Phuket International Airport (HKT) receives many daily direct flights from overseas, and an even greater number of connecting flights from Bangkok, about 90 minutes away. Direct flights arrive from as far as North America and Europe. The airport is located in the northern part of the island, about 45 minutes away from the major southern beaches.
A number of luxury cruise lines dock in Phuket’s port for a day or two before continuing to other popular southeast Asian destinations like Penang and Malacca, in Malaysia, and Singapore. Domestic boats arrive from Ko Phi Phi, from islands in the Andaman Sea, and from Phang Nga Bay.
Sarasin Bridge links Phuket with the mainland. Buses and minivans between Bangkok and Phuket take around 12 hours. VIP seats on buses and minivans offer the most comfortable ride. Alternatively, trains connect Bangkok to Surat Thani, from where a 6-hour bus ride connects travelers to Phuket.
Metered taxis are not widely used on Phuket. Even at the airport, fares are generally determined according to which area you are going to. More frequently, travelers end up bartering for private car services. There is no way to know if you’re getting a fair price, so it is best to ask around before agreeing to a fare.
An inexpensive way of traveling between towns is the songthaew, literally, “two rows,” which has two rows of center-facing benches running down the sides of a pickup truck. Rides start from about B15 per person for short distances. Rides from Phuket Town to various beaches cost about B40–80 per person.
Unlike in Bangkok, where the familiar three-wheeled vehicle is ubiquitous, tuk-tuks are no longer used on Phuket. However, what are often referred to as tuk-tuks on the island are actually small red trucks with open sides, almost like miniature songthaew. Again, prices have to be negotiated beforehand.
A fast and easy way to cover short distances is the motorbike taxi; these are easily distinguished by their drivers’ brightly colored vests. The taxis congregate mostly in the island’s densely populated areas, such as Phuket Town and Patong. The cost per person starts at around B20. As with most public transportation, negotiate a price beforehand.
This cost-effective way of seeing Phuket also gives you the scope to travel as you please. Rentals generally start at around B200 per day for an automatic bike. It is best to be cautious while driving – always wear a helmet and ride very slowly since this is a high-risk way of traveling.
If you plan to travel widely on Phuket, you might want to consider renting a car. Rates start around B1,200 per day during the peak season, but are cheaper during the low season. Reputable agencies are located at the airport, within walking distance of the airport, and also in Phuket Town.
Long-tail boats can be chartered along the east coast to visit the islands in Phang Nga Bay, while large passenger ferries and speedboats depart from the main piers (Chalong and Bang Rong). The boat drivers usually post their rates on signboards, but these are negotiable. The cost should be roughly B500 per hour.