Thailand can be an amazing place to visit in your travels, but can also be a dangerous place. The most dangerous thing that you can possibly do in the Land of Smiles is drive a motorcycle. As a foreigner you are victim of unfamiliar driving techniques that could potentially spell disaster for yourself and those you are traveling with. If you have no choice but to drive the streets alone on your motorcycle, here are a few tips to help ensure your safe trip.
360 Degree Driving
If you are from a western country, then you are probably use to a certain kind of order that comes with driving. Unfortunately, in Thailand, no such order exists when you are on the road. As you navigate the roads you will be confronted with motorcycles, cars and people coming at you from all directions. In Thailand you drive on the left side of the road, but that doesn’t stop people from driving full speed on the right side. Being aware of what is around you is good driving practice wherever you are, but be sure to be extra mindful of your surroundings while driving in Thailand.
Sure and Steady
Whether you are driving a car or a motorcycle, drive in a straight line at a consistent rate. This may seem like common sense, but few people actually stick to this logic. Since you are in a foreign country, you are probably not accustomed to where you are going. You will likely find yourself speeding up and slowing down sporadically in an attempt to locate where you want to go. Try to limit this kind of tourist behavior for your own safety and the safety of those around you. Even a slight bump by a passing motorcycle is enough force to throw off your balance and give you a face full of asphalt.
Invest in a Sturdy Helmet
For whatever reason, Thais in general don’t like to wear motorcycle helmets. The sad part is, if you ask any Thai in Thailand if they know someone who has been killed in a motorcycle accident, the answer is almost surely yes. Thais and foreigners living in Thailand for the most part only wear a helmet to avoid getting a ticket at certain obvious police checkpoints. Do yourself a huge favor and wear a helmet every time you get on a motorcycle, you could potentially save yourself a world of hurt.
When you rent a motorcycle in Thailand, you will typically be issued a plastic helmet that you will see most people using. These helmets are terrible. If you have no other choice then wear it, but you will probably want to go out of your way and buy a nice helmet with a face shield. Yes, this will cost you extra money, but wearing a helmet that can take a highway impact at 60 km/h and leave your skull and face intact is well worth the investment.
A Red Light Doesn’t Always Mean Stop
Of course in theory a red light is suppose to mean stop, but in Thailand, many drivers do not heed the signal. When you are waiting at a red light, especially if you are in the very front, be sure to take caution before accelerating once the light turns green. At times I have seen cars and motorcycles alike continuously run a red light to the point where my green light had almost ran out before I had a chance to go. Just because a traffic light turns red, many people in Thailand don’t feel a need to stop.
Left Turns are Safe Turns
Since you drive on the left side of the road in Thailand, left turns are always going to be the safest turns to make. If ever you are at a busy traffic street and trying to make a right turn, consider making a left instead. Often times I have found myself frustrated trying to spot a break in the traffic to cross a busy street. An easy and less risky alternative is to make a left turn, merge over to the center when it is safe, and make a quick U-turn when the traffic breaks on the other side of the road. You will be heading in your desired direction and the move is less risky then the alternative.
Driving in Thailand is an experience all by itself. Your first goal when driving in Thailand should always be safety. Ensure your own safety, ensure the safety of your passengers, and ensure the safety of those around you (even when they aren’t). Be mindful of what’s around you and always expect everyone to do the dumbest thing they can do. You would be surprised how often they actually do it.