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A tuk-tuk passenger enjoys New Year on Phuket . . . calls for lower fares

Phuket Tuk-Tuks, Taxis: Fairer Fares Proposed

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Today's Updated Report

FAIR fares for Phuket tuk-tuks and taxis have been suggested and will be pursued at talks involving key parties and the Governor of Phuket, Wichai Praisa-ngob, next week.

The suggested rates: 80 baht flagfall for Phuket's taxis, with three baht for every kilometer after that, and for tuk-tuks, a 20 baht flagfall, with 20 baht for the first kilometre and 1.5 baht for each kilometre after that.

Those proposed fares won the endorsement of Germany's honorary consul, Dirk Naumann, during a remarkable summit meeting last night between the governor and representatives from 16 nations that provide the majority of Phuket's tourists.

In a frank exchange of views for the first time, several key issues relating to tourism were discussed, with the focus primarily on Phuket transport.

Governor Wichai told the honorary consuls and observers that the transport problem was a long-standing one that could not be resolved overnight, but a start would be made with a ''holistic approach.''

Any attempt to resolve the issue straight away was likely to meet ''lots and lots of backfires,'' the governor told the national representatives, with the help of a Foreign Ministry translator.

He said he will also look at the example of Haad Yai, the southern city hub, where there are many tuk-tuks running, but with fares much lower than on Phuket.

At the meeting were representatives from Germany, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Russia, Korea, Finland, Austria, Italy, France, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Estonia.

The governor said that if there were attacks on expats on Phuket, police would be instructed to inform the governor who would inform the relevant honorary consul, or for police to inform honorary consuls directly.

Mr Naumann said: ''We appreciate this very much and we would like to ask police to report not only on arrests but on any foreigner who is taken into custody, any foreigner who has an accident, any foreigner who dies, and we would lke this to happen immediately.

''If it happens tonight, I should receive a call [by] tomorrow morning.''

He said that honorary consuls met on December 24 and agreed to raise one problem at the meeting with the governor: transport on Phuket.

''The Phuket taxis are not only the worst taxis in South East Asia - and I'm talking about the tuk-tuks, not the taxis.

''Taxis are all right. They need meters and we appreciate your comment to propose 80 baht for the first flagfall then three baht for every kilometre.

''They are air-conditioned, they are comfortable, and they are nice.''

''However, I think your justification for the higher fees, saying that taxis cannot pick up people because there are not enough people, not enough users of the taxis, is to me somewhat difficult to accept.

''The reason why taxis cannot pick up passengers in Patong, in Karon, in Kata in Surin and wherever on the west coast is because if they do, they get shot.''

Governor Wichai did not require this section translated. He understood.

''If the reason that the taxis are more expensive on Phuket than in Bangkok, is because Phuket is very expensive, in fact the most expensive place in Thailand, there I would support you.

''Now let's talk about tuk-tuks. Before coming to this meeting, I searched the Internet to see whether I could find an article by someone in the world, some newspaper, complaining about tuk-tuks.

''February 6, Sydney Morning Herald, one article: 'Phuket rip-off: the trouble with tuk-tuks.'

''Noone talks about taxis. The taxis here on Phuket are expensive, and your proposal is good. They talk about tuk-tuks, and I can assure you if I look back I can find an article every week in Germany, in Sweden, in Denmark, in the UK, in the USA, in Australia, even in Estonia, about the rip-offs, the unruliness and the mafia-style activities of the tuk-tuk drivers.

''I firmly believe, and I think I speak with the voice of all my colleagues when I say that for the tuk-tuks, we do need a different approach.

''The tuk-tuks threaten their passengers. They go into a dark road, and force more money. They charge many more hundred baht per person, not per tuk-tuk trip, per person.

''They cause constant trouble.

''If a private organisation wishes to pick up people from a hotel, they make a protest in front of the hotel and let nobody in, nobody out, and they win.

''The hotel cannot do anything. I believe that the tuk-tuks, which are very uncomfortable, very expensive, and I would add very cheap to run, they should not charge 80 baht for initial fee.

''They may start with 20 baht and maybe 20 for the first kilometre and 1.5 baht for each additional kilometre.

''That would be justified, But for a tuk-tuk to charge 80 baht, we would have the same . . . on and on and on.''

The governor said he was ready for any reaction from the tuk-tuk drivers once changes were proposed. ''It will be a systematic approach for the long run so that all Phuket will benefit because we expect to increase the numbers of tourists coming in to Phuket in the near future,'' the translator said.

''Hopefull the tuk-tuk operators will come to their senses as to what is needed. They need to change as well.''

Korean honorary consul Tossapon Teppaboot said there was a need for tourists to present proper international licences when hiring vehicles to prevent problems with insurance in the event of an acident. Many of the hirers do not have licences.

British honorary consul Martin Carpenter added: ''There are many good, reputable rental companies on the island who look for licences and ask you to fill the forms in.

''There are also companies not so reputable who do not take driving licences, who take a passport as a deposit. Maybe that's something within the operating procedures, that they are not allowed to take the passport. If they take the passport and the person gets caught riding without a driving licence, they also get caught without a passport, not only do they have to deal with the traffic police, they also have to deal with the Immigration department.''

Finland's honorary consul general, Pamuke Achariyachai, called for a review on how people could become good hosts because tourism is an important income earner for Thailand.

He also called for the Tourism Authority of Thailand to hold training seminars for tuk-tuk and taxi drivers, to provide them with education and possibly English language training, and ''how not to take advantage of the tourist.''

Khun Pamuke, a former president of the Tourism Association of Phuket, said he fully understood all the issues. He sees that that the airport taxi issue could be resolved within a few months.

The jet-ski issue has already begun to be on the right track by involving an insurtance company. He believes the tuk-tuk case may need the involvement of an insurance company, too.

He called for the TAT and the Tourist Police to come up with ways during the low season to better train tour operators and tuk-tuk drivers.

''Once the world financial crisis is out of the way, Phuket can expect more and more tourists,'' Khun Pamuke said. ''There will be more and more problems associated with that.''

He said he would also like to thank the governor for being fully intent on resolving all these issues.

The governor made a final comment, saying he would like to see Phuket as the ''Gateway to Thailand'' and so had placed great emphasis on being peaceful, the airport would have to be very orderly, to create a great impression for tourists coming in; He would like to see Phuket as a comfortable city, and Phuket needs many many more roads so that everyone can travel around; He is pushing through to get one final approval from the environmental agency for another major road; Phuket needs to be cleaner and more beautiful, hence his emphasis on the palmyra palm as Phuket's symbol.

Governor Wichai reaffirmed that he has no hidden agenda and sees the meeting as a new dimension of the relationship between the foreign community and the private and the government sectors.

He would like to have these kinds of meetings every three months, depending on the schedule, and welcomed all the recommendations made.

He said he would like tourists to keep coming back to Phuket five or six times and enjoy each holiday.

Despite the meeting's importance to Phuket's future, not a single arm of the local Thai media covered the entire gathering at Royal Phuket City Hotel.

In attendance were representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the director of the Foreign Ministry, Phuket, the Orborjor, the Chamber of Commerce, Immigration at Phuket Airport, the Resources and Environment Phuket Office, Phuket Tourist Police and the Chief of the Provincial Administration Group.
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Comments

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Great Coverage. Thank you and thank you to Mr Naumann and the rest of the consuls.

Editor, Why do you think there was no Thai media there?

Editor: An unwillingness to accept that expats have anything to say of relevance to Thai readers and viewers. Thais are only ever told about the upside of tourism.

Posted by VFaye on February 9, 2010 10:30

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"Despite the meeting's importance to Phuket's future, not a single arm of the local Thai media sent a reporter to the gathering at Royal Phuket City Hotel".

This last paragraph is for me the most important and exactly what the governor is dealing with, City news follows the governor everywhere, reports on 94fm and cable tv, yet this isn't news? Where was NBT and the other TV channels? Maybe there was an opening event somewhere? Well done Phuket Wan for covering this long may your success run.

Posted by Anonymous on February 9, 2010 10:34

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So a 3km Ride in Patong is now going to jump from 300 ish baht to 41.5 baht (20 flagfall 20 1st km and 1.5) ??

I will not be holding my breath.. Fair yes, likely ??? hmmm..

Posted by LivinLOS on February 9, 2010 10:39

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Thank you for covering this, Phuketwan. This is a start and big honor to the governor to assemble the consuls and thanks to them for addressing this important issue!

Posted by Anonymous on February 9, 2010 10:49

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This is a good start. The key is to reduce the number of Tuk Tuks to a point that they can be busy all day. The lower fares will also generate more work. The proposed Taxi fares are also reasonable and in line with regional charges when the lower cost of cars, fuel and wages are taken into consideration. The airport taxi charges are high and are unlikely to change unless the high concession charges are removed. Keep up the good work.

Posted by JohnB on February 9, 2010 10:55

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I believe the powers that be treat Thai people like mushrooms. They keep them in the dark, feed them s*** and watch them grow into uninformed robots.

Keep up the reporting on these and other stories. PhuketWan has in the past changed peoples situations and helped make and brought about good change. This just by making all peoples on this island more aware of what is going on.

Posted by Dun on February 9, 2010 12:38

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good news!

Posted by Jason on February 9, 2010 12:42

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Wow. Wouldn't it be wonderful if this were to come true. I believe that there may even be fever deaths on the roads owing to people Thai and Foreigners being able to afford taxis/tuk-tuks instead of being forced into riding your bike/car for an evening out.

Please make it come true.

Posted by Anonymous on February 9, 2010 13:42

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NBT TV crew were there to report in Thai and send the news in Thai to Bangkok for nationwide coverage.The team also talked to some honorary consuls later for broadcast in English.

Posted by nbt tv phuuket on February 9, 2010 14:02

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Governor Wichai will be retired soon. I'd like to send him a private message to thank for his great work. he represents all this hard working and honest Thai people. Please ask him to hang on for one more year in Phuket :-)

Posted by Mike on February 9, 2010 14:21

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I visited Hong Kong with my Thai wife recently and we were amazed at what an efficient taxi service they have there. HK$18.00 (THB 72) flagfall which covers the first two kilometres then HK$3.00 (THB 12) for each additional kilometre.

As these prices are realistic they are well patronised and the taxia are going all the time. As soon as one fare alights another hops in the cab.

No big lines of idle cars with drivers touting for customers as we see with the tuk tuks here.

Tuk tuk drivers here could make a decent living if they charged a realistic price and didn't just concentrate on ripping customers off (Thais + Farangs)

The cost of living for the drivers in HK is very much higher than it is for drivers here. So why do they think they should be charging 3 or 4 times Hong Kong prices and 5 times Hua Hin tuk tuk prices?

Posted by Whispering Jack on February 9, 2010 14:55

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Thank you Mr. Naumann for talking the talk, thank you Governor Wichai for using your position for the greater good and thank you PhuketWan for doing an excellent job in reporting.

My most favorite part: Taxi cannot pick up guests in western beaches, "because if they do, they get shot. Governor Wichai did not require this section translated."

I guess even the people behind are not so sure, if this extortion tuktuk system is good for their overall business anymore, but do not know, how to break the news to their people. Because they are so many. Angry ones. To be afraid of.

I really see no way, how to overcome this evil other then remove the root. The gangs and their backers have to face the iron fist of special forces.

Pattaya was able to overcome mob transport. Should be possible here also, even so maybe some of the backers are big in yellow. I really do not want to have to hope for this awful guy to come back to Bangkok so Phuket can overcome its Chicago 1930's phase.

Posted by Lena on February 9, 2010 16:09

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Lena, who is the awful guy? A man named T....? Actually, it would be good to have him back, crime is exploding, meth and ice is big business again, we need the Ironfist back here to clean up the shores... Thanks Phuketwan for the coverage, now we can only hope for the best, right?

Posted by BOM on February 9, 2010 17:23

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Thank you very much for posting this article.

I hope something positive comes out of this... Realistic prices!

Posted by Anonymous on February 9, 2010 23:11

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Well,this has put the problem right in the international arena now. How it is handled from here is critical for Phuket's international reputation. Good luck, Mr Governor.

Posted by walker on February 10, 2010 04:06

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One question I havent seen being asked is: Are the tuc tucs insured for passenger compensation in case of an accident ?

Could someone answer this ? thank you

Posted by elizabeth on February 10, 2010 15:27

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elizabeth: A very good question indeed and I don't know, but would be surprised if they had. Remember, we are now in Thailand, SE Asia, The Land of Smiles and good vibes, and no responsibility, consumer protection, real law and order, and so on and on...

It's The Land of the Free, and every expat living will have to adjust from being away from the nursing european welfare state! BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS, and be careful with that new freedom!

Posted by BOM on February 11, 2010 02:47

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I think the Governor of Phuket has a good grasp of the situation and for once appears to be doing MUCH more than just serving himself, and I loudly applaud him for this. Sorting our the jet-skis was great.

Realizing that tourism accounts for a huge amount of Phuket's income, and then seeking the thoughts from foreign consuls is an excellent, mind-set changing idea.

The Governor knows there are too many Tuk-Tuks on Phuket and their numbers are unsustainable.

If the Governor manages to get the illegal tuk-tuks crushed and then sets a realistic metered tariff for the remaining ones then the remaining drivers and the tuk-tuk users will all be happy.

More people will use tuk-tuks, which takes more private vehicles off the road - and this makes environmental sense too.

If the Governor can get this done, his name will go down in history as a man who achieved so much, and quite possibly saved Phuket from its own greed.

IF this happens, I will dance naked on Bangla road..............oh, someone already did that last week!

Posted by Mr Mark on February 11, 2010 06:42

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Thank you BOM, but who can answer the question ?
Mr Editor ?

Editor: The view of the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers is based on the economics of entitlement. It's hard to see change coming without government intervention.

Posted by elizabeth on February 11, 2010 15:59

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It wont happen. Find a new holiday place

Posted by Thai exlover on February 12, 2010 01:59

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I am tourist from Norway ! Have been in Patong 8 times on vaccation. And will be back. But I am very glad it seems the Governor now will try to clean up on Phuket. I think it is 100% nessesary do something with the garbich floating around , and also the Tuk-Tuk m**** ! It is all too expencive and sour Tuk tuk drivers soon scares the tourists away. In Patong this Tuk tuks charge you for 200 bath only some hundred meters. You rather walk ! I hope the river through Patong and the water on Patong beach also will be cleaned. It look like the local people does not "see" this pollution , but be sure tourists do , and I am afraid it soon will ruin Phukets/ Patongs roomer .

Posted by Jon Heggen on February 14, 2010 03:55

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One of the very bad impressions of Phuket is a taxi or mini van from the Phuket airport because it always involves a serious argument not to stop at a tourist shop.
In legal terms you are actually kidnapped against your wishes. That has put us off Phuket forever and we now got to Krabi or Koh Samui. I also dislike the TUK TUK drivers for their dishonesty. We never go to Phuket any more I take my friends to Koh Samui or Krabi where we are treated kindly.

Posted by CHRIS MARTIN on February 20, 2010 09:15

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Considering I hear prices in the hundreds of baht for local journeys this won't happen. 500 baht a trip to 50 and 60 baht. Pigs will fly first.

Posted by Mike Hunt on February 21, 2010 11:09

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1.run a monthly lottery for the right to operate and limit the number of tuk tuks

2. put meters in the buggers so the rider can view the costs.

3. Stop the resticted use. Pick up zones etc.

I was at the BBQ Hut on 2nd road looking for a ride back to Soi Sea Pearl. Well I was informed that the only option was a Tuk Tuk that was next in line for a fare.

I hailed a black taxi and he was shouted off buy three tuk tuk drivers. 300 baht or walk, I was told!

Posted by Chalong Boy on February 22, 2010 08:38


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