Commuting with a scooter is an efficient and fun way of transportation, however during our travels around Southeast Asia while often choosing scooters as the main transport to explore a specific location, we experienced a different dimension for this type of transportation – scootering as a separate adventure in itself. And what I mean by adventure is, either a crazy, chaotic adrenaline rushing commute from point A to B while continually praying for survival, or liberating exploration of the beautiful, breathtaking vast roads and nature. All this, often for just as little as $4 a day. 

Three topless men sitting on scooters with mountains in the background in Vietnam

The mad hectic side

Let’s start with the mad and hectic side – which some might fear, but few (crazy people like us) might get the rush from and enjoy. There are obviously some traffic rules and regulations which are followed most of the time, like driving on the legal side of the road (unless if somebody really, really needs to go the other way). However, for the majority of the time, there is an informal hierarchy which is being followed by the majority. From my experience, having A LOT OF confidence while being on the road and following this hierarchy is the key to having a happy scootering experience in SEA. Here are some things I observed that made my eyes open a little wider: 

  • People transporting walls on scooters

Person transporting a wall on a scooter in Souteast Asia

  • People transporting huge sticks on scooters

  • Scooter taxis – not too sure yet if it’s super genius and efficient or sketchy and mad

  • No speed limits on certain islands
  • Driving in 7 lanes on a 2 lane road
  • People driving in the opposite direction of the traffic (we learned how to do this eventually too)

People driving scooters in the opposite side of the road in Southeast Asia

  • Trailers being pulled twice the size of the scooters right through the traffic

A large trailer being pulled by a scooter in Southeast Asia

  • Scooters which do not meet any technical condition requirements
  • Fuel is sometimes sold in plastic bottles on the side of the road

A man drinking fuel from a plastic bottle in Southeast Asia

  • So many beeps and horns!

The awesome side

On the contrary, the lack of rules but a relatively safe environment in the rural areas provides you with a liberating feeling to explore the most beautiful locations. During our trip, we had the chance to explore the wilderness, abandoned waterpark, wild country trails and vast roads encompassed by beautiful mountains. Without further ado, the good beautiful side:

  • Breathtaking views like this

  • Vast liberating roads

  • So much wilderness
  • Abandoned waterparks

A man on a scooter with a dragon in the background in Ho Thuy Tien waterpark in Vietnam

The system and its beauty

Although it might seem like total chaos on the streets, there is a system which kind of works. Well, it luckily worked for us since during our three-week trip we had no accidents nor we saw any in this hectic, somehow functioning system. And we even had a guy who had driven a scooter once in his life prior to this experience. 

Some unwritten rules are: the bigger your vehicle the more priority you have, always and ALWAYS use your horn when overtaking, undertaking or just driving, everyone else does it, so should you. Confidence plays a big role in getting around safely. 

Two tourists taking a photo with employee of a gas station in Southeast Asia

Nevertheless, not everyone is so lucky and in reality, renting a scooter in SEA involves many risks, so check out this article for some in-depth info for you to read before you head out and have you own scooter adventure. I still strongly believe that with the right precautions, some practice and urge for adventure, hiring a scooter in SEA can be a super rewarding experience. That was definitely the case for us. Overcoming the fear of joining the hectic traffic and trusting other road users will teach you a thing or two about embracing the different and unfamiliar. 

It’s your turn now. Go find some fellow adventurers, plan your journey and go adventure