Jamie's Phuket Blog

Tuk Tuks and Taxis in Phuket - Your Opinions

Jamie's Phuket Blog almost always talks about Phuket in a positive way. I blog about places we have been, restaurants we like, things we have enjoyed doing as a family. I don't tend to post news stories or dwell on things that I don't like although I have written about the tsunami several times and back in 2006 I did mention the coup. Yes there was a coup in 2006 and, yes, I am aware there was another one in April 2014, but have no plans to blog about it. For news updates, weather and more, please do follow me on Twitter! And please do use this blog to get ideas for things to do, places to eat or Phuket hotels.

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Since this blog is mostly about things we do as a family, I have not mentioned public transport, although maybe a "general information" blog post about this subject might be a good idea. We have our own transport, we live here, so we have no use for taxis, tuk tuks, motorbike taxis or buses. Way back when I first got here to Phuket I did use tuk tuks and buses a few times, but preferred motorbike taxis as they were cheaper than tuk tuks and faster than buses! Before having any children, and when I lived in Patong for a while in 1999/2000 I could take a motorbike taxi from one end of Patong to the other for 20 Baht and a tuk tuk I am sure had a starting fare of 50 Baht in Patong. When I moved over the hill to Kathu, I remember a tuk tuk to Phuket Town was 100 Baht. It was quite affordable back then.

(above) Motorbike taxi driver in Phuket Town.

These days, I gotta say that in my opinion taxi and tuk tuk fares are nuts. The average rate between the airport and the main south Phuket beaches (Patong, Karon, Kata) is about 1000 - 1200 Baht now. Taxi stand near our dive shop shows a rate of 1000 Baht for 1 or 2 people, 1200 for 3 or 4 people. Now, fair enough it's a 50km drive and in heavy traffic can be a 3 hour return trip for the driver, so I don't think the airport fare is too bad, but 400 Baht from Karon to Patong, just 7 - 8 km? Or 200 Baht from one end of Karon beach to the other (2km)? Or 1000 Baht return trip to the Big Buddha? 600 Baht to Phuket Town? Too high maybe?

(above) Taxi prices outside the Karon Place Hotel, Karon Beach

My simple opinion is that there are too many taxis and tuk tuks, so each driver does not get enough business, and thus they have to charge more per trip, and then spend 80% of the day in a hammock. There has not been enough regulation to limit the number of taxis, plus each area has it's own little "mafia" cooperative keeping fares high and a taxi from Karon, for example, can take a tourist from Karon to Patong, but cannot pick up in Patong so has to return empty. But are the fares too high? Is it a rip-off? I don't know! I am basing my comments on my own financial status, so it seems a bit expensive to me, but maybe the average tourist has more money and thinks tuk tuks are a good deal and a fun part of being in Phuket?

(above) This was the last time I used a tuk tuk - back in 2010. My daughter and I were walking in Phuket Town (doing the Phuket Photo Walk), she got tired and we hailed a tuk tuk for a ride across town. I was expecting to be quoted a silly number, but the driver said 60 Baht. I think you might find Phuket Town to be a little different to the main tourist areas!

Since I don't take taxis, I wanted to get some opinions from people who do use them. So, I posted a question on my Facebook Page:

"What do you think about tuk tuks and taxis in Phuket? Good service? Had any bad experiences? Do you think prices are OK, or too high?"

Thank you to all those who left answers and comments. There were plenty of opinions, nearly 100 comments in total though some were off topic! I will have to cherry pick here, can't post all comments, but there were all kind of comments positive and negative. It's a real mixed bag of opinions!

If you are a taxi or tuk tuk driver, or if you know a taxi or tuk tuk driver, you might want to read some of these comments. I know some local people read this Phuket weblog. Some good comments here and remember, this is from people who actually use the service (not me)!

We have used lots of Tuk Tuks and have enjoyed them. The drivers are always good fun but we have also found that we can get a taxi for the same price.

Good point raised actually - tuk tuks are the box shaped little things, normally red in colour but can be any colour. No seatbelts, no aircon, no doors. My opinion - they're not as safe, but people like them because you don't get anything like this "back home". You can normally find proper cars with aircon, doors and seatbelts hanging around hotels and they charge the same.

I think the drivers charge way too much for distances around Phuket.
I had to go to hospital when I was in Karon and the driver stayed with me nearly all day and made sure I got back to my hotel alright. I gave him 2000Bht, I can not fault the service these guys provide.
Been visiting Phuket since 2004 - Tuk Tuks have got progressively more expensive - but never had a bad experience.... 200 Baht from Amari into Patong - Bangla adds up after a week though!
They have motorbike taxi in Phuket too. When I'm out partying and leave my motorbike home I always pay a ladyboy 100 baht and she take me home. Always the same price even if you go from Karon to Kata But if we go to Patong or longer way I always call for my taxi friend and I always pay the same price. Some tuk tuk people are not nice but if you're not happy with the people or the price just walk to next one.

Jamie says - I'm not sure I'd want to pay a ladyboy 100 Baht to "take me home" :)

I found them to be good clean dangerous fun. haggle with a friendly smile to get a good deal, only naive tourists get ripped off, and you guys stick out like sore thumbs. lol

You see some people think like this comment above, others say ...

It's a f*cking rip off and the baddest thing about Phuket.
Works well unless you stay in Kamala, there they are run by the mafia and are a total rip-off
!! I was expecting more of this kind of comment actually!

Tuk Tuks are a novelty but because of the pecking order, when queued you can't choose the one you want! Its a pain coz if you have young children they want the one with the loud music and colourful lights and bling, but you are forced to take the next one going. Leads to much disappointment with the children who drive home from dinner in a plain one to see others rock up to the hotel having a party in the back!!
Ditto most of the previous comments - 40 Baht for one hour of pootling around the sights of Bangkok - Asked for 200 baht in Phuket before you even get in the tuk tuk or they know where you want to go - Can be quite aggressive if you even start to try to barter.....Again it was all 'Land of Smiles' from the Bangkok drivers with good banter. Felt I wanted to tip the Bangkok driver....And just paid what was asked and no more on Phuket. It could be a lot better if they tried.

I also can't quite understand why taxis in Bangkok are so much cheaper than Phuket. I think maybe it's because the drivers don't lounge around in hammocks all day.

When we were in Thailand tuk tuks were a novelty. We found the convenience great. The fact that we didn't have to run the gauntlet in Patong was fabulous. From Jung Ceylon to Merlin cost 250 was a bit pricey but we still did it every day as we were not interested in a suit glasses or favours from the women on the street.
Only used one once in Patong. To get me to hospital!! Faster than a taxi and quicker than an ambulance !!
Sometimes taxi and tuk tuk are the same price so you may as well travel in aircon comfort. It depends on the size of your group too. Usually they will negotiate and people often step in to help you if you look confused lol. Our housekeeper at the villa negotiated rides out and we had a driver who was fantastic that did day trips. Its a great place and full of many wonderful people. There are a few rogues everywhere.
I found it a good service and friendly
One time tuk tuk in two yrs. I do not like always feel some want to rip you off.

As you see above - opinions vary, some people think it's expensive or a rip off and some say the opposite!

Very expensive charge & not friendly. When I visit Phuket I always rent a car at the airport.
We hired a car with no problems for rest of trip...air con was like heaven!!

I might just talk about hiring your own vehicle at some point. I think that if you really want to explore Phuket as I do, a car is essential, or at least a moped for shorter distances. Car hire tends to be somewhere between 800 - 1500 Baht per day depending on season, type of car and length of hire contract. Can be cheaper than a few taxi rides, but you do need to be happy driving in Phuket traffic :)

Stay in a place where you don't have to take tuktuk often, so you won't regret to spend the most of your money to them. It is the tourist himself who made the prices grow because of his stupidity to pay nearly all price only to have the confort not do walk 500m. there are good and bad drivers, but most are honest because they tell you the price before riding. there are also good and bad tourists. if it is too expensive, avoid tuktuks, stay in a better area, or even stay at home
Visited Phuket last year with my family, they (especially the grandchildren) loved the experience. Just have to negotiate with the driver before you get in. We found them very friendly and careful with the kids on board.
Complete rip off....Chang Mai from airport to hotel,about 30 minute drive in minivan with 4persons,charge 160 baht,Phuket from airport to Karon 1000 baht....Bangkok airport to inner city about 45 minute drive 260 baht.....go figure!...a disgrace what they extort from tourists. Thai government needs to address this.
love em! overpriced? hell no compared to what i pay at home
Overpriced they rip off as much they can...

It seems there is no middle ground here .. people seem to like Phuket tuk tuks and taxis or hate them!

Here's a good comment ::: I agree, the short trips are overpriced.

I think that the drivers should not charge so much just to go from one end of the street to the other , like 200 Bht but happy to drive you round for hours up to 5 hours for just 450 Bht . I would use them 5 times a day for short travel it they were reasonable, it does not make sense they would rather b doing nothing than getting money for what would be a Max 10 min trip to go back and make more money for lots more 10 min trips. I have been to Phuket at least 20 times and the heat does get to tourists and a well priced ride for these very short trips would benefit EVERYONE
Expensive! Live on Karon beach when we are there. they take 200 for to drive to some place in Karon,300 to Kata, 400 to Patong. And in the evening they go home early....so no tuk.tuk ore taxi

Below .. I am not sure who posted this, maybe a taxi driver or friend of a taxi driver ... a little hard to understand, but I will point out one thing - whoever wrote this certainly agrees, there are TOO MANY taxis and tuk tuks, that's why they don't have enough fares and thus have to charge more per fare.

In tuk tuk and taxi side : tuk tuk and taxi they can work just only 4 or 5 month a years as now not thing no tourist and what about 8 month what they can do, not thing. if they out from work that mean can't be back to work anymore. if a lot of driver that mean not so much work too, must sheared your guest and money. they have taxi and tuktuk club for make the same price and also have price show on the sign beside the road and front of there station, the gasoline in thailand is the most expensive in the world almost 40-50 THB/liter. small car but lot of weight and go up to big mountain. Why they must to start from 200 THB. evern you go for just 1/2 Km. how many car in work please some please have much more 20 car. if you are the first one and got guest for 200 THB. and when you come back to station must to be the last again and wait for 3-4 hr. or more for run another car to have guest then you can turn to the first one again. what you think how many THB. they got and how many hrs. they should work to got a lot money. like now the 2nd car still not got guest from 10 O'clock till 21:00 pm what about another car in station if today they can't be the first much to move to the next day and next day and next day. please thing everything for 2 side not only 1 side. everything have bad and good. a lot of experience with bad guest too.

Expensive? We are staying up on the hill at Patong and we get a tuk tuk twice a day to wherever we want to go, average price is 200 baht for 5 of us, cheap cheap!
We love them and don't mind paying for the experience of traveling in them. When I compare distance for price from Phuket to Australia, great value too!
Love a tuk tuk
They are too expencive and killing the tourisem. The are noise and drive like hell.

(Please note, if spelling and grammar are bad .. I am quoting exactly as written by people who are not always native English speakers!)

Never had a problem in the last 9 trips to Phuket.
My husband and I and our 3 children used them whilst staying in Karon and thought they were WAY overpriced. It was the biggest expense of our trip. They also would put the prices up because there were 5 of us. At the tuk tuk stations all prices on display are for 4 people. What does it matter if there are 2,4 or 10 people in a tuk tuk it's still going to the same place?? That pissed me off especially with little kids. Love Phuket it was our 3rd time but it's definitely getting more expensive.

To the person who wrote this (above) - I suggest renting a car.

We have been to Phuket 4 times going back in September 5th trip, we use them everyday, long trips short trips, they can be expensive, especially short trips, but we walk try barter what we think is reasonable if they don't agree we walk to the next lot till we have someone who actually wants money. Yes you do get good ones and when you do KEEP THEM!!
Stayed at Surin Beach and it was lovely, but the taxi monopoly means you have to pay the equivalent of AU$20 to get anywhere. It puts you off the idea of staying there again.
Scooter is the way to go around Phuket, definitely.

Jamie says - I have to say, I don't thing it's my imagination, but I swear that I saw a lot more tourists on scooters/mopeds this last high season ... avoiding taxi prices? You can normally rent a scooter for 250 - 300 Baht per day. That's cheaper than a single shop between beaches by taxi. Don't want to say too much here, but I'd only recommend you rent a scooter if you know how to ride, have experience riding in traffic and please, always wear a helmet (and a shirt!).

I think prices were higher last November than the July 2011 when we were there. I found it expensive from Patong to Kata... And also the fixed price of 200 Baht from Gracelands into Patong. I think the prices for everything were def higher the second time we went. But we loved it and can't wait to go back. The men on the beach outside Gracelands are awesome as well as the guys in the little takeaway shop on the beach. They are def worth the money. Oh and we never had a bad experience. Except for once when we asked to see the shops and he took us to a souvenir shop that we didn't want anything at. That was disappointing but the only time in the 21 days all up we have been to Phuket.

Re the comment above - "from Gracelands into Patong" ... seriously, some people need to walk a bit! Gracelands hotel is just 10 minutes walk from the center of Patong! I agree Patong to Kata or Karon, they charge too much.

We use tuk tuks when we are there and have always had a good experience. We also have a driver that we use for trips outside of Patong beach and he is great!.. takes us everywhere, books our day trips and suggests places for us to go exploring.
Definitely expensive but great fun to ride in! Better value if they drive you around for a few hours. The only time I've though highly of the service was with the Batman tuk tuk a few years ago. He took us to Laem Singh Beach and we arranged for him to return and pick us up a few hours later, and he was right on time.
Way way way over priced on both the taxi & tuk tuk.......they are stand over merchants.......they have this mentality that because it's quiet instead of getting of there asses & looking for work we will just sit in our little huts & put the prices up & the customer can come to us.......if you can find a good one stick with them cause they are very rare!!
Compared to the rest of Thailand they are way overpriced !

Agree. And very little alternative - buses run between Phuket Town and the main beaches, but not between the beaches. And anywhere else I have been in Thailand, you have lower taxi prices, or .. even in Pattaya, they have buses that run routes around the main tourist areas for a low price. If you could hop on a bus every 20 minutes from one end of Patong to the other for 20 Baht, it would be a success. If you really wanted to go NOW you could pay extra for a taxi. Pretty much how any place in the world does it.

LOVE the disco Tuk Tuks!
We were there 2 months ago. I thought the prices were high compared to Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but pretty much everything was more expensive in Phuket. And of course the prices were pretty much set although we did manage to bargain down a tiny bit on a couple of rides. We enjoyed the rides in the "pimped out" tuk tuks blasting music. And we had good service overall.
We gave the tuk tuk driver too much money and he was honest enough to let us know... we ended up giving him more than the fare because he was so nice about it and so honest!

OK, that's enough - a lot of comments as you can see. And to be honest I was surprised at the number of positive comments. I know very well that the taxi and tuk tuk prices have been increasing year by year. Sure, everything increases in price, but I think part of the reason the taxis are so expensive in Phuket is that there are too many of them. Plus the way they organise themselves into local groups, can't pick up in other areas outside their own group border and quite frankly there seem to be many drivers happy to lounge around all day and get a few fares at inflated prices. God forbid that if the prices were lower, more people would use the taxis and the drivers would have to work more, but would they make more money? If I can sell you one banana for 100 Baht, why would I sell you 2 bananas for 50 Baht each? I hope someone has found this interesting / useful / a fun read. If you are coming to Phuket - well, that's what other visitors think of Phuket's taxis and tuk tuks! See you in Phuket!

UPDATE - Just a few days after this blog post was written, there was a crackdown on illegal taxis and taxi "mafia" groups. Police and army cooperated and had a list of over 100 people they wanted to arrest. Despite many people obviously enjoying the service provided by taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket, for sure many people are not happy with the service, as can be seen from the comments I got on Facebook. This was a surprise crackdown and maybe it will help ... read more on the Phuket News website here, here and here.

UPDATE 2 - Uber is now in Thailand. You may know about Uber if you live in one of the many places where they operate - order taxis from your mobile. Fares better than the regular local fare. You can leave ratings and comments about any trip you take. And if you sign up using the promo code uberjamiesphuket or use the link https://get.uber.com/invite/uberjamiesphuket you get a discount on your first ride too! Uber was in Phuket for 1 high season, but then disappeared again. I think GrabTaxi is here now too.

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