If you don’t want to spend all your holiday lounging on a single beach, then you needn’t worry because Samui is remarkably easy to get around. A round trip by car can be done in about an hour. Hiring a motorbike is a pratical, cheap and rewarding means for fully appreciating the island, but be careful of reckless driving.
Songthaews on Samui
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.
Car rentals on Samui
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 800-2,000 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.
Motorbike rentals on Samui
Most visitors to Samui rent a 100cc four gear Honda Wave or CVT-driven scooters, for around 150-250 Baht per day. Be careful that you don’t get a ‘Samui tattoo’ – burning your right calf on the exhaust when getting off. Fully automatic Yamaha Nuvos are slightly more expensive (200-300 Baht) but easier to handle for newbies. The cheaper the rental price the more likely the bike will be knackered and struggle on the hills.
Be aware that Samui has the highest rate of driving fatalities in the Kingdom, and motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than other road users. The coastal road is hilly in places and the traffic hardly ‘pedestrian friendly’. Try and stay sober when you drive, and be especially careful of sand on the road. Motorbikes do not come insured, so you will be responsible for anything that happens in an accident.
Fuel is available around the island at modern petrol stations or from roadside stands. You can spot these by the pumps attached to 55-gallon oil drums; the price is higher than in stations though. If you get a flat tyre, don’t panic; you are seldom more than five minutes away from someone who can repair it or knows a neighbour who can. This takes about 30 minutes and costs 70-100 baht for a tube/tubeless repair.
Large, off-road dirt motorbikes, or road bikes, can also be rented around the island. Prices are from 500 baht per day, but some renters won’t let you take them into the hills, which rather defeats the purpose of having one.
Taxis in Samui
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 (airport-Chaweng, 400 baht), 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.
Bicycles in Samui
With a little asking around, you can find reasonably high quality bikes to rent around the island for around 80 baht a day. Don’t ride at night if you can avoid it as you’ll be the most vulnerable person on the road, and bear in mind that the hills between Chaweng and Lamai and between Maenam and Nathon are very steep.