A Guide to Phuket Transportation
Black clouds of diesel exhaust, idling buses and motorbike taxis driving down the stripes between honking cars – were it not for the tuk-tuk’s blasting sound systems and bright neon lights, you’d think Phuket transportation is no different from Bangkok’s. Certainly not the best time to crisscross the island on your way to the next dream beach is during the morning and evening rush hour from 7.30 to 9.30 am and 4 to 6 pm. And whilst the annual water festival Songkran and New Year’s Eve are terrific fun here, it’s less so if you’re sitting in Phuket’s traffic, chock-a-block with cars all around you.
Now what, actually, is it like to use cabs, buses, and motorcycle taxis? While public transport is less convenient than in Bangkok, you have some options. Here’s how to get around Phuket.
Jump on the Local Blue Bus
The yellow-striped blue bus is an affordable way to get around Phuket
The oldest local bus in Phuket is the yellow-striped blue bus, a truck-like vehicle that doesn’t cost a fortune to ride on. It connects Phuket City’s Central Market at Ranong Road with various beaches across the island, including Kata Beach in the south, where family-friendly hotels like Metadee Concept sit. Oddly enough, it doesn’t travel between the beaches, but from Phuket Town to one of the beaches, Bang Rong Pier, and the Sarasin Bridge that links Phuket to the mainland. The blue bus in Phuket runs every half hour from 6 am to 6 pm daily, costing only 30 to 50 baht ($0.88 –$1.47).
Hop on the Smart Bus
The Smart Bus is indeed a smart way to travel in Phuket
Not pressed for time? Then the Smart Bus is for you, one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Phuket. It travels along the coast from Phuket Airport to Rawai Beach in two hours and 15 minutes (provided the streets aren’t wedged solid), stopping at beaches like Patong, Karon, and Kata. The Smart Bus operates every 90 minutes from 6.30 am to 00.10 am daily and costs almost nothing at 100 baht ($2.93).
Experience a Tuk-Tuk
Phuket’s four-wheeler tuk-tuks that you enter from the back are quite different from Bangkok’s quirky, three-wheeled autorickshaws. Although tuk-tuk rates are posted on signs near the main beaches, you’ll need to haggle hard to make this type of Phuket transportation a bargain. Even if only for a few hundred metres, the minimum fare is often 200 baht ($5.86). Nevertheless, with sound systems as loud as the front row at a rock concert, plus neon lights as colourful as the Sino-colonial mansions in Old Phuket City, Phuket’s Daihatsu tuk-tuks are an experience.
Hail a Taxi-Meter Cab
At Patong’s Bangla Road or in front of shopping centres like Central Festival in Phuket Town – Taxi-Meter cabs are everywhere. You can also use Grab, but not at the airport, and the Grab fares are not as cheap as you’d expect elsewhere in Thailand. While a taxi in Phuket can be a bit pricey, the leather smell of the comfy seat, the cool air-conditioning, and plenty of space can be worth it.
Beat the Traffic on a Scooter
Beat the traffic on a scooter
You can rent a scooter for as little as 250 baht ($7.33) per day, one of the cheapest types of Phuket transportation. Avoiding Patong’s stop-and-go traffic while feeling the wind in your hair is priceless, as are the views along the coast. But wear a helmet and don’t forget your international driver’s licence at your hotel. If all else fails, you can still walk and watch the flow of motorbikes swirling.
Writing by: Philipp Meier