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5 Tips For Biking in Southeast Asia

Biking in Southeast Asia

Riding a motorbike anywhere is exhilarating, but to zip across Southeast Asia on two wheels is an incomparable life affirming experience. Apart from exploring exotic countries and covering some epic routes, there are opportunities to meet amazing people which enable you to grasp the contours of the country you are driving through the best.

Riding in this region needs careful planning, so if you want to travel far and wide consider these tips before you open full throttle towards fulfilling your adventure of a lifetime.

Tips For Biking in Southeast Asia

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1. Renting the motorbike

Most Southeast Asian countries will offer motorbikes on rent. To avoid issues later on go to an established shop rather than tourist hustlers on the streets. Check for existing damage, take a snap on your mobile before driving away. Get a chain to lock the bike and if you are experienced go for a manual bike rather than an automatic one.

2. Rules and permits

The most important rule is to have a valid International driving license for driving a motorcycle and all the related documents that come with it. In Vietnam a local license will do, however rules are rarely enforced. Sometimes your home country driving licence will be enough and in some cases you may have to pass a local test.

3. Get insurance

Choose a company with the best reviews. Your policy should cover your medical expenses, if not always take separate travel insurance. In the event of any accident the insurance policy you have taken out will be invalid if you don’t hold a recognized license of that particular country.

It will also be useless if you are found drunk or driving without a helmet where compulsory. Injury from motorcycle accidents is one of the most common claims in Southeast Asia, and if God forbid you need medical evacuation you can end up paying $100,000 or even more.

You should also get your bike insured especially if you end up buying one. It’s worth comparing bike insurance quotes before making a decision especially for longer stays and expats. 

4. Wear Helmet

This is absolutely essential on the pot-holed and heavy traffic roads of Southeast Asia. Buy a quality one(you can sell it later on) and ensure that it fits well and doesn’t shift when you are moving. Swap it if you find it to be uncomfortable or awkward. Most people don’t wear it in Asia, but if you have any sense you will make the right decision.

5. Driving the right way

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Driving in Southeast Asia at the best of times is chaotic. Animals, bad roads, erring drivers, food carts and everything unimaginable can get in your way. The road rules are therefore simple. Larger vehicles always get the right of way, so it is wise to yield to them. The far edge of the slow lane is the safest road to drive on. Use your horn liberally before approaching people or on curves. Some other suggestions for your riding trip:

  • Do not carry a passenger.
  • Drive slowly and take your time.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Do a test ride on a good empty road before the trip to get used to your motorbike.
  • Wear protective clothing (no shorts, tee shirts)
  • Do not drive after dark.
  • Wear gloves.

So these were our tips for biking around Southeast Asia. What are yours? Share in comments below. 

Ruben Arribas is a Spanish traveler who has traveled more than 70+ countries around the world. Now based in the Philippines!