| About | Links | Books
You can get anywhere you want to go on the
island using public transport, but it's apt to be slow or, in relation
to elsewhere in Thailand, expensive. To explore the island, or just
to run errands, you're likely going to need your own transportation.
The Phuket variety of tuk-tuk is different than those found in Thai
cities like Bangkok. These are tiny red pickups with two rows of seats
in a sheltered rear compartment. They used to be dirt cheap; now are
anything but. Even for short distances, costs start at around 150
baht, rising quickly to 500-600 baht. If it's raining, or options
are few, prices can soar. Bargain, and make sure of the fare before
you get in. If you are two or more, ensure the price is for all, not
each. Most tuk-tuk drivers are decent and honest, but confrontations
with unscrupulous, sometimes threatening drivers have spoiled the
holidays of too many visitors.
Much like tuk-tuks in regard to fares, but at some locations, such
as outside large supermarkets, the prices are posted. Still not cheap,
unless you're from Zurich.
A handful of metered taxis have recently been introduced, but for
trips outside Phuket Town they will not turn on their meters. In that
case, think "tuk-tuk".
Found congregating near intersections or shopping centres, the drivers
are recognizable by their coloured vests. Settle on price beforehand;
about 20 baht for very short trips, 40-300 baht for longer journeys.
Literally meaning two seats, these large, bright blue trucks usually
have the destination written in English on the outside. There are
no designated stops. Just wait on the side of the road and flag one
down. In Phuket Town, the songtaews gather outside the market on Ranong
Road. Find one going your way. They are cheap, generally 15-30 baht
depending on distance, but slow. Songtaews don't operate after 6pm.
Phuket Town has a new fleet of 16 yellow and green aircon minibuses
that run on two routes that criss-cross the city from 0600 to 2000.
There are plans to add a third route.
Your own wheels
Having your own vehicle is by far the best way to explore Phuket and
get things done. No matter where your boat is moored, you will need
to venture far afield to find parts, services, food and fun. Technically,
an international or Thai drivers licence is required, but on Phuket
a licence from your home country is generally acceptable (but might
not be if you need to make an insurance claim). There are two ways
to go: rent, either short or long-term, or buy.
Cars and small Suzuki jeeps are available from many outlets, including
dealers on the street and more expensive international agencies like
Budget and Hertz. Suzuki jeeps are generally the cheapest, starting
at around 600 baht a day, less during the low season. Weekly or monthly
rentals should bring the price down considerably. Shop around. Make
sure that full insurance cover is included not just third party,
which is the legal minimum. Also, if you want to use the car to make
visa runs or just explore off-island, be sure the contract allows
(or doesn't specifically prohibit) this, or you may be stuck with
a big bill if the car breaks down somewhere remote.
Many places rent motorcycles, or you can just ask someone almost
everyone knows someone willing to rent a bike. Most rental bikes will
be 100-120cc Honda Dream-type scooters with clutchless shifters. They
start at about 120-150 baht a day (100 baht a day or less for monthly
rentals). The drawback is that these bikes are not insured for damage
or theft you are responsible for the entire cost of repairs
or replacement (not to mention your medical bills). The contract should
specify the amount you will have to pay in the event the bike is lost.
A basic Honda Dream costs about 40,000 baht. If the bike is well used,
you shouldn't sign a contract that says you must pay 40,000 to replace
it 20,000 is more reasonable. If you want something bigger,
imported Japanese bikes and Harleys are available from shops in Patong
Buying a vehicle
A good option if you plan to stay on the island for a while. You no
longer need a non-immigrant visa in your passport to buy and register
a car or motorcycle, but will be required to have an "address
certificate" from your embassy which attests that you live where
you say you live. These are fairly expensive, costing 700-1,400 baht
depending on your embassy, and inconvenient if they won't send one
from Bangkok. To avoid hassle, some put a vehicle in the name of a
Generally, shops selling used bikes will provide registration
with little fuss. Replacement parts and the cost of repairs on Thai
bikes can be amazingly cheap. But the largest bike made in Thailand
is the 200cc Honda Phantom. Anything larger is imported, so replacement
parts must also be imported and apt to be very expensive if used parts
cannot be sourced locally or from Bangkok.
It's safer to drive on the left side of the road, though you will
encounter drivers not heeding this advice. But it doesn't take long
to get used to driving in Phuket; just pay attention to what you're
doing, don't be in a hurry, and you will be okay. Drive defensively;
don't expect drivers to behave or react as they would in your home
Traffic accident statistics in Thailand are appalling,
most involving motorcycles. Unfortunately, many foreign riders, due
to speed, inexperience and failure to wear safety equipment, are sent
home in a box. The helmet law is haphazardly enforced, but don't let
that tempt you.
A chief culprit in spills is sand on the road which
will cause a bike to slide out from under you without notice. Also,
roads tend to have oil buildup which becomes extremely hazardous during
wet weather. This is compounded by a novice rider's tendency to rely
too much on the hand-operated front brake a locked front wheel
is your worst enemy. Keep your line, don't weave around, or you'll
get plugged by a vehicle passing close by.
| About | Links | Books
Yachting guide to Phuket, Langkawi & the
© 2003-05 8north.com