Chiang Mai, albeit a relatively small city, is not a great walking city. There are some terrific sites, restaurants, malls, bars, and activities around the city – perhaps even within easy walking distance from where you live. However, you will need some form of transport to get around and to make the most of living here.
The transportation [Link to Transportation costs] options are convenient, relatively cheap, and plentiful, but many choose to rent or buy their own transport.
Motorbikes/cycles are a very affordable and popular option, and most households in the city have at least one!
The Cost Of Renting A Motorbike
The roads in and around Chiang Mai suit riding a motorbike pretty perfectly. When the traffic is heavy motorbikes can dodge the worst of it, parking is basically free almost anywhere, and there are a lot of fun country roads to ride on outside of the city.
In fact, motorbikes outnumber cars and virtually rule the roads. They are very affordable to rent or buy and inexpensive to run, so locals, expats, and tourists alike bounce around Chiang Mai on one.
Given their popularity amongst expats and tourists, there are no shortage of options when it comes to renting a motorbike.
The more popular 125cc automatic “twist-and-go” motorbikes – Honda Click, Yamaha GT, Honda Scoopy, etc. – will usually set you back around 250 baht for 24 hours rental. The longer you rent one for the sliding scale of costs will kick in, the most cost-effective being taking one on a monthly basis, the cost of which is likely to be around 2500 baht for an average condition one.
As you go bigger in engine size and spec, the costs will increase. The popular and more comfortable Yamaha Aerox, Honda PCX and Yamaha NMax models, which are between 150-160cc, start at 350 baht a day and 3500 baht a month. They will also use a little more fuel and – as with any motorbike – the age and condition of the motorbike will impact the price.
A quick Google or scroll through Facebook groups will find you the most popular rental companies, but Vanessa’s Motorbike Hire and Mango Scooter Rental are widely known for daily and monthly rental. For a longer-term rental specialist, Chloe Motorbike Rentals has a loyal customer base and corresponding reputation.
Semi-automatic motorcycles – like the Honda Dream, Yamaha Spark – aren’t quite as common, and costs are similar to 125cc automatic motorbikes. If you are after a manual motorcycle, then there are options right from 110cc Hondas all the way up to 1300cc Harley Davidsons at some rental outlets if you look hard enough.
You can try to barter a little with the rental company, but there are rarely wide differences in price. The exception can be in the less popular tourist months, so March through to October, when demand is low so prices might be lower, or at least more likely to be negotiable.
High season – November to January – can, however, see Chiang Mai sell out of rental motorbikes almost completely.
Buying A Motorbike
If you are living in Chiang Mai for a longer period, it may prove more cost effective to buy a motorbike. How much it will cost is like asking how long a piece of string is, but whatever your budget there will likely be a motorbike in the city for you!
A used run-around bought privately could cost you as little as 10,000 baht, whereas a brand-new Harley Davidson from a dealer will set you back into the millions of baht.
There is paperwork involved in buying a motorbike here – this is Thailand after all – though the costs are low. You will need to transfer the motorbike to your ownership – get the green book transferred to your name – which can be done at the Land & Transport office in Hang Dong.
A dealer might include this in the price of the motorbike, but the fee is 200 baht if you do it yourself at the office.
You will need various documents, though the only one that will need paying for is the Certificate of Residence. Get this from immigration for 300 baht – though it might cost you an additional 500 baht if you need it in a hurry.
The annual tax/registration of the motorbike will also be your responsibility. This is the square pink slip that you will see attached to various parts of a motorbike. It is 100 baht for a year, but you will need to pay 200 baht for compulsory insurance at the same time.
Fuel Costs In Chiang Mai
As with most countries around the world, at-the-pump retail fuel prices for vehicles fluctuates. This is no different in Thailand, though prices are somewhat regulated by the Thai government.
The changes are still largely in line with oil prices worldwide, but (at the time of writing) 91 and 95 gas, most commonly used for motorbikes, don’t generally exceed 45 baht per liter. They can equally drop to 33 baht in a matter of weeks, so check out the latest prices online or at your nearest filling station, however they are considered much lower than that of Europe, the US, and many of the more developed countries.
Most gas stations are tended, so there will be no need to fill up yourself, though tipping the attendant isn’t common either.
Insurance Costs For A Motorbike
There is no point avoiding the subject. Riding a motorbike anywhere comes with some risk. Thailand is widely reported as having a poor road-traffic accident record, though most commonly through inexperience and reckless riding or driving.
When purchasing a motorbike, you will need to purchase compulsory insurance at the same time as paying the tax/registration for it. This will cover some minimal medical costs. If you own your motorbike, you can purchase additional private insurance relatively inexpensively too. Websites such as CheckDi offer insurance quotes from a range of insurance companies that non-Thai residents can take out.
If you are renting a motorbike, however, it often isn’t that simple. The rental company is likely to have compulsory insurance, but it is unlikely you’ll be able to take out any additional private insurance. Some travel insurance and health insurance policies could cover you, so check out your policy before you decide to rent.
Bicycles In Chiang Mai
If you aren’t keen on jumping on a motorized two-wheeler, then there are plenty of options when it comes to cycling. Despite the climate, Chiang Mai has become a popular place for serious cyclists thanks to the variety in terrain.
The relative flat of the city, combined with the mountain roads give serious cyclists a variety of tests.
It is also quite a pleasant way to get around the city at a slightly slower pace, and stay active at the same time. Most hostels and hotels in the old town will rent you one for a day, or even a few hours, but there are also a number of bicycle shops around the city where you can rent or purchase one.
For an inexpensive used bike, check out Facebook marketplace or some of the rental shops around the city.
Motorbikes are an extremely popular, largely inexpensive, and convenient way to get around the city with some freedom. If you have any tips and tricks to finding the best rental – or the best place to find reliable motorbikes to buy – let us, and new arrivals to Chiang Mai, know in the comments.
Chiang Mai is offers terrific value for money across the board in terms of living costs. Some of the other more common costs to consider here include: