Getting Around Koh Samui
Koh Samui is very easy to navigate – a single main ring road going round the island, taking you to all the main beaches.
Songthaews (Mini Bus)
A Songthaews service runs from early evening until 5pm in both directions and is all in the way of public transport. Covered red pick-up trucks called songthaews serve as local buses during daylight hours. Each songthaew’s destination is clearly marked in English on the front and sides of the vehicle. Songthaews follow fixed routes around the island but there are no official stops. Just flag down the first one you see, and confirm that the driver is going in your direction. Press the button or bang on the roof to signal when you want to get off, and pay when you exit the vehicle. Fares should range between 20 and 60 baht
Taxi (Car & Motorbike)
A more costly option is the local taxi service, which charges the highest rates in Thailand. The drivers ignore use of the meter, flouting the law, and take what they can get. Motorcycle taxis are not much better, and all drivers will quote you a price at least one third over what you’ll be expected to pay.
Samui has dozens of yellow, metered taxis for those who prefer to travel in air-conditioned comfort. They can be found at the airport and cruising the islands major roads throughout the day and night. The downside is that it's virtually impossible to get drivers to actually turn on their meters and prices can be high, so try to negotiate a reasonable fare before departing. Unfortunately a local mafia has seen to it that taxis are limited and as a result they charge outrageous rates - but compared to back home you'll hardly notice. Just be aware of their game from the start, especially as you emerge from the airport.
Car & Motorbike Rental
It’s little wonder, then, that most visitors choose to rent a car, or at least a bike. The laws for renting are extremely lax, and combined with the un-kept roads, this makes Samui one of the most dangerous places to drive anywhere. Renting your own vehicle is an excellent way to get around as it allows you to explore the many small roads and tracks that lead off into the jungle-clad interior or down to one of the islands many little coves and deserted beaches. Prices vary from 800-2000 baht per day according to type and condition of the vehicle. Local operators generally rent manual shift Suzuki jeeps, while the major car rental companies like Avis and Budget now rent both manual and automatic sedans and air-conditioned cars and jeeps. Smaller companies will ask you to leave your passport as collateral on the vehicle. Make sure that full insurance is included, or you will be held responsible for the potentially ruinous expense of any damage to the car in an accident, and compensation for others involved. The inter of the island is mountainous jungle, so you’ll need a 4x4 to get up there – available from a few renters, and you can always book a tour to see the out of the way places.
You may need to supply your own helmet if renting a motorcycle. This will not normally be provided with the bike, and will result in a fine if you drive by the police station helmetless on one of the occasions that they’re having a whip round for some officer’s birthday.
Some hotels will offer transfers to major locations, and can secure sensible prices in the way of taxis. Check at your reception or with your accommodation provider for what they can do to make your trip a little bit easier.