The best modes of transportation are still the ones you can handle yourself and use as you like and whenever you want.
That leaves basically only a car, a motor-bike, a bicycle or your feet. As long you are a marathon man or sporty decathlete there is nothing to argue about a bicycle or walking or running. If you aren’t – or just plain lazy like me, that would lead to a lot of arguing with yourself.
So the more realistic options are Car or Bike (I’m talking Motor-bikes or Scooters). Of course you can use the bus to travel from A to B or even take a Cab, if your destination isn’t too far away. But for every day’s short distances to the mall, market, beach or laundry – better use something more flexible.
Car or Bike?
Being a German and having owned a few kinds of Ford, BMW and Audi models over the last 20 years, I’m naturally a friend of cars. It’s nice to feel the speed while shooting over a German Autobahn or along long coastal highways, aka Highway 101 in California or along the East Coast of Australia.
But believe me – when you stay longer in one low-cost tropical country, a car is not what suits you best to get around. It’s expensive to purchase, maintain, costs more gas, pollutes the environment more and is prone to get stolen or damaged by other jealous, shady or clumsy people. You will need an air con (which increases the running costs dramatically) or you will sweat your bottoms off very quickly. Other fees, like for parking are higher as well.
Let’s ride a bike!
A bike is more fun and can even take you through traffic faster, as everyone who has driven a bike in Thailand or Indonesia can confirm. You are as well more in touch with nature, with the wind (or exhaust fumes) blowing in your face (insects as well, hehe!) and being right in the middle of everything instead of being isolated from your surroundings.
Yes, it may take you a while to get used to the traffic or different traffic rules (if there are any!) and in case of accidents you are more prone to serious damage.
But isn’t a bike expensive as well?
So far I purchased only used Scooter bikes in Asia, as they offer the best value for money and a good resale value. Why buy a new one, if you can have a good 3-year old Scooter for half the price or less?
You can rent one as well, but that’s usually more expensive in the long run than buying one and selling it again on a later stage.
Just an example for Thailand:
A used 100cc or 125cc Honda Wave is a decent mode of transportation for 2 people, it can make close to 100km per hour, will set you back about Baht 20.000 (around 500-600 USD) to purchase – you can fill up the gasoline for USD 4-7 a pop, which will give you about 200-400km of range. It comes usually with 4 gears, a kick starter and a front disc-brake. This one had 15.000 kilometres clocked. Of course it all depends on your style of driving, the surrounding and your bike of course. If Honda Shadow, Yamaha V-Max or Harley Davidson Fat Boy is more what you desire, you know already that you have to shell out more bucks of course.
Anyway, after driving a Honda Wave as mentioned above for 8 months, I sold it within a week for Baht 18.000, leaving me practically only a few Dollars and the cost of gasoline short. The depreciation of value for a used one is much less than buying a new one and selling it within a short time again.
Basically you can find Scooters of at least Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki in most Asian Countries, although the names and models vary. Here in Bali I ran into Kymco, a Taiwanese brand, which seems to be reliable as well and offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Surprisingly – the cost sheet in Indonesia is almost the same, when compared to Thailand:
A used 3-year old Kymco Scooter (equivalent to Yamaha Mio) with 125cc costs about Rp 4.500.000, almost the same USD 500-600 – and I got even an automatic model (no need to switch gears and at the intersection you are always the first to get off, hehe). Hey ya, it doesn’t look so good from the outside anymore; plenty of bruises and scratches, leaving me wondering how the previous owner was driving it. But the engine is still good after about 20.000 kilometres, it got a front disc-brake and electric starter and buying it from a Kymco Outlet directly, it came with fresh checkup and maintenance; they even changed the rear wheel for me (as it had less profile) for a new one.
So, driving a Scooter for the last 4 months now and putting effectively another 4.000 kilometre on its clock, it was a smooth ride so far. You can easily go 3-4 hours without getting tired, exploring the surrounding. Filling the tank costs me Rp 20.000 a pop (USD 3) and I know that I can sell that ride in short time for still a decent amount.
You have lots of space for your feet and under the seat is a big hole to take in your shopping bags or other belongings you don’t want to openly show to anyone.
Whenever I want to go on a longer distance ride, I rent a car for about Rp 100.000/day, which leaves me flexible for every day’s rides and further exploration once in a while.
A Relaxing way of exploring the region
I met a guy from New Zealand on Bantayan/Philippines, who bought a small Yamaha Scooter over there and was riding around the the Philippines with it; slowly exploring more and more of the 7.000 islands. He just had a big backpack with him. That was all. There are ferries everywhere and most of them allow you to bring your bike for a small fee.
Anyway, what you use to get around depends strongly on your preferences, country and time period to stay in. Considering a small bike or a Scooter can be lots of fun and save you plenty of money.
What do you think?
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