Feb 21

How to get around in a big country?What the best mode of transportation, if you stay more than a few months in one location? Flying? The Train? By Ship? Take the bus? Taxi? Walk? Yeah right! :)

What then?

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?

Highway 101 - CaliforniaBeing 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.

Driving Bike in Laos (Vang Vien 06/2006)The amount of money you have to invest in a car can save your life though; as a car offers usually more protection in case of any accident than a bike.

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:

Honda Wave with 100cc or 125ccA 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:

Kymco 125cc automaticA 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.

Old Scooter with Sidecar in PhuketSo, 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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written by Chris

14 Responses to “Best mode of transportation to get around in a big country”

  1. RheaNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Domestically speaking, I did U.S. Route 66 a few years ago and ran into a bunch of Europeans on motorcycles. I thought that was an ideal way to see the country.

  2. DanNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    What is the gearing on these little things? I’ve only ridden a motorbike once and well i was crap, not that i couldn’t learn with more practice. What is the situation with licenses for these things in Asia too?

  3. IsabelNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Hey Chris,
    Have to agree with you on this one.. I’d def give preference to a bike.

    Also checked ur post for Laos, it sounds like an amazing place.. u going back soon to carry on exploring?


    Ps- thanks for ur comment on my blog – someone finally understands!!! ;p

  4. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Rhea, yeah Route 66 must be the best trip to go – but with a real motorbike, not a Scooter. Born to be wild! ;-)

    Dan, the gearing is quite good, some don’t even have a clutch, it’s semi-automatic. Just shift it. It takes a while to get used to, but then it’s really easy driving.

    Isabel, Laos is really a mystic country – still. But you can see a lot of touristy development already. I would rate it about 15-20 years behind Thailand, but it’s fast catching up. Go there before it’s too late. ;-)

    I definitely want to go to Laos again, maybe later that year or early next year. But maybe I write another more detailed post first with some more pictures. :)

  5. LaasyaNo Gravatar AUSTRALIA Says:

    uhmm philippine jeepney? hehehe.

  6. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hi, Chris. I agree with traveling around the Philippines with ferries connecting islands, it was that easy. I have had accounts of my travel before complete with photos but my free web service provider take down my site without giving any notice, so I practically lost all of that information. That means I have to scan those photos all over again and try to recollect my memory once more.
    Anyway, thanx for this post. I probably would read more of your Philippine articles in my future visits. By the way, I’m planning to buy a Honda XR200. It’s a 197cc four-stroke motorcycle. I’m planning on settling down in Iloilo for good and once I can realize that, I probably would push through the motorcyle that I dream of…

  7. JennDZNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    I would rather use my feet or public transportation. I have a deathly fear of bikes, motorized or otherwise…..Such an annoying habit!

  8. Gas moped scooterNo Gravatar SPAIN Says:

    If I had a choice I would go for a big touring motorcycle,however being practical a moped or scooter is always going to be the best option as they are cheap to run and in huge supply.

  9. digitalnomadNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Definitely motorbike. Maybe even motor home with motorbike.

  10. Living the Good Life in Bali - a Wrap up after 2 Years | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] you sporty? Do sports here: dive, snorkel, surf, kite, trek, bike, hike, play beach games. Ride a bike or car around the island and explore its hidden gems. Check out its neighboring islands like […]

  11. OliverNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Hey Chris
    Thanks for the info mate very much appreciated.
    I am here in Bali indefinitely for the the moment. I would say around 4-5 months.
    How much do u think a used motorbike would be and also an apartment like you said in the Tuban area?

    Your info would be much appreciated.

    Best regards

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Oliver, myself I bought a 3-year old Kymco scooter for 4.5 Mio Rupiah and sold it after 2 years for 4 Mio. Best advice: buy it from an official Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kymco dealer, you will have less problems and they will do the paperwork for you. For other Costs of Living in Bali, check this spreadsheet. ;-)

  13. ivanNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    I have had the experience of a trip on a scooter from Koh Samui to the border with Malaysia, one day my wife and I drove 600 km on a scooter Honda clik :D

  14. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    ivan, you are freaking crazy man! 600 km on a scooter for visa run? I bet your butt was sore and you had more than a few blisters, hahaha! Keep up the good work and happy motor-riding! :D

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