March 2, 2017


A Scooter in Bangkok: The Best Kind of Death Trap?

At first, renting a scooter in Bangkok seemed like one of the best decisions we could have made. This sprawling, chaotic city is notoriously difficult to get around, but with the scooter we had found independence and freedom.

We could go anywhere. No more taxi drivers refusing to turn on the meter. No more long ticket lines and crowded trains. We took our scooter to work. We spent weekends zooming all around the city. We even took it on holidays to Pattaya and Kanchanaburi. After 4+ hours on the road, we’d arrive at our accommodations sore and grumpy, but adamantly insisting that the discomfort was worth it to avoid the horror of public transportation.

The scooter gives you the option to stop and see at any time. 

We even named him – Tooter the Scooter. He was an essential part of our life – until a collision from behind sent me flying and thinking: is it worth it?

Traffic here is the 2nd worst in the world, after Mexico City. Cars and buses are crammed on every road. There is no such thing as a smooth journey around Bangkok. I’ll never forget the day that I spent 4 hours in a taxi – without the traffic congestion, it should have been 25 minutes.

The BTS and MRT trains only cover a fraction of the city, and the buses are always packed, vile, and reeking of body odor. You might occasionally see a public boat on the river, but that route won’t take you many places either. A scooter seems like – and is – such an appealing option.

However, our biggest regret was becoming so reliant on the scooter, to the point that even the thought of using other modes of transport was stressful. The reality is, after such collision, they’re really not that bad.

It became the ONLY way to travel.

While we’re not going to say never ride a scooter in Bangkok – honestly I’d probably encourage you to give it a try – we do want to offer some insight into the annoyances and potential dangers you could face.

The first point is the traffic. You’d think a city with so many bikes on the road would know how to accommodate both cars and scooters. Ideally, cars would stay in straight lines within their own lanes, and scooters could easily move between them when traffic gets congested. Instead, you’ll find cars all over the place, making it beyond infuriating to find the best path through. What should be a quick skip through the middle of still cars takes twice the time because you have to weave in and out – and it’s not easy dragging a scooter in a city with stifling temperatures 12 months of the year!

Notice that most cars are not directly behind the one in front. 

Always be vigilant! Always! I’ve seen cars cut 3 lanes of traffic just to get 10 metres in front of where they were originally. Pointless and idiotic, but that’s what you have expect.

Meanwhile, buses think they own the road, and the not-so-rare moron can be found speeding around traffic on a motorbike doing wheelies.

To be honest, the majority of the people you share the road with are going to be idiots.

The point is, even the safest driver can’t be assured that he will avoid an accident. There is always a risk. We couldn’t have been more careful. We drove slowly. We paid attention to our surroundings. We stayed in the left lane whenever we could. But it wasn’t enough, and after 7 months an accident did occur.

You might do nothing wrong, but you can’t control what another driver will do! Even trying to be safe and going slower will usually result in a car up your backside blasting their horn at you. It was difficult not to get shaken up when that happened without warning. Just what a scooter driver who lacks a little confidence needs, being scared from behind!

The chaotic roads of Bangkok. 

After the accident, I immediately realized I never wanted that horrible collision feeling again. But I can honestly say that if it didn’t happen I would still be on the scooter because it makes travelling the city so much easier. It’s quite a dilemma. But for us, never again!





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