Getting Around the Town
People staying in Patong may find they need to use local transport to get around town. Aside from renting a car or motorbike there are three options.
- Taxi bikes : cheap and very good at getting through the sometimes dense traffic but be sure to agree upon a price before getting on one. Insist on being given a crash helmet and be aware that you are riding at your own risk unless covered by your personal insurance.
- Tuk Tuks : once quite a good way to get around but in recent years tuk tuk drivers' reputation for overcharging has made them less so. If you must use them try to negotiate a lower price than you are initially offered. If they are overcharging they will usually be prepared to drop the price rather than lose a fare. Do not hesitate to walk away and try another driver if you think you the price is too high.
- Taxis : often very good value are both the private and metered sedans. If you find a taxi driver who charges reasonably, ask for his card and he will probably be most happy to be your driver for the rest of your holiday.
Car and Motorbike Rentals
Renting Transport in Patong
Small scooters or bikes of around 125cc are an extremely popular and practical way to travel within Phuket's villages and towns. If you are a licensed rider then they can be rented for around 200 baht per day often from your hotel but be aware that they usually come without insurance which means that if you have an accident then you pay for any bike damage and hospital fees.
Big motorcycles can also be rented from specialist dealers but only very experienced riders should consider driving something like a Harley Davidson around Phuket's busy roads. Insurance issues should be discussed before paying as these are very powerful and expensive machines.
Cars can be rented either from local dealers or from the likes of Budget Rent A Car. Purchasing from a local dealer is usually cheaper but extreme care should be taken to check that you are fully covered by insurance and that the vehicle is in good condition.
Note : To drive in Thailand visitors from most countries will need an international driver's license backed by a valid license to drive the same sort of vehicle in their own country.
Finding Phuket's Best Beaches
Most visitors to Phuket choose to base themselves in or near Patong and while it has a perfectly nice beach just a short drive away are several of the island's absolute best. Not only are they more attractive they are usually far less crowded.
Twenty minutes drive to the south is the also popular Karon Beach with the quieter Kata and Kata Noi beaches being just a few miles further down the road.
Further south near the southern tip of the island and you will find the lovely little beach of Nai Harn which combined with a visit to Rawai town just over the hill can make for a very pleasant daytrip if you are staying elsewhere on Phuket.
To the north of Patong are Kamala, Surin and Bang Tao beaches. Surin Beach, in particular, is very attractive with the presence of some of the island's most luxurious resorts nearby bearing testimony to this.
Water Safety in Phuket
Swimming at Phuket's Beaches
During the high season months the waters on most of Phuket's beaches are very placid and ideal for swimming. Most busy beaches will have designated swim areas marked by a semi-circle of floats that are free from water traffic and its wise to stay within these.
If you do swim outside these areas or there aren't any, take care to stay well away from jet skis and long-tail boats. Jet skis are frequently being driven by novices without a clue and long-tail steersmen will often be prepared to thread their way through groups of swimmers if they have to. Long-tails have an enormous propeller on the end of a long shaft that extends about 10 feet behind the boat.
The sandy beaches have relatively few marine life hazards although jelly fish can be encountered. Normally they are not among the very dangerous species but, if stung, it would be safest to leave the water immediately and seek medical attention. However, extreme care should be taken when swimming or wading in rocky areas due to the presence of sea urchins and potentially lethal stonefish.
Getting to Your Hotel from Phuket Airport
Unless you are staying at one of the few hotels near the airport its likely that you'll have at least an hour's travel to your accommodation. Its quite an expensive taxi ride so it may be just as cheap and certainly more convenient to use your hotel's pick-up service if they have one.
If you do elect to make your own way you will usually get the best price from the metered taxis that park to the right as you exit the airport building but beware, as some will offer you a higher fixed fee rather than use the meter.
There is also an inexpensive airport bus service that runs to Phuket Town with stops on the way that may suit some staying at hotels en route. Its also an option for those travelling on a tight budget as there is a very cheap bus service that runs between Patong and Phuket Town during the day.
Thai Etiquette Tips
Avoiding Offensive Behaviour
One of the things that makes a holiday in Phuket so pleasant is the friendly charm of the Thai people. Although very tolerant of tourists' behaviour there are some customs that visitors should take particular care to observe :
- When negotiating for services or bartering for goods its best never to lose your temper or become aggressive. Acting in such a way may well achieve results in some societies but in Thailand this behaviour is not respected and usually will not get you anywhere. This is particularly relevant when dealing with the Thai police or government officials.
- Never ridicule or talk disrepectfully about members of the royal family. Not only will it cause offence but it could land you in jail as its against the law.
- Thailand is mostly buddhist and although foreigners are welcomed at their temples (called "wats") respectful behaviour and conservative dress is expected.
Petty Crime in Phuket
Avoiding Scams and Pickpockets
The crime rate in Phuket is relatively low but, as with most major holiday destinations, it does have its share of criminals who target tourists.
Pick-pockets usually go for the night-time revellers who have had a few too many. Take particular care when approached by seemingly friendly thais late at night. Katoeys or "lady-boys" have a particularly bad reputation for this.
Scams are less common these days but beware of anyone who, unsolicited, offers you a chance to buy cheap gems, jewelery or gold as these are the popular scam items.