Getting from the Phuket Island airport, which is located in the northwest corner of the island, to other points on the island is fast and easy. It takes a little over twenty minutes to drive to Phuket town, Patong Beach is a forty minute drive away, and many beaches can be reached in much less. No point on the island is more than a 60 minute drive away. The trip is usually more expensive than it should be, but it is still very cheap by international standards. Transportation options are, however, fairly limited.
The best way to get from the airport to a destination is usually to take advantage or hotel or guest house transportation. Most high end hotels provide this service free and even many guest houses will arrange the service is asked. Even if one must pay for this as an extra service, it still might be less expensive and more convenient than other forms of transportation. Of course, a shuttle service is often not available at less expensive places, and one can’t contemplate using this form of transportation if one is uncertain of one’s accommodation.
The next best option is the Phuket Airport Bus, which charges fares of no more than 85 baht. One catches the bus on the first floor outside the airport arrival hall to the left, or on the second floor next to Burger King. Unfortunately, it only goes from the airport to the Phuket town bus terminal!! It does make ten or so stops in between, including a stop at the Central Festival-Big C-Lotus shopping area. Those going to Patong can get off here and hike through the Festival Center and catch a local bus to Patong, which could result in a big savings. Others can also get off the bus in Phuket town and try to catch local buses to their destinations as all local buses to everywhere originate and end in Phuket town. This option is only useful if one does not have a lot of luggage and one “knows his or her way around” to some degree. Furthermore, one must catch their bus before 18:00, as all local buses stop operating around this time. Otherwise, one might find themselves stranded in Phuket town overnight, although metered taxis are available in Phuket town. Note: it is not possible to catch local buses at or near the airport.
The next option most travelers must consider is whether to take an airport limousine or a metered taxi. The limousine service provides three basic forms of transportation: a standard sedan, a luxury sedan and a nine seat luxury minibus. The sedans, Mercedes-Benz vehicles, are large and fast, and have clearly posted prices. Transportation can be arranged in advance or at the airport, where there are several desks and representatives “greet” arriving passengers. Presently, a fare of 800 baht for transportation in the standard sedan to all points on the island is listed, as is a fare of 1,000 baht in the luxury sedan. Minibus fares vary between 1,000 and 1,100 baht per location, with the majority of destinations falling into the 1,100 baht category. Generally, the sedan service has received positive reviews – except that people complain about the price and that drivers sometimes drive too fast. There have been more complaints about the minibus service, with people saying that it is slow and that the drivers don’t seem to know where they are going. Travelers should confirm the cost of a trip before they get into a vehicle.
The other practical option for most travelers are metered taxis, which may be found outside the main building to the right…they are painted bright red and yellow so they are impossible to miss. A problem with the metered taxis is that the drivers usually will not turn their meters on and instead tell a prospective passenger how much they want. Thus, negotiation is necessary, although the taxi drivers do have figures in mind that they assume they will charge. For those going places in the north of Phuket Island or to Phuket town, Patong Beach, or Karon Beach, the figure charged is usually about 200 to 250 baht less than what the limousine service wants and represents a fairly good savings. For passengers heading to the Rawai Beach or Chalong Beach areas, or to points in the far south of the island, the figure the taxi drivers want might NOT really be a good deal. Thus, it is necessary to do a little comparative shopping.
The only other option available to most people is to rent a car, which seems a rather poor choice if renting a car is simply being used as a way to get from the airport to one’s accommodation… a one day rental!!! The obligation of having to return a car to a pickup point will make this option almost useless except for those who are staying in a place like Patong Beach, which probably has drop off points for most major operators. Trying to find a rental company is rather frustrating and one is probably better off simply doing business with one of the “world-class” companies who have desks at the airport, as they know what insurance you will need and so forth – drivers do NOT want to cut corners on buying necessary insurance even if it is expensive. One can probably rent a small car for under 1,000 baht for one day. Drivers will need to provide operators with a copy of their passports, an international drivers license – although sometimes a license from a driver’s respective country will be adequate – and a credit card.
The above options – using a hotel or guest house shuttle or pick up service, taking the Airport Bus to Phuket town and then trying to catch local buses to various destinations, using the limousine service or a metered tax, and renting a car – represent the only transfer options for travelers arriving at Phuket International Airport. It is unfortunate that there aren’t more options. If there were, prices would be lower. However, transportation is still fast and easy. Price conscious travelers should be sure to confirm the price of any transportation before agreeing to use it, except for the Airport Bus to Phuket town, which does have a true, clearly posted, fixed price. Travelers to the far south who are contemplating whether to take a metered taxi or a limousine must also remember to compare prices before making a decision.