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Phuket relies on attracting more cruise ships and Navy vessels

Phuket Taxi Abuse: Cruise Line Slams 'Rip-Offs'

Sunday, March 14, 2010
A LUXURY cruise company wants to switch docking points on Phuket because ''the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible.''

The cruise line also reported rip-offs and abusive behavior and said the attitude of the taxi drivers was ''totally unacceptable and extremely bad for tourism.''

The cruise company, which prefers to remain anonymous for now, is taking its complaint direct to Phuket's Governor, Wichai Praisa-ngob.

Such a criticism from an important source of income today and in the future for Phuket is likely to trigger rapid action, much as if an instruction had come directly from a senior level of government in Bangkok.

The concern of the cruise company first came to light in an email exchange with a well-regarded west coast restaurant.

''We would have liked to send you more people, but unfortunately the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible,'' the email from the cruise line said.

Thailand's new slogan, ''Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value,'' is aimed at attracting more tourists.

Yet Phuket's reputation as a holiday destination is being damaged by frequent complaints about excessive fares demanded by taxis and tuk-tuks, thuggery, and the lack of an efficient, cheap public transport system around the island.

Added criticism from a luxury line management is certain to accelerate Governor Wichhai's plan to impose meters in taxis and tuk-tuks as fast as possible.

Reversing the damage done by tuk-tuks and taxis will also be high on the agenda for the governor's second meeting in April with the honorary consuls from 15 key nations that provide Phuket with most of its tourists.

Phuketwan has seen the email correspondence between the cruise company management and the Phuket restaurant, which ends with the cruise management expressing the intent to complain directly to Phuket's governor.

Here are edited exchanges:

From the cruise line: ''We were happy to promote your lovely restaurant and we did get a few good comments from a few guests who visited your venue. We would have liked to send you more people, but unfortunately the taxi situation in the Phuket Port is terrible.
The local drivers who were in the port all work together with the same attitude and that is to totally rip-off tourists. These drivers were not pleasant to deal with at all, and for the next visit we are suggesting that the ship anchors off Patong Beach instead of docking in the Phuket Port.''

From the restaurant: ''Yes we all know the taxi driver situation in Phuket is horrific. Those same drivers will probably be the same ones in Patong, too, but at least from Patong it is not such a long drive and people can also opt for not going anywhere. Unfortunately we don't have a pick up service, either.''

From the cruise line, intended for the governor: ''Following our vessel's recent visit to Phuket, we would like to bring to your attention the extreme challenges faced in the Phuket Port with regard to taxis. The drivers on standby in the port quoted ridiculous fares from the start and it was clear that they were aiming to really extort money from our Residents, Guests and Crew.
We were informed that the drivers are part of the local community and are the only taxi vehicles allowed to pick-up from this area and that the port has no control over this. After we spoke with our Thai crew members on the ship about the proper rates that should be charged, we then attempted to negotiate more decent rates.
At one point the situation became quite unbearable and some of the drivers became verbally abusive when it was mentioned that their rates were ridiculous and way too high for us to consider.
It came down to the fact that the drivers refused to even consider to take the business if their rate wasn't paid and they simply preferred to sit down and wait for another hopeful customer whom they could overcharge, even after they were warned that we would not give them any further business.
From this point onwards, the front office team recommended private transfers to be booked through the contracted tour company and no further taxi bookings were made. Thank you for your time and we trust that this situation will be looked into further as it is totally unacceptable and extremely bad for tourism.''

An initial complaint by the cruise line company to the Tourism Authority of Thailand brought no response.

A representative from the restaurant asked the cruise line whether the email exchange could be passed on to Phuketwan, and the cruise line manager agreed.

Every year, the cruise line delivers thousands of tourists to Phuket.

The importance of the cruise line market to Phuket became evident earlier this year with the arrival of the world's most luxurious cruise liner, the Queen Mary 2, which stopped over on Phuket on a round-the-world tour.

More visits are also being made by US Navy vessels, including the aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan last year and USS Nimitz this year.

International media and tourist chat sites have reported widely that the greed of local taxi and tuk-tuk drivers is the biggest negative of a visit to Phuket, which has good beaches, coral reefs, and much to recommend it to visitors.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


I think that Phuketwan should pass on these exchanges, and maybe a poll or other complaints, to the Bangkok authorities, only then will something be done.

Hasn't this problem gone on long enough ?

I have just returned from Hua hin and Bangkok where I took taxis and public transport all the time.

The prices weren't even half the price of Phuket taxis and tuc tucs!!! And they do have cheap public transport !!!

Give Phuket back to the people, before it's too late .

Posted by elizabeth on March 14, 2010 13:16


Yes, I was over there one night when a US Navy ship was anchored nearby. (the deep sea pier on cape Panwa that is)
I heard one taxi telling someone it would cost them 2000 baht to go to Phuket town. This is indeed robbery.

On a similar note, I was over at the ferry pier (Rassada) to pickup a friend coming from Phi Phi and while waiting went over to watch a gambling game going on between the taxi drivers.

I was quite surpised to see 500 baht notes being thrown around by most of them. I know that's a lot of money to my wife and these guys were throwing them around like they had plenty more.

I think something really needs to be done about these gangsters. And soon.

Posted by fiddledude on March 14, 2010 14:53


There is nothing wrong with greed. Individual operators should be able to ask whatever they want. The problem is that the operators band together into a cartel, displaying anti-competitive behavior backed up by thuggery, that prevents lower-cost operators from entering the market. If the market were truly free, then prices would find their proper supply/demand levels. This is where government and police need to play their critical role in protecting free competition. The abdication of this role by the authorities is the core issue here, as it is with most of the transport woes here in Phuket.

Posted by D on March 14, 2010 15:21


I have heard the US Navy was complaining about this same exact thing. Maybe the cruise ships and the US Navy need to make joint promises to bypass Phuket until the situation becomes more tenable.

I would hate to see that happen, but a little suffering now would be worth it in the long run (unfortunately that view is generally not the way it is in Thailand) especially if it gave use reasonably priced metered taxis and a baht bus running between Patong and Kata/Karon.

Why is it the same price (even cheaper if you get a an early booking deal) to fly 1.5 hours to go 700km to Bangkok as it is to get a taxi for 30 minutes to go 20km to or from the airport?

Posted by scubabuddha on March 15, 2010 02:58


I thought it was great last month when the Queen Mary wrong-footed TAT, tuk tuk and taxi drivers by turning up and anchoring off Patong instead of the Deep Water port as anticipated. More of it the better. One wonders how much collusion there is between TAT and the drivers.

Posted by Mister Ree on March 15, 2010 11:32


Its already mentioned in the cruise industry news, and you will have more ships going straight to Patong. Problem is low season the ships will not visit and how much money does that lose Phuket because of the greed of a few taxi drivers?

Cruise ships usually plan their schedules two to three years in advance and I know from the fact I am in the industry. Phuket has lost about four visits, and that is from just one Cruise company.

Posted by Michael on March 15, 2010 14:42


SORRY ...Mafia controls PATONG....

Posted by barka on March 16, 2010 04:00


To understand why this goes on, just follow the money trail. Welcome to Thailand, Land of Smiles!

Posted by Tom on March 21, 2010 19:31


Very profitable to rip off visitors and zero chance of getting in trouble for doing it.

Posted by JJ on March 22, 2010 07:04


I can't believe the authorities tolerate this situation, if this happened in any other country they would be stomped on. It is blatant theft and the Phuket police and tourist authorities leave it be. Disgusting.

Posted by Suzi on March 22, 2010 16:45


Things will only change with the US Navy sending a pack of marines to clear Phuket streets.

Posted by m on March 22, 2010 16:45


I retired to Thailand, five years ago. My son worked in Phuket and I visited him twice as I could not believe it first time. The taxi m**** have the place sewn up and know it. They are incredibly rude and short-sighted. I have not only never been back, but have dissuaded any visitors to visit Bangkok where the taxis are a real bargain.

Posted by Mike Bell on March 23, 2010 15:23


Cunard's Queen Victoria on its maiden cruise is off Patong now. I guess TAT and the taxi touts will be wandering around the Deep Water Port looking lost again. Sum Num Na.

Posted by Mister Ree on March 26, 2010 11:00


Another Governor, another crack down, but nothing has changed, the taxis seem to be ruling the roost. Slowly the interest in the island will diminish.

Posted by Tony on March 29, 2010 01:28


Visiting Phuket for the third time in five years and we are thinking this will be our last visit..

The metered taxi from the airport to Kata was great and at 370 baht is a fair price and the driver got 100 baht tip... Then moving hotels from Kata to Surin I called the same metered taxi company but they said they couldn't pick us up because of taxi ***** at our hotel (Metadee) the hotel was charging us 900 baht to go to Surin Beach. We ended up getting a tuk-tuk for 600 baht.

Now heading back to the airport tomorrow they are quoting us 900 baht again... The metered taxi isn't allowed to pick us up at this hotel either...

Just so disappointing...

Posted by Marcus on April 5, 2010 01:11

Sunday January 24, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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