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Getting around

Phuket
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.

Tuk-tuks
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.

Taxis
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.

Metered taxis
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".

Motorcycle taxis
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.

Songtaews
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.

Bus services
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.

Renting cars
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.

Renting motorcycles
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 and elsewhere.

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 Thai friend.

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.

Driving
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 country.

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.

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Yachting guide to Phuket, Langkawi & the Andaman Sea
© 2003-05 8north.com

Waypoints
Andaman Sea
Weather
Tides
Regattas

Phuket
Basics
Getting around
Away by land, air
Boatwork
Boatyards
Chandlery, etc
Charter/Broker
Clearance
Communications
Health care
Marinas
Mooring
Provisioning
Visa runs
Yacht support

Langkawi
Basics
Getting around
Away by land, air
Boatwork
Boatyards
Chandlery, etc
Charter/Broker
Clearance
Communications
Health care
Marinas
Mooring
Provisioning
Visa runs