Exploring Laos on a rental motorbike is a really exciting way to get around and embrace the country’s scenic landscapes and cultural treasures.
It’s often the cheapest and easiest way too, as sights in the towns and cities in Laos are often spread out a few kilometres.
While driving round South East Asian countries on a scooter is on the travel bucketlist for many people, before you rev up the engine – it’s important to know the basics.
Here’s a comprehensive guide covering all the important things you need to know if you’re planning to rent a motorbike in Laos.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE RENTING A MOTORBIKE IN LAOS
Cost Of Motorbike Rental In Laos
On average, daily rental prices for motorbike rental in Laos range from $5 to $15 USD. This is a good price to have the scooter for the whole day!
Especially in touristy towns like Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, you’ll find plenty of scooter hire places in town all offering similar prices.
Rent Your Motorbike From A Reputable Rental Place
You can often rent the scooter from the guest house/hotel you’re staying in, or you can rent it from a scooter rental place in town. It’s always best to rent from a company that someone recommends, whether that’s your hotel/guesthouse, or the recommendation of a fellow traveller.
If you’re not an experienced motorbike rider, always pick an automatic – they are much easier for getting around in the city and on paved roads.
Reputable motorbike rental agencies will provide well-maintained bikes and clear rental terms.
Also check what time you need to return it by, or what time the store closes, and ask them for a map of the local area if they have one so you can easily plan out your route!
Inspect The Bike Before Accepting It
Inspect the bike thoroughly before accepting it. Take note of any existing damages such as dents or scratches, and inform the rental agency.
I always take photos or videos of the bike beforehand – where the rental agent can see, so I know they won’t try and charge me for any previous damages when I come to return the bike.
Check the brakes, lights, tyres, indicators and the horn.
If you plan to be riding on rough terrain or off-road, let them know so they can get you a suitable bike for your needs.
If there are any problems with the bike when you are out, always phone the rental company first. Don’t take it somewhere else to fix it as you’ll probably be left short!
You Need To Leave A Deposit Or Your Passport With The Rental Company
To hire a scooter in Laos, you will need to leave your passport with the motorbike rental company. Don’t forget to have a paper copy of your passport just in case, and don’t forget to collect your passport when you return the scooter!
Some places will let you rent a motorbike without leaving your passport, but you will have to put down an expensive deposit. Usually if you rent from the guesthouse/hotel you are staying at, they often waive this fee.
You Need A Valid Driving Licence
While this sounds obvious, you do need a valid driving licence, whether that’s the one from your home country, or if you have an International Driving Permit.
Filling Up Petrol On Your Rental Motorbike
As with most places in Asia they will often give you the scooter with an almost empty tank. You therefore fill up what you need for the day and return it with the same amount of petrol in that you received.
Find out where the nearest petrol station is, and just fill up with the amount of petrol that you think you’ll need.
There are lots of little ‘petrol stations’ along the road. You may not even notice them at first as it is not like a regular petrol station. It is someone sitting on the side of the road with lots of see-through plastic bottles containing petrol lined up.
The person there will fill up your petrol for you using a funnel to pour the petrol into your tank. Currently the petrol prices are around $1USD per litre.
Avoid Hiring A Motorbike When It’s Wet Or If There Are Landslides
Laos has two seasons: wet (May until September) and dry (October until April). The dry season is better for motorbiking as it’s safer (less rain and less chance of landslides), although expect the dirt roads to become dustier.
Unless people are doing a complete Laos trip by motorbike, the majority of travellers get the bus between each town or city when they are travelling, and then hire out a motorbike for the day in the town – particularly in places like Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Vientiane that are popular spots on any Laos itinerary.
Uneven & Dusty Roads
The roads around some places in Laos, particularly Vang Vieng are VERY uneven. I hurt my back briefly a couple of times on the back of a motorbike because the roads were so bumpy and rocky.
If you’re driving along dusty roads, make sure to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the dust. Even wearing sunglasses while riding in Vang Vieng, my eyes were so red by the end.
It’s also a good idea to wrap a scarf around your head – my hair felt so disgusting and really dry from all the dust in it that I’ll definitely be doing that next time!
Precautions and Safety Tips
Wear a helmet, and always check if the rental includes insurance coverage. If not, consider purchasing travel insurance that covers motorbike accidents.
Also be sure to familiarize yourself with local traffic rules. In Laos, they drive on the right side of the road. Locals often don’t follow the rules, so always stay vigilant to avoid any accidents.
Sometimes when you’re parking at a touristy spot (like Kuang Si Falls for example), the security guards will charge you $1 or so to watch your bike to ensure it doesn’t get stolen. Make sure to always carry some cash with you.
Returning the Motorbike
When returning the motorbike, ensure you refill the fuel tank to the agreed level and return it in the same condition.
Laos is full of breathtaking landscapes, and hiring a motorbike gives you the freedom and adventure of exploring at your own pace, as well as being able to explore as you wish. Do make sure to always prioritise safety and responsible riding.
Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!