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Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Amsterdam, The...
Level Contributor
50 posts
Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Hi forum regulars and destination experts,

Hubby and I are booked to go to Khao Lak in February of next year. It will be our first time there. We're *really* looking forward to it. We'll be staying in the Sensimar resort.

We really fancy hiring a car for a few days, just to explore the further away beaches at our leisure, and maybe take in the local market, nothing too extreme, and I am sure most places I would want to visit are within a 25km radius of our hotel. It just strikes us both as more convenient than a taxi, as in past trips to Thailand we have always felt a bit pressured to say when we'll be back if we have a taxi driver waiting on us. I never know how long I want to spend on a particular beach....it could be half an hour, it could be 6 hours. Having the freedom of a rental car would be ideal.

However..... we have no idea if driving in Khao Lak is easy, impossible, or somewhere in between.

My husband is a very confident and competent driver (I am useless away from home, so he'd be the designated driver). He has driven on many holidays. In Phucket too, but that was about 20 yrs ago. We travel to Dubai quite a bit, and while I wouldn't dream of driving there, hubby does fantastically well driving there.

So what do you all think, should we hire a car in Khao Lak? Are road signs dual-language? Are there any potential hazards we should be aware of?

Many thanks in advance for any advice you can give us.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
2,510 posts
310 reviews
1. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Many road signs are in Thai and English, though the further you venture out of major tourist destinations, the less such signs there are. If your husband is confident driving on the left hand side of the road in a right hand drive vehicle, and you say he is competent, then it's a viable option.

Anyway you say you've been to Thailand before, recently by the sounds of it, so you know what it's like driving there!

My advice to people considering doing this is that you need to be prepared for a complete change of mindset from what you would be used to. Don't drive aggressively, and remember that road rules in Thailand are merely a guide for many people, the reality seems to be a mix of road rules, interpretation of what the road rules *should* be in some driver's opinions, general courtesy, and sometimes a general lack of courtesy!

Situational awareness should always be heightened, especially with the commonality of motorcycles on Thai roads.

I'm not sure how many rental car operators there are in Khao Lak, most would probably be private operators, though I'm sure there are larger companies at Phuket Airport. I used to use these smaller Thai renters in my travels, often rates would be a bit negotiable and better than the major companies. Of late I have found that the more mainstream companies have better offerings in Thailand, and the cars are usually of a better standard. I recently got a Nissan Almera for a couple of days through Thai Rent A Car for around 650 Baht per day. When booking, you'll tend to get better rates by visiting the local Thai site of the rental car company, rather than the global portal. For example, try looking at:





If you choose to rent a car, make sure you comply with licensing requirements, and remember that if involved in an accident, usually it will somehow end up being your fault as the foreign visitor, unless of course you collide with another tourist. Let's hope the Chinese don't start driving in Thailand on their holidays, because that will be a disaster!

Good maps are also hard to come by. Main highways are marked, but smaller roads can often be confusing. I have found the free MapFactor Navigator app to be pretty useful on my smartphone. I can download open source Thailand road maps and store it all on my phone, so I don't need to be using data connectivity when using my smartphone as a GPS.

Good luck, stay safe, have fun!

Poulton Le Fylde...
Destination Expert
for Khao Lak, Khao Sok National Park
Level Contributor
45,458 posts
107 reviews
2. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

We hire a car for our 5 month stay for mostly the reasons you are thinking of - flexibility to go where you want, when you want; accessibility to go to places that tours don't go to or to visit beaches for the day or part of the day other than the one you are staying on (in your case Sunset Beach); self-drive tours in and around Khao Lak - see suggestions based on the ones we have enjoyed at tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g297914-c167750/Kha…

We usually pick up a car on arrival at Phuket Airport but for the past two years have flown into Bangkok and after a few days there driven down the East Coast and across to Khao Lak staying over at a couple of places en route. We use Budget as we get the best rates for the type of vehicle, length of hire and regular booking and Budget allows one way hire, They also deliver to and pick up from your hotel/ But most importantly they have an office in Khao Lak (as does Hertz but no other local outfits) and having had an accident caused by a drunken Thai driver I was glad of the local assistance that was on the spot in minutes to deal with everything including the police and insurance agents. Our car was undriveable and we were supplied with a replacement the next morning. Can't praise them highly enough! You can book in advance or at the local office or through the Smile Restaurant at the other end of Bang La On from where you are staying.

Some Phuket based outfits don't deliver to or pick up from Khao Lak or charge a fee (about an extra day's cost) if they do. We have used Airport Car Rent which is directly opposite the exit from the airport and found them very competitive for small to medium cars. See http://airportcarrent.com/

Here's a link to other Phuket outfits http://phuketindex.com/vehicle/carrental/

CDW is included in the rental I pay to Budget and there is no excess charge. You may wish to consider (if you haven't already) purchasing a worldwide multi-trip car hire excess policy which I found worked out cheaper and better as it included cover for tyre and under body damage that included insurance and local CDW often doesn't. See moneymaxim.co.uk/compare-car-hire-excess-ins…

Finally, if you haven't already, please read the Travellers Article on Driving requirements at tripadvisor.com/Travel-g293915-c133830/Thail…

Hope this helps.

Amsterdam, The...
Level Contributor
50 posts
3. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Robol and Arandora, THANKS so much for such comprehensive replies!!!! I will digest all your many tips at leisure tomorrow. I just wasn’t even sure whether car rental was an insane idea, now I know it’s not, I will get my homework done and check out all your links and tips.

We’ve booked a package deal this time around, which means our transfers from Phucket to Khao Lak and back are free, so we’ll most likely stick with those and either pre-book Budget (via the local website you gave) or just wander down to Smile restaurant and book from there. Plus we arrive in Phucket around midnight, I imagine we’ll be exhausted as we leave Amsterdam at 9pm, 6hrs to Dubai, then a 5 hour wait in the transfer lounge in DXB before the Phucket flight which is also about 6hrs and gets us in just before midnight. Also I can’t see us using the car for the whole 3 weeks. I think we will start off with a 3 day rental…. then maybe a week or so without a car then rent again for another 3 days.

I’ll also download that MapFactor Navigator app – we have a similar one (Waze) which is ever so handy for Dubai. I’m pretty confident that with an app, and a very limited in size area we want to navigate, that we should (just about, lol) make it.

Arandora, driving down from Bangkok…. I take my hat off to you. Just getting out of the city would defeat me, lol. Going off on a total tangent here…. your username is semi-familiar to me. Were you a regular on either the Kuala Lumpur forum, or the Penang forum, many many moons ago? I would guess around 10 years back?

Again, thank you both very very much. I really appreciate it!!

Poulton Le Fylde...
Destination Expert
for Khao Lak, Khao Sok National Park
Level Contributor
45,458 posts
107 reviews
4. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?


You can get a very good road map of Southern Thailand from most Seven 11s as well as in the Nang Thong

Supermarket in the centre of Bang La on not far from where you are staying. Costs about 100 baht. You can also buy a more detailed one by T-Globe there too.

Yes, I used to be a regular on the Kuala Lumpur forum having been there a number of times as part of Malaysian holidays or for a few days on our way back to the UK (a few days which turned into 2 weeks when we were stranded there by the Icelandic Volcano Ash Cloud in 2010). Penang was our first S E Asia beach holiday back in 1994. Not been to the other KL for a few years now except to fly through en route to other destinations.

Amsterdam, The...
Level Contributor
50 posts
5. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

I thought I remembered your username Arandora. Can't for the life of me think what mine was on the KL forum back then. I used to go there often, mostly for work, so posted in the KL forum a lot. I used to cross swords quite a lot with the destination expert, lol, as I didn't praise everything as perfect or keep my rose tinted specs on with every single post. I am still sure he was a government plant. lol.

I'll definitely get that road map at the 7-11

Many thanks again.

It's 7 months away, but am realllllllllllly looking forward to this holiday.

I'll post nearer the time for other tips on places to visit when we're out and about on our rental wheels. Right now I have only got as far as 4 beaches and a local market. But hey, it's early days :-)

Poulton Le Fylde...
Destination Expert
for Khao Lak, Khao Sok National Park
Level Contributor
45,458 posts
107 reviews
6. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Don't forget to use the Top Question FAQs on the right, best viewed on the TA Full Site on PC or laptop for plenty of useful information. The Maps link at tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g297914-i10908-k… is particularly useful.

Level Contributor
289 posts
30 reviews
7. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Yeah, driving around Khao Lak is not too bad as long as you take your time & be aware of the scooter riders.

Using Arandora's recommended trips from the FAQ's will also help you enjoy the areas around Khao Lak.

And as stated, you will have the flexibility to discover those beautiful beach areas along the K L coastline & also to commute between Bang LaOn & Bang Niang for dining etc, without those extra taxi fares!



Nan Province...
Level Contributor
542 posts
338 reviews
8. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Hiring a car and self-drive is very well done in Thailand .... there are a few things to remember

1. Most (not all) drive on the left side of the road

2. Do not drive in bad weather or dark

3. Roads are also used by dogs, chickens, scooters, drunk people, slow trucks, etc.

4. You will need a International Drivers Permit

5. Road quality & signs might differ from your home country

Amsterdam, The...
Level Contributor
50 posts
9. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

Thanks everyone, you've all been extremely helpful. We'll definitely give it a go for 3 days initially, and take it from there if we want to hire for longer. I am glad you're all fairly positive about it as the "taxi for a day" or "car with driver" option just isn't us.

Thanks again.

And thanks to all those who have contributed to all the things in the FAQs on the top right hand side, and to Arandora for the trip ideas, my printer is working overtime.

224 days to go.....

.... if anyone apart from me is even *vaguely* interested :-)

Kenmare, Ireland
Level Contributor
4,671 posts
530 reviews
10. Re: Is it advisable to hire a car for a few days?

I always hire a car when in Phuket provence.

A sat nav is handy - also for excess insurance - you can buy it to cover CDW each time you hire - or if like me you hire more than once a year it makes sense to get a year round policy. Mine costs about 65e a year and covers me fully.

Good idea to take photos of any preexisting damage to the car - and as others have said - if you have an accident a national drivers licence or permit may not cover you - get an international one