Whenever you visit Southeast Asia, chances are you will meet people with a motorbike. Riding a scooter or motorbike all the way down Vietnam for example has always been a rite of passage for first-time visitors.
Getting a bike is one of the best ways to explore SEA with a genuine taste of freedom. It easy to just get one and go on an adventure, BUT remember that you are in a foreign country and need to take a few precautions.
Even though you will meet many travellers boasting about having no travel insurance, this shouldn’t encourage you to do the same. A lot of travel insurance companies don’t cover motorbike accidents because they can be dangerous but if you end up in an accident, medical care will be expensive. Find a good company and get insured.
The most common and popular bikes you can get in SEA are 100-125cc scooters, especially the Honda Win and Honda Dream. These bad boys are reliable, easy to use and last for a long time.
The Honda Win however is more popular in Vietnam and Cambodia and has a full manual transmission and taller suspension.
Keep in mind that in Vietnam, if your engine is over 175cc, you'll need a special permit that may take a while to get BUT you can opt for a 3 month visa. It’s usually better to get a motorbike with a smaller engine size as it’s a lot harder to use a big bike to its maximum capacity on the traffic-filled roads of SE-Asia.
Automatic bikes are expensive to fix, use more fuel and are less trustworthy. It's better to choose manual or semi-automatic, especially since you can change gears when going up or down difficult hills or roads.
Sometimes you might need a bit of paperwork but if it's only for a few months then get a second-hand bike. Just ensure the previous owner gives you all the registration papers beforehand.
If you are planning to cross borders, it’s advised to get a motorbike that is Vietnamese-plated as these can enter Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia with great ease.