To rent out a scooter in South East Asia is one of the best activities to do around the area. With your motorbike, you can go to unknown places at your own pace and not relying on tour agencies. It is pure freedom!
The easiness to rent out a scooter is also attractive: It is really cheap (about US$5/24h), you don’t have to show any license when renting out, many areas you get away easily driving without the helmet and you do not even need to know how to drive, really.
But be careful, you can be falling into a trap which can ruin your holidays. The only requirement made when renting out a scooter is to leave your passport as a deposit and that is how many people become a hostage of the renting place.
The number of tourists we saw badly physical and monetarily injured over these four months travelling through Asia is shocking. Therefore, here it goes a few tips of how and where to rent out a scooter which can help you out:
1- Choose carefully the shop you want to rent it from:
This is the first and the most important decision to be made. There are many people with no character out there in the industry, thus it is crucial to be certified that you are renting a scooter from someone honest and trustable.
We normally ask for suggestions at the place where we are sleeping – unless our hotel is also of dubious trust. If this is the case, we go around the area and ask some people for advises. To go to a more famous hostel/hotel and ask for such information is also a good idea. From our experience, people who work in hostels are more used with travellers and are keen on helping.
2- Take pictures and make films of the moped:
Take picture of every single detail, scratch and smashes you see (and even the ones you don’t see). Match up the information with the rental owner. There are numerous cases of tourists being charged for scratches they did not do and as they did not have a picture to prove, they normally end up paying for that. Note that it does not matter if it is a scratch or a smash, you will pay for the whole brand new piece! This kind of fraud happens on a daily basis and the price charged for the pieces are normally exorbitant! Protect yourself from this sort of bad practice.
3- Check if the motorbike is in good conditions:
Many of the mopeds available are in bad conditions. We have met personally a tourist in Bali who injured himself badly because the tyre exploded for no apparent reason. He broke his collarbone and had to be admitted for operation in the hospital for almost a month.
4- Do not leave to return the motorbike minutes before you leave:
The closer you are to take your flight, bus or boat, the easier it will be for the shop owner to cheat on you. And they know very well if you are in hurry as they know very well the timetable of the vehicles leaving.
The problem will always happen when returning the bike. If the person accuses you of something, as, for instance, to have scratched the back of the right mirror, he can extort you by saying: “you either pay me US$200 or I do not give your passport back”. And, hum, they always check your visa in your passport when you leave it as deposit.
So give it a time to negotiate or even to go to the police for help. In most cases, the ones we heard of, the traveller ended up paying the value asked initially because he or she was late for a flight/bus/boat and needed the passport.
5- Protect yourself:
This is actually particularly for us, who hardly wears the helmet. Let’s be sensible here, it is awesome to drive around and feel the breeze fully on your head. Though, with the number of accidents we see, it is quite irresponsible not to wear helmet.
6- Never, ever, drive drunk:
This is straight-forward, isn’t it? Nobody should never do that in any place, under any circumstance. Now, imagine in a country which is not yours, with distinct driving rules, with local driving a lot faster than what is permitted (yes, Thai people drive really fast) and with a quality dubious scooter.
7- Be honest:
Let’s agree that if you do not want to be cheated on, then don’t cheat on nobody. Basic acquaintanceship rule.
Accidents can happen and if by any chance you break or scratch something, let the owner know. You can come to an agreement about how much you should pay and get over with it.
Do not try to hide it. It is not fair that someone else have to bear the cost you had caused.
These tips might frighten you but we really hear these sort of stories all the time and we think it is important to warn others. We have already been victim of a cheater and as a result we left on of our passport behind because the man was charging us US$700!
The post is not for you to give up on renting your scooter, at all! We have always rented out ourselves and that has given us one of the best moments we had in Indonesia and Thailand. You just have to be careful, protect yourself and safe trip!