If you have dreams of seeing Thailand, then the freedom of a two wheeled vehicle is a fantastic way to go about it. The streets of towns and cities in Thailand can get very busy and crowded, so the flexibility and maneuverability of scooters and motorbikes can give you a serious edge when it comes to navigating your way around. However, people often use the terms scooter and motorbike fairly interchangeably, often simply believing that the way you sit on the vehicle is the only real difference; this is not true and trying to ride them both in the same fashion can lead to serious problems. So, before you decide to hire a two wheeled vehicle on your dream trip to Thailand, make sure you understand these three key differences and know what you are getting yourself into.
Simply put, motorbikes are considerably more powerful than scooters. This means that a motorbike can accelerate and achieve top speeds way beyond that of a scooter, and they are designed to reflect this fact. Generally speaking, motorbikes have engines that range from 250cc anywhere up to 1,500cc or even 2,000cc which offers a high level of performance but necessitates the bike being quite heavy to ensure its stability at these speeds. Scooters on the other hand normally range from 50cc up to 150cc with a small handful being rated up to 250cc, but these are not very common. This lower threshold means that scooters can be lighter and more maneuverable, but they lack the acceleration of a motorbike.
Once again, scooters provide a simpler option here as the vast majority of them have automatic transmissions. This means that the gearbox on the scooter will automatically adjust itself up and down to compensate for the way it is being driven and the road it is being driven on. Inversely, motorbikes are usually fitted with manual gearboxes, so the user must understand when to shift them up and down to allow their proper use. Depending on your driving experience, you may not have encountered manual transmission before and this could well pose a significant learning curve should you wish to ride a motorbike.
To better provide stability at higher speeds, motorbikes will have larger wheels and a longer wheelbase than scooters, and this is indicative of the design choices required for their performance. The downside to this is that a motorbike will have a significantly larger turning circle than a scooter, however scooters are more at risk from poor road surfaces and debris that a motorbikes larger wheels should just be able to glide over.
Overall, both vehicles have advantages and disadvantages depending on the circumstances they are ridden in. Scooters offer a smaller, lighter vehicle that can maneuver more easily but lacks the durability and acceleration of a motorbike. Ultimately, you need to ensure that your license allows you to drive either kind of vehicle before attempting to hire one, but if you are remotely unsure or new to two wheeled vehicles, then a scooter is probably the way to go.