Samui Wining & Dining
Not in the Hot Seat
Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui.

Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui.From the moment your plane touches down on Samui, you’ll be faced with choices: what to eat, drink, which beach to go to, what to do at night, and so on. A good many of these choices will involve transport. And Samui, which looks so small on a map, turns out to be a lot bigger when you’re actually here. Not everyone wants to hire a car or motorbike to travel around, given the dangers of driving here – the island has appalling accident statistics. You may think your options are limited, but they’re more wide-ranging than at first glance. And they’re worth investigating as each of them comes with benefits of its own. They can variously help you save money, time and cut down on stress. Here’s the lowdown on ways to get around without actually being in the hot seat.


Maroon and yellow taxis seem to be everywhere and will give you a toot of their horn as they’re about to pass you. The drivers will take you anywhere as long as the road isn’t too much of a dirt track. Some locations on Samui look like they’re accessible, but the roads still haven’t been completed, and unless you’re a rally driver with a seriously good 4-wheel drive vehicle, it’s best not to venture on them. Taxi drivers may refuse if the road looks a bit rough.


Taxis are a lot more expensive than they are in Bangkok, and before you get in one, you should ask the driver for the price. He or she will expect this. You can then accept, decline or bargain. Whatever you do should be done light-heartedly. Once you’ve accepted the price, you cannot bargain further. Check also that the price quoted covers all your party and isn’t a per-person figure. Taxi drivers are supposed to use their meter, but it still remains a rarity.

Taxis can be few and far between at night if you are out in one of the smaller towns, and scarce if you are in Chaweng or Lamai in the small hours. You can also ask your taxi driver to wait for you – again, work out a price – and he or she may be amenable to being hired for a whole day if you want to go sightseeing around the island. The drivers are, of course, a mine of information about the island and if you need something,Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui. they will know where to go. If travelling to a house or villa, you’ll need to show them where to go on a map; postal addresses are meaningless unless you’re a post office employee.


Much like regular taxis, motorbike taxis ply the roads but charge prices that reflect that you’re hiring just two wheels and not four. Again, make sure you ask the price before you get on. If you’re not used to being a passenger on a scooter, be aware that you’ll quite naturally feel nervous – no matter how good the driver might be. On the back of any motorbike, there’s no sense of being in control. If you’re able to relax, you might even find it fun.


Definitely more sedate than going by motorbike taxi, the songtaew is an institution in itself. It’s pronounced ‘songtail’, and sounds as if it might be named after some bird or fish, but the word translates as ‘two benches’ – which sums up the design of the vehicle. It’s simply a truck with a bench running down its length on each side and a canopy overhead. The golden rule is to negotiate the price before you get in, and to be aware that unlike a taxi, it’s per person. Typically it’ll cost you about 50 baht to make an eight kilometre journey. You can hail a songtaew exactly as you would a taxi. Once it stops, the driver will wind down the window and you can ask if he’s going your way. Sometimes the songtaew will turn off where you don’t expect it to, so it’s always worth asking. Smaller roads aren’t covered so well, and in some cases not at all, but you’ll find there’s usually one every 15 to 20 minutes on the ring-road. If you’re arriving on Samui by sea, you’ll find songtaews waiting at the ferry ports. You’re sure to find one that will take you to the area of your choice and will drop you off at your hotel if it’s on their route.


After about 4:00 pm, songtaew prices rocket, with drivers justifying the hike by saying they’re now hiring their vehicles out directly to you. On the plus side, they’ll now tend to take you directly where you want to go.


Definitely a more luxurious way to travel, hotel limousines are sleek and chic, and their price is normally far more than a taxi would be. Probably it’s not worth bargaining with the hotel over the price, but they won’t mind if you do. Villas can also hire out limousines for you and you may be able to work the price down somewhat. It all depends on the individual villa. Naturally a limousine is a highly comfortable way to travel and the service will be impeccably polite, too. Not all hotels and villas have limousines,Don’t want to drive, or ride a motorcycle? There are other ways of getting around Samui. of course, and you may find their transport a little rough and ready at times. Some out of the way resorts and hotels especially those in the hills where the roads have alarming slopes may use 4-wheel drive jeeps to get up and down. They won’t even resemble limousines; rather they’ll look like they’ve just crossed the Sahara. But they’ll do the job.


Airport limousines are the way to go if you want to arrive at your resort or villa in style. You can book them at the arrivals hall at the airport, while you’ll find taxis waiting just outside. By the way, all hotels can arrange for you to be picked up at the airport; the driver will be waiting for you bearing a sign with your name. At the arrivals hall, you also have the cheaper option of going by minibus. The driver will take you to your destination, as long as it’s close to the ring-road – they’re not amenable to going more than a few hundred metres up dirt tracks and minor roads. Many resort restaurants also offer free round trips, picking you up at your hotel and seamlessly whisking you to dinner before taking you home again. This service will certainly add not just to your comfort but it’s also a lot better for your stress levels – and of course you can have a drink too, without worrying about the possible consequences. Some spas also offer the same service, and since spas are all about relaxation, having a lift there will enable you to feel laid-back even before your session starts.


If you decide to go on a boat trip, a pick-up service is part of the deal, and after the excursion you’ll be dropped off again. This enables you to get to the right port on time. The disadvantage is that it’ll be a van that’s picking you up – along with maybe a dozen other passengers, all from different areas. This can take up quite a lot of time.


Last but not least, no article on Samui can be complete without mentioning golf carts, the small, nippy buggies that the island has come to depend upon so much. No, you won’t see them on the roads, but if you’re staying at a resort that’s particularly hilly or spread out, then you’ll probably be chauffeured around the premises by buggy, as they’re universally called. Buggies are free, of course, and will save you an enormous amount of time, not to say energy.


As you can see, alternatives to driving a car or riding a motorbike exist on Samui. And more people than you might think avail themselves of these other forms of getting around. They’re definitely less stressful and are a lot safer, especially if we’re talking about motorbikes. They can also be fun, and if you plan wisely, then they won’t cost you too much; they can easily work out far cheaper than hiring a car.


 Dimitri Waring


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