Royal Brothers Bike rental experience in Phuket Thailand

When in Thailand, best way to explore around is usually a rented motorbike. It is super cheap to rent (around 200-300 baht per day), super cheap to run, compared to taxi, tuk tuk or any other mode, every second street has a bike rental agency and you will have ultimate freedom to move around as per your desire, without having to depend on anyone else to take you places.

When I planned my visit to Phuket, I was looking for bike rental. After having successfully tried in Bali, Indonesia and Palawan,Philippines, I was convinced that bike rental is the cheapest n best way to explore a destination at my command.
Next I had to figure out from whom to rent. From my previous visits to Thailand I was aware that there’ll be lots n lots of shops offering motorbike rentals. Pre- booking is not really a necessity. But there’re also some concerns with these bike rental shops.
  1. Some shop owners are known to steal their own bike using duplicate keys and claim customers have lost the bike and demand a huge sum.
  2. Though many people speak just enough English, having proper dialogue with local operators will be a challenge.
  3. Some operators insist on keeping original passport as security- which is big risk and a strict NO NO.
  4. In case of damage or any other problem, dealing with them will be a nightmare- some will not have proper insurance or paperwork
  5. I had planned to go to Phang Nga area, some 100 kms from Phuket. Not all shops maintain their bikes well. Reliability of the bike is equally important- didn't want to suffer a breakdown in some remote corner.
At first, I checked with Sumon, a bike rental agency owner and tour guide with whom we had done Ride Thailand tour in 2013, covering 2000 kms in 7 days from Chiang Mai to Burma Border to Pitsanulok to Kanchanaburi to Bangkok. I thought of renting from his company. But for some reason not known to me, he didn’t respond to my messages.

Next a google search threw up a pleasant surprise. Royal Brothers, an India based Bike rental company, who started operations in Bengaluru, Udupi-Manipal area had Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok listed on their website. I had rented from them in Mangaluru last year. I didn't know that they had gone international.

Royal Brothers Phuket section had 3 options- Honda PCX, Honda Click and Honda Scoopy. Scoopy was the cheapest at Rs 408 per day (around 200 baht). I had tried Scoopy already in Bali and Palawan, so decided to try other options. PCX was tempting around 800 Rs a day (400 baht) and Honda Click was the mid range at 300 baht a day. Decided to go with Click, as I felt PCX could be heavy (in case of a fall) and more attention grabbing.

Below: Click vs PCX for comparison



Reasons to go with Royal Brothers were obvious:
1. I had tried their service already in India and it was good overall
2. If there's any issue/damage etc I can deal with RB once back in India, not having to argue with local staff in Phuket
3. If they had some Indian employees there, I hoped I could show my plans to him and get it vetted
I booked my Phuket bike rental sitting in India on Royalbrothers website. I was promptly charged 18% GST which was disturbing. I neither availed any goods, nor any service in India. So why should by booking be taxed? They should pay tax to Thailand govt (there tax is only 7%). When I brought this to the attention of Royal Brothers, they did some check with their CA but apparently this is a new case for them and no one had full clarity. Eventually RB offered to refund the tax component stating whatever tax is applicable company will bear it. GST is rolled out very recently and this is probably a first for them. (Their website still shows 18% GST) - have more details in this dedicated post on GST impact on Self-drive vehicles.


On the day of my rental, I had to go hunting the location. They have only 1 location for entire phuket- depending on how far it is from your hotel, you will end up spending few to few hundred baht reaching the pickup spot. This is an extra expenditure you've to incur when you can actually find a rental shop in every street. But hopefully the quality of vehicle and peace of mind aspect should compensate for this.

Once I reached the address, realized that it is not a Royal brothers shop, but a local agency, named "Cheap as chips". Showed my booking to staff there, they happily finished rest of the formalities. They also pulled out few charts and showed me not to turn right at roads with double yellow lines, not to park at footpaths with red and white markings etc. Bike had about half tank fuel, no external damages and soon I could zoom out.

Didn't face any problem for next 3 days. First day spent exploring southern Phuket with Rohit Tripathi, next day went north to explore various attractions in Phang Nga area, including Serasin Bridge, James Bond island and many more. Day 3 was partially washed out due to rain. Second half explored few places of interest around Phuket old town. On final day explored few waterfalls, did some offroading and returned the bike just in time to take a minibus to airport. I am planning separate posts on the places visited and suggested Bike itinerary to explore Phuket. Stay tuned.

Thailand driving is on left, like in India, but road users are highly disciplined. Thus it is very easy to drive. Most streets have dedicated parking spots- mostly free, so parking was not difficult. At night I had to park in open street near my hostel, as the hostel didn't have private parking. I was worried about theft but nothing of that sort happened.

I had to tank up twice- once for 105 baht and second time for 120 baht, plus an emergency 40 baht fuel added from a vending machine-total of about 9 litres I guess, for a total journey of close to 500 kms.

Return was also very simple process. But didn't get instant invoice like in India. Now waiting for refund to be processed.

About Honda Click:
It is a 125 cc bike, good for city use. Feels under powered on highways, not much top speed. Has space for a helmet and some more stuff, so very practical to ride around. Light weight, fuel efficient, has decent grip. Took it to the top of a view point in Klong Khian- the first 2 photos-extremely steep slope, but could climb with ease. Had great grip during the descent also.

Some feedbacks/possible improvements Royal Brothers can include
- Provide a local contact number. Will be easy to get clarifications
- Provide a landmark recognized in Google maps. Though exact map location was given, it wasn't very easy, had some trouble locating the pick-up address
- A mobile holder will be great. Else I have to frequently take out mobile from pocket to check map
- A small booklet detailing local driving rules/what different roadsigns mean will be great.
- The 96 km usage limit per day- most rental companies in Phuket do not enforce such a thing.
- A padlock/chain lock will be nice (so that I can lock the bike to a fixed object like a pole for additional security)
- Will be good if 2-3 more locations can be added- like closer to Phuket airport, Phuket old town etc. Guests can chose whatever location most convenient to them.

Every year in April, Phuket Bike Week happens in Phuket where hundreds of bikers from around the world converge. If you are bike fan try to visit Phuket during this period.

Similar: Chai sutta ride  * Chennai BLR weekend ride * Biking in Thailand- Big Bike tours- FAQs *
Read my 2013 Thailand Bike tour details here (We covered 2000 kms over a week in Versys 750/Honda CB500X)

6 comments:

  1. Hello Shrinidhi,
    Greetings!

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive nice article about exploring beauty of Phuket city on a rental scooter.

    We are working of following particulars to make our user experience more friendly:
    1.Official licence from Transport Authority of Thailand to set up Royal Brothers owned outlets across all major cities
    2.Association with more no of local bike rental operators to provide service across city geography
    3.Royal Brothers help line in Thailand to assist our clients to prepare itinerary to make their experience memorable and hassle-free
    4.Coordinating with TAT and Transport Authority to resolve concern pertaining to taxation

    Kindly do mail us if incase you want us to assist our clients on further concerns if any at Manjunath@royalbrothers.in

    Best regards,
    Manjunath T N
    Team Royal Brothers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the Update Manjunath. Wishing you more success. Will recommend RB to those visiting Thailand. Will be happy to help in any way possible.

      Delete
  2. Is it mandatory to have international Driving licence to drive scooter/car for international destination even like Thailand

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No. Regular Indian license (as long as it is in English) is good enough for short rentals in several countries, including Thailand, Indonesia etc

      Delete

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