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Driving on Koh Phangan
Every summer in Koh Phangan, construction workers tackle a different part of the road that’s broken up, meaning nowadays the roads here are a lot better and safer than they once were. However, they are still by no means perfect, and some of the steep hills and windy bends can cause problems, particularly for inexperienced drivers. Have a read below of the rules of the road in Koh Phangan, tips on careful driving and information on where you can and can’t drive.
Rules of the road
The rules of the road are the same in Koh Phangan as they are in the rest of Thailand, but driving here is nothing like driving in Bangkok, or any other major city. The speed limit is 60km per hour, but we don’t recommend driving that fast anywhere here, as it’s such a small island that it’s not necessary and can also be dangerous. The place where it’s most important to drive at a reasonable speed is the main southern road between Thong Sala and Haad Rin, as this is the party area and there are plenty of drunk tourists wandering about, some of whom insist on driving their motorbikes despite being over the limit.
Careful driving tips
More often than not, the greatest danger on the roads is encountering other vehicles that are being driven recklessly. Some taxi drivers zoom along these roads far over the speed limit so that they can squeeze in another run and make extra money, while first-time scooter drivers are renting bikes without any lessons whatsoever. Therefore it’s essential that you’re able to stop quickly and avoid accidents. Always, always, always keep as far to the left as you can.
Keep your wits about you here, especially at night; some roads are unlit and you’ll need to stay focused to respond to other vehicles, pedestrians and animals (namely dogs), which have a tendency to run right out into the road in front of cars and bikes.
Where you can and can’t drive
Although the road network in Koh Phangan has improved considerably, it is still not possible to drive around the entire island along the coast as it is on Samui. Make sure you double-check the map before you embark on any journey here and note that the furthest northern point you can drive to is Haad Khom, near Chaloklum, and only one road will take you as far east as Thong Nai Pan. Then there are other places, such as Bottle Beach, which can only be reached by boat or on foot.
Renting a car
You can rent manual and automatic cars on Koh Phangan, so long as you have your driving license and passport with you. 4×4 cars are available to explore dirt tracks of the island’s interior but be aware that prior experience driving a 4×4 and driving on non-concrete roads in general is strongly recommended! A regular car is usually the safer (and cheaper) alternative for driving around most areas.
As long as you have a sturdy vehicle and adhere to these rules, your driving experience in Koh Phangan will no doubt be a good one, so get out there and enjoy the island while you can!