the rental place doesnt accept thsi then they are potential scam anyway.
also you can chose to get it fixed at a local mechanic yourself. scratches cost about 100bht to buff out.
give that a go next time. scooters are agreat mode of travel and such an adventure.
ps; i have a russian mionsk for sale in phuket if anyone is interested

#11 kynanr has been a member since 15/1/2010. Posts: 7

Posted by 45baht on 25/1/2010 at 23:10

I rented bikes in both Pai and Chiang Mai, but i never had to leave my passport. most of the time my passport was with the owners of the hostel. So i just left my student ID.
Both the places i rented from offered 'fully comp' ish insurance for about 80baht. Including damage and theft.
Glad i took out the insurance after all because i managed to come of the bike trying to find one of the waterfalls in Pai and scratched the side to buggery.

#12 45baht has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 21

Posted by jasinorbit on 26/1/2010 at 09:05

I agree with the above comments. Renting bikes through your hotel/guesthouse may help reduce your chance of being scammed. I found this to be a little more expensive, but was worth it for the peace of mind.

I rented a scooter (not ready for a real bike!) in Chang Mai. May not have been smart as Id never ridden one before - but ridding around the areas outside of Chang Mai, was the highlight of the trip.

Just remember to be careful.

#13 jasinorbit has been a member since 4/12/2009. Posts: 37

Posted by 45baht on 2/3/2010 at 01:10

Riding around in Chiang Mai is an absolute beaut. Pai on the otherhand is a bit different. Having never riden a bike before, the offroad bits to the waterfalls where a nightmare!

#14 45baht has been a member since 25/1/2010. Posts: 21

Posted by jasonkim8486 on 2/3/2010 at 05:15

be careful of other motorbikers as well. i had mine parked and a girl(not a local, a tourist) hit it while trying to park next to mine. she cracked the gauge cover and split the side mirror. we argued for hours and she refused to pay for it and stiffed me with a 6000bht bill! the lady i rented from felt really bad for me so she only charged me the bare minimum and did not try and profit from me. the police were absolutely no help, they see tourists get into accidents with each other all the time and probably just laugh at us. its not like i could put her in a headlock and strongarm money out of her. **** happens right?

#15 jasonkim8486 has been a member since 15/9/2009. Location: United States. Posts: 81

Posted by Deuce232 on 3/3/2010 at 15:28

6000 baht for a new mirror and a gauge? someone profited off you that's sure.

I rented bikes with a friend in northern Thailand. my friend laid his Honda Shadow down and scraped the tank emblem and the leg guard up pretty good. The people at the rental didn't even check.

Not all stories end with exorbitant repair bills. but be careful. take photos before and after. buy their insurance. and don't be afraid to refuse to pay them what they ask.

#16 Deuce232 has been a member since 4/1/2010. Posts: 20

Posted by kiwigazza on 14/12/2011 at 00:46

If you need a bike in in Thong Sala Koh Phangan, Kates is good....on road opposite pier next to Adams bike rentals. Will take 5000bht deposit or Passport.... I rented for 3 days 100bht a day no problems

#17 kiwigazza has been a member since 21/7/2008. Posts: 11

Posted by johnysac on 22/12/2011 at 15:13

HI All
you all have to know that in asia Most bike renters make their money from the deposit not the rent . In vietnam you can rent for 5 bucks a day but you will have to pay for los or damage and that is where the big bucks are made . and yes dont expect any help from the police as they are not interested . If you are here for a few months buy a bike then sell when you leave 300 usd will get you a good runner but not vary pretty . May be you loose 150 maybe you get your money back but hey you got your passport An embassy guy once told me that to relinquish your passport to anybody other then a police or customs officer is a fedral offence and can land you in big trouble under anti terror laws . which when you think about it is quite right seeing as if some one wants a false pasport they go to thailand

Be safe Johny

#18 johnysac has been a member since 25/10/2009. Posts: 71

Posted by inspiredbykrissi on 23/12/2011 at 03:27

haha... Unfortunately the south is a very different country than the likes of the North. My only bad experiences with bike rentals and guest houses have been in the south. Especially Koh Phangan.

Its all safe, just becareful and more weary in the South in my oppinion. For example, my bike rental lets me hire the bike, pay late and keep my passport and thats in Chiang Mai.

Maybe a different breed of Thais... but then maybe a different breed of travellers. hehe

Somethin to ponder anyways......

#19 inspiredbykrissi has been a member since 9/12/2011. Posts: 68

Posted by KasperHove on 28/6/2014 at 00:20

Haad Salad Shop in Haad Salad in Koh Phangan is one of these scammy rental shops. We got off cheap by paying 2000 baht for a damage that was not even visible and which we for sure had not made. When researching online and talking to the locals in Haad Salad it turns out that almost everybody has similar experiences from this place and have ended up paying up to 80.000 baht unrightfully. As they hold your passport in return for the bike this is direct blackmailing, and you can not expect any help from local police or tourist police as these appear to be bribed by the local mafia which Haad Salad Shop aparantly are protected by.

It seems safer to rent a bike from a hotel as these are more focused on good reviews on Tripadvisor than from making a fortune on rental scams.

#20 KasperHove has been a member since 28/6/2014. Posts: 1

Posted by szymkam on 6/4/2015 at 05:39

A similar problem has recently happened also to me while travelling in the Philippines, Panglao Island, Alona Beach.
Travelers to the aforementioned place - avoid renting a motorbike with the company "www . boholmotorcyclehire . com . ph" (they have only orange Honda motorbikes in front of their premises). We rented a motorbike there, made a few scratches to the motorbike and had to pay big sums of money (much higher than the value of the damage that we made), after the owner of the rental company (an Australian) threatened us with Police and frightened we won't be able to leave the island until we pay. Better rent a motorbike with another company, we found out that other people that crashed other rental companies' motorbikes did not experience such problems.

#21 szymkam has been a member since 6/4/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by lanathai on 6/4/2015 at 06:13 TF writer

Common problem on Phuket, too, and I once met a traveller who's been asked to cough up 50000 baht for damage from a shop on Ko Tao! Took him days to deal with it, and his embassy got involved, but he managed to get his passport back for "only" 20000 baht or something. Never give up your passport - if the shop won't accept an alternative, move along. Some places might accept some cash and a photocopy instead. Using a guesthouse/hotel bike is probably good advice. It's a bad enough problem in the South that Australia specifically cautions against motorbike rental (and jet-skis) in its travel advisory:

Be aware of the risks of hiring jet skis and motorcycles. Australian travellers continue to report harassment and threats of violence by jet ski operators on beaches across Thailand, and particularly in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. You may be detained and arrested by police following jet ski and motorcycle accidents until compensation, often in thousands of dollars, can be negotiated between parties. Check your insurance cover if you intend to ride a motorcycle in Thailand when you are not licensed to ride one in Australia.

It's really a shame that these scammers continue to ruin so many holidays for people...

#22 lanathai has been a member since 21/7/2011. Location: Thailand. Posts: 36

Posted by MADMAC on 6/4/2015 at 11:13

We have a place out in Muk you can rent a Honda Wave. No scams, low cost, no passport surrender.

#23 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by szymkam on 9/4/2015 at 14:45

I believe that the best way to avoid such situations is to get an additional insurance cover in your home country...

#24 szymkam has been a member since 6/4/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by stickmansucks on 11/5/2015 at 06:15

Only rent at BOSS at TONGSALA pier.

#25 stickmansucks has been a member since 10/6/2011. Posts: 22

Please login to add your reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a post to the forum. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.