Motorbike Rental on Koh Tao – 2019 Update

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Motorbike Rental on Koh Tao – 2019 Update


Motorbikes are one of the most popular forms of transport in Thailand and are a really easy and cheap way to get around. But let’s be realistic for the moment, there are many reasons why riding a bike on Koh Tao may not be best option (more on that later), so always think carefully before you decide to rent and ride.


Bike rental on Koh Tao – the dos and don’ts

The great news is that if you are diving with Master Divers and don’t want to ride a bike or pay for taxis, then you don’t need to. We are located just a few minutes’ walk from the arrival piers. There are many options for accommodation to suit different budgets very close by. You will also find all the amenities a traveller could wish for – ocean and beach, restaurants and bars, banks, money exchange and post office, convenience store and supermarket, pharmacy and medical clinic as well as laundry service and travel agents are all within just a few minutes’ walk of our dive centre.

If you do choose to hire a bike during your visit to Koh Tao you’ll find this post is full of useful information to help you stay safe and make the most out of your time.

Renting bikes

If you do choose to rent a motorbike, there’s a few things you should know. Firstly, most places will require an original passport as deposit for the bike. This may seem a little unorthodox, but it is standard procedure here and we have not heard about passports being misplaced by a rental company.

You will be asked to check over the bike carefully for existing damage. Make sure you take lots of photos and video. Most rental companies will also take photos of damaged areas with you. Once both parties have agreed on any existing scratches, you will also sign a contract. Make sure you read it properly and don’t sign anything you are not comfortable with or can’t understand properly. The contract should also list how much they charge for replacement parts in the case of damage. A set of wing mirrors direct from the Honda dealership, for example, cost 300 THB. You should expect to pay more than that as their price will include some cover for loss of rental income while the problem is being fixed. If the damage charges seem unreasonably high, there are plenty of other rental options, so go to another hire shop.

You should also be provided with 2 helmets included in the hire. All the rental companies we recommend include helmets. Be sure to wear them at all times when riding. It’s not only smart, it’s the law!

typical-island-bike-koh-tao

To make your rental experience as smooth as possible, we suggest asking someone local for their recommendations. Your Divemaster or Instructor is really good starting point. We also hear consistently good feedback about the following rental shops:

Mae Haad

  • Oli’s motorbike – 5-10 minutes’ walk from Master Divers, Oli’s have built a solid reputation for honesty and good service. They have Click 125 automatic bikes available with various levels of damage insurance available (for the bike, not for you, or any other third parties). There is a pick-up service available from most locations on the island. Oli’s also produce a handy guide to motorbike safety for their customers and you don’t have to leave your passport as a deposit if you don’t want to (alternatives are: a photo of your passport plus 2,000 THB/an ID card/your driving license).
  • Koh Tao Scooters – 5 minutes’ walk from Master Divers, Koh Tao Scooters is part of Island Travel. There is a clear pricing structure depending the level of damage insurance you would like to take (again for the bike, not for you, or for anything else). Island Bikes will rent a bike with a passport copy accompanied by a cash deposit if you prefer not to leave your original passport with an agent.
  • RPM – 1 minute around the corner from Master Divers is RPM. This long-established and well-trusted operator has a range of types of bike from automatic scooters and smaller semi-automatic bikes all the way up to large 500cc manual bikes. Prices vary depending on the type of bike – scooters are priced competitively but big bikes are quite a lot more expensive per day.
  • Motorcycle 23 – 5-10 minutes’ walk from Master Divers is the rental arm of Pong Mechanics which is the most trusted bike mechanic among Koh Tao locals. These bikes are all automatic scooters (110 & 125cc) and are not the typical brand new, shiny rental bikes that you see in most places around Koh Tao. This means that if the bike gets a small scratch during your period of hire, it’s unlikely you’ll get charged. This is also a good place to check about longer term rental options.

Sairee

  • RPG Travel – Located along Sairee Beach, this bike rental shop is small and friendly, and honest too! Most of their fleet is automatic 125cc scooters. They don’t normally charge for the odd small scratch and the charges for damage are reasonable. These guys are worth talking to if you are looking for a longer term rental.

Road safety and the motorbike DOs and DON’Ts on Koh Tao

Although there have been massive improvements in the road conditions on Koh Tao over the last few years, don’t expect everything to be up to the same standards you  get at home. Here’s our top dos and don’ts for riding around Koh Tao:

  • DO remember to drive on the LEFT
  • DO wear your helmet and ensure your passenger does also
  • DO ride slowly so you can respond to hazards. Thai children are generally very “bike-aware” but Thai dogs are not…
  • DO get up to date local knowledge of road conditions and be ready for the unexpected: puddles, sandy patches, and pot holes
  • DO think carefully about riding with a passenger if you are not experienced, it is a lot harder and even more so if the passenger is also inexperienced
  • DO remember that what goes up, has to come down. It’s normally harder to go down a hill than go up it on a bike and turning around on a narrow slope is very difficult.
  • DON’T be tempted to take more than 1 passenger on your bike
  • DON’T try to ride to Mango Bay or Laem Thian
  • DON’T try to take selfies while riding, or even get your passenger to try this
  • DON’T expect other road users to understand rules of the road. For example it is common practice among local riders wanting to make a right turn to ride over to the left side of the road, while (possibly) signalling right and waiting for a gap in the traffic

road-conditions-koh-tao-after-the-floods
This is how the road to Mango Bay/Hin Wong Bay looked after the floods in 2017. It’s been completely re-built since and is in a much better condition these days…

Alternatives to motorbike rental

Walking

Koh Tao is a small island only 7km long by 4km wide, so walking is surprisingly effective. This is especially true if you are focussed along the West Coast of Sairee Beach and Mae Haad and the south end of the island at Chalok Ban Khao where there are fewer hills. These areas are also where the majority of the dive schools, accommodation and other amenities are located. Take care since there are not really any pavements or sidewalks. The “Yellow Brick Road” that runs along the beach from Sairee to Mae Haad and the Sai Nuan Circuit that connects south to Chalok are great alternative walking routes to the main road. If you are walking at night, make sure you go in a group and use a flashlight.

Taxis

Unfortunately these are quite expensive on Koh Tao. If you are staying near your dive school, however, you may not need a taxi day to day. In this case, taking the odd taxi out in the evening for dinner, or to access a more remote beach is within most people’s budget. Trip costs are pretty standard and will start with a minimum price of 300-500 THB for a trip for up to a fixed number of people. Beyond that expect to pay 100 THB per person each way – so the more people you can persuade to join, the cheaper it gets!

Bicycles and eBikes

These are becoming more popular and are ideal for those who need to travel a little further and more regularly, but are not comfortable with riding a motorbike.

red-bike-for-rent-koh-tao

Bicycles are available for hire from 100-150 THB per day from Island Bikes and Oli’s Motorbikes. EBikes are available from Oli’s and usually cost 250 THB per day. Expect the same rental procedures for these as for motorbike hire.  As with motorbike rental, be sure to wear the helmet provided.


This is an updated version of the 2018 blog post about bike rental on Koh Tao. You can find the original post here.


Photo credits: private, Oli W., unsplash

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