Getting around Phang Nga
There are a few options to get around Phang Nga but the transport system is not extensive. You can find buses running along the main road but if you want to get anywhere off the beaten track you will need a taxi or to drive yourself.
The road network in Phang Nga is easy enough to navigate. Almost every road radiates from route 4 which is the main road that runs right through Phang Nga province. It is therefore difficult to get lost.
From the Airport
The first challenge for visitors to Phang Nga is getting there. Phang Nga does not have its own airport so most people arrive at Phuket Airport (or a bit further away at Krabi Airport). A taxi ride from Phuket Airport to Khao Lak will take around 1-hour and will cost 1,500 to 2,000-baht. However if your flight arrives in the early hours of the morning when there are fewer taxis around you may find they are willing to take advantage of the situation by charging vastly inflated prices.
There may be a shared minibus service to Khao Lak but this option is not always available. It depends on demand and taxi politics at the time. A shared minibus will take longer than a taxi as they wait until they have sold all the seats before they leave and it will then go around the hotels of every passenger. The trip will cost around 350-baht per person.
There are no buses from the airport to Khao Lak. The taxi companies pay for the concessions to run their service from Phuket Airport and they try to keep a tight control on competition. Getting from the airport to a bus service is a major challenge and we do not particularly recommend anyone tries. You will need to somehow make your way to the main Phuket highway some 8km away and flag down a passing bus (which may or may not stop).
There has been a turf battle around the airport taxi concessions for some time even reaching the extreme of shootings between taxi driver groups. The latest compromise is that independent taxi-meters have a stand outside the airport terminal but only three are allowed in at a time. If you make your way out of the terminal and turn right, you should be able to get a taxi-meter. They are a little cheaper than the airport taxis although they tend to want to charge a fixed fare rather than use the meter.
One final annoyance to be aware of with the taxis is they have occasionally been known to try to squeeze more money from their customers by stopping on the way at a local travel agent and pressing them to book accommodation before they continue. Needless to say, the hotels they want to book you into are paying them commission. If you find yourself in this annoying predicament then stick to your guns and insist you already have a hotel booking.
If your Phang Nga hotel offers an airport pick up service we recommend you take advantage of that service.
Just across the road from Phuket Airport there are a couple of car rental firms that charge reasonable rates.
Taxis and Tuk Tuks
This is one area where Phang Nga is very similar to Phuket. The taxi services tend to organise themselves into groups and run their services like a cartel. They try to discourage competition from public transport options. The bus services are therefore much more aimed at the locals than for tourists.
There are no taxi meters in Phang Nga (apart from those coming from Phuket Airport). There are local taxis and songthaews (vans with two benches in the back). Fares are around 100B for a short journey. It costs around 200B for journeys between the villages of Khao Lak and more to go further. You can negotiate fares to hire a taxi for the day if you want to tour around. Expect to pay 1,000B to 2,000B depending on how far you want to go.
Remember to always agree the fare before you start the trip.
Not the safest way to travel but they are a convenient option for short trips. You will see them on street corners. The drivers wear coloured vests. You just hop on the back and short trips around town should cost 40 baht. Again remember to agree the price before you start the journey.
Driving in Phang Nga
Renting a car or motorcycle is a great way to get around Phang Nga. However, there are plenty of provisos - see our driving in Phang Nga section.
The local bus service is basically songthaews running along route 4. They are really aimed at Thai customers so their destinations are usually only written in Thai. You can flag them down and ask where they are going. However they do not always stop as they would prefer tourists take the more expensive taxi option. Songthaew trips between the villages of Khao Lak cost around 50B.
The national bus service also runs buses along route 4. This is a good option if you want to travel between towns or provinces. The national bus stations are called Bor Kor Sor (it is a Thai acronym that literally stands for 'business that sends people'). There is a Bor Kor Sor station in Khuk Khak near the market. There are also Bor Kor Sor stations in Phang Nga Town and Takua Pa.
There are three classes of bus - standard, first class and VIP. Do not take a standard bus for a long journey. The seats are hard and they do not have toilets. The first class buses are comfortable and have toilets but they can be slow going as they stop to pick up passengers all along the route. For long journeys, the VIP buses are worth the extra cost with comfortable seats, plenty of leg-room and no unscheduled stops. The leg-room on the VIP buses varies depending on how many seats the bus has. The 24 seat VIP buses are highly recommended but even the 32 and 36 seat VIP buses are comfortable.
The longtail boat is Thailand's contribution to maritime transport. They are like large canoes with a recycled diesel truck engine mounted on a long pole that has a propeller at the end. The driver controls boat direction simply by swivelling the pole. They are rather noisy but have become one of the iconic images of Thailand.
For tourists they are a great way to visit the islands near the Phang Nga coastline. You can rent them at the beach nearest your target destination. The cost will depend on the season, how far you are going, how long you are going, how many people are going and of course your negotiating skills. A trip should cost from 1000 to 2000 baht. This will include the driver waiting while you are at your destination and the return journey.