There are various options for getting around in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Car or Motorcycle Rental
To legally drive a car or motorcycle in Thailand, the driver must have a Thai or International drivers license for that type of vehicle. However, many rental agencies or individuals will rent vehicles without checking if the customer has the necessary license. Insurance will NOT cover any driver or vehicle when the driver does not have a proper license.
Thailand has the second most dangerous roads in the world. Conventional wisdom in Thailand says that two people die every hour on Thai roads. However, a World Bank study using 2010 reported data says it’s closer to only 1.6. Roadskill.com, however, says that almost half of the deaths attributed to highway accidents go unreported so the World Bank report could be understated by almost 100%.
Road Traffic Death Rate (per 100,000 population) WHO report
Of the 182 countries surveyed in the World Bank study, only two, The Dominican Republic and the tiny Pacific island nation of Niue1, rated worse with rates of 41.7 and 68.3 respectively.
1To be fair to Niue however, it must be pointed out that Niue only has 120 km of paved roads and a population of 1,229. In other words, more people lose their lives on Thai roads in a normal month than the entire population on the island of Niue.
Traffic laws in Thailand are often ignored and seldom enforced. There are occasionally check points where the police will check drivers licenses and helmet use but vehicles are seldom pulled over and ticketed for other infractions. Also, these check points are normally in the same spots and at the same time of day so are easily avoided.
Many, if not most, motorcycle drivers do not wear helmets. It’s safe to assume that even fewer motorcycle drivers have a drivers license and even fewer still have had any proper driver’s ed training. 73% of road fatalities in Thailand involve motorcycles.
There is little or no parking in Hua Hin. What used to be parking space is now taken up by renters of motorcycles displaying their wares or by taxis waiting for a fare. Even the shopping malls and tourist sites’ parking lots often are full within a couple of hours of their opening and this is on a week day. On weekends, and especially 3-day weekends, it’s much worse. What often starts out as a trip into town for a quick dinner often turns into a extended search for parking followed by a long walk. What Hua Hin does not need is another mall or theme site; what Hua Hin needs is parking facilities.
Does this seem like we would like to dissuade you from driving in Hua Hin? You’re right. Don’t let Thai roads ruin your holiday. Leave the driving to those who are more familiar with the roads and lack of rules thereon.
Here are some alternatives:
Taxis in Hua Hin are not licensed or metered. They are usually private vehicles with normal plates where the driver is trying to make a living or earn some extra cash.
There are taxi stands and kiosks everywhere in central Hua Hin. Most hotels and guesthouses will have either a sign board or notebooks with photos listing local attractions and fares and will contact a taxi for you. If there is not a taxi stand in your hotel, there should be one within a few meters of the entrance. Many of the taxis taking up what used to be parking places on the streets have signs or sandwich boards with lists of destinations, photos, and fares.
There are many types of taxis in Hua Hin. Many are passenger cars, while others are mini-vans. Some are songtaos (songtao means 2 rows in Thai), which are pickup trucks with a shell over the bed and two rows of bench seats running the length of the bed. Many songtaos are quite basic but some have been outfitted with nice shells, plush seats, TVs and video equipment.
Above is a photo of a typical songtao-type taxi in Hua Hin. This one even has yellow tags which means it’s legal. Notice the photos of local attractions, ads for jewelry shops, the padded bench seats and the pull-down plastic sheets in case it rains. These are great for a group of people, especially if there’s lots of luggage.
Taxis are probably your safest bet for getting around in Hua Hin and the surroundings. They are much safer than driving yourself or using motorcycle taxis and, since there are so many of them, rates are often negotiable and if you don’t care for the driving habits of one, you can always pick another.
Many taxi drivers are quite personable and eager to have their fares enjoy their time in Hua Hin. Should you find one you like and are planning more than one excursion in or around Hua Hin, it’s not a bad idea to discuss your plans with the driver in order to use them again. If you initially met your driver through a taxi stand, you could find that rates offered by the driver to be cheaper as the taxi stands’ cut is eliminated.
Motorcycle taxis should only be used for very short journeys. Motorcycles offer no protection in case of accident and you will not be offered a helmet. Remember, 73% of the road fatalities in Thailand involve motorcycles.
Samlors and Tuk-tuks
The term samlor is three-wheeled vehicle in Thai. There are many different types–see this page.
In Hua Hin, a samlor is generally used to mean a pedal driven vehicle. The driver pedals up front and the passenger sits in the rear. These are fast disappearing as the work is hard and the remaining drivers about as old as their vehicles. Use one for the photo op but don’t expect to get to your destination very quickly, especially if it’s more than a few blocks away.
There are many tuk-tuks in Hua Hin. These are OK for quick, short trips within town for a couple of passengers but some drivers are a bit aggressive and are not willing to negotiate their rates. Rates for regular taxis are often only marginally higher than those of tuk-tuks.
Songtaos are like shared taxis plying a designated route. Similar the bemos in Indonesia, songtaos are the bargain hunter’s delight. Though there are only three main routes in Hua Hin, songtaos are an inexpensive way to get around, if you know where you are going.
Songtaos are a great way of meeting the local people and discovering what they just bought in the market. Prices are fixed and vary from 10-20 Baht, depending on the route and time of day.
To flag one down, stand at a bus stop and raise your arm when you see the color you want approaching. Climb in the rear and take a seat. When you approach your destination, ring the buzzer or tap on the window of the cab, or tap a coin on a metal part of the shell so that the driver hears you. When he stops, disembark and go to the driver’s door to pay. While many of the passengers probably don’t speak your language, they’ll be more than happy to help the farang with directions or stopping the vehicle.
In Hua Hin, as in most Thai towns, songtaos tend to stop at or near the main fresh market during some point in their trip. As the market is the focal point of the town to many songtao users, whether you live near the airport or in Khao Takiap, you can get to the market via songtao. This popular stop in Hua Hin is located at the corner of Dechanuchit Rd. (Soi 72) and Sasong Rd. Due to this also being the middle of the night market and very busy in the evening, some songtaos will go along Propokklao Rd. (along the railway line) during this time.
The Green Route
The Green Route is the oldest route and runs along Petchkasem Rd. from Khao Takiap to the south of Hua Hin to the airport in the north via a jog by the rear of the Chatchai Market in the center of Hua Hin. Map is here.
The Orange Route
The Orange Route runs from the airport in the north as far south as Soi 94 beyond Market Village. It travels south along Petchkasem Rd. to Soi 6 where it veers into Bo Fai and continues south along the Klong Rd past Immigration, the Dinosaur Market intersection and past Pae Mai before twisting and turning to get to the rear of the Chatchai Market. From there it follows the railway track to Soi 88 where it turns inland through Ban Gai and then back to Petchkasem Rd where it heads north, going by Market Village and Villa Supermarket before passing by the market again before heading back up the Klong Rd. to Bo Fai.
Map and more information are here.
The Red Route
The Red Songtao runs along the klong and then along the railway line to Ban Gai. From there it goes down Soi 94 to Petchkasem Rd, proceeding north by Market Village and the Colannade Mall. After going down Naepkhaehat Rd. it passes through Sois 41 and 58 back to the klong and Pae Mai. The map is here.