How to Ride a Motorcycle Safely During the Rainy Season in Thailand

How to Ride a Motorcycle Safely During the Rainy Season in Thailand

The rainy season is well underway in Thailand, and that means the roads are an even more lethal place for your average motorcyclist. Increased traffic, slippery roads, decreased visibility, and flooding all pose hazards to anyone brave (or foolish) enough to hop on their bike.

Thankfully, we’re here to help mitigate some of the worst risks for those who absolutely have to take to their bikes during one of the many storms that will wrack the country this rainy season.

We’ll explain what essential gear you’ll need to carry, how you can safely navigate the roads in a rainstorm, and what you should always absolutely avoid.

Of course, 100% safety is never a guarantee, particularly at this time of year. But by taking some of the advice here, you should hopefully improve your chances significantly. 

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Should I Ride in the Rain? 

The absolute safest option on a rainy day is to avoid riding altogether

Even with all the gear below helping you, the roads are more slippery, your vision is more obscured, and traffic congestion is often much worse. 

Motorcycles are very much the workhorses of Thailand for both expats and locals alike, and you may well find yourself with no other option but braving the storm.

Here’s our advice for navigating the roads on days when you absolutely have to drive in the rain:

Rainy Season Bike Check

When you want to ride a motorcycle in the rain in Thailand, it’s not just about having the motorcycle’s license only. There are additional things you should do regularly for safety precautions. 

  • Tyres: Make sure your tyres have got plenty of grip and that they’re fully (or near fully) inflated.
  • Brakes: Ensure your brakes are in good working order and with a full tank of fluid.
  • Rain Gear: Before taking to the roads on a rainy day, you should make sure you have all your rain gear ready in the bed of your bike and/or in your saddlebag or top box.
  • Ziploc Bags: It’s a good idea to pack some Ziploc bags (or similar) to keep your valuables in. The little drawstring plastic bags that many Thai people use to keep their belongings in during the annual Songkran water-fight festival work perfectly for this – you can buy them pretty much everywhere in the country in March and April, so keep hold of yours if you’re attending a Songkran party!
ziploc bag
Ziploc bags you got during the Songkran festival works perfectly.

Proper Gear

During the rainy season it’s always a good idea to have the right gear on you at all times. 

The weather in Thailand can be extremely unpredictable, and violent rainstorms can come out of nowhere, even on a clear day. 

You should keep the following items inside the body of your bike (or inside the top box or saddlebag, if you have one).

  • Helmets: Your best bet is a full-face helmet. HJC helmets are a good choice – solidly made and should offer plenty of protection (albeit for a price!). If you’re using an open-face helmet, make sure it comes with a visor or bring your own goggles so that you can still see okay. A Pinlock insert is a must-have for your visor to prevent clouding in the steamy tropical climate.
  • Rain Jacket: Rain jackets are very common in Thailand, with everything from top-of-the-line polyurethane jackets to simple plastic ponchos commonly available. At the most basic, you will need something that breathes. If you’re after a proper rain jacket, look for anything made out of breathable synthetic fibers such as Gore-Tex. Make sure your jacket has a high collar and sleeve cuffs to keep the worst of the water out. Also, bright colors are the best – they’ll help you stay visible.
  • Poncho: If you’re not a particularly hardcore biker and just want something to keep the rain off on your daily commute, there are lots of basic ponchos available. IKEA offers a cheap, easily foldable option that will fit snugly inside your bike. If you’re really caught short in a sudden downpour, most 7/11s offer a super-basic, super-cheap (around THB100) plastic poncho that can protect you from the worst of it.
  • Rain Pants: Like rain coats, you will definitely need something breathable – once again, synthetic fibers and/or Gore-Tex are your friends. Your rain pants should be nice and bulky so that you can slide them over your clothes, but with good seals around the ankles to keep the water out.
  • Rain Gloves: Once again, look for waterproof, breathable material (Gore-Tex or similar), with plenty of grip. 
  • Boots: It’s better to opt for a pair of sturdy, ankle-high boots with a waterproof lining – just tuck your trousers and/or rain pants inside and avoid plunging your feet into floodwater whenever possible. You might also consider packing a pair of waterproof overboots, which are silicone coverings you can pull right over your normal shoes to keep them (relatively) dry.
breathable jacket
While a breathable rain jacket can be pricey, it can be your best investment when you need to ride in the rain.

On the Road

  • Switch on your Headlights: Most motorbikes in Thailand come with headlights that activate automatically when you turn the bike on and remain on permanently, so this isn’t necessarily something you’ll have to worry about. However, if for whatever reason your bike doesn’t, remember to turn on your headlights in heavy rain, both for your own visibility and to be visible to other road users.
  • Give Other Road Users Plenty of Space: Sure, you know you’re a safe driver – but that doesn’t mean everyone else on the road is. People can and do mess up on the roads all the time, and with the roads slick with water your stopping time is greatly reduced. Try to leave at least a car’s length between you and the vehicles in front of you at all times.
  • Be Aware of Your Surroundings: The roads in Thailand are nothing if not unpredictable, and this goes double on rainy days. In addition to other users veering into your path, you’ve also got to be careful of the increased number of hazards on the roads themselves – oil slicks, invisible potholes, patches of floodwater, etc. Take your time and keep a close eye on the road ahead.
  • Ride Smoothly: Turning, accelerating, and braking all require much greater finesse in wet conditions. Don’t hit the brakes too hard or lean too much in your turns or you’ll quickly skid out of control. Take your time and go easy.
  • Turn Carefully: Turning is one of the riskiest things you can do on a bike on wet surfaces. It’s all too easy to lean just a little too far or turn a little too sharply and slip out of control. When turning in the rain, you should always ensure you take the turns nice and slowly. Downshift as soon as you begin turning and engage the clutch (if it’s a manual bike). Try to avoid slamming the brakes as you may jerk the bike out of control – just gently reduce your speed leaning into the turn, then gently pull back on the throttle as you move out of it.
  • Brake Gently: Where possible, gently slow down before braking – don’t slam on the brakes suddenly or you risk skidding out of control on the wet surfaces. Make sure to engage both brakes at the same time and pull down on them slowly and carefully.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Shelter: Rainstorms in Thailand can be sudden and violent. When the water is falling so heavily it can feel like you’re being sprayed in the face with a firehose, it’s probably time to cut your losses and wait the worst of it out under shelter somewhere. Thankfully, if you’re in a city in Thailand, there are plenty of places you can go to wait it out – petrol stations, convenience stores, etc. In an absolute worst-case scenario, you can always do as the locals do and sit it out at the side of the road under a bridge.
road accident while raining
Road accident happens regularly when it’s raining. Be extra careful if you need to ride a motorcycle during that time.

What to Avoid While Riding in the Rain

Thailand’s roads can become something of an obstacle course after a rainstorm (well, more than usual!). Some things to be wary of are:

  • Flooding: Flooding is a serious and common risk after particularly heavy rainstorms. You may find there are patches of road that are submerged up to shin height (or even worse!). If there’s the option of turning around and taking a different route instead of negotiating floodwaters, you should absolutely try to take it. The filthy floodwaters (backed-up sewers, anyone?) are bad for both you and your bike. Don’t risk it.
  • Potholes: Many of Thailand’s roads are in poor condition and there are potholes aplenty. After a rainstorm, these potholes – some of which can be rather deep – can fill to the brim with murky rainwater and become indistinguishable from an ordinary shallow puddle. If you’re on a road you don’t know well, try and stay away from big puddles in the road – you could easily take a spill hitting one of these hidden potholes at speed.
  • Lightning: Storms in Thailand’s tropical climate can be fierce and lightning can come out of nowhere. If you’re the lone vehicle on a particularly lonely stretch of road, you are potentially a target for a lightning strike. If the rain turns into a storm, seek shelter immediately and wait it out.
  • Slick Surfaces: Some parts of the road can become extra slick after a rainstorm. These include railway tracks, manhole covers, fallen leaves, and dirt tracks. There’s also the risk of oil slicks, which may be less visible on wet ground. Be very cautious whenever you find yourself driving over any of these – take it very slow and be prepared to steady the bike with both feet.
  • Live Wires: Electrical wiring in Thailand can be less than optimal at times, to put it mildly. Loose live wires are a frequent hazard for everyone, and that includes motorcyclists. Always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for dangling cables, and be careful about putting your feet down on wet ground if you can see any loose cables.
navigating floodwater in Thailand
Flooding commonly occurs due to heavy rain. Navigating floodwater can be dangerous.

Fun Fact

If you are looking to buy a used motorcycle in Thailand, the best time to buy it is during the rainy season. Prices tend to be lower than at other periods of the year.

Now, on to You

The occasional rainy day shouldn’t hinder your motorbike riding in Thailand. However, you will need to take precautions. Accidents do happen regularly while it’s raining. 

Make sure you’ve got everything you might need for wet weather stored in your bike. 

If you’re hit by a sudden rainstorm, slow things down, drive cautiously, and always be aware of your surroundings and you should get through it okay.

Also, it’s a good idea to read this article about what to do when you have a car accident in advance. At least, when it happens, you know how to deal with it.


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