Operating a Scooter for Dumbies

Saving costs on transportation while travelling can be difficult. It all starts with your comfort level and what you are willing to do to save on this unavoidable cost. Public transit in some countries can be very limited and confusing. Paying for taxis/Uber/tuk tuks can get expensive, however it is the most convenient. Hiring drivers from local companies, airports or hotels are the most expensive option but also the most effective form of transportation from point A to point B in your travels. We admit, we can be lazy and tired and just want to get from the airport to our hotel so we grab whatever we see first.

The cheapest form of transportation I have experienced (mainly in various South East Asia countries) is renting a scooter. We’ve paid anywhere from 5-8 Canadian dollars a full day. During your travels you’ve probably seen people covered in road rash due to scooter accidents.. don’t let that defer you from trying them out! It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows when I first jumped on a scooter to take my wife for a little rip. I never got a tutorial and to top it off we were told “There are no helmets on Nusa Lembongan!” This is one of those moments where the safety standards shock you.. But hey, the locals make the scooter look like clown car! You never know how many people they can fit or objects they can cary. It should be an Olympic sport to be honest!

Getting Started on the Scooter

Here I am, on a small elevated island off the coast of Bali with terrible infrastructure, tons of hills and turns. The hotel manager hands me keys to what seemed to be his personal scooter. I fired it up, went for a test spin and almost crashed the thing. Got back on, figured out what I did wrong and made a mental note of how not to do it again. How my wife hopped on the back trusting that everything was going to be safe is out of my knowledge. In the end, I almost killed her once that day (so she says but it was just a small scrape on her leg) but the views you get, and freedom to go where you want, when you want is absolutely priceless. We look forward to renting a scooter because we have found some of the most incredible views that we wouldn’t have come across if we were to walk or take a driver.

So here’s my advice if you’ve never operated the beautiful piece of equipment.

  • Start somewhere small. Don’t let your first experience be in Kuta, Bali or Hanoi, Vietnam. You will for sure never want to jump on one again!
  • Ask for an automatic scooter, this will make your experience 10x easier.
  • Be confident! Know your route before you go if you have somewhere specific to go or be okay with getting lost.
  • Make sure to find out the location of the horn, turn signals and lights. The person renting you their unit will want it back the way they left it to you, so do not be afraid to ask for a little lesson.
  • Always ask where the closest gas station is because no one wants to be stranded on the side of the road in some foreign country. Aside from gas stations in the cities, in Bali and Vietnam the petrol was in 1.5L water bottles found on the side of the road. You can purchase one for a couple of bucks to refuel if you don’t see a gas station.
  • Remember, in some countries helmets are optional. If you do not have that luxury just take it easy and don’t do anything crazy and you’ll walk away without a scratch (hopefully).
  • Be mindful of other drivers. You probably aren’t used to this type of hectic traffic with no order. So keep your eyes focused in front of you and try not to worry too much about what’s happening behind you.

Alright, here you are driving down the road with the wind in your hair enjoying the views. Do not tense up on a bike it will make it harder to drive, especially if you have a passenger. It’s always good to team up, like getting your passenger to shoulder check for you, because it may be absolute mayhem and you do not want to take your eyes off the road. Be aware that some other drivers will cut you off. But remember that’s how they drive in their country and you need to adapt to their ways. You also need to take in account where you can park these things. Some places is a free for all, while other places you’ll need to pay. Do not think that it’s a little bike and you can just leave it anywhere.

If you’re like me, where you don’t get to operate a scooter often you will absolutely love it. My wife has to tell me to turn it around cause I will literally drive for days. So folks, remember the first few rules on what to do if you are a noob like me renting a scooter for the first time and you’ll be fine.

Grip it and rip it.
– J


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