Getting around by Motorcyle & Car
The size and layout of Chiang Mai make it ideal for getting around on a motorcycle. Aside from giving you the independence of having your own transportation, there is another benefit to using a motorcycle in Chiang Mai: you will spend a lot less time in traffic during peak hours as opposed to driving or using public transport.
Renting a small motorbike (scooter)
Renting a scooter is easy and inexpensive: 100-125CC automatic models go for about 3,000 THB per month. What you need to know about renting a motorbike:
- You will need to provide a photocopy of your passport plus a deposit of 3000-5000 THB.
- A driver’s license is not necessary (although some shops will accept a driver’s license in lieu of a passport)
- Comprehensive insurance is not included and cannot be obtained when renting. Some shops may offer “insurance”, but it usually covers only damages to the bike. You are still fully responsible for all damages to third parties (if found at fault), as well for any personal medical bills in the unfortunate event of an accident. The only way to get proper, comprehensive insurance is to buy a bike and have it insured.
- Helmets are included in the rental price and it is advisable to wear them. Safety being the obvious concern, in addition, it will save you the hassle and expense of dealing with the police who run regular operations to catch offenders.
A few of the more popular rental shops in town:
Pop Car & Bike Rental (53 Kotchasan Rd, Tel: 053276660): the biggest shop in town, always a good bet for hassle free rentals.
Mr. Mechanic (4 Soi 5, Moon Muang Rd, Tel: 053214708): second biggest selection of motorcycles in Chiang Mai
Tony’s Big Bikes (17 Ratchamankha Rd, Tel: 053207124): reputable operation ran by British expats; they also have scooters and smaller bikes.
Renting a big motorcycle (200CC and up)
If you require more power or if are planing on going further out of town on regular basis, renting a bigger motorcycle is the obvious choice.
Depending on the size and model rental prices range from 7,000 THB to 18,000 THB per month. As an example: a new, 250CC Kawasaki Ninja costs about 10,000 THB per month.
Unlike when renting a scooter, you will need a valid driver’s license (with motorcycle endorsement) to rent a bigger motorcycle. You will also be required to purchase some form of insurance, so make sure to understand what is covered.
Buying a motorcycle
For longer term stays, buying a scooter or a motorcycle, makes a lot of sense both financially and for the insurance issues stated above. A second-hand scooter with low mileage is easy to find for 20,000 – 30,000THB. New ones start around 40,000 THB.
Bigger, more powerful motorcycles start around 50,000-70,000 THB for a second-hand bike in reasonable condition and go up from there. A word of caution: buying second-hand, especially if it is not from a dealer, can be tricky. You need to make sure that the bike is registered and insured (compulsory government insurance which will be included in the price, if it is not case, the seller should advise you and you will have to get the bike insured on your own). Riding an unregistered and/or uninsured motorcycle can land you in a lot of trouble.
Driving a Car in Chiang Mai
Renting a car in Chiang Mai costs about 20,000 THB per month (for a basic small model such as a Toyota Yaris), making it a less sensible option financially, unless you are in town just for a short while. For those moving to Thailand or planning to stay for a while, buying or leasing a vehicle long term is the way to go. As anywhere, the second-hand car market offers plenty of options at all price ranges.
For a new car you can expect to pay similar and often higher prices as you would for the same make and model back home: it largely depends on the make (European imports tend to be a lot more expensive). Japanese manufacturers seem to be the most popular on the local market.
Having your own transportation is by the far the fastest and most convenient way to get around Chiang Mai. The above guidelines will get you started on the right foot but it is best to get the advice of expats who have been through some of the more delicate procedures such as buying and registering more expensive vehicles.