How much of Phuket have you actually seen? Wouldn’t you like to explore some more? Well, here we list some of your options for getting around the island’s highways and byways.
To and from the airport Airport transfers are relatively simple. The airport is at the far north of the island, some 30 kilometers from Phuket Town and even further from most of the popular beaches like Patong and Karon. It is best to use one of the two official transport companies with booths right inside the arrival lounge, you can’t miss them. Private Airport Limousines or minibuses are available to get to the major beaches at the south or west of the island. Metered taxis are also available and are cheaper than the airport limousines, as are ‘private’ taxis but we suggest you avoid these since problems have been known to occur. The Airport Bus is a cheaper alternative as long as you are not in a rush. Ask at the airport for their current departure schedules and pricing. Car rental is available and companies, such as Budget and National have offices located in the airport.
Airlines in & out of Phuket A multitude of airlines now run scheduled flights to and from Phuket and during high season chartered flights are also available. Budget airlines such as Air Asia, Nok Air and One-2-Go Air all run convenient and economical flights to other provinces throughout Thailand.
Song-taews There are few buses on Phuket and the main form of transport from beach to town is the ‘song taew’; a truck converted to carry passengers in the back on two long benches. They are usually colorful with a sign on front showing where they are going. These vehicles leave from a set stop by the fresh produce market in Phuket Town, reaching every major beach area on the island. They run approximately every hour but 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 slowly around the streets picking up passengers. Song-taews are slow but cheap with the fare from Phuket town to Patong now set at just 25 THB per person!
‘Tuk-Tuks’ If you want your own private taxi, look for a tuk tuk, a tiny mini-truck converted in the manner of the bigger songtaews mentioned above to carry about four (or more!) passengers. The tuk-tuk gets its 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 rate for the relatively short ride between Patong and Phuket town can be as much as 450 THB, one way! You can attempt to bargain but don’t expect much movement on their prices and be aware that at night the price of tuk-tuks shoots up. You can also rent one of these tuktuks for the day. Expect to pay around 2,000 THB or more. This can be a good way to get about the island if you prefer not to drive yourself.
Motorcycle Taxis These will be a new experience for many people and are a convenient, yet nerve wracking, way to get around. All fares must be negotiated before the ride. These taxi motor cycle drivers are easily identified by their special colored jackets showing the location of their home base. Many have the word ‘taxi’ written in English on this jacket. Do not take a taxi from anyone who is not wearing one of these jackets.
Renting a Motorcycle Motorcycles, big and small, can be rented all over the island and are a popular choice for many tourists. Zipping around with the breeze in your hair is tempting for anyone but do be careful, 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 road accidents involving motorcycles! Note that Thai law requires the driver to carry a valid license at all times and all riders to wear helmets – even though most Thais (including the police!) ignore the regulations. Also motor cycle lights must be turned on at all times, including during the daytime! The police occasionally enforce all these laws, so beware. The real danger in Phuket 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. Be extremely cautious!
Renting Your Own Car Since Phuket is quite a large island, renting your own car can be one of the most pleasant ways to get around and it gives you freedom to go where and when you want. Renting is easy; private rental cars are readily found in every beach area and major rental companies operate in most resorts. When renting private vehicles from the side of the road be aware that few of these vehicles have insurance and this can prove disastrous in the event of an accident. Renting a car allows you get off the island and see the beautiful, neighboring provinces of Phang Nga and Krabi. The roads are good and the scenery spectacular, making for a great day out.
Regional Buses The long distance bus station is in Phuket Town is 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 5pm arriving in Bangkok about 6am the following morning. Tickets an be purchased either at the bus station or through travel agents.
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. You can get to Koh Lanta by changing boats at Koh Phi Phi. Most people get to the other smaller islands by renting their own speed boats or even by chartering yachts. hatever your chosen mode of transport may be, enjoy exploring the island, there is plenty to see and do, more than you might have realized. Happy hunting!