Getting around Patong and Phuket Town.
Getting around in Patong Beach itself is surprisingly easy as it is fairly flat and compact. Most people simply walk. And walking is definitely cheap.
There are, however, times when factors such as comfort, convenience or even safety make vehicular travel desirable or necessary. It is easy to arrange, as easy as finding airline tickets to Patong from Bangkok. There are many modes to choose from. Depending on what you plan to do, you can take a tuktuk, motorbike taxi or bus. A bus might be better if you wish to explore other parts of Phuket island.
And, of course, most people who stay in Patong Beach also want to travel to or explore other parts of Phuket Island. To do this, some manner of vehicular transportation is absolutely necessary.
The most commonly used forms of vehicular transportation in the Patong area are the motorbike and tuk-tuk taxis. Limited island-wide bus service is also available and, of course, it is possible to rent vehicles.
The fastest and cheapest form of vehicular travel in Patong beach is the motorbike. Motorbike taxi vehicles and their drivers - dressed in green or maroon vests with Thai script and numerals on the front and the back - are an established part of Patong Beach.
Large numbers of them are to be found at frequented locations. Or they can simply be waved down whenever you see one and want a ride.
You should ask the fare but there are standard fares for most destinations so negotiating is usually not necessary. You should be able to travel anywhere in Patong for under 50 baht.
When riding a motorbike taxi, the driver should provide the rider with a helmet as there is a 500 baht fine for riding on a motorbike without one.
When riding a motor bike one should keep in mind that while the motorbike taxi is fast and cheap. Tt is not the safest form of transportation. Generally speaking, however, motorbike taxi drivers are skillful and experienced so accidents are not common.
A tuk-tuk is a small truck or van-like vehicle. It has a cab for the driver and an area in back of the cab - a "flat-bed" - with open sides, a roof and two rows of seats. Perhaps 4 to people are able to to sit comfortably.
These vehicles - they are usually bright red - are a common sight in Patong and on Phuket Island. They operate in a manner similar to motorbike taxis but many of them drive established routes.
Inside Patong, the rates, which are based on distance traveled and not the number of passengers, are constant but they have been increasing rapidly. They are now about 100 baht for short trips, although less in places such as Phuket town.
The rates for tuk-tuks travelling from Patong to other locations vary and must be negotiated. If the driver "does not understand" then it is a bad idea to get in!
It is generally agreed that a tuk-tuk in motion or driving on the road will usually give you a better rate than one that is parked and waiting for riders. Riders should be aware that tuk-tuk drivers often recruit customers for massage parlors, gem shops and so forth.
This is not necessarily a problem, but a rider must be firm in saying "no" if he or she is not interested. It might be necessary to take another tuk-tuk. The professionalism of tuk-tuk drivers varies greatly. Drivers who smell of alcohol should obviously be approached with caution.
These taxis, the familiar taxis found in most Thai cities, are not permitted in Patong Beach. They do operate in Phuket town and other parts of Phuket Island. The rates are 50 baht for the first 2 kilometers and 7 baht for each additional kilometer.
Bus or Songthaew
There is a "bus" service - actually the buses look like big tuk-tuks, except they are blue - that orginates in Phuket town from the fresh markets on Ranong Road opposite the Thai airways office. Buses go to most parts of the island. It is cheap (fares are between 20 and 30 baht) and safe.
The best places to catch them in Patong are near the Tourist Police Box on Patong Beach Road (Thaweewong Road) at the end of Bangla Road: and near the Patong Merlin Hotel, at the end of Prachnukhro Road. Buses must be flagged down as there are actually no official bus stops.
Other good places to catch buses can be learned from hotel or guest house operators, from merchants or from other tourists. Unfortunately, the buses stop operation at 6:00 PM and do not go from beach to beach. Thus, while it is possible to use the bus system to travel all over the island, all travel must be routed through Phuket town.
Motorbike and Automobile Rental
Renting a motorbike or an automobile can make a stay on Phuket island very pleasurable as there are many worthwhile places to go. Internationally recognized companies such as Hertz and Avis have automobile rental facilities at the airport.
Automobile and motorbike rentals can easily be arranged in Patong and Phuket. Generally speaking, a small motorbike may be rented for around 200 baht a day, a large bike for around 500 baht a day and four wheel vehicles for 700 baht a day and up. Rentals made at the airport are generally higher than those made in Patong or Phuket.
Mileage is unlimited but the renter must pay for the gas. An international driving license or a license from the renter's country of origin is required. All people considering renting a vehicle should be aware that driving in Thailand is difficult as many drivers disregard the traffic laws.
Due in part this, and to other factors such as heavy rains, the accident rates for rental vehicles - and their drivers - is quite high. While rental companies require the customer to buy insurance, the insurance is confusing and seldom provides good protection to the renter - this is especially true concerning motorbikes.
Generally, customers are responsible for any and all damage done to a vehicle, and they are responsible for the entire value of the vehicle if the vehicle is stolen or destroyed in an accident. Scams in which vehicles are intentionally damaged or "stolen" - especially motorbikes - are not uncommon. Some people that rent motorbikes keep them in their motel rooms at night!