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Transport on and Around Phuket
Written by Administrator    Wednesday, 24 March 2010 17:07    PDF Print E-mail

Transport on the island

It is a big island, and getting around is quite difficult  

There is a lot to see on and off Phuket Island, but little public transport to help you get about. Below we list the possibilities with public transport.
So unless you rent your own vehicle you will have trouble getting to most parts of the island, and will miss many places and attractions worth visiting

To and from the airport

Airport transfers are relatively simple, despite that the airport is at the far north of the island, some 30 kilometres from Phuket Town and more from many of the most popular beaches like Patong and Karon. Most visitors arrive on package itineraries that include airport transfers, and have only to look for a tour guide or driver holding up a sign with their name, or the hotel name.

But if you do need transport to get to your hotel or chosen beach, it is best to use one of the two official transport companies with booths right inside the arrival lounge. You can’t miss them, and they miss no-one with their offers. Prices are fixed, and it costs approximately 500 Baht to get to the major beaches at the south end of the island. Pirate taxis wait outside offering cheaper prices, but we suggest you avoid them, for here is the source of problems.

Both of the official transport companies run mini-buses from the airport to Phuket town, from where you can readily catch private transport. These, naturally, are cheaper at about 100 Baht and  Airport Bus is 85 Baht per person. Ask about their departure schedules, which depend on the number of flights arriving.

Car rental companies, including Budget and National, have offices right in the airport.

Forms of local transport

Song taews – from beaches to Town
There are few buses on Phuket, and the main form of transport from beach to town is the song taew, a small truck converted to carry passengers in the back on two long benches. They are usually colourful, with a sign on front showing where they are going. They now add English in small letters. These vehicles leave from a set stop by the fresh produce market in Phuket Town, reaching every major beach area on the island. There are no fixed schedules, and they run when there are sufficient passengers. When leaving the beach areas to head back to town they usually cruise around the streets, slowly, picking up passengers. It is slow, but cheap, with the fare from Phuket town to Patong now set at 20 Baht per person.

'tuk-tuks' – to get about the island

If you want your own taxi, look for a tuk tuk, a tiny mini-truck converted in the manner of the bigger song taew above to carry about four passengers. The tuk-tuk gets this name from the noise its little engine makes. There are fleets of these in all major tourist areas, and they will take you anywhere, for a price. The going price between Patong and Phuket town is anywhere from 200 Baht to 400 Baht, one way (45 Baht per US$). Be prepared to bargain, for the drivers are out to squeeze every Baht they can from tourists. Bargaining is expected, but always keep it friendly. At night the price of tuk-tuks shoots up.

One can also rent one of these tuk-tuks for the day. Expect to pay 2,000 Baht or more. This is a good way to get about the island, if you prefer not to drive yourself (a rental car is cheaper then this).

Motorcycle taxis
These will be a new experience for many people. Individual owners of small motor bikes rent their services, carrying passengers anyplace at pre-arranged prices. All fares must be negotiated before the ride.
These taxi riders are easily identified by their special coloured jackets identifying the location of their home base. Many have the word ‘taxi’ written in English on this jacket.

Renting your own car

Since Phuket is a large island – some 50 kilometres long and about 15 wide – renting your own vehicle is far and away the best means of getting around and seeing everything. Or much of it. Renting is easy, for private rental cars are easily found in every beach area, and major rental companies operate in most resorts. Or phone the company of your choice, for most will deliver and pick up vehicles. If renting from the side of the road beware: few of these vehicles have insurance, and this can prove disastrous in the event of an accident.

Renting one's own vehicle is also the only effective way to get off Phuket island and see the beautiful, neighbouring provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi by land. The roads are good and the scenery spectacular, making this a great way to go.

Car rental companies offering full insurance include:

National Car Rent
Budget Car Rental

Renting your own motorcycle
Motorcycles, big and small, can be rented all over the island and are a popular choice for many tourists. Foreign visitors see so many Thais – often including children - zipping about on these convenient little machines that they decide to try it themselves. In the tropical climate this breezy form of transport seems ideal. And yes, it can be. But beware.

Learning to drive one is pretty simple, but learning to drive one well-enough to stay out of trouble on Phuket’s often-dangerous roads is another thing. The hospitals here see a never-ending stream of foreigners arriving with skin missing from arms and legs, or sometimes worse. The accident rate on Phuket is one of the highest in Thailand, with 90% of accidents involving motorcycles. The most dangerous points are the steep mountain roads that one must cross to leave the major west coast beach resorts.

Note that Thai law requires the driver to carry a valid licence at all times, and all riders to wear helmets – even though most Thais ignore the regulations. The police occasionally enforce both laws, so beware.

The real danger is this: NONE of the motorcycles rented here have insurance. If you rent one and cause damage you will be held fully responsible, with some greedy owners charging significantly more than the real cost of the damage. That the owners rent motorcycles to people without valid drivers’ licences creates more trouble in the case of accidents.

Regional buses

The long distance bus station is in Phuket town, directly across from the Royal City Hotel. From here both air-con tour buses and cheap, ‘orange crush’ buses leave for destinations north, south and east. There are regular services to Bangkok, Krabi, Surat Thani, Nakorn Srithammarat, Trang, Haad Yai and other minor provincial capitals.
Most of the tour buses to Bangkok leave around 5:00PM in the evening, arriving in Bangkok about 6:00AM the following morning. Tickets can be purchased either at the bus station or through travel agents. Foreigners with long legs can do as this writer does, and purchase two adjoining seats, giving space enough to sleep in.

Transport by boat

Regular ferry boat services from Phuket run only to the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Yao Noi and Krabi. There are unscheduled boats to Koh Bon, Racha Yai and Koh Yao Yai. One can get to Koh Lanta by changing boats in Koh Phi Phi.
Most people get to other islands by renting their own boat

Airlines in & out of Phuket

About ten airlines have schedules flights into Phuket, while in the high season about twice that number run charter flights. For details go to the page Airlines flying in & out of Phuket