Nothing beats being able to immerse yourself in the culture of a stunning country with gorgeous scenery and winding roads. However, not everyone can always afford luxury means of transportation to get around South East Asia. That is where renting a motorcycle can be beneficial, especially in Laos. However, the procedure for how to rent a motorcycle in Laos is not always clearly explained. Here are all your questions about renting a motorbike in Laos answered:
Though Laos is considered less developed than other countries in South East Asia, the cost associated with visiting the country can actually come at a surprise. The cost of essentials, even transportation, is vastly disproportionate with the GDP, meaning you cannot expect motorbike rental to be cheap. That said, the overall cost is still more economical than trying to take public transportation everywhere. Plus, you get more freedom to visit places you want to go.
The normal pricing is about 100,000 kip (US$12). In southern places like Pakse, 100cc scooters might go for as low as 80,000 kip per day (US$10 per day). You might be able to negotiate a slightly cheaper price, but for some that 100,000 kip per day might be more than doable.
2. Rental Bikes
Most of the brands of bikes and scooters you will find in Laos are those you have never heard of. Don’t expect to see Suzuki, Honda, or Yamaha. No, instead you will see brands like Kolao. This doesn’t mean these motorcycles are not reliable.
Generally, this is what you can expect from the rental motorcycles in Laos:
Price and availability relies on how many foreigners are renting specific brands. Chinese and Japanese brands with 110cc motors tend to be the most popular. However, 110cc bikes were not made to tackle dirt, so if you plan on going off-roading, you are not going to want a 110cc bike but a dirt bike or one with fatter tires.
The odometer is going to play a huge role in how your gauge how far you are going. Why? Many roads in Laos aren’t marked, and turn-offs are also without signs. Be sure to seek out a bike with a working odometer so you don’t get lost.
If the bike happens to break down in the middle of nowhere, you can’t call the company for a replacement. There’s no Enterprise car rental to pick you up. What you need to do is load the bike up on the back of the next pick-up truck that rolls by or wheel it into town yourself so a mechanic can fix it. If you abandon a broken down bike, you will be forced to pay for another one.
3. Duration of Usage
Keep in mind that while you might be paying for a full day of use, you are not actually getting a full 24 hours of use. You will use the motorbike for about half a day, meaning you get to pick up the motorbike at the break of dawn and must return it to where you rented it from in the evening (usually around 19:00). This means you will either have to get up early to get your money’s worth, or you will need to accept that the duration you get to use the bike is limited.
There are also no guarantees about getting a rental bike in Laos. Unlike Thailand and Vietnam, you are not renting a bike for a week at a time, and thus you can’t usually make reservations.
Of course, that is not to say that you won’t be able to haggle for an extended duration of use or a lower rate. Sometimes, you can find guest houses that are willing to lend you a motorbike for the length of your time you stay at the location. This might mean you get a small 250cc scooter for about $150 for ten days. Depending on how long you plan on staying in Laos and riding around, this could potentially be a very good business transaction.
4. Restricted Roads
Remember that, while Laos has opened up to tourism, it is still a country with a strict set of rules you need to follow. This means that many roads are not open for you to travel unless you have legal documentation. There are over 23,000 kilometres of classified roads, and less than a third are sealed and surfaced.
The other thing about roads is that many are not in great condition. Northern Laos has many roads winding through mountains. Be sure that you are prepared for random weather occurrences, poor conditions, animals crossing the paths, thousands of people to dodge, and motorbikes that might not be in the best shape to handle rigorous mountain roads. Have an emergency phone and first aid kit ready!
5. Rules and Regulations
To drive in Laos, it’s simple. You need a valid international driver’s permit and an up to date driver’s license. However, since you’re only renting a motorbike, the chances of you getting asked for a license is slim. On the other hand, most rental companies will take your passport as collateral.
As for rules of road: just expect random things to happen. For instance, though you typically drive on the right side in Laos, it is not uncommon to see driver’s switch to the left lane (not even to pass) or swerve from right to left and back again. Such driving is dangerous, so keep your eyes open. This holds true for intersections, where many people turn right without checking left first.
In short, you can ride a bike in Laos without a license. You don’t even need a helmet or safety gear. Yet, you must be ready to claim responsibility for anything that goes amiss. Taking a hairpin turn too fast and crashing the bike, causing damage to it and yourself, is a potentially catastrophic situation. Again, as noted earlier, you need to carry a basic medical kit, because there will be no ambulance to pick you up.
No place is like Laos, where you can simply pay for a motorbike and go racing off into untamed wilderness and mountainous roads. The freedom you feel while touring this majestic country, so rich in history yet rather undiscovered by the rest of the modern world, is only available to you on motorbike. So what are you waiting for? Now that you know that renting a motorbike in Laos is incredibly easy, nothing is stopping you from visiting Laos and seeing exactly how amazing this country is.
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