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Rules of the Road in Phuket (there are no rules)

Phuket Transport | Driving on Phuket and it's dangers

Driving in Phuket is like playing a full immersion video game with real life consequences.

On one hand the experience is surreal, with "normal" rules of the road seeming not to apply until there's an accident. You will see motorcycles driving into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road, cars and bikes will pull out of junctions and expect you to either slow down or swerve to avoid them. Drivers may, or may not indicate before turning, or they may constantly indicate and not turn. It's a regular occurrence that drivers will indicate to simply go round a bend or even indicate one way and turn another.

Here in Phuket, putting your hazard warning lights on at a junction means they intend to drive straight ahead, and opposite to the unofficial courtesy flash of headlights in the west which indicates that a driver has seen the other vehicle and is allowing them right of way. Phuket drivers will flash their lights to say they are not going to stop. You will generally see this when vehicles are in your lane driving directly at you!

Other examples are:

  • Ignoring stop signs
  • Riding with many passengers
  • Cutting across the front of a car without looking
  • Not indicating direction of turning
  • Quickly riding across the front of oncoming traffic at lights

What this means to you? Well if you are one of the thousands of visitors each month deciding to rent a motorbike / scooter for a few days, you should know what you're going to be in for.

Firstly you should give our handy guide on how to rent a motorbike which will identify a few do's and don'ts in the form of a handy check-list.

Once you've rented your bike, take some time to familiarise yourself with the controls before zooming off into traffic. Always expect the unexpected and always be vigilant whilst driving round Phuket. The main roads on the island are in quiet good condition, most of them are flat and fast with a few areas that are quiet steep. Beware of wet roads even the slightest bit of rain can make roads very slippery and always be on the look-out for sand on the road especially on bends.

The white line on left had side of the road officially indicates the cycle lane, although this lane often has vehicles parked in it or it might be covered in sand. Use this lane when it's safe to do so but use your best judgement, but motorcycles should stay to the left and not block other traffic.

Occasionally you may get caught behind a truck, if the truck driver indicates to the left it means that it is safe for you to overtake him. If he indicates to the right it is unsafe to overtake. In Phuket people will overtake everywhere, it doesn't matter if it is on a bend or a hill. My advice would be to keep to your own training and experience. Never overtake on a blind bend or the brow of a hill (or both) and always make your own decision if it is clear to overtake.

Final Thoughts on Driving in Phuket

Renting a bike is a great way to see Phuket, it offers the most flexibility, freedom and value for money. But riding here is not for the fain of heart and Phuket roads should be respected and even feared a little. If you use your own common sense and judgement, don't do things just because the locals do it and always, always wear a crash helmet.


Last Updated: 18 Oct 2011


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