Renting a Car in Phuket

We’ve looked at motorcycle rental. If it’s not for you then how about renting a car?

I’m surprised so few people do rent a car in Phuket. It’s possibly the thought of driving in Phuket, with its reputation for road accidents, hilly, potholed roads, dangerous drivers, traffic and left-side driving.

But is it that bad? Let’s have a look:

Most accidents involve motorbikes;

The roads aren’t the best but easily navigable by a competent driver;

The traffic can be dreadful but that would be the same if you were sitting in a taxi or on a bus;

You soon get used to driving on the “wrong side” of the road, though if you’re British, Australian or Japanese then this isn’t an issue anyway.

The pros possibly outnumber the cons. In addition:

You have the freedom to go where you want, when you want;

You are not at the mercy of tuktuks and taxis;

You can rent at the airport, thereby avoiding the cost of a two-way transfer.

Cars are sturdier than bikes so your chances of a serious injury in the unlikely event of an accident are diminished.

Of course, there are dangers. Anyone who’s visited Thailand will be aware that the standard of driving is far worse than in most visitors’ home countries. The Thai driving test is a joke (I don’t think anybody ever fails) and law enforcement is lax; speeding, running red lights, dangerous overtaking, even driving against the traffic are rarely punished. It’s also a fact that many Thai drivers don’t even have a licence, despite the easy test. A small fine is the usual punishment if caught, and the unlicensed driver is then sent on his way.

And there’s more:

Road rage: try not to intimidate other drivers; you don’t know how they may react;

Ghost-riders: cars and mainly motorbikes on the wrong side of the road, a nightmare when you are turning right;

Dogs can be a nuisance. They don’t usually wander down the middle of the road but watch out for them anyway. You might even encounter a python or monitor lizard crossing the road; please don’t drive over them!

You also need to be aware of bikes at all times. Use your mirrors more than you normally would, especially the left-side wing mirror. Many bikes are hit by cars turning left;

You’ll encounter poor driving, all the traits I mentioned in the previous paragraph, buses that can hardly get up the hills, black exhaust smoke pouring out of the back of beaten up pickups, vans and buses. And if you drive in the rain be extra-cautious; too many drivers don’t take the conditions into account, don’t switch on their lights ad you may well encounter localised flooding.

Honestly, I could ramble on for a few thousand words on the dangers on Thailand’s roads but just do a Google search to find out more.

Accidents, of course, can happen and for that reason we would recommend only renting cars from reputable, preferably internationally known companies. You might save a couple of hundred baht a day renting from the hotel manager’s friend, the local tour shop or the place near the beach but if you are involved in an accident and you’ve signed an agreement in Thai that you don’t understand, you could lose your entire holiday spending money plus much more.

Check your travel insurance to make sure you are covered for medical expenses. You won’t be covered for damage to the car nor third party damages. With a reputable international company this will not be a concern for you. With Somchai’s Honda City, it might be.

We’d also recommend buying Excess Protection Insurance. Don’t buy this through the car rental company as it’s well overpriced. Use a specialist company for this and save a fortune, also consider an annual policy, which works out very economical.

In the event of an accident you’ll be told to leave your vehicle exactly where it is, regardless of how minor the scrape you might be involved with. Contact the rental agency, they will inform the insurers. You won’t generally be allowed to move your car until the insurers and the police have made an inspection. You might be holding up traffic but don’t worry; it’s a daily occurrence in Phuket.

A final few points:

It is law that seatbelts are worn at all times by all passengers;

Mobile phones may not be used whilst driving;

Make sure you fill up with the correct fuel. Thailand isn’t self-service so ask correctly;

Look out for parking restrictions. Red and white lines on the kerb, also signs on lampposts.

Carry your driving licence and preferably passport at all times. You may be stopped in a police roadblock. An International Driving Permit is preferable.

Don’t drink and drive!

Renting a car can really help you have a better vacation. Driving in Phuket isn’t difficult as long as you keep focussed. Just drive like you would at home, don’t be aggressive and don’t think that driving like the locals is a good idea. It usually isn’t!

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