How to get around Phuket
Get around by motorbike
Many travelers come to Phuket and opt to hire motorcycles to get around the island. There’s nothing quite like cruising around Phuket with the wind in your hair. There are, however, daily road accidents in Phuket, some caused by foreigners who either get drunk and ride or else don’t know how to ride safely in the first place. It’s the law to wear a helmet. If a policeman sees a foreigner without one, you can be sure there will be a fine, usually of 500 baht.
A small motorbike like a Honda Wave or a Yamaha Mio can be hired for 100 to 200 baht a day. Damage the bike and you’ll have to pay for repairs. Larger bikes can be hired for 300 to 500 baht, but given that you’ll spend a lot of time stuck in traffic, there’s little point in rumbling down the road on the back of a monster.
Get around by motorcycle taxi
You’ll find the motorcycle taxi drivers all over the place, usually hanging out in groups on street corners. They’re the ones wearing colored vests. These are good for going short distances, although if you’re a tourist, you’ll be overcharged unless you haggle. A short journey should cost about 40 baht.
Get around by songtaew
Songteaw are pickup trucks with benches for people to sit on running along either side of the back. There’s a usually a roof, too. They’re like little buses that pick people up and drop them off anywhere along the way. It can be a confusing time catching a songtaew. Often you’ll find yourself waving them down to find out where they go and if they are going to or from the place you want to be.
The songtaew originate from Ranong Road in Phuket Town. From there it’s possible to travel to most of the major beach locations and back again, although they only run until about 6 pm, so don’t expect to travel on them at night. It’s also difficult to travel from one beach to another without first going through Phuket Town. Fares are about 20 baht and you pay the conductor who will do the rounds after you’ve sat down. There are also some old buses that go from Ranong Road to Patong Beach for 20 baht a ride.
Get around by tuk-tuk
It’s unfortunate that tuk-tuks rule the roost when it comes to public transport in Phuket. Unlike in Bangkok, the tuk-tuks in Phuket tend to be small, red vans with open-air seating in the back. The tuk-tuk drivers have the upper hand over the local authorities because any attempt to regulate them always results in road blockages.
If you need to get around Phuket and you don’t have your own transport, a tuk-tuk may be your only option, but expect to pay for the privilege. The 30-minute journey from Phuket Town to Patong will cost you about 450 baht. As a general rule, it’s best not to haggle too much as the tuk-tuk drivers are notoriously aggressive. You might be able to snip 50 baht off the asking price, but any more than that is pushing it. Even a short trip from one end of the road to the other might cost 100 baht.
Your best bet is to find a tuk-tuk driver who is cruising the area looking for business, rather than approach a mob of drivers sat drinking on the corner of a road.
Get around by car
If you have a driver’s license then you can hire a car from 700 baht a day excluding gas. The main companies offering car rental are Hertz and Avis. The majority of hotels in Phuket can sort out car rental for you. You might also see a few cars and jeeps parked by the beach with For Rent signs in their windows. These tend to be privately owned and might set you back 1,000 baht a day. All these prices are usually inclusive of insurance.
Get around by taxi
Metered taxis are only allowed to pick people up from the airport. As you exit the airport, there’s a metered-taxi rank to the right. However, the people there might actually be from other taxi companies depending on what time it is. Even if you catch a metered taxi, you will probably be asked to agree the fare beforehand. Expect to pay about 400 to 600 baht to Patong and about 450 baht to Phuket Town. There prices aren’t too bad considering the length of the trips.
From the airport
There are mini-vans serving Phuket International Airport for about 100 baht one-way. These are cheap and will drop you at your hotel, but you will often find yourself being taken to travel agents and asked to buy tours and all sorts. There was a crack down on this in 2008, but the touts are still at it. You have to be firm in these situations as the touts can be very persuasive. If you can stand the annoyance, the mini-vans are a good way to get around, but don’t expect an easy ride. The airport bus is a much better option.
Phuket airport bus
Tel: 076-232371. Web: www.airportbusphuket.com
The airport bus in Phuket is essential for any travelers who don’t want to have to fork out the fares charged by taxis and tuk-tuks. The airport bus is the cheapest way to get to the airport. Fares are usually 85 baht or less and the bus goes from Phuket Bus Terminal along a route through Phuket town, along the bypass road to Heroine’s monument before ending up at the airport. Buses from Phuket Town start at 5:30 am, with the last bus at 6:30 pm. Coming from the airport, the first bus is 6:30 am and the last is 8:45 pm.