Getting Around Phuket City
Getting around Phuket is easy enough. There are plenty of transport options but Phuket does have a reputation in Thailand for having the most expensive transport system in the country. However, for visitors from the west the transport costs will still seem reasonable. For many people, the trip from the airport is their first experience of transport in Phuket. Unfortunately it is often a bad experience. There are two companies that pay for the concession to run the taxi service from the airport. And of course that means they charge extra to their passengers. Their cheapest option is a shared minibus which will cost 100-200 baht. This will take longer than a taxi as they wait until they have sold all the seats before they leave and it will then go around the hotels of every passenger. An air-con taxi (they call a limousine) to Patong will cost around 550 baht.
These fares are only a little above the going rate and a minor annoyance. The real annoyance with these operators is their desire to squeeze more money from their customers by pressing them to book accommodation through local travel agents. It is a regular occurrence that the mini bus stops at a travel agent on the way and everyone is bustled out of the vehicle and into the shop. Once there, they tell everyone to book their accommodation through the agent before continuing their journey. They will even pressure people with pre-existing bookings with the claim that their hotel is no good. Needless to say, the hotels they want to book you into are paying them high commissions.
My recommendation - say you have a pre-existing booking right from the outset (even if you don't) and say you have already paid for it. If you do not have a booking, then at least know the name of a hotel in your desired town. For example, if you want to go to Patong, say you have a booking at the C&N Hotel which is in a nice central location. There has been a turf battle around the airport concession for some time even reaching the extreme of shootings. The latest compromise is that independent taxi-meters have a stand outside the airport terminal but they only allow three in at a time. If you make your way out of the terminal and turn right, you should be able to get a taxi-meter.
One other alternative is to book a private taxi to meet you at the airport. Your hotel may be able to arrange this for you. On the other side of the road from the airport are a couple of car rental firms that charge reasonable rates.
If heading off to other beaches and sites during the day, you also have the option of a local songthaew or bus. There is a daytime bus service (songthaew) to most parts of the island. All the busses run in a loop from Phuket town to the destination and then back to Phuket town again. The bus terminal in Phuket town is at the food market (talad sod) they park along this one way road. If you are planning to go with the bus then all you got to do is locate the right bus (all of them have signs on their destination) and enter the bus. The buses run until 7am to 5pm daily. This is a much safer way to travel around the island then the Tuk-Tuk is and at the same time very sheep way to travel. You get to see allot from the bus and can stop it at any time to get of!
There are no bus stops in Phuket! All you need to do is go to the road where the bus passes and wave with your hand when it comes. You climb on and the bus continues the trip. You pay either to the driver or to the "money collector" when he comes and the price is around 15-25 THB / person depending on destination. Traveling by bus to and from Phuket is cheap and a good way to travel. Some of the bus trips is day time and offers you a chance to see the country.
The warm balmy climate, the natural beauty of the island, and the winding mountain roads, all make Phuket a natural for cruising around on a motorbike. Motorbikes are the most common mode of transportation on the island. Motorbikes are also the most common cause of serious injury and death on the island. No statistics are available as to the number of motorbike injuries sustained by visitors to Phuket but the number is substantial. Insurance is not available on any rental motorbike. If it is damaged or stolen you will have to pay it’s for replacement plus any property damage or injuries caused to others. Phuket has and at times enforces a motorbike helmet law. The helmets available here are more for decoration then a serious safety device, but the fine for a driver without one is 500 baht. In Patong on the corner of Soi Bangla and Rat-u-Thit Road starting around 6pm and continuing to about 8pm the local police collect a little ’tea-money’ from motorbike riders without helmets.
This money trap is so well known that motorbike taxis line up early to ferry you down and back to the police station to pay your fine. One cheap source of entertainment is to stand on the corner and marvel at the astonishing number of local Thais who although know about this blatant "rip-off" masquerading as traffic enforcement; but get caught without a helmet anyway. The daily rental rate for the small motorbikes like the ‘Honda Dream’ is 100-150 baht. The larger bikes rent for 300-500 baht, but in both cases the locals will be quite happy to charge the uninformed more. Motorcycle drivers dressed in a green or maroon vests are providing a short trip taxi service. They are at times the fastest and cheapest way to get around. Simply wave one to a stop and ask for the fare to your destination.
Tuk-tuks can be found all over Phuket, although they tend to be clustered in large numbers around Patong. Tuk-tuks are basically small red vans, which have open backs and sides, and can carry about five passengers. They are 4-wheeled as opposed to the 3-wheeled version found in Bangkok. The fare must be agreed beforehand depending on the distance. Do not let the driver try to charge per passenger as well. This is a scam. Remember to haggle, as they will always quote a much higher price than they will accept. As a rough guide, the fare should be around 200 baht per 10km. As an example, a trip from Kata beach or the southern part of Karon should not cost more than 200 baht.
If you are going to a more distant location, you will need to agree a round trip fee or try to hire them by the hour. Otherwise you might have difficulty getting a ride back. Again, 200 baht per hour is about average. It is often cheaper to flag down a passing tuk-tuk than to take one that is parked by the roadside. Those that are parked will nearly always demand more money. Make sure you insist that the driver does not take you anywhere other than your specified destination. Some drivers will also try to take you to shops for which they receive a commission or petrol vouchers. Of course you might want to look round some shops.
The standard rate for a ride from one point in Patong to another is 20 Baht, from Patong to Phuket is 150 Baht, from Patong to Karen Beach is 100 Baht, and from Patong to the airport (a forty five minute ride) is 450 Baht. A rainy day, a late night trip, a navy ship in port, or just about any other reason is an excuse to charge more but if you know the basics you should be able to negotiate a reasonable rate. The rate paid is by the distance traveled not by the number of passengers. If the driver wants to charge by the person wave him on and catch another. In Patong at least half of the tuk-tuk drivers are polite, honest, and hardworking. Tuk-tuks that are driving around looking for customers are generally a better bet than the ones (perched like a vulture) waiting for you outside hotels and restaurants. The polite way to stop a songthaew or tuk-tuk on the street is to hold your arm out in front of you, palm down and make a up and down motion.
AVIS Rent a car, cars and jeeps can be rented at numerous locations around the island. A valid international driver’s license or a state license from one’s own country is all that is required. Rates begin at 700 baht per day with unlimited mileage. You pay for the gasoline. Most major hotels are serviced by Hertz and Avis car rental companies. The most expensive place to rent a car is at the airport. If a vehicle is rented at one location and dropped off at another, there is a usually a 200 baht charge. Private owners of jeeps parked along beach roads in Patong and Karen Beach charge 800-1000 baht per day not including gasoline. The price includes first class insurance which covers both parties.When renting a vehicle, be aware that you are liable for all damages to the vehicle, read the fine print. Make sure you car is insured for accidents caused by another party that then flees the scene of the accident. Virtually all of the areas of the island you are likely to visit are accessible with an ordinary 2-wheel drive vehicle.
Long Tail Boat
Longtail Boats the ubiquitous longtail boat is found wherever there is water in southern Thailand. The current version with the motor mounted on the back is just the latest modification on this ancient but quite seaworthy craft. Often called the workhorse of the Andaman Sea, longtails are used in to provide a number of marine services. While not as flashy or fast as modern speedboats, a voyage in a longtail boat is an interesting experience and a great way to take short sightseeing trips. The one serious disadvantage of the longtail is the almost complete lack of safety equipment such as lifejackets. Rental prices average 400 baht per hour for a short trips and up to 1000 baht for an entire day.
Provide what has to be the ultimate method for sightseeing and taking photographs of Phuket and the surrounding areas. Helicopter service is provided by two companies Southern Flying Group at Tel: 247-237/9 and Southern Helicopter Service Tel: 216-389. There are no scheduled flights at this time, so you must call and arrange for a charter.