I recently returned from a trip to Southeast Asia -- and I learned and saw so many things. Some made me happy. Some made me sad. And some... were kind of amusing.
For example, the observation that about 1 in 7 white guys had his arm in a sling...
And all for the exact same reason:
They went to Thailand and left their common sense at home.
They went to Thailand and tried to act like a local.
They rented a scooter and wiped out hard.
It was almost comical how many white boys I saw in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Laos... who had their arm in a sling because of a scooter accident.
Except it's also not funny at all.
Even if you do everything right, there is still a risk -- especially if you're not wearing a helmet or other protective gear.
To be fair, it's not like I'm innocent. I shared a rented scooter with my boyfriend in Chiang Mai; rode a scooter taxi in Mandalay, Myanmar; hitch hiked on the back of a scooter or two in Laos; and even rented my own scooter from time to time. (I mean, come on! It's, like, $6 per day!)
I survived just fine. I didn't even have any close calls. (That I know of. But that's the thing about close calls. Half the time, we never even know they happened.)
But. I was careful. I also never drank before riding a scooter. And I also drive one regularly at home, so I'm actually experienced at it.
I also ride dirt bikes and motorcycles -- and almost always wear protective gear when I do so.
I know driving a scooter looks easy. For me, it is. There was no time in my life when I didn't know how to drive a scooter. Even when I was 12.
So I assumed it was easy. But then my boyfriend got a scooter -- and of the, like, four people he let borrow it, two crashed within a minute. (Luckily, neither was hurt.)
So remember that, folks: driving a scooter is harder than you think.
Also, keep in mind that Thailand has about 44 traffic deaths per day — and this is partly due to the fact that so many people are on scooters and motorcycles, and many drivers and passengers don't wear helmets.
So if you’re planning on renting a scooter or motorcycle, wear a helmet. And, ideally, not flip flops. (If you’re not sure why, do an image search for “motorcycle accident flip flops.” But probably, you don't actually want to see those photos -- they’re super gnarly. Then again, if you’re thinking about riding in flip flops, maybe you should do the search. Here’s the link.)
It's Thailand, not America, so you might have to specifically ask for a helmet. If the shop doesn't have one, walk away. There's another shop ten feet down the road that will have helmets.
Another thing to remember: scooters are cute and adorable, and they even come in pink — but they’re basically just as dangerous as motorcycles.
In general, I'm all for trying new things when you travel (though my favorite travel hack is to do what you do at home while you travel). I'm all for trying the foods and activities the locals do.
But please, don't leave your common sense at home.
Don't be that guy who spends $1,500 on a car seat for your kid, then rent a car in Bangkok and hold the child on your lap.
Don't get wasted and then operate watercraft or jump off cliffs into shallow water.
Don't drink and drive anything -- especially a scooter or motorcycle. (Fun fact: the locals almost certainly are not doing this. Most Thai people don't drink that much. Their vice is sugar, not alcohol.)
And... don't commit suicide.
People have wild imaginations when it comes to travel -- especially solo female travelers. But the truth is, unless you’re going to, like, Jamaica or Mexico, you’re not going to die on vacation because of murder. You’re going to drown, get in a vehicle accident, or commit suicide.
Notably absent from this infographic is Bangkok Belly. You're not going to die of it, even though it may feel that way. I wouldn't know -- I actually never had any digestive issues in Asia, and this is probably partly because I was taking the probiotics that are proven to help prevent and treat traveler's diarrhea.
Other safety advice I would give anyone:
Happy travels -- and make good choices!
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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