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Phuket is an island province situated off Southern Thailand’s Andaman Sea coastline. It earned its wealth by becoming a major player in the Southeast Asia maritime trade. Today, however, with the island’s palm-fringed white sand beaches and turquoise waters, tourism is modern Phuket’s main source of income. Both standard and less-expected attractions are aplenty in Phuket. For those wishing to get away from the crowds and find their own paradise, renting a car is the most cost-effective means of transport.
Who to Book With
Car rental firms abound this island province. Budget, Hertz, National, Avis and Sixt are some of the international car hire brands that can be found here. In the administrative centre of the island, Phuket Town, visitors will also find local outfits such as Pure Car Rent, Island Tour & Car Rent and Mobile Car Rental. Many can also be found in the most popular resort town of Patong. Visitors are advised to compare prices online first. This saves a lot of money as a search pulls up the best deals.
Best Time to Go
Summer in this part of the world comes around March to May. It may be too hot to visit during this time, with daytime temperatures averaging at around 33°C in high summer. November to February is tourist high season and the best time to visit in terms of the weather.
Need to Know Essentials
When retrieving the car you booked, you will need to produce the following:
- A national licence or an International Driving Permit
- Passport or other photo ID
- A credit card
- A refundable deposit
Drivers in Phuket are encouraged to take utmost caution and care as accidents are not uncommon given the island’s hilly roads, and local drivers are not particularly known for observing traffic rules. Driving at night is discouraged because of drunk drivers, many which will be on motorbikes. Always carry a licence, as the police are known to hassle and fine foreigners caught without one.
In Thailand, public transport is not as reliable as in western countries. Trains only go as far as Surat Thani from the Thai capital Bangkok, although a bus connection to Phuket can be made. Buses are few, leaving visitors to the mercy of songthaews, autorickshaws and tuktuks. Metered cabs are available, although they are known to be extremely overpriced on Phuket.
Those coming in by train can easily purchase tickets in person at the major train stations in the network. Long-distance travel requires pre-purchase of tickets before boarding. Online purchase of tickets is done via authorised ticket agents like Thailand Train Ticket. Fares in buses and the local pick-up trucks called songthaews are paid to the driver or the bus conductor.
There are no rail services within Phuket. However, holidaymakers have the option of getting into Phuket on a combination of trains and buses. From the Thai capital Bangkok, you can hop on a train to Surat Thani, from where you can catch a bus and continue the next 100 miles or so to Phuket. The train journey costs around £21 for a second-class sleeper, while the bus ride costs around £5.
Taxis come in three different forms in Phuket. First is the tuktuk, a three-wheeled ‘autorickshaw’. Second is the motorbike taxi, literally motorbike drivers who ferry passengers around on the back seat. The third option is the regular metered cabs. Visitors are advised to negotiate prices for the first two before getting in. When you need a cab, it’s always best to have your hotel reception phone one in for you. Although most taxis have meters, there are usually set, very high, fares to destinations.
Buses in Phuket come in the form of regular buses, which are few and far between, and the songthaews, a converted pick-up truck with two rows of benches in the back for passengers. Buses follow certain routes within the island, while the songthaews pick up and drops passengers at will. Fares usually cost less than £1 on the latter.
To the many foreigners who come to visit here, Phuket is the definition of a tropical paradise, and it’s very easy to see why. Beaches with the finest and whitest of sands and crystalline turquoise waters are what characterise the coastline of Thailand’s largest island. Around the island are many destinations worth driving to, from the hugely popular to the off-the-beaten path locations.
Chalong Bay - Located in the southeast portion of the island, is an easy drive south from Phuket Town or the airport. Although the water may not be the best for swimming, Chalong Bay more than makes up for this with its stunning views. In the bay is Phuket’s very attractive marina, from which boat trips to other islands in the Andaman can be arranged.
Nai Yang and Nai Thong - Two beach areas on the northeast coast of Phuket, a few minutes’ drive from the airport in the north or Patong in the south. The beaches here are more laidback than the full-on resort scene in Patong. Visitors can even opt to stay at one of the few guesthouses here.
Surin - This is the new beach destination of Phuket. It currently has a small village vibe, but things are changing pretty quickly with more resort and hotel developments rising up. Surin is around nine miles north of Patong.