The Best of Both Worlds

 |  March 28, 2011

Motorcycle accidents kill over 12,500 people each year in Thailand. That’s equivalent to the 9/11 death toll every other month.

Many travellers renting motorbikes assume that ‘includes insurance’ means fully comprehensive insurance. Incorrect! The standard (basic) insurance policy pays for minimal hospital treatment, and if your accident results in death, the insurer will typically pay 10,000 baht to the relatives of the deceased person. The same policy does not insure the motorcycle against theft, so if the vehicle is stolen, the customer must buy a replacement for the owner.

I know of several foreigners who were ‘asked’ to pay damages by the drivers who caused the accident. Even if you were not at fault legally, the person responsible for the accident may expect you to foot the bills because you are farang.

So, motorcyclists face several imminent dangers in Thailand, but we can prepare for them in several ways:

Wear a full face helmet with a visor if you value your jawbone, teeth and eyes. Anyway, the Traffic Police target motorcyclists who do not wear helmets, so your ‘coconut’ will save you fines too.

If possible, buy a new motorcycle and pay for fully comprehensive insurance with a reputable insurer. If you park your motorcycle outside a gated compound at nighttime, ensure you use an additional lock because motorcycle theft is on the rise.

Drive defensively. Don’t be scared of sounding your horn to alert other motorcyclists of your presence; and don’t drive too close to the left-hand verge to avoid traffic from the side streets. Drive slower on wet or dusty roads.

Longstayers are advised to obtain a Thai driving license. This document always impresses the police, and it serves as ID to save you entrance fees at national parks.

Enjoy your bike rides in Thailand, but please take precautions and be prepared for an accident.