There are many things to fall in love with at Phuket. The beaches sparkle in the prettiest jewel tones, the satisfaction that Thai food brings is unrivalled, the countless gorgeous beach resorts and villas to call home, the cheap Thai massages to soothe those tensed muscles, and the list goes on.
As much as the well-loved holiday destination is popular and sees constant tourism, there is this one system that stains the beauty of the Thai island, one that makes commuting a headache and frustration, one that does not benefit anyone, one that needs change.
Getting around Phuket means you either take a tuk-tuk or you go for “private taxis”. Or you rent a bike, but that is beside the point. Quite unlike Bangkok, the transport here does not offer you an option to “charge by metre”. In other words, everyone sets a fixed price across board, and you either pay them what they ask for, or you are on your own – by foot. Because most places and points are very far apart, sometimes separated by hills, and walking is almost impossible.
So how does Phuket’s Taxi Mafia system come into place, and why do we think it is warped?
Those drivers will park themselves at their respective “territories” – some will be at the foot of the beach, some will be scattered around the restaurants, some will team up with their pals and take an entire street, some will wait at specific hotels and resorts. It depends, though we have no clue how they mark their territories, but more often than not, you’d see the same faces waiting at the same spots.
And the prices are fixed across board. In a very warped way. Let us illustrate the situation with some figures – a 5-min ride from the hotel to a restaurant costs THB400; a 10-min ride from the hotel to the beach also costs THB400; a 30-min ride from one beach to another costs THB400, too; a 60-min ride from the hotel to the airport costs THB900. Do you see what we mean now? We do not know if these drivers belong to certain companies or if they are on their own, but somehow, they are in unison when a tourist needs a ride, and this is their concerted quotation.
They would waste their time doing nothing and staying put at their spots, than to consider your negotiation for a lower price and to just take up the job – since they are not making any money from sitting around anyway. It really does not make sense, and it is an infuriating situation. There is no service for tourists to say the least, but more than this, it is an absolute stifle in productivity.
The system should be smarter, so as to maximise manpower and supply to effectively fulfil the demand. It definitely costs lesser for the drivers to take on a job of a 5-min distance, than what it would take for a 30-min drive. And this difference should be distinguished with a price differentiation so that tourists do not feel repulsive towards the otherwise beautiful Phuket. The obstinace is unnecessary, and if they could just alter the system and pricing methods, just how much more could they earn? And that positive change would surely reflect Phuket’s tourism so much better.