When we hired a driver for a mini van for 9 pax thru our hotel, we paid 1200baht. That part's all right. The thing you have to be wary about is the places the driver bring you to. We told the driver we wanted a place to eat, he brought us to this seafood restaurant - of coz we told him we wanted another place. Then we wanted to buy local foodstuff, and he brought us to his place where they sold it at expensive prices (the same bag of chips which cost 150baht at the supermarket beside my hotel cost 400baht here). Of coz we didn't buy there. The only place that he brought us to which we liked was the elephant ride, coz for that, we really cut the price down, or else we would have walked away also.
So by all means, hiring a driver does make it easier to get around, but do your research or you'll get ripped off.
If enjoying a beer at an ourdoor table, you will have people come up to you selling all sorts of trinkets: hats, shirts, cigarette lighters, etc. These items are generally over-priced junk, and if you even bother to show passing interest you will have others swarming around you with their goods. On the one hand, you could say these folks need to make a living, but you don't have to entertain them if you are trying to enjoy your meal or drink.
We all know that Thailand is famous for its gorgeous "man-woman". On touristy lively Patong beach, it is not uncommon to see dressed-up "geishas" and "southern belles". They will try to grab you to take picture with them for a dollar. Negotiate clearly from first. If there are 3 of them, they will ask for $3 afterwards. For us, the initially demure belle turned very manly when we refused to pay extra. We sustained a mild scratch fr her fake fingernails :)
Well, this happened to my friend during my last trip...(for ppl who think i dunno what i am talking abt it was 16th trip to pukhet), since it was his first time he got bedazzled by the relatively cheap prices and the wide array of goods, hes a watch freak he ended up going to this bloke who owns a shop right next to the DUBAI RESTAURANT he is a burmese fellow and apparantly calls himeslef "MR WATCH" be careful of this fella he charged my friend 8000 baht for a watch which he gladly bought only to find it later on in bangkok in MBK mall for 1500 (before bargaining), during my last trip i was informed by the people there that he has even charged 16k to unususpecting new tourist and had a run in with cops once the tourist found out the real price,
Unique Suggestions: DONT GO
Fun Alternatives: so if you guys want to save your money and have a good time buy all ur stuff from MBK its a lot cheaper, a lot less haggling and a much better shopping enviornment, tehre s a really nice lady on the 3rd floor of MBK MALL shes got her shop near section where u get these cd for 100 bahts and 99baht shirts, she has wide array of selections and is nominally priced trust me you wont be disappointed, oh and avoid "WATCH CORNER" they charge a quite high as well but not as high as " MR WATCH"
Generally it is best to go shopping on your own. If you have a 'Guide or tuk-tuk' driver accompany you, expect to pay 20%-30% more than if on your own as these 'Guides and tuk-tuk' drivers bring you to specific places for a reason-commission.
Street Vendors can be pretty annoying and pushy! Don't let yourself get talked into buying something, especially do not let them give you a bad conscience
Fun Alternatives: Walk straight through and just "overhear" all the "hi"s and compliments ..... it's mainly fishing for customers
Shopping in Phuket is becoming harder and harder. It is like the airport where suddenly they can charge whatever they like. It seems the stall holders inflate the prcies much more then elsewhere in Thailand and will go near the price that you can get in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Alot of stall holders know now that we will automatically take a third of the price and have not put their prices up another third.
Last year I was helping a friend shop as I can speak a bit of Thai. The women was giving my friend a ridiculous price. When I started bartering in Thai she no longer wanted our business and walked away. Most of the stall holders are good and will try to get as many baht as possible out of you with a smile.
Unique Suggestions: Set a price in your head and stick to it. They will cry poor, tell you how good the quality is, transportation costs, that a bigger size costs more. But if you are friendly and firm when bartering if will do okay. If you walk away and they let you go you have gone to low in price. If they come back to get you you are either close and will get it for that price with a little more negotiation or will have to pay just a few more baht.
You will see a group of ladyboys in Bangla Road. My friend and I asked permission if we can take a picture of them and they were more than happy to smile for the camera. They even asked us to join them in the picture and touch their breasts.. After that, they were asking for 100 baht tip... ;(
Unique Suggestions: If it's okay with you to pay them 100 baht then smile :)
Fun Alternatives: If you dont want to pay 100 baht, maybe it's okay to just take a picture of them, not with them.
Unique Suggestions: If you want a young lady to be your 'very good friend', if you want cheap drinks and even cheaper souvenirs...Patong is your place.
Fun Alternatives: Stay in Karon or Kata or anywhere else.
Just pop into town to buy your cheap nicknacks.
DO NOT take kid after dark unless you want to spend the rest of the holiday explaining what they do with the darts and the snakes.
In Thailand if you want your photograph taken with a 'Lady-boy' or snakes, etc afterwards they will expect some money from you.
Unique Suggestions: Negotiate a price first!