If you are flying to Thailand and would like to visit Phuket, the best way to see this tropical, beautiful island is to travel by car. You can visit the most attractive and secluded beaches, go shopping at malls, and explore Phuket's street markets. Renting a car will give you the freedom to go anywhere on the island. However, the process of car rental should be taken seriously. On the one hand, it is easy to rent a car in Phuket, but on the other hand, there is a high risk of losing money and getting into trouble.
Key driving features in Thailand and Phuket
- Driving on the left makes life difficult for many drivers, especially at roundabouts and turns.
- Scooters are the main mode of transportation and often drive in the opposite direction.
- The car in the roundabout always has the right of way.
- In the case of an accident, the Thai driver is usually considered "more right" than the foreign driver.
- If someone signals you with flashing headlights, it means that you will not be allowed to pass.
- The driver and all passengers must wear seat belts.
Required documents for car driving
- Category B driver's license.
- International driver's permit (IDP), which is a book with a translation into several languages. Usually, it is rarely checked, but if you do not have it, the police can fine you 500 - 1000 baht. In the case of an accident and the absence of an IDP, you risk criminal liability and being imprisoned.
- Passport for identification when signing a car rental contract.
If someone tells you that you can drive in Thailand with your country's driving license based on the Vienna or Geneva Conventions, forget it. Thailand has signed the Vienna Convention, but it has not ratified it internally. That is why you must have an international driver's permit (IDP) to drive in Thailand, in addition to your driving license.
Where to rent a car on Phuket
The most convenient and reliable way to rent a car is to book it in advance on a trusted agency website:
- Rentalcars is one of the most popular resources that will help you to choose a car for rent at the best price.
- Economybookings works on the same principle as the first one, comparing conditions between major car rental companies.
- Localrent makes it possible to book a specific car from local rental companies even without a credit card. If you do not have a credit card or the car colour is very important to you, I recommend checking this website first.
Thai street agencies are a convenient option if you need a car for a couple of days and you come to Phuket between tourist seasons.
Usually, these agencies take your passport as a deposit, which is prohibited by Thai law. However, what can I say, this is Thailand. There are too many of such contradictions. I would not recommend leaving your passport as a deposit. This is a threat for future carping and outright extortion of money from car owners. You could be blamed for little unpleasant things that you did not mention in the beginning.
If you do not want to lose your money, documents, and time, never rent a car through people from social networks. The majority of them are illegal guys who are trying to somehow make money on naive tourists. These individuals could disappear at any moment, taking your money or passport.
Car insurance and a ban on leaving Phuket
Many car owners save money by taking out insurance for only one province of Phuket. You cannot leave the island in these cars.
Some owners put an immobilizer (GPS lock) in the car to prevent unauthorized travel outside Phuket.
Car insurance can be basic MTPL (TPL) or CASCO (CDW). The best option is to rent a car with full CASCO-level insurance..
In the case of an accident, you may lose your deposit (usually it is 12,000 baht) and may have to pay for damages that are not covered by the car's insurance policy. Opting for full insurance coverage will ensure that all costs for car repairs are covered. It is important to carefully read all rental and insurance conditions, as the basic car insurance may only cover the car's bodywork.
Remember that you should not park a car under trees with durians and other big fruits on branches or ride off-road. I strictly don't recommend you to invite monkeys into the salon. It could be a big disaster.
I like the Localrent website because of their clearly written terms.
If you plan to travel by car outside Phuket, then you need to agree to this with the Localrent support in advance.
Where to refuel a car on Phuket
Once we, together with a gas station staff, could not find the button to open the tank for 20 minutes. When you receive the car, ensure to specify with a rental clerk how to open the fuel tank and what type of fuel this car needs.
To fill the fuel tank, you have at least three ways, and I will mention them in order of cost:
- Classical petrol stations are the most economical and convenient option to replenish your car fuel tank. The refueling process is usually supervised by refuellers, who also accept payment and should give change (but sometimes they forget to give the rest).
- Self-service fuel machines accept coins and small banknotes and will save you in case of unexpected fuel shortages.
- Bottles with fuel along a road are exotic and usually the most expensive way to fill a liter of fuel into your car's tank. Check the price with the seller in advance.
Parking on Phuket
In shopping centers, parking is usually free only for the first hour, then an hourly pay fee is charged.
It is usually difficult to find a place to park your car without getting penalties on the streets and near the beach hotels.
Tips: It's a good idea to book a hotel with car parking.
Do not park near red and white indications on the curb. Thai police men can suddenly appear from nowhere and issue fines to anyone who is parked in the wrong place. They can even block your car wheels.
Buy a local SIM card for unlimited access to navigation on maps, Internet access and calls. You can read more in the article Internet in Thailand everything a tourist needs to know.