How to get around Phuket

On foot; most popular resorts and hotels are located close to a beach, restaurants and shopping areas.

Elsewhere, taxis, tuk-tuks (small yellow or red open-air minivans), motorcycle taxis and songtaews (blue open-air buses) are the most convenient way of getting around Phuket. Cars, scooters and motorcycles are also available to hire.

While hiring a car or motorcycle is a fun way to explore the island, you need to take great care when driving in Phuket.

Phuket has one of the highest road accident rates in Thailand, with motorbike accidents being the most common cause of death on the island.

Most of the roads are narrow, with occasional potholes. Roads can also become slippery when wet, so even more care should be taken during the rainy season, especially when riding a motorcycle or scooter.

Most local drivers have extreme disregard for traffic regulations, which often leads to unexpected and dangerous behaviour, including but not limited to running red lights, not indicating and overtaking on blind corners.

Local traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road. However, you will see a lot of motorbikes driving down the wrong side of the road in Phuket.

You should keep to the left of the lane when riding a motorbike, and keep an eye for overtaking cars. Larger vehicles have the right of way in Thailand. Coaches and lorries often drive fast, and everyone else just has to get out of the way. Unfortunately, this is an unwritten rule of the road in Thailand.

If in doubt, hire a car with driver or use a tuk-tuk or taxi, which can be rented by the day.

Transport options in Phuket

Car hire: Car-hire companies, including Avis, Budget, Hertz and several local agencies, have offices at Phuket International Airport and in Phuket Town.

A passport plus a valid driving licence from your home country (with English translation if necessary) or an International Driving Permit are required for all rentals.

To hire a car you must be at least 21 years of age and have held a driver's licence for one to two years.

Traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road; cars have steering wheels on the right, similar to British and Australian cars.

Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and front passenger. Police frequently set up checkpoints on major roads around the island to check for this as well as drink driving, which is a problem among locals and tourists in Phuket.

Roads in Phuket are poorly marked and maintained, so consulting a GPS and/or a map is highly recommended. Speed limits are posted in kilometres.

Note: Should you be involved in an accident, do not take responsibility but refer everything to the insurance company, otherwise you may be personally liable for damages. It is also important not to move your car after the accident – even if you are blocking two lanes of traffic. Contact the insurance company and wait for the insurance agent or police to arrive.

By moving your vehicle after an accident you forfeit your insurance cover. Usually, insurance agents turn up pretty quickly. And if you are blocking two lanes of traffic, the police should be hurrying to the scene as well.

Motorcycle hire: Motorcycles ranging from 50cc bikes to super bikes can be found for hire in most busy beach areas. Prices start at about 250 Baht per day for a 100cc Honda or Suzuki motorbike.

Thai law is vague concerning tourists and motorcycle licences: no one will stop you hiring a bike without a motorcycle licence, or even bother to ask if you have one, and the police may or may not care if you have one. Often a car driving licence is sufficient.

However, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is mandatory and if you are caught without one you will be fined on the spot. Due to the large number of fatalities from motorbike accidents, the local police have stepped up their efforts to enforce this law.

While driving around Phuket on a motorcycle is convenient, it's also risky as insurance is usually not included. If you have an accident, you may be liable for damages and medical bills.

Motorcycle insurance in Thailand is often non-existent or of minimal value, i.e. there is no such thing as comprehensive insurance on motorbikes in Thailand, no matter what the hire shop may say. However by law, the hire agency must include third-party insurance. But, this is very basic and doesn’t even cover theft.

To make a successful insurance claim in case of an accident, you must carry a Thai or an international motorcycle licence.

Note: If you don't ride a motorcycle in your own country, Thailand is NOT the place to learn.

Taxi: Metered taxis can be found outside the airport arrivals hall and are the best way to get from the airport to your hotel or resort. You pay the metered fare plus a 100 Baht airport surcharge.

An airport limousine service is also available for a fixed price, but is usually slightly more expensive.

Fixed metered taxi rates in Phuket are 50 Baht for the first 2km, 12 Baht per kilometre for the next 15km and 10 Baht per kilometre thereafter.

A metered taxi will be less expensive than an unmetered taxi – unless you're a wizard at bargaining. Make sure the meter is turned on before setting off – it will be less expensive than any flat rate you may negotiate. Overall, metered taxis remain hard to find on the streets of Phuket.

Fortunately, the Grab taxi app ( is a convenient way of getting a metered taxi. Similar to Uber, the taxi app lets you choose your pickup point and destination; nearby cabs will bid for the job. The driver may also call you to confirm the pickup point. A real-time map helps you track their whereabouts.

The app gives you a price estimate, which is usually accurate, but the final fare will be decided by the meter. A bonus to using this service is that you can precisely select your destination, which means you don’t need to direct the driver if it is a more obscure location.

Most taxis in Phuket are unlicenced, i.e. without any special markings. You must agree the fare beforehand. This usually involves haggling as drivers will always quote a price much higher than they will accept.

Unlicenced taxis are also prone to stopping at shops ‘along the way’, for which they will receive a commission or petrol vouchers. Always insist that the driver takes you to your specified destination without any unnecessary stops.

Most taxi drivers speak English and can easily find their way to major attractions and resorts.

Motorbike Taxis: Motorbike taxis are available almost anywhere and are excellent for short distances. They're also available at virtually all hours of the day and night. Fares start at 20 Baht, although be prepared to haggle.

Official drivers wear red or green vests with a white number on the back and are often parked on street corners, outside convenience or department stores.

Tuk-Tuks: Tuk-tuks can be found all over Phuket, although they aren't the iconic 3-wheelers you see in Bangkok, but rather modified yellow or red 4-wheeled minivan that can carry about five passengers. You can hail them down like you would a taxi.

Tuk-tuks are the most common way to get around in Phuket, but you'll need to haggle the fare before setting off. The current fares in Patong have been set at 200 Baht for any distance within Patong but many drivers will try to charge more.

If you are planning to visit a more distant location, you'll need to agree a round trip fee or try to hire them by the hour. Otherwise you might have difficulty getting a ride back.

Bus: Local open-air buses, known as songtaews – are painted in bright blue for easy recognition. Destinations are written in English on the outside of the bus. There are no designated bus stops, so you can flag one down from the roadside.

Songtaew runs regularly between 7am to 6pm. In Patong, songtaews often pass the main beach road, just outside the tourist police box. If you're in Phuket Town, head for the market on Ranong Road to find songtaews waiting for passengers. A trip between Phuket Town and locations such as Patong, Surin and Kamala costs around 25 Baht.

The sky-blue Phuket Smart Bus runs between Phuket International Airport and Rawai (taking two hours) via Ao Bang Thao, Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon and Kata, hourly from 6am to 8.15pm. Rates are 50 to 170 Baht, depending on where you hop off.

You'll need a prepaid smartcard (Baht 300), which can be bought on board and topped up at designated spots across the island.

Boats: Ferries and private long-tail boats connect Phuket to all the off-shore islands. Chalong Pier is mainly used by yachts and dive-operator boats for dive trips.

Latest update: How to get around Phuket: 22 April, 2022