Fuel Options Thailand – Including Rural and Remote Locations

I’ve had quite a few people ask me about fuel options when riding in Thailand, particularly rural or mountainous areas. Not so much a concern for the bigger bikes with large petrol tanks, but can be concerning when on a smaller CC bike or a scooter. Having covered a fair few Km’s both on my 250cc and a small 115cc automatic scooter, let me just reassure that the chances of running out of fuel and being stranded is really REALLY low. But well, you just never know, so I figured the question is important enough to make a post about!

Option 1: The Obvious One – Gas/Petrol Stations
(skip to other options if seems boring ^.^)

Most all petrol stations in Thailand have attendants pumping the petrol. You just pull up to the petrol pump, state to the attendant the amount you want to pay, pop open the petrol cap and let them get on with it. (If you want it totally filled, state in Thai “dem thang” (“เต็มถัง”). This means “fill the tank”).

If you are on a scooter then flip up the seat for them to get access to the tank and unscrew the cap. Let them do the rest.

Big bikes riders in Thailand will often just stay on the bike to get fueled up.
There are important reasons why this is a bad idea (read HERE) but it is commonplace.
(…and I do it too..sorry! ).

They will let you know how much the tally comes to.
They will also sort out your change, if you don’t have the exact right amount.
*TIP* Petrol station etiquette. When it comes to queuing, turn off your engine and stand by your bike and be ready to push to the pump (prepare the bike for the attendant in advance, ie: seat up (if a scooter) and petrol cap off, when you are next in line). Once filled up, wheel the bike away asap (engine still off) to let the person behind you roll up to the pump.

Self-Serve. Some garages are self-serve, and you pump the petrol yourself. In that case just park up to the petrol pump you want to use, then go to the counter staff window to pre-pay the amount that you want. Fill up and go. Sorted! Jobs a good’un.

Option 2: Automated Self-service Fuel Stations

I love these self-service pump stations! These stations started popping up intermittently some years back, then I started to see them pop up everywhere!

Plenty seem to be dotted around the country in numerous places now. They are brilliant because they are available 24/7. So if you have been caught out at night (which I have), you can top up and go. Put your cash in the slot (as little as 1 baht!), put pump to tank, engage the pump handle, press the green START button, and pump. Simple. 😀

The fuel is a little more expensive than at main garages (so that the local business owner can make a profit), but it is not significant.

*TIP* – Sometimes the pump spits your money back out (notes), and doesn’t seem to want to accept them. Just smooth out the note and persist. Usually it will eat/take it in the end. See this video where it does just that, including a guide on how to use the machines.

Some of these petrol pumps even have disco lights and play music, if you are lucky..haha!

Option 3: Local fuel stops

(..the above image is actually Laos, but they are the same in Thailand)
Small fuel stops like this are privately owned
and dotted around most villages, towns and outlying city zones that you pass through (although the self-service pump stations are taking over the old style local fuel stops in towns and outlying city areas). Pull up alongside the tanks and let the attendant know how many liters you need and they will measure it out and pump it into your bike.

Sometimes you may need to help them with the fuel hose to help the petrol filter through (raising it up mainly, if on a taller bike).

Option 4: Whiskey bottle fuel!

This is a fun one when you really get caught out. Nothing quite like finding a small rural vendor selling bottles of 95 in Hong Thong (or similar) whiskey bottles lol.

Ive had a couple of occasions where I had to resort to bottles. Once when I had returned from my first trip in Laos and in the early morning decided to head to Phu Chi Fa, only to realise I had forgotten to fill up the night before and the garages weren’t open yet. Video below. 

Another time I recall is a recent time, when I arrived in Mae Surin National Park (early evening) having failed to spot a fuel stop en-route. Thankfully a stall within the national park had bottles for sale (which is often the case in fact). Purchase what you need from the local vendor, fill up (or they may fill up for you), and return the bottles (unless taking them away). Just don’t accidently drink it! Haha! I swear it would probably be hard to tell the difference between 95 petrol and an actual bottle of Hong Thong!. 

Option 5: Syphon

It is always a good idea to carry a syphon hose. Its cheap to buy and easy to store on your bike along with other emergency tools, etc. If you do get caught out you can syphon some fuel from another vehicle and put it into your bike. Just make sure the donating vehicle is higher up/taller than the container you are filling the petrol into (to allow flow). If you have no container, you can put directly from one vehicle into the other, but a container is better (and more convenient). You still have to ensure the donating bike is higher/taller, which can be tricky.

I should make my own video about the technique for syphoning fuel, but in the meantime here is a guide from YouTube I found (Jennies Garage):

Option 6: Wing it…

Doesn’t sound like much of an option really, but Thai people have very big hearts, and if you are stranded they will normally help (and be happy to). So really, the chances of being stranded for long periods (as long as some traffic passes) is low.

The other wing-it option is to free-wheel when possible, especially if you notice your fuel is getting low. Free-wheeling is generally not recommended, so I am not trying to encourage bad habits, I am just saying what I have done that has worked (both in terms of my own enjoyment in riding down hills quietly, and in terms of fuel conservation). Just turn off the engine and use downhills and momentum to carry you forward.

Towing is another option, but only if the driver/rider is competent..so it’s a risk. Another (better) version is having another rider push your bike with their foot (whilst you remain sitting on it and steering) riding along together (less of a risk than towing).

Again, I really should make my own video showing this technique, but in the meantime here is a video on the technique from YouTube vlogger Nerb1

Public transport, if available can be another option. You can get them to give you a lift to the nearest garage or shop that sells petrol. Then fill up some fuel in a bottle and get it back to your bike. 

A couple of stupid ones of my own..

1: I made the stupid mistake once in Chiang Mai of forgetting to check my scooter fuel gauge and ran out of fuel right on the superhighway late at night/early morning.
I prepared to abandon my bike and walk home, but as luck would have it a young Thai couple pulled up alongside to ask if I’m ok. I embarrassingly told them that I had ran out of fuel. They laughed and offered to help.
Cue the comical sight of 3 people squashed on a small scooter as they transported me to the nearest petrol station to fill up a water bottle with 91 fuel. They then took me back to my bike to fill it up. Laughs all round. I am so grateful to them. Well, the whole thing gave me a funny story to retell..I am sure it gave them a funny story to retell as well. 

I actually have countless stories of Thai kindness when I’ve been in need, and it’s a huge part of what makes Thailand a wonderful place to live.
Thus, it is important to “pay it forward.” 😉 So always try to do good deeds too, when the opportunity arises.

2: Emergency tow…
Actually, this is not a fuel story and it was in fact my battery that died, but I figured worth sharing as the same scenario could be repeated if fuel issues. I once had to get towed into Pai after my bike broke down on the old Wat Chan route to Pai (when it was still a dirt road, now fully pathed). Thankfully it only gave me issues close to the end of the ride and I was able to free-wheel to the main R1095 Pai road.
From the main road to Pai town a scooter towed me in to the nearest garage (much to the amusement or distain of “farang” foreigner passerby’s). Heh, all’s well that ends well ^^

*Some rookie mistakes*
Honestly, this first one is sure to make you laugh….

In Pai, at the main PTT garage, I saw a young woman complaining that her petrol gauge did not show the petrol had been put in. She was upset and thought that the attendant had not put any petrol in and had only pretended to put petrol in. She did not realise that she needs to start up the bike in order for the fuel gauge to show how much petrol was in the bike. She felt a bit sheepish about it, but if you are new to bikes I suppose it’s a simple mistake … Funny though! ^^

Keep an eye on your petrol gauge and plan ahead. It is good to be aware of when you are heading into mountain areas and to make a mental note of where the next larger town is. Get used to making minor calculations in your head and weighing up if you should top up prior to heading into the hills. If, like me, your bike has no fuel gauge, then get into the habit of knowing how many kms you normally use per tank of petrol and set a KM timer to know when you should fuel up.

Another tip….If any of the Self-Service pumps dont work AFTER you put in money, do this (although maybe you will get in trouble ..^^):

Hope that helped..or was at least amusing to read.
Do you have any additional tips or funny stories to add?
If so, please comment.
I would love to read them! 😀


Small addition. Laos has similar fuel options (except for the automated self-service machines. I haven’t seen any of those (yet) in Laos). Also, you do pretty much not get 95 or 91 etc fuel options in Laos. It’s basically 95 only and whatever they have, you get, lol.

Thanks for reading! 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *