1. Thai people rarely follow traffic lights signals in Thailand. It’s the thing everybody’s used to, when car drivers and motorcyclists keep on moving although the red light has been on for more than 10 seconds. So when at the crossroad, please, start moving not by green light signal but as soon as you are sure that the crossroad is empty and you can drive on.
The favorite joke of a good acquaintance of mine is to list these three rules, that Thai people follow when get at the crossroad regulated by traffic lights:
a) if the green light is on, you can ride;
b) if you see the yellow light, then ride as fast as you can. If you gain the max speed your vehicle can show, it would be the best thing to do.
в) you can even run the red light, in case
– there’s no police nearby;
– you produce very loud signals and blink headlights constantly. That’s a funny thing to laugh at, but please remember that the rules of driving at traffic lights regulated crossroads are the same for all countries worldwide. And for Thailand as well.
a) if the green light is on, you can drive.
b) the yellow light gives the signal to speed down and to stop at the traffic light.
c) the red light means you are to stop and wait for the green light to be on.
- In some place and provinces you can meet warning road signs “Beware of elephants!”. Please remember that these signs were installed not to show tourists where to stop and immediately burst into looking for elephants in the nearest jungle to make one more selfie. Elephant is a dangerous animal, indeed. Especially the wild ones. So do not forget that wild elephants can cause harm to a human, and so meeting it is life threatening and dangerous for vehicles
- The Thailand traffic is left hand. Please, always keep to the left while riding. But be careful, for you can often — almost always actually! — come across broken glass, nails, leaves and sand on the sidelines, especially concerning the countryside roads.Glass and nails can lead to tire puncture. If you go to the countryside, keep in mind the nearest mounting service can be found in 20 kilometres from the place where tire was damaged. That’s no good.Sand and leaves can provide uncontrolled drift and falling down. You’ll get lucky, if you are dressed in jeans, jeans shirt and closed shoes when riding. You’ll have to pay for high-cost treatment otherwise.
4. Thai drivers for some mystic reason suppose that there’s no better situation to overtake others than on a blind curve. “This is that easy!” they shall say to themselves. “I can’t see cars, so there’s no car there! Let’s go!”
So running blind turn be always ready to meet one more Michael Somchai Schumacher jumping into the opposite lane.
5. One more “don’t”. Please don’t turn into joyriding and showing off. Have you seen that sort of guys, who got on the bike just a day ago for the first time and run it with the help of one hand at 100 km per hour speed? The other hand can be held in the pocket for example.
From time to time such guys are found in the roadside ditch. And not always they are found alive. But none never remember them. Except for the relatives grieving for them.
So be careful while riding please. The road is not a place to make tricks and high-hat. The only to-do you’ve got when coming to the road, is to get from A to B with no accident happened.
Do you know what the best high-hat is? Just buy for your girlfriend a Frozen Haute Chocolate ice-cream costing $25,000. Which is not that much life-threatening, but can provide a local population explosion in a definite group of society.
6. If you’re in Thailand and you see a motorcyclist or a car driver ahead hitting the LEFT turn signal, is doesn’t actually mean he or she intends to pull up to the curb or turn to the LEFT. You can’t be sure he or she just wants to turn to the RIGHT. They just don’t know what for turn signals were made and how they can be used. I’m not kidding.
I was step from death once, just because of being sure that the driver hitting LEFT turn signal would turn to the LEFT.
So he turned LEFT turn signal, and I was confident, he was going to turn to the left. So I decided to overtake him from the right at 80 km per hour speed. In other words I did exactly what is recommended by the Thailand traffic regulations. But turning LEFT turn signal, he abruptly turned to the RIGHT.
I was get lucky then. I even didn’t break anything then. But another time I had to ride down to the roadside ditch, and I wore a cast in the three following months. And I was very lucky then too. I could have broken neck that time and become disabled for the rest of life.
And the reason for that was the moron who didn’t even turn around when I fell down. He just kept on moving as if nothing happened.
And sometimes drivers do not even look around. Indeed, why should we look around while sitting at the wheel, if we can play in Angry Birds, for example.
7. It 1935 famous Lawrence of Arabia, lieutenant colonel of the British Army, who have been serving for the intelligence service in the Near East, in aviation and tank forces for 20 years, was retired and settled down in his homeland in Dorset.
Lawrence is still respected as the military hero of both – the Great Britain and some countries of the Arabian Near East. One of the most famous biographical film ever made in the world was dedicated to Lawrence.
He loved high speed and was an experienced motorcyclist. On the 13th of May in 1935 Lawrence was riding his Brough Superior SS100 in the countryside road near his house. All of a sudden two children on bicycles occur in the road. Trying to avoid collision, Lawrence made a sharp maneuver, lost control and fell down, having got a head injury. Thomas Lawrence died 6 days after, never regaining consciousness.
If the famous Lawrence of Arabia had a helmet on his head, then things might have been different.
The conclusion is the following: put on the helmet. Even if you want to get to the nearby 7-11 located in 100 meters from your house or hotel.
8. Remember, riding a motorcycle is very dangerous. Thailand is the leader in the number of road accidents in the world. 70% of all road accidents in Thailand occur with the participation of motorcyclists.
If you do not have the experience of riding a motorcycle, then in this case hire a taxi or call Uber
And some more tips, for those who still decided to learn to ride a scooter or a motorcycle
1. The silliest idea – is to try to learn to ride a motorbike by yourself, especially if you have never even ridden a bicycle before. At the best case the attempt will end in the nearest drain… Be sure to find an experienced driver who will teach you. Choose the smooth-faced and broad area for your training, without people, cars and dogs – a wasteland or a quiet street in a cottage estate.
2. If you rent a motorbike – ask the instructor or the rental office employee to drive it down to the quiet place where you can practice. If you use some else’s motorbike for your practice be ready to pay any possible damage. And it is better not to use a new vehicle for practicing. No one notice the new scratches on the old bike.
3. Be sure to wear closed shoes, pants, tight blouse. In case of a fall at low speeds – this will save you from injury. While flip flops, shorts and t-shirts virtually guarantee the skin damage from contact with the asphalt. Keep to this rule not only during practice, but also during all future rides. Also tight clothes will save you from the sun rays which can burn your skin during the 30 minutes drive.
4. The helmet should be worn at all times. Definitely! If you come for longer than 3 months – buy a new helmet in the store – it is not expensive, only 300-400 baht, but you will have your own helmet that no one wore before you.
5. Start training only on small scooters with automatic transmission (Honda Scoopy i, Honda Click-i, Yamaha Fino). If you want, you can move to manual transmission after few months of confident drive.
6. First of all spend some time sitting on the bike, getting used to its size and weight. Tilt it from side to the side, feel its weight. Push off with the feet, try to move forward, backward, to make turns. It will help you at parking and leaving it.
7. Left grip – is the rear brake, right one – the front brake. On bikes with a manual transmission everything is different (the clutch in on the grip) but we are not talking about them now. Always keep both hands or few fingers on the brake grip while driving. Statistics show that it saves 1-2 seconds and significantly reduces braking distances in case of emergency.
8. Start the bikes slamming on the brakes and pressing the start button. Release the brakes and feel that you are not moving on. Press the brakes once again and turn the throttles a little bit. DO EVERYTHING SMOOTH AND VERY SLOWLY.
9. If you have never even ridden a bike, try move with light throttle keeping feet on the ground, as if they glide over the surface. But do not speed up. No way. Your speed should not be faster than the speed of a pedestrian. After driving in such a way for some time you can raise your legs and take a test drive on the straight.
10. If you mastered the bicycle you can try to drive at once. Do not turn the throttles hard over otherwise the bike will just jump out from under you. It is better to open up the engine slowly even if you will be helping with your feet at the beginning.
11. The main rule for everyone! If your speed is a little more than speed of the pedestrian you should no longer try to help or slow down with the legs. First of all press the brakes and reduce the speed. Only after that you can put your feet on the ground. Otherwise you will just fall down from the bike.
12. When you learn how to drive on the straight – practice turning on a large radius at a speed and slowly on the spot helping with the legs.
13. The worst mistakes of the beginners are to turn the throttles along with pressing the brakes. Learn to cut throttle with engine braking and press the brake at the same time.
14. The second worst mistake is turning. This is dangerous especially if you try to turn around in front of the oncoming car. Remember! Everything should be done smoothly. With the hard over throttles – you just cannot control the situation. Therefore always wait until the road is completely free and DO NOT HURRY.
15. It is better not to turn on the road for the first time. You better run the bike off the road and turn it for 90 degrees. Wait till the both sides of the road will be empty then cross it perpendicularly and turn the bike again on the other roadside.
16. Practice braking at the broad area. Brake slowly and gently, but firmly. Here everything is like with the bicycle: never use the front brake only. Use rear brake or both at the same time, but avoiding blocking of the wheels. If the wheel is blocked the bike will be dragged out to the side. Immediately release the brake and turn the throttles. Though this advice is only for experienced drivers, they may have time to react and prevent the fall but for the beginners it is just to understand the basics.
17. Now you need to practice the turn signal switch and using mirrors. Also try to turn the head from side to side while driving. The mirrors do not give full view of the road, they have dead area. Get yourself accustomed to value the situation on the road using the mirrors but surely turn the head to observe the whole traffic area before maneuvering.
18. So it is time go to the road. Let it be quiet by-road. And NO hills. Remember that serpentines even empty ones are not the best place for driving practice, just like the city center.
19. Next story will be about Thailand with its left-hand traffic. Often there are wide paved roadside on the road which is usually used by bikes. If it is not there, you should drive a little bit on the right from the roadside layout. Do not go too far to the right as it will be difficult for the cars to outrun you. At the same time do not take much to the left as there can be garbage, pits and other dangerous places on the roadside. And you better have at least half a meter for urgent maneuver to the left in hot situation.
20. If you ride bike in Thailand, do not make a right turn on a bike during the first week! I guarantee that you will habitually drive out into the oncoming lane sooner or later. It is better to drive further and turn around when there is an opportunity and go back to make a left turn.
21. Remember once and for all. You should drive only on the asphalt. DO NOT drive on sand, gravel, palm leaves, irregularities, rubbish, etc. AND IT IS STRICTLY FOBBIDEN to brake on all the above. If you have already got there then throttle back but do not brake otherwise the fall from the bike and exigent condition are guaranteed!
If you noticed the road obstruction beforehand such as road repair and gravel you should reduce the speed to the minimum and pass this area carefully being ready to stop and get on to feet any time.
22. It is better to wait in the nearest café till the rain ends. Wet layout = fall. The road without hard coatings at the rain = fall. Strong flow of wind = fall.
23. Never make any abrupt movement. For example, you decide to make a quick turn while there is no one around and do not notice the car behind you which will knock you down. Abrupt lane change can also lead to deplorable results. Do everything SMOOTHY AND SLOWLY – even if you do a stupid thing and create an emergency situation, then other drivers will be able to react and drive around you.
24. You will not be able to understand and predict the locals behavior for the first few months. Sometimes the locals in Thailand switch on the left turn signal, but turn to the right, that is quite the other way. Sometimes they drive out of the turn without caring about what happens on the road and do not even bother to turn the head and assess the traffic situation. All this ends at the fact that Thailand road fatality is very high – among the highest in the world. So do not make more than 40-50 km / h in urban areas and on roads with heavy traffic.
P.S. The fact that you rented the motorbike does not mean that you can ride it. You need to have A category driving license. At a pinch, you can get a local A category license, having a simple exam in English. It can be done within 1 day including driving license fabrication.
Medical insurance is obligatory. You should have the driving license if you are the driver. In Thailand you can get the driving license in the local traffic police showing the international driving license or passing the exam
We will not talk about alcohol. In case of an accident – any content of the alcohol in the blood means automatic conviction for you. And then depending on the degree of consequence – from penalties and full compensation of all repairs to the prison term, if someone gets hurt. Naturally the medical insurance immediately loses its efficacy.