There’s no shortage of transport in Phuket, as you’ll soon discover when you hear the ubiquitous ‘tuk-tuk!’ called out to you when strolling the streets.
If your hotel is located in a beach resort area, you’ll likely be within walking distance of the beach, as well as several dining spots and shopping areas, but if you need transport then options are available.
Phuket Tuk Tuks
These little red trucks – a different style of tuk tuk from the traditional three-wheelers in Bangkok and Chiang Mai – are a handy way to get around, although fares are astronomical compared to these places. This is especially so if you catch one in Patong, Karon or Kata.
A short trip at these beaches may cost 150-200 baht, while longer distances start from 500 baht and depend on your bargaining skills. Within Phuket Town, more reasonable prices are charged – anywhere from 20 to 100 baht, depending on the distance – but agreeing a price before getting in is essential. If a driver offers a free, or very low-priced, trip, expect to be taken to gem and trinket shops (which will pay him a commission) along the way.
Our advice! Avoid them if you can, they are part of a powerful mafia and despite repeated complaints from travel associations and ambassadors, local authorities seem unwilling to discipline them. In some reports, passengers refusing to pay the exhorbitant fee have been beaten up. A rental scooter is a far more sensible and convenient choice.
The cheapest way around is on the blue songthaew mini-buses (actually a pick-up truck with a rear canopy and a pair of benches: song thaew means, literally, two benches), which ply the routes between Phuket Town and the main beaches from 07:00-17:00. The fare is 30 baht, and all songthaews depart regularly from Phuket Town on Ranong road. At the beaches, you can catch them along the main roads by flagging them down – attempts to set them up right at the beach have always been met by strong resistance from the tuk tuk ‘mafia’.
Like the tuk tuks, these are widely available 24 hours a day and fares are negotiable. All motorbike taxi drivers wear vests of various shades that indicate which group they belong to, and they can be found clustered at street corners or in front of shopping mall entrances. Fares run from 20 up to 300 baht depending on the distance. Helmets are not provided and safety is this a concern. If you can, choose an older driver – they tend to be slower and safer.
Taxis in Phuket
From the airport, you can catch a fixed-fare taxi, costing 100-200 baht for a shared minibus or up to 500 baht for a private car, depending on the distance. Metered taxis are also available. The service stand is located in the car park outside the terminal. There’s a 100-baht surcharge, plus the meter cost of 50 baht for the first two kilometres and seven baht per additional kilometre. There’s also usually a charge for luggage carried in the boot. For long distances, especially to and from the airport, a flat rate is often charged, often hugely inflated. Metered taxis can also be flagged down in Phuket Town, but they are not often seen in the beach resort areas due to the tuk tuk mafia.
These yellow and green air-conditioned buses run in Phuket Town and environs, with cheap fares of 10-20 baht. Bus stops are located along the main roads, and just outside the Tesco Lotus and Big C superstores. Buses run from 06:00-20:00 and route schedules can be had at the local Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office on Thalang Road, Phuket Town.
The airport bus service offers an inexpensive way to get to and from the airport if you are based in Phuket Town. From the Phuket Bus Terminal on Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town, the bus makes 13 daily departures from 05:00-18:30.
From Phuket Airport, departure times are generally hourly between 06:30-20:45. There are eight stops along the way, and the fare ranges from 15-85 baht, depending on distance.
Car and Motorbike Rental
Hiring a car or a motorbike is the best way to tour Phuket at leisure. Cars are best booked in advance online – we suggest Phuket car rental. Car rental starts at about 900 baht per day for basic jeeps, while motorbikes (which can be hired on the spot) are 150-250 baht per day. The latter are convenient to hire, easy to ride and popular all over Thailand. Speeds are modest and it doesn’t take much to master these mopeds, but if you are an inexperienced rider then limit yourself to pottering around your beach area before venturing out onto the busier, hilly roads. We have had a few reports of unscrupulous renters ‘stealing back’ their bike while you’re asleep at your guesthouse or hotel, and then demanding payment of the cost of a new one. These bikes seldom come with insurance, bike thefy isn’t common, but buying a small padlock at the local 7-Eleven to fit around the wheel spokes will thwart them.
Strictly speaking, you must have a Thai license or international driving permit to drive on Thai roads. A national license issued in your own country is not valid here, although it is rare for police to bother tourists (unless you give them reason to do so, such as not wearing a helmet) and fines are usually minimal. That said, if you are in an accident and don’t have the appropriate license, you may negate any insurance.