My first experience with an electric scooter in Bangkok
During the five years that they took to build my local skytrain station, I was busy planning all of the trips that I would do with my bicycle in Bangkok. Unfortunately, about a year or so before it opened, they banned regular bicycles from the train for much of the day. The only exception were folding bikes that could be taken onboard at any time. At first I was thinking about buying a Brompton. They are both stylish and convenient. They fold up small and are light enough for carrying. However, they are very expensive. Then I started seeing stories about electric scooters. This seemed to be a viable alternative to a folding bicycle. But I wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable on something like this. Apart from the fact that I would be a grown man on what looks like a kid’s scooter, I also had concerns about safety and ease of use. Which led me to Go Scoot Bangkok, a tour company that takes people around the back lanes of the city. What better way to try before buying?
First, some information about the electric scooter that I did my test ride on. At Go Scoot Bangkok they use the Xiaomi M365. You can buy them online from about 10,000 Baht upwards. The maximum speed is 25 km/h which is more than fast enough. The range is about 30 km which will vary depending on another of factors including your own weight, how many hills you climbed and what speed you went. They have an “eco mode” which kind of doubles as a “beginner’s mode”. It limits your speed which is perfect for riding around town. The maximum gradient it can climb up is 14%. Luckily, Bangkok is mainly flat. The handlebars of the scooter folds down very quickly which makes it easy to carry. The weight is 12.7 kilos which is not bad for going up and down some stairs, but you wouldn’t want to carry for too long.
My first concern on seeing the scooters was whether it would be comfortable to ride. As you can see in the photo above, there was only just enough room for my large feet. The handlebar was also just about the right height as well. However, if I decide to buy an electric scooter, I would probably go for the pro version which has a slightly bigger footplate and the handlebar is also slightly higher. The pro version also has a longer range of 45 km, about 15 km further than the one I tested and it also performs better on hills up to a gradient of 20%. But the bigger battery comes at a price. The scooter is about 1.5 kilos heaver and it costs about 5,000 Baht more. The charging time is also longer. The regular scooter takes 5.5 hours to charge. The pro version takes 8.5 hours. So, no topping it up while you stop for a bite to eat. You are either going to have to charge it overnight or during the day if you rode it to work. But, it does have one advantage. If you do run out of power, just fold it up and hail a passing cab!
As for ride comfort, it is not that great. There is no suspension in the cheaper electric scooters and the wheels are only 8.5 inches. Yes, the tyres of the one I tested were filled with air, but you will feel any uneven surfaces like cobbled stones. And Bangkok has plenty of uneven surfaces and potholes. In the photo above, you would feel every one of those bumps. Roads are not always much better. Apart from the potholes, you would also have to be careful of drains. But, having said that, the majority of my ride was smooth and I quickly learned to bend my knees when I went over any bumps. However, compared to riding a bicycle, you do need to be more careful and avoid all potholes. You might notice in the above photo a Dji Osmo Pocket that I had attached to the handlebars. I did shoot some footage but a lot of it I couldn’t use due to the vibrations when I went over uneven surfaces. I think next time I should attach the camera to either my body or to a helmet. That would make it smoother.
Next I will talk about safety concerns. Yes, I should have worn a helmet and I will do so on my next trip in Bangkok. However, I never really went top speed and for the majority of our tour around Bangkok, we were on back lanes and on cycle paths. If you join the Go Scoot Bangkok tour then you are fully covered for any accidents which is good to know. Several times during our tour we were on footpaths but never when they were busy with people. And at all times we kept our speed down. As you can see from the above photo, it is so easy to just stop and walk if it starts to get busy. And as the dimensions are smaller than a bicycle, it doesn’t get in the way and it’s easier to squeeze through tight fits. Incidentally, it is also easier to carry onto boats or up and over pedestrian bridges. They say that if you can ride a bicycle then you can ride an electric scooter. But, getting your balance is slightly harder. It took me a while to get used to going round sharp corners. Even taking my hand off the handlebar to signal to turn right or left wasn’t easy. But I was getting better by the end of the tour. I just needed practice.
Now it is the time to decide whether it is worth me spending 10,000-15,000 Baht on an electric scooter. I already have a car and a bicycle. How would an electric scooter benefit any exploring that I do, both locally and in Bangkok? Firstly, the scooter is very much a different experience. I have done bicycle and foot tours of the same route that we took with the electric scooter. The main difference was that I was higher up than a bicycle and it was a lot less tiring. It was also a lot easier to dismount in a small alley which meant I was stopping to explore on foot more often. A few weeks ago I did a walking tour of Chula Art Town. It took me about five hours as I was hunting for street art. I was really tired by the time I had finished. An electric scooter would have been great. However, I do have one concern with this model. There is no key to turn it on! You just push a button. Which is convenient of course, but it is also easy for thieves. So, if I wandered too far, I would need to get a padlock.
I haven’t made my final decision yet. I think I need to do another test run. I am not too concerned about safety any more. I think it is just as safe as a bicycle. Just don’t go too fast, keep to the side of the road, avoid busy roads with buses and trucks, and be considerate of other road users and pedestrians. At the moment it is legal to ride a scooter in Thailand, but this might change if people abuse this privilege or too many people start using them. I also need to consider whether it would be cheaper and more convenient to rent an electric scooter. That is something I need to explore more. I just don’t know whether I would use it enough times to make it worthwhile. I am not going to rush into this. I wish to thank Go Scoot Bangkok for letting me join their tour so that I could test out the electric scooter before buying. You can learn more about their tours on their website.
As usual, feel free to post comments below about using an electric scooter in Bangkok. Do you have one already? How much do you use it. Do you feel safe? And, oh yes, please don’t bother posting links to how dangerous scooters are. I have seen the articles already when I did my research. Thank you.
19 thoughts on “My first experience with an electric scooter in Bangkok”
I recently moved to Bangkok and rented a place about 800 meters from the nearest BTS. I plan to stay without a car and I utterly dislike waiting for Grab or taxis, so I googled my way here to see if an electric scooter is right for me. The red flag I see is when you say it’s a little harder than a bicycle. I can never balance myself on a bicycle. I tried and I always fall. It’s a lifelong balance handicap of some sort and I loath bicycles. Now that left me wondering if I will face the same issue with these scooters 🙁 I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Comments are really interesting & specific. It would not be hard for companies to build right- and left-flashers into the handlebars so one doesn’t have to take one hand off the bars. Big question: Do any Thai drivers know the hand signals???
I’ve been seeing a few silent, electric mocys nearby. Be awesome to get rid of all the noisy, smoky road beasts.
You mainly drive in Bangkok?
I’m wondering if you use regular roads or just sidewalks when you use this. Would use helmet / suit if on roads. Would also upgrade to m365 pro (better battery capacity) with upgraded front/back suspension + 10 inch tires, or buy a Kugoo / Dualtron (high speed, long range, better build quality, suspension, key/fingerprint lock), if you drive a lot on roads (suit and helmet needed).
Also, check the screws on the scooter regularly, preferably use loctite threadlocker (blue) on those.
Cheers for the information, and the comments from everyone else 😁
Do you need a drivers license to drive this?
No you don’t. Nor road tax.
I don’t recommend the Xiaomi I purchased one and refused delivery when it arrived after doing further research. The tires are inflatable, which means 2 or 3 small potholes and they are likely to burst. And you can NOT replace them on your own as the drive train system
Is inside the front wheel. I opted for the slightly more expensive but better quality Ninebot, built by Segway. Yes, Segway was bought by the Chinese and the same company makes the Xiaomi, a more affordable alternative. But only if you want to go in for frequent service. I take it on the BTS, to work, for errands and shopping. It atttacts many looks but the best has been the motorcycle jockeys that give me a thumbs up going down Witthayu on the way to work. I’ve done the math and what i save on bikes and bts and grab, it will pay for itself quickly.
Lazada sells a number of accessories: the carry handle, bell, mirrors, and a front mounted carry bag. AND a helmet!! Don’t fool yourself—you don’t want to fall off this in the middle of traffic. It’s only a matter of time before more are seen around town, in addition to the Singapore start-up rolling out the rentals (as one sees in Europe and the US) in more areas of the city.
Thanks for your comments.
This is the world’s best selling scooter and used by fleet companies too because inflatable tires are the safest for grip, comfort, and efficiency. That is why all modern vehicles have air tires. Solid tires only protect from flats but you will lose grip and crash.
I am considering to buy a scooter to commute to work, but I have no idea how to park the scooter. Can it be as simple as fold it and bring it to my office?
Will the security at the shopping mall allow me to bring the scooter inside?
I rarely see people carrying a scooter inside a mall.
I take my scooter in the lift up to my office at school!
My company has been importing Xiaomi Scooters to Thailand since about 2016 or so and I’ve been riding one between my condo and office every day since. It’s likely that the one you rode came through our distribution channel!
Even though I’m biased, I can say that it’s changed my life – when I want to get somewhere quickly within a couple of km of my house or office, I’ll always take the scooter. I don’t feel trapped by the sweltering heat of a walk or or negotiating with a taxi.
It’s a little dangerous of course, so wear a helmet and make sure to get some experience in a safe area before venturing out on the street. Walking is dangerous in this city too, so there is that.
You can take them on the BTS during certain hours if folded but the MRT won’t allow them the last I checked.
I’ve taken it on both MRT and BTS with no problems.
Just bought a pro, although im choosing my time / moment of which to road test where i live ( Asoke ). The purpose was to. Get from bts to tdpk park ( punnawitti ) of which has a long skywalk leading into the park itself. I also considered it as a form of transit to get to / from the locals between suk soi 23, 8 and 31. Im quite excited to get used to using this thing, it makes so much economical sense.
Nice… I want one!
As if we did not have enough with all the retarded motorbikes on the pavement ! Now we will have more old idiots on the way of people who walk. I wish them all to have accidents !
I’m being careful about not going on pavements.
Have just been in Brisbane, Australia, and the number of electric scooters I saw around town has increased hugely. I think it looks like a great way to get around – I had no time to try this time, next time hopefully. There are a few issues with proximity to pedestrians and/or vehicles depending on whether you are on the footpath or road. Luckily there are lots of cycle paths in Brisbane. I’ve found with doing cycling trips in Bangkok that I am so busy concentrating on cycling and obstacles that I can’t relax enough to look around and enjoy the sights so don”t think I would scoot here – walking is easier for me!
Very nice article. Thanks for sharing!