To Scoot or Not to Scoot

Scooters and the Solo Traveller

Motorbikes are the dominant mode of transport in much of the world. People outside North America have long understood their value in terms of costs and practicality. Cars are certainly on the rise all over the world, even in places where they serve very little practical purpose, but motorbikes are still king. For travellers, especially solo travellers, the automatic motorbike—also known as a scooter or moped—can be a great way to really see and experience a place.

Granted, driving a scooter is not the safest mode of transport, but realistically, when travelling in the developing world, few modes of transport are truly safe. At least with a scooter, you are in charge of the vehicle and you can make choices to increase your safety. The two main benefits of renting a scooter are: (1) independence and (2) cost. With a scooter, you can go where you want and when—you needn’t rely on other drivers, or taxis. Which brings us to benefit number two: taxis can can add up, especially if you’re on your own. And waiting for taxis, finding taxis, and getting stuck in traffic in a taxi can take away time and pleasure from any trip.

Be an Explorer

If you really want to explore a place, a scooter may be one of the safer ways to do it. In some regions of the world, local buses—while an experience in and of themselves—often take a long time to get from point A to point B. They’re also not the safest mode of transport in terms of road safety, and being on a bus as a solo traveller, especially as a woman, has its own safety concerns. On a scooter, you don’t run the risk of being caught somewhere without an escape, and you can remove yourself quickly from any uncomfortable situation. Walking on the side of the road can be dangerous in and of itself and on a scooter you increase your coverage in a way that walking won’t allow.

Let the Good Times Roll

While practical, affordable, and convenient, one of the more compelling reasons to rent a scooter is that driving one is just plain fun. If you’ve never driven a two-wheeler, it can be a bit tricky. Add the fact that you may need to drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. But once you’re comfortable driving, and have a good feel for the roads, driving a scooter can become not just a means to an end, but one of the more exciting experiences of your trip.

What You Need

Many countries, even in the West, will rent low-powered scooters to tourists with regular driving licenses. In other parts of the world, your driving experience is irrelevant. However, you may be asked to leave a significant piece of ID with the rental shop.

In Thailand, where young devil-may-care tourists have a habit of wrecking scooters and skipping town, rental shops may demand that you leave your passport. In this case, you may be better off leaving a sizeable cash deposit. In Goa, they may ask for some sort of ID, or they may just ask you if you can drive and then hand over the keys. But, no matter where you are, you should always carry ID when you are driving a scooter. An international driver’s license also doesn’t hurt, but more often than not, authorities will wave you through checkpoints to avoid the hassle of dealing with a foreigner.

You should also carry the phone number of your hotel or rental shop and some emergency cash, in case there is an issue with the bike, mechanical or otherwise.

Author’s Note: You should consult your travel medical insurance policy before assuming the risk associated with driving or riding on two-wheeled vehicles.

This post originally appeared on Travel + Escape.