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Pack your brain and wrap it in a helmet

Posted by somtam2000 on 26/1/2015 at 03:16 admin

From this week's newsletter ( Don't get the newsletter? you can read this full issue here)

I read a conversation on a travellers' Facebook group (managed by Travelfish member altmtl) this morning where a new visitor to Southeast Asia (they were not specific to where) asked if an Australian driving license was sufficient for renting a scooter. Some responses were correct (depending on the country), others misleading and others still, flat out wrong. Just another typical day on a Facebook travel group.

Two pieces of advice that didn't pop up were: "Read your travel insurance policy" and "Why should a car license be okay for a motorbike?"

While the specifics of individual policies vary by provider, generally speaking, if there is a legal provision in country X that foreigners need to have a license to ride a scooter (or drive a car for that matter) then the insurers will make that a condition of your policy.

If you have a car accident in Indonesia (for example) without holding an International Driving Permit, yes, you may be able to pay off the authorities who arrive at the scene, but don't be surprised if your insurer refuses to cover your associated medical costs.

Wearing a helmet while riding a motorbike is more common these days (thanks in part to more legal enforcement), but many foreign tourists continue to ride bikes without being properly licensed. At least in New South Wales, Australia, a driving license is endorsed for a car OR a motorbike, OR both. Not both by default. That'd be because they're kind of different things to use!

Arriving in Phuket or Ko Samui and deciding to just "teach yourself" how to ride a scooter is pretty dumb and puts not just yourself at risk, but everyone else on the road (and footpath) as well.

Would you drive (or ride) unlicensed in your home country? Why not? Why would you in Southeast Asia?


#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,062

Posted by CaptainScott on 26/1/2015 at 07:22

Before I went to SEA, I deliberately undertook Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) which licenses me to ride a bike of up to 125cc for 2 years only. If you want to ride beyond that you have to take an A1 motobike test which I am planning to do. This is the UK legislation.

It always astounds me how retarded people can be when it comes to vehicles. You wouldn't get on a bike unlicensed in your own country, so don't do it anywhere else. Here we are lucky to have the NHS who will put injured bikers back together regardless of whether they are licensed or not. You won't be this lucky in other countries and it could be a very expensive mistake. Think of your families. I wouldn't want my mum having to remortgage her house to pay for my medical care.

#2 CaptainScott has been a member since 22/3/2013. Posts: 28

Posted by MADMAC on 26/1/2015 at 08:02

Yeah, let's have some more laws and more rules and more regulations to govern us. What a great idea. I moved to SEA to avoid all this bullshit. fortunately I already have a license and I live in a place where the cops leave me alone... And people ask me why I don't want to live in the West again.

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

Posted by CaptainScott on 26/1/2015 at 09:37

My view is that the Thai and other governments have a moral and legal duty to protect their own citizens from stupid farangs who get on a bike without knowing how to drive it properly. Obviously they could choose not to address the wider problem of locals driving badly or without the correct documentation, but I guess that would be far more intrusive and legally complex than say, drawing a line in the sand and saying that police will stop and charge farangs on bikes who don't have an appropriate international license. I guess there would be a big(ger) problem of bribery in some countries then and I don't know how you would control that.

#4 CaptainScott has been a member since 22/3/2013. Posts: 28

Posted by MADMAC on 26/1/2015 at 13:03

Captain Scott, have you driven here? Thailand has the second highest accident fatality rate in the world. And it isn't because of "Stupid Falangs". This isn't a law and order kind of place. Why is it so difficult for westerners to get their heads around this? And I am glad it's not. When you drive at night, anytime after 10, most of the people on the road are drunk. And you know that (well all of us who live here know that). So you drive accordingly or don't drive. Thai's are terrible drivers and police enforcement outside of Bangkok and Pattaya (maybe chiang Mai, I don't know) is sporadic at best. If you try and turn Thailand into a western country, you'll kill what makes this a great place and the land of smiles will be like living in Europe - the land of frumpy, pissed off people.

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

Posted by gecktrek on 26/1/2015 at 14:59

hey, in australia you can get insurance that covers the riding of motorcycles in SEA if you have a local (ie. australian motorcycle license). obviously, it makes sense to get yourself an international driving license as well... i find the use of 'emotional rhetoric' on online forums to ward off people from riding in SEA is both narrow-minded and counter-productive, people need the correct facts to make an informed decision!

#6 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 171

Posted by somtam2000 on 26/1/2015 at 15:41 admin

@Madmac - Not suggesting more laws required, rather that travellers follow currently existing ones. Wear a helmet, have a license. You're not seriously suggesting that riding/driving would be safer if neither of those were legally required are you?

@gecktrek - yes that's what I'm suggested - get insurance and a license.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,062

Posted by MADMAC on 27/1/2015 at 03:49

Somtam - I am suggesting that being safe is not the paramount concern. That being free to decide if you want to wear a helmet or drink before you drive trumps public safety. I am suggesting that "legally required" being not terribly relevant is a good thing. That being a "law and order" society is not all it's cracked up to be. If you are worried about being safe, don't ride crappy little 125 cc bikes in Thailand.

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

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