Phuket is a large island and you need some form of transport to get around. Public transport is very limited and taxis and tuk-tuks are the only practical means, Another, but quite dangerous option is rent your own wheels.
Hotels generally offer shuttle bus services into Phuket Town, and also have taxi and car hire facilities. Jeeps and motorbikes can be hired from various shops in Phuket and at the main beaches. Taxis are plentiful in town. Call 0 7635 1347, 0 7635 1349 for more information.
People traveling with babies can rent baby gear locally and don't necessarily have to bring baby equipment such as strollers on the plane. One of the companies offering this service is called Phuket Baby Rentals.
No public buses, but there are Songthaews which operate a communal service. Just tell your destination to the driver. In town journeys cost 20-30 baht.
From Town to Beaches:
There are local-bus services between town and tourist beaches. Local buses leave for the beaches at the market on Ranong Road at half-hour intervals until 6 p.m. After that, you must hire a taxi. Bus fares range from 25-35 baht.
By Songthaew or bus
Public transport within Phuket is limited to a radial network connecting Phuket Town to the beaches. There are a few full-size buses, but most lines are operated with songthaews, basically converted pick-up trucks serving as buses. The fare is 25-35 baht up on distance, and there are no set stops - they pick up and drop off as requested. Most local bus services stop at around 18:00.
Most operate from the local market (Talad Sod or Ban San); those to major beaches go via Phuket Town bus terminal. The main lines connect to Patong, Kata-Karon, Chalong Bay, Rawai-Nai Han beach, Panwa (Aquarium), Mai Khao, and Surin-Kamala. There are very few "cross-beach" connections, and eg. traveling from Surin to Patong (15 min by taxi) requires an hour-long detour via Phuket Town.
Upon your return, though, often the bus will drop you off not at the main terminal but at a bus stop somewhere in the middle of Phuket town, where travelers will immediately be set upon by the rip-off tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.
Phuket has three types of taxi - millions (or so it seems) of small songthaew-style minivans (usually bright red, occasionally bright yellow) called Tuk Tuks, a much smaller number of conventional sedan-style taxis (yellow and red, with a "TAXI-METER" sign on top), and random indistinguishable vehicles that serve as unofficial taxis.
The minivans are universally referred to as tuk-tuks (even though they have four wheels, not three). They have no meter, and their drivers are notoriously mercenary, so always agree a price beforehand and do bargain hard. Short hops around town shouldn't cost more than 40 baht, but good luck getting from Patong to Phuket Town for under 400 baht. Tuk-Tuks should be avoided whenever possible, these are run by what locals call the "Thai Mafia" and charge you 200 baht for less than 1km runs.
Metered taxis are a much better option when available, being safer, more comfortable, and usually cheaper than tuk-tuks. However, they're often hard to find, and during peak periods their drivers will also ignore the meter and demand flat fares. You can arrange one by telephone on 0-76-232157.
Finally, many beaches have little shacks with "TAXI" signs, sometimes unofficially supported by a hotel, offering quick transport at high prices. They are usually pricier than the tuk-tuks, with most fares exceeding 500 baht, but they are usually air-conditioned and more comfortable.
By motorbike taxi
There are also motorbike taxis (motosai). While you should never hop on the back of just anyone's motorbike, motorbike taxi drivers wear bright numbered vests and are usually the cheapest way to go. However, these are more dangerous than a Tuk Tuk, for obvious reasons, and are not comfortable for long trips. However, if you just need to get around town, they are a great way to go.
By car or bike
Renting a car or motorbike to explore the island on your own is a cost-effective way of getting off the beaten track. However, given the driving habits of most locals and the resulting carnage on Phuket's roads every year, the risks do demand careful consideration. Driving habits are Thai style ignoring all the rules and keep going at all costs, not much worse than Naples, but similarly it keeps traffic moving. Traffic lights have just made things worse in the last few years.
Due to the geography of the island with its winding hilly roads and poor vision, Phuket certainly gets more than its fair share of accidents. In fact, the death and injury statistics are more than high. More than 10,000 people are injured and over 250 killed every year in road accidents in Phuket. Nine out of ten accidents involve motorbikes.
Drive very defensively at first and watch what the locals do. Of course, it helps if you are accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, which in itself could be enough to distract some North American or European drivers. Driving under the influence of alcohol is both illegal and dangerous, and driving at night also increases the risk of accidents - even if you're sober, many others aren't.
Motorcycle and scooter rentals start at around 200 baht/day, coming down to 150 baht/day for rentals of a week or more. There is a theoretical crash helmet requirement, widely ignored by locals, but farang riding around without one will be taxed 300-500 baht by the police for their stupidity. You must also have a driving license with you, or you'll be slapped with a 500 baht fine. There can be police check-points on the way so do keep an eye or two out on them. If you do wear a helmet chances of being stopped should be low though.
Renting a car usually costs between 1000-1200 baht if you want to go for an ecomonical one like a Toyota Vios (stay away from the jeeps). Several rental companies are located in and around the airport. Avis is located within the airport while Hertz, National and six are located walking distance outside the airport (across the road). Bookings can be made online for these. Reputable local car rental companies, which are often a little cheaper, include:
- Sutin Car Rentals
- Braun Car Rentals
- Via Car Rentals
- Baba Car Hire
Be careful to check the level of insurance on a hire car, as many local companies say they have 'full' insurance when in fact it is only a very basic level.
For a bit of island hopping the longtail boats are a great way to do so. Prices must be negotiated and are app. 500 Baht per hour or no more than 1,800 Baht per day.