A bike ride across Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand is an experience in itself and you feel elated as you drive across mountains of North Thailand exploring its rich culture and beautiful forests. Roads are well paved but path gets treacherous with sharp curves and steep slopes. Therefore, it is recommended to choose your bike in Thailand wisely for your trip across Mae Hong Son Loop.
When we reached ZZ Hostel, our guest house in Chaing Mai, and told Boyd, the owner that we were planning a drive across Mae Hong Son Loop, he looked at us and said -“Get a good bike !! Get a good bike !!”. We took his advice seriously and went for Yamaha PCX 150. It was such an amazing decision as we would not have negotiated those sharp mountainous curves without a strong companion like Yamaha PCX 150. It’s a long ride and at times, you do not get any village or town for 30-40 kilometers, so getting a 150 cc good condition bike is minimum that you should look for. You may even look to hire a geared bike but a semi-automatic 150 cc is minimum. Anything lesser than that would not be able to manage the distance and the rigour of Mae Hong Son loop.
Where to hire bike in Chiang Mai
There are large number of shops in Chiang Mai which rent out bikes but not all of them will have quality bikes. You may still hire a bike from any of them in case you are just hiring for a trip in and around Chiang Mai. If you are going for Mae Hong Son Loop, then choose wisely as you can not afford a break-down on the way. So, hire from the one who have plenty of bikes to choose from, maintains their bikes well, provides on-road assistance and insurance. Based on Boyd’s recommendation, we hired our bike from POP Big Bike Rental. Just next to Tha Phae Gate, they have the biggest collection of bikes in Chiang Mai, have their own mechanics to service and maintain their bikes and is reliable. Mr. Mechanic is another reliable option from whom you can hire your bike. We checked bikes at both the places and finally decided to hire from POP (8 AM to 6 PM)
Charges and Deposit for Bike Rental
Charges for renting a bike in Thailand depends very much on the type of bike you choose. In case you are looking for anything less than 125 cc, then charges are around 250 bahts for 24 hours. For 150 CC Yamaha PCX, charges are 450 bahts a day. In case, you are hiring for many days which of course is the case if you are planning Mae Hong Son loop, then there are chances of negotiation. We got our bike for 400 Bahts per day. In case, you are looking to rent geared off-road bike in Thailand, charges will go upwards in the range of 600-1000 Bahts a day depending on the type of bike you choose.
For Documents, surprisingly no one checks your driving license. Only document that they want as security is your passport. In case you do not want to leave your passport with them (which you should also not), then you have to leave a security deposit along with a copy of your passport. In our case, we had left 4000 Bahts as security deposit which they refunded without any hassle after checking bike when we returned it.
International Driving License for Thailand
Having an International Driving License is must to drive in Thailand. Please ensure to have one from your home country before flying to Thailand. Thailand Police will not even have a look on your own country’s driving license. Only International Driving License is the valid document that they will accept.
So what if you do not have International Driving License and land in Thailand. Try not to be caught by Thailand Police !! Usually there is no police checking outside city limits but within city limits, police checks for license and you know we were caught in Chiang Mai 🙂
We directly landed in the police net with around 10 Policemen checking licence for everyone on one way road just next to Tha Phae Gate. We tried to work around but of no use and they fined us for 500 Bahts. This 500 Bahts fine allows you to drive in Thailand for 3 days. We were surprised that even if someone does not have a driving license, they impose a monetary fine and then you are all authorized to drive around for next 3 days. While leaving, we asked Police Officer -“What after 3 days”. He replied -“Come back and I will give you another slip for 500 Bahts for next 3 days”. Luckily, we were not caught again on our 7-day drive across Mae Hong Son Loop :). Here is our Fine Receipt that we kept as memento from our trip –
Driving in North Thailand
Though we read that roads across Mae Hong Son Loop were not safe but we found really nice roads all across. We found road signs and reflectors at almost all curves/slopes which was very helpful. Traffic too gets low after Pai and remains so till you approach Doi Inthanon. For most of the time, you would find all the road for yourself. Even around Chiang Mai where traffic is high, Thai people have really good driving sense and lane disciple is pretty high. People show indicators and follow right lane as per speed (highest speed vehicles take inner most lane).
We pretty much enjoyed our drive across Mae Hong Son Loop and did not face any issue. Just be cautious for steep slopes and sharp turns when you approach Pai. That is a bit difficult stretch otherwise rest of the drive was very much like breeze.
Your rent charges include basic insurance covering medical expenses (to an extent) or damage to the bike. Please ask for the same and also read T&Cs properly. T&Cs will differ from shop to shop. In case, you need additional coverage for self, damage to bike and third party, do ask for the same from the place you hire your bike in Thailand. Insurance charges will be extra and over and above the bike rental charges.
Tips for hiring your bike in Thailand
Here are some tips to help you rent your bike in Thailand and also have a safe and hassle-free trip –
- First and foremost, nothing less than 150 cc if you are looking a bike for Mae Hong Son Loop
- Check your bike thoroughly when you rent one for any damage or dents. Best is to click pictures of all damaged parts and make a video covering all bike parts. This will avoid any disagreements while returning bike.
- Select a bike with comfortable seating. You will be driving around 1000 kilometers for at least a week across curves and slopes. Also check for pillion seat comfort if you are driving with someone else.
- Look for Locked Storage Space. At times, you will be leaving your bike behind parked somewhere for a small hike or to quickly visit some places.
- For your back-packs, check for stable luggage carrier and ask for additional elastic ropes to tie the same. You can not hang your bags at your shoulder or hold them on your bike for long.
- Get your gas/fuel prior to leaving for next city. There are no or very few gas stations between two cities as you cross mountain passes. Don’t run out of gas right in the middle of nowhere.
- You won’t find any mechanic between cities, so if your bike develops a snag or gets punctured, you will be in trouble. We will suggest to carry few spare parts, puncture kit and understand the basic of fixing a puncture.
- It gets quite sunny during the day, so wear full sleeves clothes and apply sun-screen to avoid sunburns.
- Do not over-speed. Go slow and enjoy beautiful views of mountains, waterfalls, forests and valleys.
- Keep your phones charged and download Offline maps. You will loose net connectivity as you will drive to interiors.
- Carry Water sufficient to last till your next destination.
- Not to mention, wear Helmet all the time.
Hope this helps you plan your bike trip across Mae Hong Son Loop better and enjoy your time in this heavenly abode. Drive slow and enjoy the nature. Please drop a comment below in case you need more information or you want to share anything else with fellow travellers.