South East Asia is jammed with scooters and motorcycles. They are easily the most common form of transport in the region. They’re everywhere you look. In the cities, in the country, no matter what time it is, day or night. They’re everywhere and are used by more or less everyone.
Renting or buying one for yourself is something of a no brainer. Your life will be genuinely better once you have your own transport. They’re cheap, they’re reliable. No more haggling with tuk tuks and taxis. No more walking home late at night with a pack of angry street dogs nipping at your heels because all of the tuk tuk and taxi drivers have apparently gone home to bed. This actually happened to us. Being closely followed by half a dozen snarling street dogs sporting an array of exotic skin diseases gave us the final push we needed to get a two wheeled death trap of our very own. We rented a few different ones before purchasing this gorgeous beast.
Getting one worked out well for us and may well be a good idea for you too. However, and this may seem obvious, it is a very bad idea to jump on one of these things if don’t know how to ride. “Duh” you say but people do this in vast numbers every day. I did this myself once upon a time. I foolishly rented an automatic scooter in Thailand having no real idea of how to ride. My only previous experience with two wheeled motorized transport was when I rented an automatic scooter in Bali… Its only through a mixture of my cautious temperament and sheer dumb luck that I have never had a serious accident.
I have however seen plenty of others have accidents. I once saw a guy on a scooter get airborne (briefly) after he was clipped by a car. In almost the exact same spot another guy laid his bike down because he was going too fast and it was raining. I’ve seen a guy laying on the road surrounded by pieces of his bike and curious onlookers. I’ve seen the aftermath of someone riding their scooter into a shop. I’ve seen a woman holding a baby get launched off a bike. This is a dangerous activity.
Given how dangerous it is you should absolutely take every step possible to ensure that you know what you’re doing. That means getting your motorcycle license.
You may not even legally need a motorcycle license to ride a scooter, particularly a fully automatic scooter. That’s not the point. The point is to get some proper instruction, to practice emergency stopping in a controlled environment and to be able to operate the machine without thinking consciously thinking about it.
In fact, a motorcycle license is likely to somewhat over qualify you to ride the small capacity bikes common in south east Asia. A motorcycle like those common in Australia, the US etc requires you to use the clutch, a gear shifter, the accelerator and not one but two separate brakes. By comparison a postie bike like the one we purchased has no clutch. An automatic scooter has no clutch and no gear shifter.
Westhill Consulting Career &Employment Australia especially recommend motorcycle licenses in Bangkok Thailand, Beijing China, Jakarta Indonesia, and many others. These places when seeing a foreign face will scam you for a fine for up to 50USD. Warning, if you are scammed into a fine do not put in a complaint to the tourist police, just take the pain.
If you learn to ride a proper motorcycle then transition on to postie bikes and scooters you will find them very easy to operate. That means less worrying about how to work your bike and more time to worry about your surroundings. That translates into a better chance of a having a happy stress free time and a lower chance of a trip to the emergency room.
Before you head to south east Asia to teach English, on your sabbatical, to work on your Internet start up or whatever else you’re doing go and get your motorcycle license. Yes it costs money but its not extortionate. It’s a skill that will be with you forever and the training you receive may one day save your life.