Thailand Chronicles 11: How To Bypass The Taxi Mafia

Wat Chalong in Ao Chalong during the fair on Phuket island in Thailand. Taken on the 22nd of February 2007 with a Nikon D200 and a 18-200mm lens. Part of the Thailand Chronicles Series.

Traveling in Thailand is great.

The food, the people, the international feel of the place.

International?

Yep, I went to a restaurant last night, and everybody in there spoke German.

Strange?

I also met a Brit bar owner and a Frenchman from Marseilles called Frank, who runs an internet cafe, the only one we could find that didn’t close at 9PM.

One thing totally sucks in Phuket.

Traveling around.

The taxi mafia has got their hand on the throats of all of the travelers and tourists.

Basically what they are doing, is trying to get as many BHT out of the tourists as possible, and for most, this isn’t a problem. They come to Phuket to live the life on the beach for a few days or weeks, and sometimes they don’t even leave their resorts. Most of the time, they get shuttle buses and minivans directly from the airport to where they are going.

But what about the travelers, those on a budget who can’t just justify paying 450-1000BHT for a 40 minute cab ride, which in Bangkok would cost no more than 120BHT?

Well, there are options, though no one will tell you about them.

Why?

Welll, you have to be aware of how things work in Phuket, and how locals get around.

If you are willing to rough it a bit, most of Thailand is easily accessible by bus. The BKS (pronounced Baw Kaw Saw) is the government run bus service and has impeccable service. In the future, I will not fly down from Bangkok to Phuket, I will simply take an overnight bus. This gives you a great flexibility, because once you book tickets, you have to leave on those set days. I know from experience, that we would have wanted to leave earlier for Phuket, probably on Sunday night and arrive on Monday so that we could have a whole week here, but then we had booked our tickets in the beginning of February, and had no choice on the matter.

So you get to Phuket, you are at the airport…

Now what?

Asking around and walking around the carpark, the best option for those with a short fuse and unwilling to rough it, is the taxi meter stand on the right side of the airport, on your way out the doors. They will get you a metered taxi. In my opinion, their clocks are running fast, because in Bangkok, the rates aren’t the same.

Anyways, count for 200 to 700 BHT on the meter depending on where you are going. To get to Ao Chalong, we were quoted 450BHT for the ride, on the meter.

When you go around and ask for prices from the minivans and minibuses, you get prices varying from 500 to 1000 BHT. The more remote your hotel, the higher they will charge you. If you are going to Hat Patong, Hat Kata and Karon, you might get better rates because there are organised rides available at the airport.

The best way to avoid the whole thing will set you back 125BHT per person.

This is the way it works.

The only drawback is that you have to arrive during the daytime. If you arrive past 7-8PM, these options will not be available for you. Once you arrive, ask where you can take the bus. The normal bus will either arrive on the 2nd or 1st floor, depending on its schedule. My guess is the 2nd floor, because it arrives there to dump the passengers.

It is easy to find, because it is painted white and blue and airport is written on it.

Once you board it and it is on its way, you have to pay 85BHT per person. The rates are higher for non-Thais, but there is nothing you can do about this. It is especially frustrating when you took the bus from Bangkok’s main terminal to Ayutthaya for 50BHT per person, and the short ride to the airport from Phuket International is 85BHT. Still, it is a lot better than paying 1000BHT to get to your destination.

The bus will deposit you at the bus station in Phuket.

Once there, or even before you board, ask the driver to show you where you can board the Săwngthăew to your destination. For an example, the Săwngthăew to Ao Chalong costs about 40BHT per person.

What is a Săwngthăew ?

Simply, a truck with two rows of seats in the back, facing the sides. Thais use this as transport a lot, and you will need to get near and gritty with the other people on this ride. However, it is most of the time fast, cheap and reliable. The drivers are great and will help you out, not matter what your problem. Ours dropped us in front of the bus to the airport. Really nice.

So for those travelling on a budget, try this. If it works in Phuket, it should work almost everywhere in Thailand. I find Phuket overpriced sometimes for what it is. Or I don’t know about all of the deals. Still, I have a friend there who has been in Thailand for more than a year and he couldn’t help me out either.

So my best advice is if you are travelling on a budget, try it out.

Also, if you are living in Phuket for a while, like most places, transportation can get quickly expensive. Outside of Bangkok, I recommend renting a motorcycle. Most guesthouses do this, but if you shop around, you can find it cheaper. I started out with a day rental from our hotel, and quickly found a cheaper more powerful motorcycle for 170BHT instead of 200BHT per day. They are also available in long term rentals, however remember that you always have to leave your passport in guarantee.

Just a short word on the motorcycles. In Thailand, they sell the evolution of the moped. They are fully automatic and come in decent engine sizes, 100-150ccs. The names you are looking for are Honda Click, Suzuki Step, Yamaha Nuouvo and a few others. They are driven like scooters. There are also semi-automatic mopeds available, like the Honda Wave. These bikes don’t have a manual clutch, only the pedals to upshift and downshift. I found one for 100BHT per day.

3 Responses to “Thailand Chronicles 11: How To Bypass The Taxi Mafia”


  1. 1 clubsiamclubsiam May 17, 2008 at 10:55

    The Tourist mafia is ruining Thailand.
    Dangerous!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/21533131@N06/

  2. 2 Luke @ heathrow parking January 5, 2010 at 14:46

    One of the annoyances I often experience is when leaving most airports in Thailand I get swamped with taxi offers, most of them can barely speak English so I don’t think anyone is at risk from being conned by one of those guys!

  3. 3 range January 5, 2010 at 19:17

    It’s a racket. Especially when you arrive out of the normal service hours, when buses and other means of transport are readily available.


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ranjitwithkinginbehand.jpgI'm Range, your host. On the menu, photos, art, stories, entertainment and reviews. Links, maths, education and social issues. I'm in Quebec (Canada) or Taiwan (R.O.C.). Follow me on Twitter.

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