Getting in Phuket
The compact Phuket International Airport (web)(IATA: HKT) is in the north of the island, and is Thailand's second largest hub, second only to Bangkok. There are very frequent flights web to/from Bangkok as well as direct flights to many other airports in the region, including Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and direct charters to Europe and Australia in the high season.
There are some charter flights in high season from European and Asian countries such as Sweden, Taiwan, Japan, etc. The airlines charge a very cheap fare.
Several domestic airlines fly to and from Phuket (HKT), including Nok Air web , Air Asia web , Orient Thai web . Tickets from either of Bangkok's two airports can cost around 1,300 baht one-way if booked well in advance, or around 2,000-2,500 baht (including taxes) if bought on the day or the flight.
Thai Airways web flies from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) several times every day, as well as once daily from Chiang Mai (but there are no direct flights in the opposite direction). Additionally, they sell tickets from/to many domestic and international destinations with a stopover in Bangkok. They are usually cheaper (especially international) than if one books separate tickets. Cheapest (non-exchangeable and non-refundable, though taxes are refunded even in the unfortunate case of no-show, if you call them later) one-way ticket from Bangkok, as of April 2008, costs 2,320 baht. Worth checking if you book just a few days before flight, as low-cost airlines may cost only 200-300 baht less in this situation, but you get world-famous Thai Airways service, and free on-board meals too.
Air Asia web fly from Phuket to Chiang Mai (CNX) direct, twice a day at 10:35 and 10:20, affording an opportunity to combine a beach holiday with experiencing the wildlife and exotic cultures of northern Thailand. From Chiang Mai to Phuket, flights depart at 13:00 and 21:45. They fly to two cities in Isaan as well, daily to Udon Thani (UTH) (handy for a trip into Laos) and four times per week to Ubon Ratchathani (UBP).
Bangkok Airways web has a monopoly on direct flights between Phuket and U-Tapao-Rayong-Pattaya International Airport (UTP) and Ko Samui (USM). They also have 6 daily flights from Bangkok. Fares are usually the same as Thai Airways, but sometimes they have very inexpensive promotional fares as low as 1,390 baht including taxes (that was a promotion in May 2011) when purchased on the airline's website. Bangkok Airways flights are usually less crowded and the entire journey is more relaxed, plus you can use their lounges for free even as an economy-passenger.
IMPORTANT: Thai Airways International and Bangkok Airways fly to Suvarnabhumi (pronounced: Soo-Var-na-phoom), whereas Nok Air and Orient Thai fly to Don Mueang Airport (DMK). This may be of importance when you have a connecting flight.
To get from the airport to your destination, there are several options:
There are no direct rail services to Phuket. But many trains leave from Bangkok's central station going south all the way to Singapore. The most comfortable are the sleeper trains (~685 baht for a berth in a 2nd class A/C car. Travellers by train must get off at Phun Phin railway station near Surat Thani and continue for another 5 hours by regular bus to Phuket. Do not buy the bus ticket until you actually see the bus and can make sure it is not standing room only as it picks up passengers at the popular Ko Samui ferry. If full, wait for the next one. See Surat Thani for more details.
Buses to mainland destinations including Bangkok, Chumphon, Hat Yai, Krabi, Phang Nga, Ranong, Satun, Sungai Kolok and Surat Thani use the BKS terminal off Thanon Phang Nga in Phuket Town.
The most reliable buses from Bangkok are the public BKS web buses from the Southern Bus Terminal to Phuket. The journey takes 13 hours and costs between 650-950 baht. There are also some private bus companies, Phuket Travel Tour, Phuket Central Tour and Phuket Travel Service web. Khao San Road operations have a bad reputation for theft, often turn out to include a "surprise" transfer to a minibus at Surat Thani, and are best avoided. Richly Travel Center web offers a bus leaving at 19:00 from near the HuaLampong Train Station inside Bangkok (without having to transfer to the Southern Bus Terminal) for 900 baht. The TAT next door offers the same for around 1,100 baht.
From Phuket bus terminal to your final destination, you can take a motorcycle taxi, tuk-tuk, metre-taxi, or bus. A motorcycle taxi into Phuket Town will be about 10-20 baht; to most beaches 100-200 baht (negotiable).
A local bus to one of the main beaches will cost around 15-40 baht. It's not unusual for the tuk-tuk drivers at the bus terminal to tell arriving travellers that the local bus service has finished, even though it hasn't. The bus stop is near the market in the old town. From Bus Terminal 1, make a right onto Phang Nga Rd. Continue down Phang Nga until it terminates at Yaowarat Rd., then turn left. Within a few steps you will see a roundabout. Once at the roundabout, keep right. By keeping right, you will find Ranong Rd. Within 100 to 200 m you will find the local bus stop.
There are two bus terminals in Phuket, one small, old one in town, and one huge modern one 4 km north of town. You can take a 10 baht pink songthaew (leaves every 30 minutes) between the two. There are also 3 regular songthaew lines within Phuket Town, and both bus stations are served by them. There is a very useful big map just outside the bus stations (look around where the taxis are waiting at the old bus station and at the very rear, not towards the entrance at the new bus station) that displays the three songthaew routes within Phuket Town. Fare is 10 baht, last one at 19:00.
Before exiting the Phuket bus terminal, grab a free Phuket map from the information window. While supplies may always not be on hand, the map is a great way to get your bearings before jumping-off.
Phuket is directly connected to the mainland by the Thao Thepkasattri Bridge. From Bangkok, take Highway 4 through Nakhon Pathom, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, thence through Ranong Province’s Kra Buri and Kapoe districts, Phang Nga Province’s Takua Pa and Thai Muang districts and onto Phuket Island. The total distance is 862 km. Cars web can be rented easily in Phuket.
All vehicles entering and leaving Ko Phuket will pass through a police checkpoint, Tha Chat Chai, about 5 km south of the bridge to Phang Nga. Most proceed without stopping, but suspicious vehicles will be stopped and searched.
Ferry services connect from Rassada Port in Phuket Town to Ko Phi Phi and on to Krabi on the mainland twice a day, taking 90 to 120 minutes and costing 350/650 baht one-way/return, for each leg. It's usually a pleasant ride, but can be rather bumpy when it's windy.
From the harbour, you could avoid the minibuses and take a ten baht songthaew to Phuket Town. If it doesn't show up at the bus stop right outside the terminal, you'll have to walk past the gate outside the harbor and along the road, turning left at the first T-junction, for about 600 metres. then on the big main road you can catch a cheap songthaew. There's a picture of all the routes posted just outside the terminal near the bus stop inside the complex. Last one leaves at 7PM.
There are also speedboats from/to Ko Racha (45 minutes), Phi Phi (1 - 1.5 hours), the Similan Islands (about 3 hours) and other islands. Boats and yachts can be chartered all year from Phuket at Chalong Bay, Rawai Beach, the Boot Lagoon, the Yacht Haven and Royal Phuket Marina. Boats from Phi Phi and Phang Nga can be found by visiting the local beaches. A search for Phuket Speedboat Charters will turn up many companies providing inter-island charters and services.
Prices for transfers on-board a tour speedboat are typically between 1,500 to 2,500 baht depending on destination. Phi Phi speedboat transfers (no tour) are provided by the Zeavola Resort, which has dedicated speedboats for Phi Phi transfers. Most companies doing Phi Phi Speedboat Tours will not accommodate transfers including baggage due to space limitations.
Prices for speedboat charters to/from Phuket range from 3,000 baht to 60,000 baht+ depending on distance / size of boat: