Samui Wining & Dining
SAFETY FIRST
A guide to getting around Samui.

A guide to getting around Samui.most of its communities numbered along its outer rim. A couple of loop roads complete the picture, along with roads that poke into the island’s interior. Residents used to complain about the appalling road surfaces – most roads have now been upgraded and there are fewer potholes. With a million visitors here every year, a good number quite naturally want to take to the said roads. The question is how. Sooner or later, visitors to Samui have to decide what transport they’ll choose. And it’s not a simple question either. Here’s a round-up of what’s available and how to get around:

          

Motorbike

50cc is all you need, according to some: any kind of small motorbike will do. You’re on holiday, it’s sunny and what’s better than riding along, enjoying the sights? What could go wrong? A lot really. Unless you’re thoroughly used to motorbikes, it’s best to beware. And then on top of that, you need to be aware of hazards: driving on the wrong side of the road, drunk driving, driving on drugs, bikes speeding out from turnings without stopping, speeding trucks passing close by you, unlit roadworks, patches of camouflaged sand and last but not least, potholes.

          

If you do decide to hire a motorbike, make sure you’re covered by your insurance policy. You may need to have a motorbike licence and you may be limited by the engine capacity. The activity may be excluded in the first place – it pays to check. You’ll have to leave your passport at the bike shop as a deposit. The upside of riding a motorbike? It’s cheap, easy to get around, easy to park. Hop on and hop off and see all the sights. Is it fun? Definitely! In retrospect, that is.

          

Some people reason that hiring a pushbike is a good compromise. Simple is better, they reason, and therefore safer. In practise what happens is that vehicles feel they can pass closer to you than if you were on a motorcycle. Hiring a bicycle is a great idea if you’re exploring the deserted interior of Samui, however.

          

Motorbike Taxi

  Having your own chauffeur, even if you’re riding along on a bike rather than in a stretch limousine is the way to get around for many. Cheap prices, combined with a (hopefully) safe driver are big advantages they’ll say. Check with your driver how much you’ll be paying before you get on. If you’re nervous request a slow drive.
A guide to getting around Samui. If you’re not used to being a passenger on a scooter, you’re bound to feel nervous – there’s no sense of being in control. Motorbike taxi drivers usually know most of the top destinations, but bring a map with you for more obscure places.

          

Taxi

 While on Samui you’ll be very aware of the maroon and yellow taxis, as they’ll give you a merry toot of their horn each time they’re about to pass you – annoying after a while. Prices are much higher than they are in Bangkok. Negotiate the price before you get in; this is OK to do, but once agreed, you can’t go back on it. Most drivers are friendly and provide a good service, but unfortunately, as in many places the world over, there are exceptions. Make sure that the price isn’t per person. Women travelling by themselves should be careful, especially at night.

          

The drivers will take you just about anywhere as long as the road or track isn’t dangerous for the car or its occupants. Some roads have ridiculously steep approaches, which few vehicles can deal with. In this case, the driver has no option but to leave you at the bottom. As with motorcycle taxis, bring a map if you’re going somewhere that’s not wellknown. Taxi drivers are supposed to use their meter, but it still remains a rarity. At night taxis can be very scarce, so arrange in advance to be picked up or if you’re in a restaurant check that they can call you one later.

          

Taxis, by the way, can be hired for an entire day and take you wherever you want to go. The driver will be happy to negotiate a price for a full or half-day.

          

Songtaew

 Pronounced ‘songtail’, a songtaew translates as ‘two benches’ named after the seating in what are basically modified flat-bed trucks. Check with the driver that he or she is going your way, and always negotiate the price before you get in. Remember that this time, unlike a taxi, it’s per passenger. 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. After about 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm, songtaew prices rocket, but drivers will tend to take you where you want to go. At night, you and your friends can hire a whole songtaew to yourselves – but again, work out the price in advance.

          

Car Hire

More costly than any of the above, car hire is still cheap compared to prices in the west, and since you’re on a smallish island, you won’t be spending much on petrol. Cars are immaculately clean and can be hired everywhere. You’ll need to leave a passport as deposit. If hiring for some days, you can bargain for the price.A guide to getting around Samui. What you must do is check that the insurance is for a commercial vehicle that’s to be rented out (the more usual insurance is only for personal use) and you need to have a valid driving licence with you at all times. (If you’re living on Samui, then you’ll need to have a Thai driving licence.)

          

If you have an accident, then be prepared to pay out, if necessary. Be very aware too that the rules of the road are let’s say, very fluid. Beware of motorbikes passing you on your left – this will happen at least every minute, and is completely against the law, of course, but is a fact of driving life. Wear that seat belt, too. It goes without saying that you wouldn’t use your mobile phone whilst driving. ‘Never take your eyes off the road for a second’ is a luxury you can’t afford to indulge in on Samui. A second is way too long here, and too much can happen. Never take your eyes off the road. Yes, that means that as a driver you can’t afford to even glance at all those interesting sights along the way. Hiring a car though will give you total freedom and provides a thousand times more safety than a motorcycle ever could.

          

Free Transfers

Some restaurants offer free round trips and will pick you up at your hotel or villa and drop you off again after your dinner. Check with the restaurant you’ve chosen if this service is available. Some tailor shops offer the same service, as do some spas. Go on a boat trip or excursion and you can expect to be picked up – though with others – in a minivan.

          

Walking and Running

 Last but not least, and strange as it may seem, a few visitors here get around by walking everywhere. Yes, in the heat. However, it’s not recommended on out-of-town roads, due to the dangers posed by cars and motorbikes, but those who walk certainly experience more of local life than if they were speeding past it. For the adventurous, there’s plenty of hiking and running to be done in Samui’s interior, but remember that all dirt-tracks look alike in the sun and that nightfall comes speedily in the tropics.

          

In conclusion, a happy holiday is one where you keep up your guard when necessary. Staying safe is all-important. Don’t fall prey to the so-called ‘bubble effect’, that pervasive feeling that just because you’re on vacation and feeling very relaxed, everything will go well – even if you’re being careless. When riding or driving along the road, as with anywhere else in the world, you’ll need to concentrate fully or let yourself be a passenger.

          

Dimitri Waring


 


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