Phuket can be a confusing place for a tourist trying to save money. If you’re tired of dealing with unscrupulous taxi drivers and being overcharged or shortchanged everywhere, finding a tour operator to arrange your stay in Phuket can take away many of the headaches of the trip.
- Ask your hotel first (but beware). This could work out to your advantage or be a total disaster, depending on how you approach it. Many hotels (especially cheaper hotels) have special arrangements with local tour companies or tuk tuk drivers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, except that many of these arrangements involve overcharging you or including useless stops or extras. Before arranging a tour through the front desk, check average prices online so you can then compare with what they’re offering you.
- Ask the important questions first. “What’s included and what’s extra” should be the first thing you ask. That way you can compare different tours and see which one offers the best value for your money. Don’t be impressed by tours that promise “entry fees covered” as a big plus –Most of the attractions in Phuket are either free or cost just a couple of dollars. They need to offer something more than that for the tour to be worth it.
- Ask the tour company to show you a schedule. You don’t want a full-day tour that only promises “Mai Khao Beach.” What exactly will you be doing once you get there? Are there stops on the way? What happens once you arrive? Is lunch included? The more specific the schedule, the better, especially if you’re booking a full-day tour.
- Ask about group size. Unless you’re booking a private tour, you’ll probably be sharing the bus and tour with other people. Find out what the group size is likely to be. Anything over 15 people is too big and you might end up missing out on things because you have to wait for others to catch up.
- Ask about environmental impact. Phuket’s nature has been trampled on for decades and as a result we’re now starting to see loss of coral, endangered species and trashed jungles and mountainsides. Don’t ask the company whether they’re green –Many will lie to get you on board, while others might not even know what “being green” means. Instead, ask about their practices. For example, if you’re going on a trek, find out if you’re going to be sticking to trails or walking on virgin terrain.
In the end, trust your instincts when it comes time to book a tour and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t feel entirely comfortable.