Transportation Options & Costs + Pros & Cons
If you are on a budget, local transportation is where you can shell out money quick. This is because the local Tuk-Tuk guys have high, fixed prices. In Bangkok you can get a ten minute ride for 50-80 baht but in Phuket a Tuk Tuk costs 200-300 baht for a ten minute ride.
Phuket may be a tropical island but it is rapidly developing and traffic can be gridlocked. Scooters are great because you can legally zip past traffic jams and literally cut commute times by half or more.
During the rainy season, driving a scooter means wearing a poncho and getting a bit wet anyway. Plenty of people do it though. During the high season, driving a scooter means full exposure to the sun and sometimes feeling like you’re an egg on a frying pan.
Use the local buses to save money. They run from around 8am to 6pm. They run between:
- Phuket Town
- Nai harn
- Bang Rong Pier
- And some other northern locations
The cost is typically 30-50 baht per person, each way.
There is never a “bus terminal”. There’s a bunch of blue pick up trucks and blue larger personal carrier trucks lined up. In Phuket Town the pickup is near the Rasada road circle, in front of the meat and produce market. In Patong, the pickup is along the main road beach road. In Karon the pickup is near the main circle. In any town, you can flag the bus down if you see the one you want.
Most buses are labeled with their destinations. If you can’t find the right bus, ask a driver; they speak limited English but should recognize the name of the place you want to go.
Tuk Tuks are convenient but more expensive than every other option. It’s because they’ve banded together to uphold high prices. I think it is sad because who doesn’t love a Tuk Tuk? Compared to Bangkok, you rarely see people using them here. I would say that 80% of the time, when I see a Tuk Tuk, the driver is sitting in or beside it waiting for customers.
Hired Scooters and Cars
Hiring a scooter or car is cheaper than a Tuk Tuk and is often a great idea for long rides. In the low season you will stay dry even when a rain storm rolls through and in the high season you’ll have air conditioning and tinted windows!
Scooter taxis are an even cheaper option. Generally you can get a scooter to bring you to a destination for half the price a Tuk Tuk would. The pros and cons here are obvious! Scooter at your own risk!
Getting a car Taxi almost always proves to be a good value. You can’t flag them down as easily but your accommodation will certainly call one for you. Prior to buying a scooter and a car, we often paid as little as 250 baht ($8 USD) an hour for a car Taxi. Once you find a driver you like, get their cell phone number.
Rent or Buy a Scooter
This can be dirt cheap. In Phuket Town you can rent a scooter for 24 hours for 250 baht.
In touristy areas you may pay a bit more. You can easily buy a scooter for just 11,000-18,000 baht ($360-600). This is a great option, as long as you’re a good driver. Here are a few words of caution:
Rental places will ask you for your passport, avoid this if possible. Maybe with a cash deposit. Check forums and you’ll hear lots of talk of Passport scams. As a rule, try to keep your passport in only your possession!
On the islands, do not argue with the rental folk. We have not, nor has anyone we know, had trouble but on the islands, most will tell you to be safe and simply avoid arguments
Scooter Driving Advice
Your hair is blowing in the wind, your weaving in and out of traffic, zipping by traffic jams, and feeling island life seeping into your bones… scootering is a great choice. Just be weary of a few things
- DO NOT DRINK AND SCOOTER. I am absolutely serious. People die and not just people in the Newspaper. Just the other day I was talking to someone who had a friend lose control on a tight corner, hit a tree, and die. That happened only two months ago. They were coming home from a bar. It’s not worth your life. Get a taxi.
- Make sure the rental place gives you a helmet. Wear the helmet. It is smart and illegal not to wear it.
- You can buy an even better helmet for 850 baht from a helmet shop
- Check your mirrors before you change lanes. Some people will pass you at crazy speeds and you don’t want to swerve in front of them as try to pass you
- Really, I’d advise always changing lanes slowly
Buying a Scooter
Prices have huge range from about 11,000 baht being the lowest I’ve seen to 60,000 being the highest. After 60,000 you are looking at full blown motorcycles (you can get a Honda Phantom motorcycle for 45,000).
Prices vary based on:
- Automatic vs manual transmission
- Engine power (cc): 110, 125, 150
- Size & Design: Seat size, under-seat compartment, digital dash, etc.
- Obviously new vs used + Model/Year
There are endless scooter models. Honda probably makes at least six. We bought an automatic, 110cc, 2013 Honda for 27,000 baht.
Save yourself a headache and buy it from a dealer who will do the paperwork for you. Scooters come with green books (ownership documents) but it’ll be a few weeks before you get it. Otherwise you’ll be making multiple trips to the land transportation office trying to satisfy all the paperwork they will request from you.
- DO NOT DRINK AND SCOOTER.
- Buy a cool scooter