“Phuket taxis are fantastic”, and other unlikely headlines – OPINION

‘Dog bites man’ would rarely be a headline. ‘Man bites dog’ however IS a headline. In the identical method ‘a taxi driver supplied customer with a great experience’ isn’t a headline. Simple except it’s in Phuket Thailand.
The Thaiger might pave the road, all the way in which from Bangkok to Phuket, with stories of the southern island’s faltering makes an attempt at public transport. For one of the world’s favorite tropical island locations, it has the crappiest, and most expensive choices for public transport, compared to, well… even Bangkok.
Phuket has a quantity of forty 12 months previous songtaew open vehicles, even fewer buses that don’t appear to run to any schedule and nothing in the means in which of trains, or BTS style companies. If you’re really fortunate you would possibly discover a motorbike taxi however they’re uncommon. Like really uncommon.
All the speak in regards to the white elephant project of the decade, the so-called Phuket mild rail service, that was deliberate to run from the airport, then by way of Phuket Town and into the southern expat favourite of Chalong, has ended up within the ‘seemed like a good idea on the time’ file.
But the plan to supply a public gentle rail service that travelled to only about all over the place, EXCEPT the place vacationers would ever go to, was all the time doomed to failure. Of course it hit fierce resistance too, from none other than Phuket’s well-known tuk tuk and taxi cartels… usually described typically because the Phuket taxi mafia.
Simply, these gangs have worked collectively for over 3 decades to lock out any competition, or even alternatives for modernisation or offering better services for tourists, let alone locals. They’ve even been able to infect any potential competitors from the new ride-hailing companies by forcing the drivers to charge the same, extortionate fares.
How extortionate? Let’s begin with a taxi experience around Bangkok, in the identical small Toyota sedan taxis.
Firstly, the meters will work in Bangkok, in Phuket you’re more more probably to find a policeman with a properly-fitting uniform that you’re a taxi with an actual working meter. Despite the actual law saying they have to use their meters, they don’t.
For the tuk tuks, those three cylinder Diahatsu open vans, usually with amplifiers and speakers with more energy than the precise engine, there is no meter anyway. There’s a just a fastened value and your best try at haggling.
Compare a 30 minute trip in a taxi from, say, Suvarnabhumi airport to downtown Bangkok – often a trip of 30 minutes. You’ll pay around 200 baht for the ride… I do it a minimal of once every week.
But an identical half hour journey from Phuket airport to, say, Kathu in the course of the island, will value you more like 600 – 800 baht. Even brief five minute trips from one Patong space to a different will doubtless price you one hundred fifty – 200 baht. That journey in a Bangkok taxi would most likely not even push the 35 baht flag fall.
The distinction is so wide that it remains a seemingly unsolvable, festering wound for the recovery of the island’s tourist economy, and reputation.
So it was with astonishment yesterday The Thaiger posted a story “Thai tourist praises Phuket’s taxi for providing perfect metropolis tour at only 50 baht”. It shouldn’t have been a headline – it shouldn’t have been even a barely interesting story. It ought to happen a thousand occasions everyday.
To his credit, fifty four year previous Suchart Nitiwaranuluck offered a city tour of Phuket Town for a very reasonable 50 baht. When approached to comment on the post of a current Thai tourist, he advised the shocked media that he’d been offering the same wonderful service for years, even lengthy before Covid came to town. So plaudits and well-earned pats on the back to Suchart. We want extra like you in Phuket.
Countless makes an attempt have been made to reel in Phuket’s transport cartels – successive Phuket Governors, national governments, more than one national police chief, even the military had an try after the 2014 coup. Then there’s been a protracted parade of embassies and consular officers that have additionally weighed in, solely to be run off the island with their tails between their legs.
Even 2 years of pandemic and restrictions has carried out nothing to dent the power of the native taxi cartels.
From the second you stroll out of the domestic or worldwide terminals in Phuket, you’re confronted with the equipment of a well-oiled, airport-endorsed, taxi fare rip off. It is the primary impression and the final impression many tourists could have of their visit to the island.
As Phuket struggles to recuperate from 2 years of restrictions and attract tourists again to its seashores, the one, large elephant in the room, that’s holding again the island’s progress, is the transport cartels.
A vibrant future for the southern Thai island revolves round an environment friendly, smart, reasonably priced and equally vibrant public transport selection to maneuver tourists and locals around.
So deliver on extra Sucharts and his 50 baht metropolis excursions. Let’s hope we hear extra about Suchart and less in regards to the price-gouging culture of Phuket’s taxi and tuk tuk gangs..

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