Phuket is a relatively small island, with visitors able to drive all around it in just a couple days without rushing. There are a variety of transportation options, ranging from buses, tuk tuks, taxis, cars, motorbikes and boats, for getting around Phuket. Your destination, budget, and the time of day will determine which choice is best for you.
Public transportation is one of the cheaper methods of getting around Phuket. Buses run on specific routes during operating hours and provide a great option for budget travelers. Travelers also can catch rides in Phuket on a microbus, smart bus or tuk tuk.
If you are staying within Phuket Town, opt for a ride on a microbus. Phuket microbuses operate between 6am and 8pm, are air conditioned, and charge a flat rate of 20 Baht per person.
The Phuket Smart Bus runs from the Phuket International Airport and stops at these beaches along the west coast:
• Bangtao Beach
• Surin Beach
• Kata Beach
• Rawai Beach
A short trip will cost 50 baht and can be paid using a refillable card called a Rabbit card; cash is not accepted. Make sure you tap your card as you exit, as you are charged for distance traveled. The maximum fare will be 170 Baht. Cards can be reloaded at designated restaurants and shops around Phuket. Each person needs a card, but children under seven years old can ride for free. Be sure to show a passport to the driver to prove your child’s age.
Tuk Tuks are small taxis, most often painted red, that can be found all over Phuket. In Phuket, tuk tuks look more like mini trucks with four wheels, rather than three-wheeled tuk tuks seen elsewhere in Thailand. When hiring a tuk tuk, be specific about where you want to go, as some tuk tuk drivers like to act as tour guides, taking tourists to various scenic places in an effort to earn more fare.
It is typically cheaper to stop a tuk tuk as it is passing by rather than to take one that is waiting out in front of a hotel or other building. Rates are discussed with the driver before you can get in the tuk tuk. The price will depend on a variety of factors, including the weather, the distance, and the time it will take to get you there. You may be able to negotiate a slightly lower rate with the driver. Though, you should be clear on whether that price is per person or for your group. In the evenings, when there are fewer options for getting around Phuket, expect higher rates for tuk tuk rides.
Catching a Taxi
Taxis are one of the most convenient ways of getting around Phuket. You can download the Grab app to your phone and use that to hail a taxi, SUV, or limousine. Simply enter your location and destination, and nearby taxis will bid on the job. You’ll get a price estimate, but the final fee will be determined by the meter. The metered rate will include a surcharge for pickup. Taxis with private firms may charge a fixed rate rather than using a meter, which typically ends up costing more than a metered taxi.
Motorbike taxis are easy to find, and drivers can be identified by their brightly colored vests. Drivers are generally good at reading the body language of lost tourists and may approach you even before you can signal them. This mode of transportation is fast and relatively inexpensive. The price is discussed with the driver before the trip can begin. If you are heading to a remote destination, you may want to set up a return time with your driver, or pay for them to wait for you. Motorbike taxis can take you just about anywhere you’d like around Phuket, but they do tend to zip through traffic and zoom around blind corners, so this option for getting around Phuket is best suited to more adventurous travelers. Always wear a helmet on a motorbike. Most mototaxi drivers provide helmets for riders.
Driving Yourself Around the Island
Though there are many public transportation options, some travelers prefer the freedom that comes from being able to drive and explore at their leisure. If you’d rather not worry about bus schedules and taxi fares, consider renting a car or a motorbike.
Renting a car
Budget travelers who plan on exploring Phuket will find renting a car a cost-effective choice. You’ll have the freedom to explore wherever you’d like on the island in the comfort of air conditioning, without having to pay the variable rates of tuk tuks and taxis. If you’re looking to keep your trip expenses low this might be your best option. Book in advance with an international rental company to be sure they will have a vehicle available when you arrive. Alternately, you can rent a car at Phuket International Airport from the Avis, Budget, Hertz, Europcar, or Sixt counters, or inquire at your hotel for the best way to rent a car or driver for the day.
Renting a motorbike
Motorbike rentals are widely available, and rates start at just 200 baht per day for a small bike, going up to around 1,000 baht for a larger bike. You can likely get a better rate if you rent by the week or even by the month. A deposit is required and will be returned to you when you return the bike in good condition and with the same amount of petrol – or more – than when you got the bike. Inquire about the insurance coverage provided with your rental.
Be sure to wear a helmet while driving, as police enforce a 500 baht fine if they catch you without a helmet. Due to busy and winding roads, travelers should be experienced drivers rather than beginners when getting around Phuket by motorbike.
Tips for getting around Phuket
• Drive very carefully and pay close attention as other road users may not be following traffic rules.
• Drive on the left side of the road.
• Buses and large animals are bigger than you, so they have the right of way.
• Have a Thai or international driving license with you.
• Inspect the vehicle with the owner and note all existing damage before you rent it.
• Never hand over your passport; renters may want a photocopy, but do not allow them to keep your passport.