What if I recommended to you traveling a region of 4.5 million square kilometers split into 11 different countries? Now, what if I recommended doing it on a motorbike? A little daunting right? While it might seem overwhelming at first, seeing Southeast Asia by motorbike is a rich and rewarding experience that will allow you to see places you won’t find in guidebooks, meet friendly locals you otherwise would never come in contact with, and have the type of experiences that most people only dream of. Here’s how to go rogue and see Southeast Asia by motorbike:
Buying A Bike
The first step to seeing Southeast Asia by motorbike is..buying a motorbike! This is one of the most important steps in the whole process and I suggest you do your research ahead of time. Ask the best place to buy a bike at your hostel, get recommendations from other travelers, and ask how much they paid. Be prepared to negotiate for the bike you want, although most people are fair and honest. You will find better deals on bikes in big cities such as Bangkok because there is so much competition. There are dealers that guarantee buybacks, but you would have to return to the city where you purchased the bike. A month rental will set you back about $250 USD. Finally, once you have the bike you like, it is always a good idea to head to a mechanic and get the bike checked before you head out on the road.
-Get recommendations on bikes
-Bigger cities, better deals
-Dealers with guaranteed buybacks
-Head to a mechanic
Planning Your Route
Now that you have your bike, you are ready to plan out your route! As mentioned earlier, Southeast Asia is 4.5 million square kilometers. That is MASSIVE. You will definitely have to pick and choose what to see and do (along with some unplanned stops along the way!) depending on how long you are traveling for. There are many popular motorbike routes through each Southeast Asian country, but the most important thing is to choose the routes you are most comfortable with. Some people have been riding bikes for years, others are doing their first ride. Another thing to look for when planning your trip is to pick roads that are easy for motorbikes to go on. You don’t want to be stuck on a narrow road where you are constantly passing trucks where the chances of an accident increase. You will encounter times where you might have to take a bus to another destination. Have no fear because most buses will store your bike for an extra fee. This is a good time to catch up on sleep and get some much-needed rest. Finally, while planning your route, take note of some hospitals along the way just in case you run into complications as you zip around Southeast Asia by motorbike.
-Southeast Asia is big
-Pick the route for you
-Buses are your friend
-Know where hospitals are
What You Will Need
Like any trip, it is important to be prepared ahead of time. While there are shops along the way, you don’t want to risk being stuck in the middle of the jungle without proper equipment. Expect, no matter the season, to get rained on. Bring at least three ponchos, two for you and one for your backpack. Bring along some bungee cords to tie your backpack down while you are riding your bike. An item that is often overlooked but is critical is your helmet. It is recommended to get a helmet with a visor to help keep the sun, rain, dust, and dirt out of your eyes. Make sure the helmet is durable and if you get a helmet with your bike, make sure there are no cracks in it. It’s worth investing in a helmet that is comfortable and will protect you properly. Another item that is important for your safety is a SIM card. They are cheap (at most $10 for the card and 3 GB of data. Expect to use more data than planned, however) and help tremendously if you are lost, need to call a hostel, or find directions. Speaking of directions, bring earbuds so you can get audio directions while you drive. This helps you stay on the right route and saves you time by not having to pull over to check directions. The final thing you will need to bring is snacks and water. The best snacks are fruits or nuts because they are small and don’t need to be refrigerated in the hot, humid weather. Nothing can ruin your day like going the wrong way on an empty stomach!
What You Will Encounter
You have your bike, you’ve planned your route, and you have everything you need to truly go rogue and see Southeast Asia by motorbike! The final question remains: what will I encounter on the road? Well, it is hard to say for certain what you will see on the road, but one thing I can assure you is that the police will pull you over at some point. Don’t be frightened, often times they demand to see your international driver’s license (I still have yet to meet anyone who actually has an international driver’s license..) and want a bribe. It is hard to get out of this situation and they often threaten to take you to the police station if you don’t comply. It is certainly a hassle, but make sure to have a small amount of cash on you at all times. If you have any issues along the road, locals are friendly and willing to help you, so be kind to others. Some may even invite you in for a tea or coffee as you look out over the lush landscape.
-Police will stop you
Final Thoughts On The Journey Ahead
While there is a fair amount of planning that goes into seeing Southeast Asia by motorbike, once you actually head out, you will discover so much more than you would with any other mode of transportation. It is definitely a challenge, one that will test you physically and mentally, but you will cherish the adventure for the rest of your life.
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