Thailand’s Tuk-Tuks, Scooters and Songthaews

Great tips for using tuk-tuks, scooters, bikes, and red trucks are not just transportation options but an essential part of daily life.

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In Thailand, tuk-tuks, scooters, bikes, and red trucks are not just transportation options but an essential part of daily life. They reflect the country’s vibrant and accessible travel culture. Tuk-tuks add a dash of color and excitement to city streets, while scooters and bicycles offer a more personal and leisurely way to explore. Red trucks, or Songthaews, are a practical and budget-friendly choice for getting around town. Together, these transport modes symbolize Thailand’s welcoming and adventurous spirit, making it easy for everyone to experience the country’s beauty and culture.

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Thailand’s Tuk Tuks & Other Transportation

I have no experience with renting a car in Thailand, and even though we didn’t rent scooters, we did find out the logistics. We rented a taxi for 4 hours on our first full day on the island and again to go to the mall. We jumped in a tuk-tuk to escape the 100 degree-like weather and rode the bus from one market to another one… all were very easy to navigate, reasonable fares (if not cheap) fares, and very little bargaining.

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Scooters —No Thank You

Scooters are everywhere. The locals rely on them and so do tourists. For the most part, I saw some pretty reasonable driving, although I saw a ton of people wearing flip flops, three or four to a scooter, and no helmets or safety gear what-so-ever. If you do rent a scooter, make sure your insurance will protect you, any property damaged or people injures. If it is damaged or stolen you will have to pay it’s for replacement plus any property damage or injuries caused to others. No, that there are additional considerations if you are injured while on active duty.

100 Thai Baht equals 2.780 US Dollars

The warm balmy climate, the natural beauty of the island, and the winding mountain roads, all make Phuket a natural for cruising around on scooters. They are by far the most common mode of transportation on the island. They are also the most common cause of serious injury and death on the island. The daily rental rate for the small motorbikes like the ‘Honda Dream’ is 100-150 baht. The larger bikes rent for 300-500 baht, but in both cases, the locals will be quite happy to charge the uninformed more.

Motorcycle drivers dressed in a green or maroon vests are providing a short trip taxi service. They are at times the fastest and cheapest way to get around. Simply wave one to a stop and ask for the fare to your destination.

 

By Bus

Daytime bus service (songthaew) operates on most parts of the island. Songthaew (means two rows) and refers to the two wooden benches that run down each side of this colorful wooden-body public transport. All buses run on a loop route between a beach location like Patong and back to the songthaew in Phuket Town. The bus fare between Patong and Phuket Town is 15 Baht and takes about thirty minutes.

Unfortunately, the buses don’t operate between beaches, ie., you can’t take a bus from Karon Beach to Patong. They should though. Buses are probably the safest form of transportation because the driver is a municipality employee and most like sober.

Taxis and Tuk Tuk

From the moment you arrive, you will be bombarded by people trying to sell you a tour, ride in a tuk-tuk or taxi. Do not get angry. This is how they make a living and the industry is very competitive.

The notorious three-wheeled, no traffic rules exist a variety of took tuks are now extinct in Phuket. They have been replaced with small red, yellow and green vans with open sides and seats that run along both sides. They are not metered and offer the greatest opportunity for being ripped off. Tuk-tuks start at 100 to120 Baht per hour depending on the distance to be traveled and be prepared to pay 150 Baht per hour. Tuk-tuks are everywhere.

Sometimes you will hear them before you see them because their sound systems are so loud. Some of them are decked out in neon lights and fancy wheels. They operate all over the island, but especially in the tourist areas around the beaches. They are willing to take you anywhere you want to go—for a reasonable price.

Taxis are also numerous. I found that the majority of the airport taxis were sedans, while the taxis in Patong and along the popular strips were minivans. The rates for both tuk-tuks and taxis start around 180 Baht per person one way, but drivers would negotiate for round trips or by the hour.

TIP #1
Rates are by the distance and not by the persons

The standard rate for a ride from one point in Patong to another is 20 Baht, from Patong to Phuket is 150 Baht, from Patong to Karen Beach is 100 Baht, and from Patong to the airport (a forty-five-minute ride) is 450 Baht. A little rain, a late-night trip, or just about any other reason is a reasonable excuse to charge more. If you know the basics you can negotiate a rate you’ll both be happy with.

We arrived around midnight and paid 800 Baht for transportation from the airport to our hotel near Patong Beach. We paid 1,000 Baht from the hotel to the airport for our 7 am flight going home.

TIP #2
The hotel staff called a taxi for us. We were billed by the hotel, so no money (just a tip) exchanged hands. This is great because it cuts down on the chances of the driver changing his fee mid-trip

You can also arrange either form of transportation at the stands directly outside the airport terminal and at popular venues. I noticed a few drivers sitting on plastic chairs in the weirdest places. At first, I thought they were drug dealers, but soon realized they were drivers trying to find a spot not overwhelmed by the competition.

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Organized Tours

And finally, during your stay, you have the option of purchasing tours from the comfort of your hotel lobby on a stroll around town while you try to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. There are numerous kiosks with photos of available tours. I haven’t heard anything negative about this experience. However, I booked all three of our Thailand tours online at www.viator.com. And I would recommend all three.

The tour operators provided round-trip transportation. And if anything was consistent, it was that all three operators were late picking us up each morning. More of that laid back Thailand charm. When they did arrive, they did not make any excuses and were overly apologetic.

The three tours we participated in and would do over again in a heartbeat were:

  

 

A speedboat from Phuket to Maya Beach (Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach), Bamboo Beach, Monkey Beach, Snorkeling with lunch on Phi Phi Island. Everywhere we went, the water was crystal clear. Some beaches were more crowded than others and we had to contend with the tide, but otherwise, the food was good, the staff was nice and the scenery and weather were perfect. 8 hrs

  

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Phuket Half Day Elephant Trek

This tour took place on a Thai Farm. And included demonstrations on coconut usage, gum trees, tea and coffee, and rice harvesting. We received elephant education and a 30-minute trek through the jungle with a Mahout Elephant guide. It also included a photo op over Chalong Bay. The elephants looked well cared for and happy (as far as I could tell). They even played with Steven trying to take his water bottle from him. And we ate lunch on the Safari Boat while cruising around Chalong Bay.

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Phang Nga Bay Sea Caves

 
The tour includes a fast boat from Phuket to James Bond Island, a free swim, and a guided canoe tour through 4 caves. Charlie was amazing. We received lunch, dinner, and snacks. In addition, we also participated in a night offering in Bat Cave. This tour made my hubby nervous because he can’t swim. And for a minute I thought we were not going to have a good time. But after the waves settled down, he got into it. Charlie acted as a guide and a marriage counselor. He helped make our 20th Wedding Anniversary unforgettable!! This crew is really knowledgeable about the area, tides, caves, and wildlife. And they are very entertaining too. 10 hrs
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