Category Archives: Malaysia

MH370 – Another Reminder Why You Should Never Lose Sight of Your Passport

The tragic loss of a Malaysian Airlines plane between Kuala Lumpur and Bejing with over 200 souls on board is just another reminder why you should always take special care with your passport.

The plane that went missing included two passengers flying on passports that had been reported stolen in Phuket up to two years ago. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more than 60,000 passports – both Thai and foreign – were reported missing or stolen in Thailand between January 2012 and June 2013. Both corruption and lax application of the law exist at most levels, both here and in neighbouring countries, what I find most concerning especially considering the sheer number of thefts is that Thailand does not check passports against Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database – which has more than 40 million entries worldwide.

Countries in South East Asia have a pretty poor reputation when it comes to passport theft, especially Thailand which receives millions of tourists every year.  Considering how easy it is to get false identification in Backpacker areas like Khao San Road, and that police are willing to turn a blind eye to almost any crime for money – it makes sense that criminal organisations are going to use naive tourists as a source of cash as well as both real and fake travel documents.

What Could Your Passport Be Used For?

Recent examples of stolen travel documents include:

  • A war crimes suspect who tried to attend a conference in Congo, but was instead arrested
  • The killer of the Serbian prime minister crossed 27 borders on a missing passport before he was caught
  • Samantha Lewthwaite, the former wife of one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London’s transit system, escaped capture when she produced a fraudulently obtained South African passport.

Human Trafficking & Illegal Immigration

Stolen passports can either be used by someone who looks like the person to travel, or can be modified with new photos (depending on security levels on the passport and biometric information).

Many countries are simply too lazy to check Interpol’s database of stolen passports on the border, so the use of stolen documents to move people voluntarily or against their will internationally using stolen passports is common, especially from South East Asia to countries in the EU (which is essentially borderless once you get in, and pretty easy to get into if you come via, say…the Croatian border into Slovenia which I crossed 5 times without a single passport check).

Identify Theft & Crime

The last thing you want is a drug trafficker flying in and out of South East Asia using your personal details, getting caught and ending up with you being on some list of known criminals or drug traffickers.

Again this is quite common when it comes to stolen passports. I’ve read on Thaivisa.com about a guy who had two passports stolen in one year. Later while travelling he was pulled aside and interrogated in Bali, after an African man had been caught smuggling cocaine using his ID and blacklisted.

International Terrorism

Of course the issue that everyone is talking about – what happened to the recent disappearing plane.  As of yet, no one knows but the facts remain that we have a plane with 200 passengers that has literally vanished and two of the passengers were using false IDs and stolen passports.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the risks associated with your personal documents being used by international terrorist groups to kill or harm others in the name of a political or religious message. Not only will this prevent you from ever travelling freely again, but others might be harmed in the process.

In 2010, two Pakistanis and a Thai woman were arrested in Thailand on suspicion of making false passports for Al-Qaeda linked groups, as part of an international operation linked to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai and the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

The last thing you want is a criminal or terrorist organisation using your passport to travel, resulting in your name permanently being on a no fly or similar travel or immigration blacklist.

How Could You Lose Your Passport:

Motorbike & Car Rentals

More often than not you will be asked for some form of deposit when renting a motorbike in Asia.  Sometimes this will be a drivers licence (which is silly considering you need this to ride legally) other times it will be cash, but more often than not it will be a valid passport containing your entry stamp.

There is absolutely zero security with these passports, usually they are kept in a top draw of a desk, a folder, or a shoulder bag.  Rental agencies couldn’t care less as you are just one of thousands of potential customers, you aren’t likely to come back, and you don’t really have any choice.

While there are plenty of legitimate bike rental places that don’t extort money out of tourists for small scratches and repairs that cost a few hundred baht to fix, there are also loads that do. The worst thing you can do is tell them that you have an urgent flight or ferry to catch.

Stories are common of people with dual citizenship ditching a second passport to avoid the overpriced repair fees, or even reporting their passport as lost of stolen after doing a runner.   What do you think happens with these passports afterwards?  Bear in mind that these rental agencies often have law enforcement support in their repair scams as well.

In Phuket, Luigi Maraldi lost his passport this way, by giving his passport to a rental agency as collateral on a motorbike, which then managed to get “lost” somehow by the rental agency. The passport was later used to board flight MH370.

When Maraldi asked for his back at a bike shop hugging Phuket’s western coast, the owner told him she’d forked it over to an Italian who’d “said Mr. Maraldi was his husband.”

After all, all us Farang look the same

Kiwis – the NZ Embassy is quite clear regarding this.  Do not leave your passport with rental agencies, and if you get into trouble doing this, they will not step in to help.

Hotel & Guesthouses

You are required to submit your passport details and immigration information when checking into any hotel or guesthouse in Thailand.  Some might take your passport as a bond to prevent damage or “for safe keeping”.  I’ve seen guesthouses where passports are literally sitting in a basket on the front desk where anyone can take them.

Of course there are other reports of break ins to hotel rooms where passports and other items are stolen to order.  So always make sure you have your passport safely and securely stored when it is not on you.

Other Travellers

One of the biggest causes of theft to travellers is other travellers. There are plenty of backpackers travelling on ultra low budgets with absolutely zero respect for others. Security at guesthouses and dormitories is often low, and people are often under the influence of booze and other substances. Its not hard for someone to go into your bag and steal your travel documents, especially if they can sell them down the road to a willing buyer.

Roadside Theft

I’ve even seen someone lose their passport on Koh Phangan after leaving their backpack unattended on the side of the road for two minutes while they went back into a guesthouse to drop the keys off. Two ladyboys on a scooter sped past and stole the pack containing the travellers passports.

Visa Services & Agencies

Up until recently I would have recommended using Visa agencies to speed up the acquisition of getting visas from Thailand and surrounding countries.  Now that I’ve lived here longer and heard all the horror stories I’d advise against it, unless you personally know the owners of the agency, their couriers and everyone else involved in the process.

Remember agencies that take your passport out of the country for a visa stamp are illegal.  I’ve got a friend who lived on one of the Islands who used an agent to do their visa runs, one time the courier got busted running drugs on a ferry to the mainland with 20 passports in their possession.  Long story short, none of those passports ever returned to their owners and he ended up overstaying illegally for two years until he got his passport sorted out and enough cash to pay the fines on the borders.  He’s lived here for two decades, and now knows better!

Immigration & Embassies

You’d think it would be safe to give your passport to a government agency, think again.  I’ve been into various immigration departments to get extensions to my Thai visa, and while the main complex in Bangkok has always done things correctly and above board – others are slightly more lax in their approach to passport security.

While getting a re entry permit I saw just how relaxed they were, as passports that had been processed were left in a plastic basket for foreigners (or Thais) to pick up, no ID required.

I’ve heard similar horror stories in Laos at certain relaxed embassies where if you don’t pick up your passport straight it can be picked up by locals who claim to be your “agent”.

Remember Thai embassies have a pretty poor reputation with this sort of stuff, recently staff have been involved in Visa theft in the Savanakhet, Kuala Lumpur & Hague embassies – one of my mates even got caught up on this after the visa he arranged through an agent turned out to be illegitimate – he ended up dealing with legal issues for 6 months while on bail for visa fraud.  Of course no Thais were found at fault.

Thai Law

Thai law technically requires all foreigners to carry their passport at all times, where ever they are. This means when you are at the beach, night club, anywhere.  How many passports have gone missing while swimming or drunk in some bar.

Personally I never take my passport with me unless it is absolutely required or I’m out of town.  I take photo ID with me as well as a laminated copy of my passport and a copy of my latest visa and entry stamp – my passport stays locked up at home.

So far I’ve never had any problems… yet.

Stupidity

There are even reports of broke tourists selling or renting their passports for $1-2000 USD.  I’ve never heard or seen this first hand, and the reporting on it seems a bit dubious, but one thing I’ve learned while travelling is never to underestimate the stupidity of backpackers while travelling.  Apparently this happens reasonably often in the Khao San Road area, where the tourists will report their passport stolen, claim the costs on travel insurance and travel on documents provided by their embassy.  It all seems a little fish to me however, as generally speaking you need to travel back to your home country when on emergency travel documents – maybe they just use it for a one way ticket home!

How To Keep Your Passport Safe When Travelling

  • Always know where your passport is, keep it safely on you while travelling or under lock and key when not
  • Invest in a Travel safe, as many hostels or guesthouses do not have secure storage
  • Do not give your passport out as a deposit on vehicle rentals
  • Do not use agencies or third parties for Visas
  • Use common sense when getting visas from foreign embassies and pick your passport up as soon as its ready
  • Report your passport stolen to the police if it goes missing and contact your embassy straight away.

Koh Phangan to Langkawi DJ Cannonball Run

Late last year I was due for a visa run, and as luck would have it, one of Koh Phangan’s resident DJs had a gig coming up at a 5 Star Resort in one of my favourite islands – Langkawi.  One of the other DJs had pulled out as his passport was stuck at Koh Samui immigration department and did I want to come along for the ride, and maybe spin some tunes? Of course I said, so at 5am the next morning we were off.

Gumball Rally

We jumped into his 1970s Mazda Luce (a non rotary Mazda RX4 for you car nuts out there) and headed for the car ferry.  3 hours of talking shit and watching a Thai dude play with his monkey (literally) and we were on the mainland at Surat Thani. Our plan was to make it down to the border town of Satun before 4pm, park the car up, jump on a ferry to Langkawi and be at the resort in the evening.

CBA10

Getting Lost

Things didn’t quite go to plan. The roads turned to shit, with road works everywhere, we ended up having to detour, and well, that detour didn’t show up on google maps or the iphones GPS.  About 20 minutes into the detour we hit an army checkpoint full of bored soldiers carrying M-16s and probably wondering why two Farang’s were driving a 1970s Jap import at 150 kph down the highway without seat belts in a car full of DJ gear and heading straight into Muslim country (theres been an ongoing insurrection in the South for the last few years). After a bit of broken Thai and a few “Mai Dais” (Thai for “Can not”) we were sent back in the opposite direction to find another way South. After getting stuck on back roads behind people who clearly got their drivers licence on the back of a cereal box we were once again on our way South, at least thats what we thought.

CBA7

Breaking Down in Southern Thailand

I started to relax, and fell asleep, as you do on a massive road trip when you think all is well.  I woke to the feeling of the car shaking and a bit of swearing from our driver. Then I felt the car lose power.  Then it started to drift to the side of the road.  Then it stopped. We were in the middle of fucking nowhere, no one spoke english, we didn’t speak passable Thai, and our car was somewhere in the region of 40 years old and Japanese.

CAB8

We managed to get some lovely people from the local cafe (which was Muslim, they seemed a little confused when our pilot asked for beer) to arrange a mechanic to come and take a look at the car.  After an hour of waiting and learning some basic Thai (For instance, that Chang is the word for Elephant, while Chang is the word for Mechanic) our hero finally arrived.  He started to tear the car apart and in pigeon Tinglish proceeded to tell us there was a problem. We could only guess that he actually meant the alternator, but we left him to work in the vain hope that he’d get us back on the road. And hour later, he re appeared, started to put the car back together and it started, we still were none the wiser as to why it wasn’t working, but he wanted 1000 baht and we wanted to get back on the road, and it seemed like a fair trade.

Missing the Boat

We once again began our (delayed) journey to to the Thai port of Satun. We had a 5pm (we thought) deadline to meet, and dammit we were going to get there in time if it killed us, so onward we drove until we got to town and it started to piss down with rain. The entire town came to a stand still, the car obviously had no de-mister, and well, being an old car, the windows didn’t exactly close properly. The car started to fill up with rain, and we couldn’t see out the windows.

Ang Yees

I got onto my iPhone and searched for guesthouses realising that we weren’t going to make it in time (little did I know we’d actually missed the boat already, as the departure times we looked at were in Malaysia, rather that Thai time zones!).  We settled on Ang Yee’s guest house, a guest house dedicated to climbers who like to hit the mountains around Satun. The place is easily one of the nicest guest houses I’ve stayed in, and has a real Thai/Chinese vibe.  Most of the time we were looked after by one of the guests, who I can only guess has run out of money and is trapped in Thailand without a way home.  He lives in Satun as it gives him the ability to border run every two weeks at minimal cost, renewing his visa and helps out at the guest house to cover his expenses.  By this stage we were completely shattered, having dealt with getting lost on the highway, the car breaking down and missing our boat. We grabbed some beers and food, and then went to bed.

Langkawi or Bust

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn, we prayed to the car gods that the Luce would start, turned the key and we were off to Satun Port.  We parked up in the carpark, got started at by the locals who were wondering who on earth these mad Farang were who’d turned up by car on the Thai/Malay border.  We went to the ticket office, and realised, that in our efforts to be early, we were in fact too early, and had to wait another two hours until the first boat left.  So we did.

We had our tickets, and were ready to leave, all that stood between us and the freedom of Malaysia as Immigration. So, we lined up, then we were moved to another line to let a Thai tour group through.  Then security made us move to let another bunch of Thais clear Immigration.  Then we queued up again, until we finally got to the front of the line and…

… The Immigration officer slammed the window in our face.  Our boat was literally minutes from leaving and we still hadn’t cleared Immigration, so off to the back of the original line we were in we went to start the process again.  Luckily this line flowed fairly fast and we had a friendly immigration officer this time around, our passports were stamped, and we made it onto the ferry to Malaysia.  Just.

Langkawi Boat

The boat was the typical Asian ferry, cheap, reasonable comfortable and a nice method of transport, except for the lunatics in control of the air conditioning.  It was 30 degrees outside, but we were stuck in an icebox shivering the whole way to Langkawi.

We made it to Malaysia at about 10am, and cleared Customs and Immigration in seconds.  Unlike Thailand, Malaysia gives you 90 days upon entry just for crossing the border, and didn’t seem to mind that we were carrying thousands of dollars worth of DJ equipment into the country.  In fact, the officers manning the Customs scanners weren’t even awake.  We pushed our way through the Taxi touts and were met by our limo driver, who unfortunately wasn’t driving a limo, and instead had a mini van.  Still he drove us across the Island for free (all costs were covered) and got us to the resort in one piece.

Cba at Meritus Pelangi Resort

We were due to DJ that night at Meritus Pelangi Resort’s (one of the higher end resorts on the island) beach bar Cba.  We had a stage and the typical army of sound techs who appeared never to have set up a DJ booth in their life.  After much discussion I was able to explain to them that putting a strobe light where the DJ monitors belong was probably a bad idea, and some form of rain cover would be handy considering the thousands of dollars worth of electronics that were exposed to the elements.  We’d been called in at 2pm to do a sound check, but as usual, nothing was ready until at least 6pm, so we went off to the restaurant to gorge ourself on free food, and back to the bar to drink as much expensive complimentary Belgian Beer (anything but Thai beer) as was humanly possible before anyone noticed.

CBA5

The Bomb Squad

We started to walk to the stage and noticed a bunch of cops and military types floating around the venue.  Now if I see cops around and I’m DJing in Thailand its time to keep a low profile, in Malaysia or at least Langkawi they at least seem to have a genuine interest in keeping you safe.

CBA4

It turns out that they were there due to a bomb threat.  These are fairly common on the island which is coping with being conservative and Muslim while dealing with an influx of secular tourists who wish to party. The official reason for the threat was that they were probably offended by party goers in skimpy clothes and the like drinking booze and partying on the beach, but I think it has more in common with the bomb threats you get at uni whenever theres an exam, they just didn’t want to go to work that day.  Everything was checked, they found the person who called it in, and it was a false alarm, so we got to partying.

I played a set of classic house and garage to warm up the crowd while Guy played more of a tech house set.  At its peak we had somewhere around 1000 people on the beach before we had to shut down at 1am.  We wanted to keep going, but due to cops being on site, everyone thought it was best to obey the local closing times.  We closed everything down while the crowd was yelling at us for one more track, to keep going etc and luckily had security to look after us.  I had a yarn with one of the cops who asked me an unexpected questions “Did I play paintball” – it turns out he recognised me from last years Paintball World Cup Asia on the island.  Apparently the ginger beard was memorable.

So, we piled into a card and off we went in search of an after party.  We were of course by this stage wildly drunk.   We turned up at some dive reggae bar playing atrocious hip hop at the time and plugged in while someone trainwrecked tunes in virtual DJ.  It turns out that despite us telling everyone to come to the after party, noone knew where it was, and couldn’t be bothered, and as quickly as we turned up we were gone, and off to the organisers choice of bar, Sun Bar.

Sun Bar

This place was a shithole.  The second we got in my partner in crime started dropping the C bomb everywhere, and we got foul looks from the 100 plus Bangladeshi migrant workers who were desperately try pick up anything remotely female with a pulse (at last count there might have been three women in the bar).  Once again we thought discretion was the better part of valour, and exited the building, but not without me accidentally knocking some drunk malay mafioso type dude onto the ground when opening the heavy front door.

The Aftermath

We woke up in the five star hotel room to a basket full of fruit, complementary booze and nuts, that and a massive hangover.  The day was spent getting lost while driving around the Island before giving up and going back to the hotel room.  To quote Guy “If you’ve seen one fucking South East Asian island you’ve seen them fucking all”.  The rest of the day was spent watching a pirated copy of Hangover III on the big screen, before once again making the most of the complementary food and bar tab.

CBA3

The next day we were back on the ferry, into Thailand with a freshly renewed 15 day stamp (I didn’t have a visa at the time as I was waiting for the paperwork for my Non-B visa and work permit to get processed) and praying that the car would start.  The car gods favoured us once again and we were on the road.  Luckily the trip was less eventful, possible thanks to the numerous flower garlands we hung on the rear view mirror for luck, and we made it to Surat Thani in one piece.  We drove the car back onto the ferry and three hours later we were once again back home in Koh Phangan.

CBA2

Naza World Cup Asia, Langkawi 2013

Previously posted on LivingAlpha.com – Visit to read more interesting travel stories.

Once again I’m on the annual trip to the Asian mecca of paintball, the World Cup Asia in Langkawi Island, Malaysia. It’s my second time to Langkawi this year (last time I was DJing at Cba in Cenang Beach) and its good to catch up with old friends.

I started by catching a Visa Run minivan from Koh Phangan to the Thai border port of Satun, which was supposed to cost 1000 baht ($35 USD), which instead left me somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where I had to negotiate first another minivan, then a truck to the actual ferry terminal, luckily making it there before the final ferry that departs at 4pm Thai time.

Langkawi Boat

As is usual with all types of transport in South East Asia, the boat had the Air Conditioning somewhere at -30 degrees, and requiring some sort of polar type clothing to survive, regardless, I somehow lived while wearing shorts and a singlet, I put it down to the excessive consumption of beer.

Upon arrival, I did what any sane individual would do after leaving an island with no fast food, headed straight for KFC and spent the education budget of a small third world nation on a burger and fries before jumping into a 25 Ringitt (250 Baht!) taxi to the Cenang beach and my home for the next week, Rainbow Bungalows.

I managed to rent a bike without a deposit of any kind (big mistake for them) and drove to the Langkawi Mansuri Hall to check out the tournament site. Caught up with the Asian bigwigs of paintball and started drinking almost instantly – this was a sign of things to come (the eventual hangover put me off drinking for almost a month).

Langkawi Duty Free

I wake up the next day and venture back to the hall, and airport on my bike to meet my partner in crime Vitaly, who has flown all the way from New Zealand to join me. He is of course caring a massive paintball gear back, and a backpack – where I only have a scooter. Somehow we manage to drive back to the guesthouse without killing ourselves which is no mean feat. Vitaly proves to be a god amongst men and has managed to smuggle pineapple lumps and New Zealand beer in his bags, which of course have managed to open the twist tops and are now swimming in a massive puddle of day old open beer. We make do with the dregs, find bikes and head to the duty free.

Of course having gone with the budget fan room, we didn’t have access to a fridge, so a makeshift icebox was created in the bathroom sink for our copious amounts of beer, cider and spirits, which were to be drunk in honour of the paintball gods.

Vitaly Cable Car

The next morning and the familiar hangover, this time we ventured out to continue our touristy vibe with a trip around Langkawi Island to the Langkawi cable car. To call these high would be an understatement – I have simply never been on a cable car this high before (apart from the year before, when well, I was on the same cable car) and it was great to absolutely terrify my Russian friend.

The trip continued in a much similar manner, with more drinking and debauchery, until, well I found my head started to itch, and then itch some more. I thought nothing of it until the next morning I woke up with every travellers worst friend… lice. A quick trip to the electronics store and some Bacardi 151 later and I was hairless and lice free, a quick travel tip, Bacardi 151 is a cheap lice remover, but is also terribly painful in your eyes, and well, flammable – use at your own risk.

Axe WCA

Finally we actually got to the paintball side of the trip. We met with the team, got our ID cards and walked the fields. Standard 5 man race fields on an astroturf field, indoors and air conditioned – heaven for anyone who is used to playing paintball in Bangkok’s heat. Not only that – they shop had pies, actual meat pies that you just cannot buy in Asia. I was in heaven.

The tournament started well with two wins against the D3 teams, but even though our skill level was high for our division, we had not played as a team before and it showed. We got some silly penalties and dropped some games that we shouldn’t have, and by the end of Saturday it was clear we wouldn’t make the Sunday Club. This was probably a blessing in disguise as we really didn’t have the cash for Sunday paintball, and I had to DJ the players party.

So, Sunday was spent in meetings to discuss PALS (Paintball Asia League Series) and organise the prize giving and players party refreshments (50 slabs of beer and LOADS of whiskey, all free for the players as well as sorting out my playlist for the party. The rest of the evening is a blur of free booze, loud music and drunken driving. I have no recollection of how I got home, except for nicking one of the event signs and telling Vitaly to slow down because we were drunk, before speeding off through a police checkpoint and home to bed.

Waking up in the morning I went out to the bikes only to see that the tires were shredded, absolutely torn to pieces. Quite how we got home alive is beyond my imagination, we simply should have crashed considering the state we were in. And then the hangover followed… the two day hangover, and trying to work out how to cheaply fly to Bangkok.

It turns out the Langkawi isn’t the cheapest place in the world to fly to Bangkok, even with Air Asia, and especially with overweight baggage full of paintball gear. So, on the ferry I jumped to Penang, where a cheaper airport, decent Indian food and some old friends awaited..

Visa Running from Koh Phangan to Penang

Previously posted on Living Alpha, visit their site for more interesting travel stories. 

After arriving at the station we came across the famous “orient express” luxury train that one can only dream of travelling through Asia, and had enough time to take some photos and fantasise about the idea of spending thousands of dollars for a train ride up country. But we were on a budget so we went off by foot to cross the water by ferry before walking to Penang’s backpacking street “Love Lane”.

PN4

We settled into our 80 Ringitt a night guest house, before dropping off my passport for my visa at Jim’s Place (the best place for Thai Visas in Malaysia) before dinner at my favourite Indian Restaurant in the world Sri Anwar Bandan in China Street, Little India (yes, it is weird having a China street in Little India rather than Chinatown). This place is simply the cheapest place I’ve ever eaten good “western” style indian food, and Sarah absolutely loved it because of the vegetarian options. We both ate huge meals, and the bill came to only 23 ringgit (230 baht) when in Bangkok a similar meal might cost closer to 100 Ringitt/1000 baht. Simply amazing!

PN3

The next day we spent waiting for my visa, while Sarah needed to be back for school, so off we ran to the Air Asia Penang offices, which are little more than two staff with laptops and a printer. It turned out we couldn’t actually book flights there, so into a taxi she went, and managed to get a ticket back to Bangkok in time.

I had one more night to spend in Penang before hitting Koh Phangan, so checked into the Reggae hostel, which was slightly cheaper at 23 Ringitt a night including breakfast before hitting the local bars for the evening.

The next day was simply waiting around for a visa, before grabbing the minivan to the border, then off to Hat Yai in Thailand and realising that I was travelling to Koh Phangan the day before full moon without organising anything in advance. End result – having to spend 6 hours in the aisle of an overbooked bus to Surat Thani with zero sleep while the bus tried to make it in the pouring rain. Never again.

How to hire a scooter “Safely” in South East Asia

* Its never 100% risk free to hire a scooter in thailand, nor might your insurer cover you when riding on a motorbike.  Hiring a scooter here is at your risk, and I accept no responsibility if you wrap yourself around a taxi, tree or end up off a cliff, or short a few thousand baht when returning it! 

If you are on certain islands in Thailand, Malaysia or elsewhere in South East asia for more than a day or two its almost an absolute necessity to have access to a scooter.  If done right scooter hire is cheap, reasonable safe and fun.  If done wrong, well, it can end up with a very expensive hospital visit, or a depleted bank account from “damage” that may or may not have been caused by you.

Scooter hire places are all over the islands, my advice is ask local expats where the best place is to hire from.  Every island has its horror stories from those who have taken advantage of fresh tourists to make some extra money.  Tripadvisor is handy for reviews of rental companies around S.E Asia, but even better is local advice.

Normally in Thailand scooters can be rented for 100-200 baht per day, more for a motorbike, 4 wheel ATV or a Jeep. Technically you need to be licensed to ride a vehicle, though the laws are enforced very loosely depending on where you are.  You can usually get a better deal for longer term rental.

Most places require some form of deposit (as tourists often do not know how to ride scooters, ride while drunk, or leave their brains at home when on holiday) – cash or a passport.  I strongly advise to use cash (I usually offer 4000 baht, a second hand bomb of a scooter can be purchased for 10-15,000 baht – which will be my next purchase) rather than your passport, as you can always get new cash, but without a passport you are stuck.   Many places however will not rent without a passport, so there is some risk involved with this.

You will be given a choice of bikes, and given the opportunity to inspect a bike with the rental agency, for any scratches or preexisting damage.  This is VERY important, take out your phone camera and make a point of taking pictures from all angles of the bike, noting any pre existing damage to the bike (including the bottom, mirrors, brake handles etc) and note it on the rental form.  Personally I never rent from a place that only has brand new bikes, and prefer the old clunkers, which have already been damaged by hundreds before me.

Scooter 1
Clunker hired in Koh Tao, Thailand

Make sure you get a receipt  and business card.  Take a note of how many keys you are given and note this on the form.  You will be charged (and charged a very high amount) for any damage done to the bike, and it is very easy for an inexperienced rider to damage them. Get a helmet while you are at it, the last thing you want is a head injury overseas.

Scooter CrashHead on Scooter Collison from idiots driving too fast on the wrong side of the road in Koh Phangan, Thailand

You may be offered insurance from the rental places, I’ve never actually heard of anywhere that the insurance is worth the paper its written on, so avoid it.  Do make sure your insurer covers you for bikes – many do not.

If you are new to riding, get yourself an electric start, automatic scooter – Honda clicks are the most common, or if you plan on doing a lot of hills, carrying a passenger get a clutch less geared bike such as a sonic or a wave.  Larger dirt bikes such as Honda 250s and Yamaha/Kawasaki 140s are also available for more experienced riders.  Avoid the large road bikes as they are hard to steer.

Do not – I repeat do not get a 4 wheeled bike.  There is nothing that scares me more than young females riding these things, they are heavy, prone to slipping and less maneuverable in emergencies, these are the most dangerous things on the island and scream fresh tourist! You will notice how many tourists on the Koh San road in Bangkok are sporting “Phangan Tattoos” (Bike related injuries) due to personal idiocy.  Avoid driving when its raining/after rain..

Make sure you wear shoes as you will often need to use your feet, Jandals are dangerous and can result in grazed/stubbed toes and feet. Be aware that the roads are shit, often full of potholes and sand, max speed limits are around 40km, but you dont’ need to drive anywhere that fast – you are on holiday so slow down.  Drive on the left hand side and toot if you plan to overtake.

Have fun, use your common sense and explore.