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Tips for Getting Around Phuket

Tips for Getting Around Phuket

Tips for Getting Around Phuket
by Jeremie Schatz,
10 June 2021

Thanks to numerous upgrades to thoroughfares around Phuket, moving about the island has become increasingly easier. Some roads have been widened, various underpasses built, and there are more options for getting from point A to B than ever before. Just imagine, at a point in the not-too-distant past, there was little more than a dirt track leading to now popular spots like Kata and Nai Harn Beaches. The times have changed and now islanders enjoy reasonably well-maintained 4-lane roads to most corners of the island. 

Motorbikes and scooters for rent

Renting a Bike or a Car in Phuket – The Art of Driving in Phuket | Credit: Phuket101

Motorbikes and Scooters

These ubiquitous forms of simple transportation are obviously a local favorite. Inexpensive to buy, maintain, and operate, they are wonderfully simple and easy to drive – with a little practice. When riding a bike, be sure to keep a photographed copy of the “green book” under the seat. Police checkpoints typically check for a helmet, a motorcycle license, current registration sticker, and proof of ownership in the form of the green book. Helmets and a valid license to specifically operate a motorcycle are obviously required, but many are caught unaware that they should also be carrying a copy of the bike’s green book so double-check if you have a rental. 

Sino-Portuguese shophouses on Dibuk Road

Taxis and Tuk Tuks in Phuket | Credit: Hotels.com

Taxis and Tuk Tuks

Phuket has plenty of them and they have often been the center of controversy. Price gouging, attempts at monopolizing transport, and questionable customer service are things they have been publicly accused of. However, many drivers are good-hearted, honest people and the bad apples have given them all a bad name. For visitors and residents alike, it is recommended to find a local driver who is fair (and doesn’t drive like a maniac), get their contact info, and have them be your go-to chauffeur. This is even more important for times where you plan on having a few cocktails. Not only are Thai roads notoriously dangerous, but combine that risk with the fact that driving while intoxicated is illegal and you absolutely do not want to ruin an enjoyable evening with a run-in with the local police who often set up roadblocks or are known to prey on unwitting motorists as they drive away from the bar.

You’ll notice two types of taxis in Phuket: the green plate taxis that look like a normal car and have a yellow “taxi” sticker on the side with the name of the driver, and red and yellow “meter” taxis. Green plate taxis have no rate schedule and you must negotiate directly with the driver. Metered taxis have set rates, but sometimes the driver will try and subvert the meter and charge a flat rate, which will naturally be more than the meter. Ride hailing app Grab Taxi is available in Phuket and is more convenient than trying to spot a taxi driving by, and you can expect about the same rate as a metered taxi. 

Standard Chartered building and clock tower in Phuket Town

Phuket Smart Bus and Local Blue Bus | Credit: Phuket101

Public Transport

Perhaps this is one area where Phuket is lagging. Although public transport around the island is quite limited, there are a few options. 

If traveling from the airport to Phuket Town, there are full-size orange buses which make various stops along the way. Buses leave the old bus station in the heart of Phuket Town and tickets can be booked online for 100 baht for the full journey.

The Phuket Smart Bus was launched a few years ago which operates between the airport and Rawai in the south passing through the major west coast beaches. The full trip is only 170 baht and they accept the rabbit card, which is also used for the BTS in Bangkok, and cash (not a bad idea to have exact change). The buses are comfortable, air conditioned, have free wifi, and usb chargers, but are fairly slow.

Phuketians are now looking forward to the next progression in public transport which appears to be an electric bus system. The original plan and funding was intended for a light rail system, but upon more thorough consideration has morphed into this more flexible, cheaper, and less intrusive option. The takeaway message is that planners acknowledge the need for a more streamlined public transport system which will help reduce congestion and pollution, and make life more convenient for all.