Khao Lak is a long stretch of villages with unique traits, but what are to best options to get around? Let’s look at taxis, tuk-tuks, songthaews, buses and rental options.
The total Khao Lak area stretches from south to north and is about 30 kilometres long, so you may want to know your options.
When people say “Khao Lak” they usually don’t mean just the “Khao Lak Center” also known as “La On”. When you talk about Khao Lak, you talk about a strip of smaller villages connected to Highway 4. It technically starts at the original Khao Lak village just before Khao Lak mountain in Lam Kaen, and the area stretches all the way up north to Pak Weep, or even as far as Bang Sak.
Drive yourself to Khao Lak, find a car rental at Phuket airport here:
Taxis and Tuk-Tuks in Khao Lak
Compared to Bangkok, the prices in Khao Lak are actually a bit higher, but still moderate. On the positive side, drivers here don’t throw themselves at you and they don’t drag you from shop to temple to shop. Taxis and Tuk-Tuks are just straight forward taking you to where you want to go.
You can usually spot a taxi driver quite easily as they are always standing close to their cars and looking for eye-contact. They usually hangout with other drivers. A simple nod of the head will be enough to let one know you need a ride.
For common destinations, such as any Khao Lak area, temple, waterfall or beach, most drivers have fixed prices in their heads. Going to neighboring areas, eg. La On (Khao Lak center) to Bang Niang, would cost 300 THB for max. 4 persons. Always discuss the destination and come to an agreement about the price before you step into the taxi.
Long trips have custom prices. Eg. to Phuket Airport would cost around 1500 THB. There are some private Thai drivers that go for less (as low as 1000 THB), but the car may be smaller, less comfy, not insured, not on time, or all of those together, which could really pull you out of your relaxing state of mind.
You can also discuss hourly rates (eg. 2000 THB for 2 hours) but this all depends on the distance. For longer distances you can take 500 THB per hour as a decent price to keep in mind.
Fixed prices for popular trips are common as well. Eg. A driver for the 3 Temple Tour could charge 2500 THB. You could save a few bucks by hiring a driver and bringing your own food and drinks. But it might be more relaxed to just book a day trip at a tour agency. Most of the arranged tours include food, drinks and an English, German or French speaking tour guide. Best to check the available languages with the operator.
If you’re not looking to go on a tour or a specific off-highway destination, you could take a “Songthaew”. I hear you thinking: “a what…?”.
Take a “songthaew” like a Khao Lak local
Wait… songthaew? A song, a local rum? No… it’s a public shared taxi. Many of the locals that don’t drive a motorcycle for any reason use songthaews to move around. An excellent way to meet some locals on a short trip!
Songthaews look like a typical Thai taxi: a customized pickup truck in diverse colors with a roof and seats in the cargo bed. You can spot them during the day driving on the highway, usually with a few locals in the back.
If you want to jump on one of these, from anywhere along highway 4, just give the driver a friendly signal. Tell the driver the area you would like to jump off and he will let you know whether he goes there. A short distance between any connecting village would cost you 20 THB per person – that’s a great deal! Longer distances, e.g. La On to Bang Sak, would cost about 50 THB per person. Keep in mind that you pay when you hop on, and you knock the roof when you want to hop off.
When do songthaews drive? Songthaews usually drive during the morning and afternoon but turn into regular “anywhere you want to go” tourist taxis at sunset.
Convenient hotel transport services
If you’re residing in a larger hotel or resort, check the front desk for a shuttle taxi/van. Some hotels offer a transportation service for free at certain times. This free service is more common at secluded hotels and resorts, away from the buzz.
In addition to these hotel services, some of the nearby restaurants may be willing to pick you up for dinner. You’ll have the check with the host or ask the front desk to give them a call.
Public buses in Khao Lak
The public transportation in Thailand is pretty good. There are simple local (fan) buses that drive along highway 4 between Phuket and Bangkok. You can simply stop them at any given time along the road, but there are some popular out-of-the-sun spots where people wait for them. Some of them have little bus stop shelters with benches.
For the regular public buses, you don’t need to book a ticket. Just hop on, state your destination, and sit down. Someone will come to you to pay for a ticket. The price depends on where you want to go, e.g. 60 THB to Takuapa, 120 THB to Phuket bus terminal, and 160 THB to the entrance of Khao Sok National Park. Keep in mind these rates are estimates and subject to change. Also, these buses will only stop along the highway, so when you hop off you will most likely need a taxi to continue your journey (they will be waiting for you at popular stops to negotiate prices).
If you’re going on a long trip to another city, eg. Bangkok, Ranong, Chumphon, Phuket and many others, you can book VIP seats on a comfy A/C bus at the BKS bus stop. Make sure to book seats in advance, you’ll need a ticket. The BKS bus stop is located in Khuk Khak at the local fresh morning market. You could also ask the front desk of your accommodation or any travel agency to book them for you.
The VIP buses obviously have a slightly higher rate, but still very affordable! If you’re heading to Bangkok, VIP buses are the fastest at 12 hours and with super-comfy seats at around 900 THB, 1st-class buses at 13 hours are around 600 THB, and 2nd-class buses at 15 hours are only around 450 THB.
Prefer a faster method with less people? You could take a mini-van. They cost more but they are comfy and the fastest without stopovers. You can book them at any travel agency or let the front-desk of your accommodation do it for you. Want to go to Phuket/Patong? It would cost you 800 THB per person and they drive twice a day. If you are with many, you could negotiate a better price or they will already make you a better offer.
Renting a vehicle in Khao Lak
Not scared to drive by yourself? Renting a vehicle will give you the flexibility to go when and where you want. Be aware that Thai, migrant workers, and over-confident foreigners share the roads and it can be pretty dangerous! Be very cautious and drive with full attention and don’t make any sudden moves. There are many dogs and cats crossing the road at any given time, and some people simply don’t look when crossing roads nor check their mirrors.
When you’re renting a vehicle of any kind, never give them your passport as a deposit/security. Your passport is your only way in and out of the country. They may take a copy of your passport and let you fill in a rental form. That should suffice.
Nowadays they may ask for an international driver’s license. If you don’t have any, there are shops that don’t bother (commonly for motorbikes). Remember though, when police stop you, you will be in trouble.
Lastly, if you’re in an accident without a driver’s license, the insurance company will make a problem. This isn’t different in any other country.
Before you sign the rental agreement, make photos or a video of the vehicle, with timestamps, especially if you spot scratches and dents. Just to make sure you have proof that those spots already existed. Sometimes the forms have a section where you can indicate upfront the damage to the vehicle.
Now that you are warned and got some general tips, let’s talk about renting a vehicle – it’s fairly easy.
Renting a motorbike/scooter in Khao Lak
Motorbikes/scooters are cheap, fast, and give you the freedom to explore the area. They are also quite dangerous if you have no experience. As mentioned earlier, on Thai roads you have to be very careful and be fully aware of your surroundings at all times. If you are comfortable/experienced, motorbikes are a great choice to go around.
Scooter/motorbike rental places are everywhere. Most restaurants and guesthouses will have scooters parked outside. Simply walk inside and say you want to rent one.
Prices vary depending on the area and how many days you like to rent one. Usually, the longer you want to rent the cheaper it gets. Daily rental rates vary between 250 to 300 THB and monthly rentals are give or take 4000 THB. Shops often have signs with their rates, but if you got some persuasion super powers you could try to negotiate it down.
Petrol/gasoline rates at the PTT station up in Khuk Khak are around 30 THB p. litre. If you don’t want to, or think you can’t make it to the PTT station, you can get one of those green glass bottles of petrol at many random shops for around 40 THB p. litre.
Khao Lak car rentals
Cars are great if you dare to drive the Thai roads. They are comfortable and affordable, and you can go long distances with multiple people.
Before arrival in Thailand, let’s assume Phuket International Airport, you can book a car online and start your journey on arrival. There are quite a few rental companies at the Phuket International Airport where you can rent a car (even without an online booking) eg. Hertz, Avis, Europcar and more.
Although, you may not want to drive after a long and exhausting flight. You could also grab a taxi to Khao Lak (1500-1800 THB) and hire a car in Khao Lak the next day. There are a few options to choose from eg. Budget Car Rental, Thai Rent a Car.
Car rental rates vary widely based on the car of your choice. Daily rates start somewhere around 1,100 THB for a small car up to 3,500 THB for more luxurious cars. Prices become more attractive if you rent for several days or weeks.
Renting a Bicycle
If you rather take it slow and really like to experience every detail of Khao Lak, you could choose to rent a bicycle. Going by bicycle provides you with a better insight into the country and local life. Even though Khao Lak has become a little bit better to ride a bicycle, just remember, it’s extremely hot with temperatures averaging 30 degrees Celsius – bring your sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring a big bottle of water!
Many hotels and guesthouses in Khao Lak offer bicycle rentals as a good way to explore the area. Also, the stretch along the coast and the roads parallel to the highway are mostly flat.
You could go up towards the hills, breaking a real sweat, and explore the local life, just make sure to stay on a path. Don’t go off-road into forest or jungle areas, you don’t want to get surprised by dangerous wildlife eg. snakes and venomous centipedes.
There are also guided biking tours available that bring you to various points of interest such as: waterfalls, beaches, markets, local villages and viewpoints (if you don’t mind a climb). Some of the tours include other attractions such as bathing with elephants, going for a swim, or taking a kayak through the mangroves.
Going around Khao Lak, and nearby cities or extending your trip to Bangkok and other places is fairly easy to do. Public transportation in Thailand is quite accessible and local rental shops make it easy for you to rent a vehicle. Just be cautious when joining the traffic, as people in general often don’t follow the rules of the road.
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