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How to Get in and around Phuket

How to Get in and around Phuket

By Chris QuanUpdated Apr. 24, 2022

Phuket is Thailand's largest island covering an area of 543 m² situated just off the southeast coast of the country in the Andaman Sea.

It may be classed as an island but to get from the northernmost point, which is Thao Thepkrasattri Bridge that connects Phuket to the mainland, to the southernmost point of Rawai can take over an hour if there is no traffic.

phuket phuket

Phuket's topology is made up of mostly rainforests, mountains, and beaches. Therefore, there are only a certain number of main roads the government has been able to build, and these roads can get packed quite quickly making Phuket quite a difficult island to get in and around.

To save you learning the hard way, we are going to give you the best advice we can in this guide for getting in and around the Phuket. We will also cover a number of options by explaining how to get to Phuket from various destinations both domestically and internationally.

Getting to Phuket By Air

There is only one airport in Phuket (HKT) which is in the north of the island in a place called Mai Khao which is in the Thalang District. The airport itself is split into two terminals which are 'International' and 'Domestic'.

International Terminal

The international airport now has flights coming in from and flying out to a few major cities around the world. This is quite handy if you are looking to fly direct to Phuket and cut out Bangkok altogether.

There are no direct flights from the US or Canada, but the airport connects to plenty of other major cities that US and Canadian international airports fly in and out of.

  • Sydney (SYD)
  • Melbourne (MEL)
  • Doha (DOH)
  • Dubai (DXE)
  • Singapore (SIN)
  • Hong Kong (HKG)
  • Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
  • Siem Reap (REP)
  • Beijing (PEK)
  • Moscow (SVO)
  • Seoul (ICN)

Domestic Terminal

The domestic terminal flies to almost every major city across Thailand and is 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours flight depending on where in Thailand you fly from.

You also have the choice of a number of domestic Thai airlines such as Bangkok Air, AirAsia, Lion Air, Thai Smile, Thai Air, Nok Air, and Thai Vietjet Air. Learn about The 8 Best Domestic Airlines in Thailand.

Airports you can fly in and out of domestically include:

  • Chiang Mai (CNX)
  • Chiang Rai (CEI)
  • Koh Samui (USM)
  • U-Tapao – Pattaya (UTP)
  • Don Muang (DMK)
  • Suvarnabhumi (BKK)
  • Khon Khen (KKC)
  • Udon Thani (UTH)

Airport Transportation

Getting from the airport to your final destination in Phuket will require either a taxi, hotel pick-up, or shuttle bus which is effectively a minibus in most cases.

All routes to wherever you want to go generally require a motor vehicle even if you are heading to one of the islands off Phuket.

Going by Taxi: By far the quickest and most convenient way to get to popular beach destinations like Nai Yang Beach, Surin Beach, Freedom Beach, Patong, Karon, Kata, or further south is to get your own taxi.

Although this is also the most expensive form of transport, if you go by shuttle bus, you could add up to an hour and a half to your journey to drop off other tourists at hotels that come before your hotel's location.

There are usually lots of taxis and private minibus options outside the airport  between 7 am and 9 am or between 4 pm and 7 pm, as this is Phucket's rush hour.

You will be able to negotiate a price with or you can use one of the taxi service kiosks in the airport itself. Unlike Bangkok, you will not have the choice of using a metered taxi and the more people there are the more you can expect to pay. A good price to a mid-way point like Patong Beach is 2,000 to 3,000 THB ($60.00 - $90.00).

  • Perfect if there are 3 or 4 of you traveling together
  • Faster mode of transport compared to shuttle bus option

Going by Shuttle Bus: Shuttle buses are reasonably priced at around 300 to 600 THB ($10 - $20) per person to almost anywhere on the island.

They are great if you are traveling alone or as a couple on a budget as you will not have to pay Phuket's notoriously expensive taxi prices.

However, if there are three or four of you, then arguably paying that little bit extra for a private taxi is well worth it if you arrive early morning or late afternoon. If you arrive on the weekend, then expect the roads to be packed throughout most of the day.

  • Good option if you are a solo traveler on a budget or a pair
  • The cheapest way to get to any destination on the island
  • Can take a long time to get your hotel during Phuket's rush hour

By Private Transfers (recommended): Booking a private transfer is by far the most convenient way to travel from the airport.

You will save yourself the hassle of having to bargain for a good price with a taxi when you arrive, you will also have someone there to meet you.

We has experience in Phuket and can have a Thai-English speaking guide meet you as soon as you step off the plane. Your luggage will be instantly taken to a vehicle waiting to take you to your hotel.

Our guide will take you all the way to your hotel and get you booked in so you have absolutely no hassles or drama along the way. Our drivers also use the best local traffic apps and know all the best routes in order to get you to your hotel without delay.

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Getting to Phuket by Boat

Most of the nearby islands such as Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, as well as close by beach destinations have options to take a ferry to Phuket.

You can also hire private yacht services from Bangkok that will take you down through the Gulf of Thailand, around the southern peninsula, and into the Andaman Sea into Phuket, but this is not cheap! >>>Phuket Maps

Getting to Phuket By Bus

You can get a bus to Phuket from just about anywhere in the south of Thailand as well as Bangkok. Beyond this, for example, Chiang Mai or the North East, you need to stop off overnight in Bangkok. The only reason you would take a bus to Phuket is if you are on a very tight budget.

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How to Get to Phuket from Main Cities in Thailand

The main cities and islands in Thailand all have their own domestic airports, so you will be able to get to Phuket (HKT) reasonably easily and usually flights are less than an hour. Below we will cover your options by air as well as by sea.

Bangkok to Phuket

There are several ways to get to Phuket from Bangkok and believe it or not, flying is actually not the most expensive.

There are plenty of limousine services that offer luxury travel by car to the island, but we would only recommend this if you don't mind traveling 12 hours by car.

bangkok bangkok

The best and fastest way to get to Phuket from Bangkok is to fly which takes about an hour and a half.  

Koh Samui to Phuket

Once again, the best and quickest way to Phuket from Samui is by plane. It takes just 1 hour. You do have the option of going by bus or minibus with several departing from the island on a daily basis. 

koh samui koh samui

Krabi to Phuket

Krabi airport does not link up with Phuket so you will need to take a bus or boat from Krabi. The ferry is a nice option and only takes 90 minutes, but there are only two per day at a cost of 600 baht one way ($20.00).

Pattaya to Phuket

It looks easy on paper to get to Phuket from Pattaya because U-Tapo airport flies there. However, from Pattaya to U-Tapo is about a 45-minute journey. Then by plane, it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you want to travel by bus, then be prepared for a 14-hour journey.

Phi Phi Island to Phuket

The only way to get to Phi Phi from Phuket is by sea. You can get a ferry that will require a minibus transfer to one of the ports that will take you to Phi Phi islands. Alternatively, you can hire a private boat.

Chiang Mai to Phuket

Flying to Phuket from Chiang Mai is really the only realistic way to make this journey and takes just 2 hours. There are no buses from Chiang Mai that will go directly to Phuket, so if you do choose this mode of transport, then you will need to stopover in Bangkok.

chiang mai chiang mai

Chiang Rai to Phuket

As with Chiang Mai, you will need to fly from Chiang Rai airport to Phuket and takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The same principles apply to the above-mentioned Chiang Mai situation when it comes to taking a bus or train.

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How to Travel around Phuket

One of the trickiest aspects of your vacation will be learning how to get in and around Phuket. It is not as convenient as Bangkok in the slightest, and it is way pricier in Phuket to go anywhere because there are rarely fixed taxi fares and definitely no taxi meters.

By songthaew

This is one of the best ways to get around cheaply but it also difficult to figure out which songthaews go where if you cannot speak Thai.

The prices will also vary depending on the driver, but still much cheaper than any other mode of transport. That said if there are no taxis around, which is often the case at night you will pay a premium price to hire one as a private mode of transport to get back your hotel.

By walking

Walking around Phuket can be a wonderful experience. Obviously, the island is huge so you are only really going to be able to walk around the beach area or town you are staying in.

By bike

If you are an experienced cyclist, then you are going to absolutely love Phuket. There are tons of hills with high evaluation. You will also be able to get around some Phuket's mountain bike tracks that lead into hidden coves.

However, if you are not an experienced cyclist then we do not recommend trying to get around the island by bicycle. Although you can get around your local area you are staying in by bike with no problem.

By motorbike

Motorbikes are the best way to get around your local area such as Patong or Kata beaches. They are still quite pricey with the minimum cost of a journey for someone that does not speak Thai around 100 THB even just to go up the road.

By tuk-tuks

Tuks Tuks in Phuket are quite simply a rip-off scam. We would advise you not to use them or encourage anyone to use them because they cause so many issues.

They often do not take you to where you ask to go, try to get you to visit suit and gem shops, and overcharge tourists that use them. This tends to be all over the island too.

By taxi

Unfortunately, taxis are another rip-off in Phuket, but they do not try the tricks that the Tuk Tuk drivers will pull on you. If you must book a taxi, do it through your hotel as the staff there should be able to get you the best deal. You can then travel in airconditioned comfort around the island.

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