Unlike most places in Thailand, the island of Phuket often evokes an array of mixed emotions from tourists. It is the largest island in the country, so unsurprising; it is one of the largest tourist destinations in the country. Like any place where there is a lot of money coming in, you will encounter your fair share of shady dealings and people. The existence of this in Phuket has definitely left a taint on the image of this once beautiful destination. Fortunately, if you are aware of what to avoid, you will be better prepared and less likely to have any of it negatively affect your opinion of the island as a whole. So we present to you, the 5 Things to Avoid in Phuket.
1) Taxis and Tuk Tuks
No single group has caused more discontent and frustration with tourists more than the taxi and tuk tuk drivers. Phuket appears to be an enigma in the nation of Thailand. In most tourist locations in the country, public transportation is abundant and affordable for everyone. Even in a city like Pattaya where you would expect to find a similar atmosphere as Phuket, tuk tuks and taxis are not only affordable, but are a great way to get around. In Phuket, this is not the case.
Unfortunately for visitors to Phuket, the public transportation here is basically non-existent. You may have no choice but to take a taxi at some point in time during your visit. If possible, always try to take a metered taxi. The non-metered taxis have set prices for destination that could rival the cost of a taxi ride in downtown Manhattan.
Although there are some honest taxi drivers, your best course of action is to always to assume the worst. Always agree on a price before getting into a taxi. Always carry small bills around as the taxi driver probably won’t have change, even if he does. It is also best to never argue or openly confront a taxi driver as news reports show that some drivers have no qualms with resulting to violence as a first option. If you should have an argument with a taxi driver, it is best to pay whatever fare is asked of you, but note the taxi license number and make a report to the tourist police.
2) Rip Currents
Being the only naturally occurring thing to avoid in Phuket, I pondered whether to list it at number one, but in the end, I realized that the taxi drivers were a bigger tarnish on the reputation of Phuket. I have made it somewhat of a crusade of mine to spread awareness on this subject, as I read articles almost daily about death and injury resulting from rip currents that can easily be avoided. Please read my article on the Dangers of Phuket Beaches. Spread the word by liking the article, sharing it, printing it out and tossing it out your window parade style. So much death and injury could be avoided with a bit of awareness of the ocean.
There is no reason to fear the ocean, but it is deserving of our respect. If you are swimming and find yourself caught in a rip current, please do not panic. Realize that you are not stronger than the ocean. It is a force that makes up about 80% of the Earth’s surface. It is larger than you, it is stronger than you, show it respect and you will live to see another day. Should you be caught in a rip current, do not struggle against it. Rip currents are quite small and easy to avoid. Just swim parallel to the shore until you are free of the pull and you will never have a problem. Remember that rip currents are like small rivers in the ocean. They are only so wide and will only pull you out so far. Fear is the greatest enemy of anyone swimming in the ocean. If you do not fear the rip current, but respect its power, you are more likely to see another day.
Sorry if I am sounding a bit counterproductive at the moment, but you should really avoid driving motorcycles in Phuket if you have the choice. The roads of Thailand are probably the single most dangerous thing for a foreigner. I know what you are thinking. I can’t take public transportation, I can’t take private transportation, how the heck can I get around the island of Phuket? Your best bet is to rent a car, as it adds more safety than a motorcycle and you are in complete control, or better yet, find some place that you like and proceed by foot.
4) Bangla Road Ladyboys
Ladyboys or Kathoeys in the Thai language, are men who dress and act like women. This category includes both pre-op and post-op males, but typically Kathoeys still have functioning male genitalia. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that all Ladyboys are trouble and should be avoided. On the contrary, there are many who exist in all sectors of Thailand, most of who are beneficial members of society.
The Ladyboys in which I speak are those who are most commonly found in the countries red light districts. This group whether fueled by alcohol, drugs, hormones or a pack mentality, can be overly aggressive and at times violent. I really hate to generalize, but there has been enough bad press regarding the Ladyboys of Patong that it warrants mention. If nothing else, just take extra caution with regards to these individuals. If you are approached, try and laugh off their approaches with good humor and not with anger and intolerance.
5) Jet Skis
In general, I would advise anyone to avoid using jet-skis in the entire country of Thailand. Not only are they loud and dangerous, they are the perfect setup for one of Thailand’s oldest scams. If you are not aware of the Thailand jet-ski scam, let me enlighten you.
The jet-ski operators will first approach a likely victim with an unavoidable pitch. Rent out the jet-ski for 150 baht an hour, you won’t find a better deal on the whole island. Once the victim is intrigued, the vendors will go in for the setup. Photographs of the jet-ski so that we can ensure it is brought back in the same condition. As you race out into the sea on your brand new jet-ski, the scammers are hard at work. Most likely through a photo editing software, they are erasing the obvious marks of wear and tear that are present on the under body of the jet-ski. As you ride back into shore, you are presented with the doctored photos of what your jet-ski once was. You are then presented with a cost to repair the supposed damage, which is far more than any reasonable person would think. Unfortunately, if the scam has gotten this far, your best bet at this point is to pay the fee and move on with your life, lesson learned. Or you could heed my advice and don’t rent a jet-ski in the first place. Consider yourself forewarned.
Now You Know Better
Now that you are wiser and better off for it, you should never fall victim to any of the things previously listed. One of the sure fire ways of having a bad experience on the island of Phuket is to fall victim to one of the fore mentioned things. Be smart. Remember to always question everyone. Always anticipate the worst before diving into anything. I know it sounds cynical, but it will often save you a world of hurt and in the long run, isn’t that the point?
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