Traveling to Phuket Island has never been simple or easy. It still isn't. But it is much simpler and easier than it used to be. Developments in Thai and international travel and transportation systems have made travel to Phuket doable.
Travelers can fly or take a bus directly into Phuket. It is even possible to drive an automobile into Phuket. And, course, it is still possible to arrive there by oceanic transportation.
Phuket Island has an international airport and receives regularly scheduled flights from several cities, including Frankfurt (Thai Airways), Munich (LTU), Vienna (Lauda), Amsterdam (Martin Air), Seoul (Thai Airways), Singapore (Silk Air, Thai Airways), Kuala Kumpur (Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways), Taipei (China Airlines, Thai Airways), Hong Kong (Dragon Air, Thai Airways), Perth (Thai Airways), and Penang (Thai Airways).
Some of these flights make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to Phuket International Airport; others are directly connected. In addition to regulary scheduled flights, chartered flights originate from places such as Zurich, Manchester and Helsinki. Flight availability and ticket pricing vary according to several factors. Cheapflights.co.uk is a good place to start your flight search - see their flights to Thailand from the UK here.
Several daily flights to Phuket originate from Bangkok. Flight duration is approximately one hour. Among the airlines conducting flights from to Bangkok to Phuket are Thai Airways (02-628-2000, www.thaiairways.com), Bangkok Airways (02-265-5678, 02-265-5555, www.bangkokair.com), Phuket Air (02-679-8999, www.phuketairlines.com), and Thai Air Asia (02-515-9999, www.airasia.com).
There are also regularly scheduled flights to Phuket from other locations inside Thailand, for example, Chaing Mai (Angel Airways), Ko Samui (Bangkok Airways), Krabi (Air Andaman, 075-691495) and Surat Thani (Air Andaman, 077-441160). Due to the emergence of several budget airlines, ticket pricing is generally very competitive but does vary according to several factors.
It is possible to drive from Bangkok directly to Phuket Island as there is a bridge connecting Phuket Island to the mainland. Travel time is approximately ten hours to eleven hours. Bangkok is around 875 km (545 miles) from Phuket.
The route to Phuket - Highway 4 - is quite pleasant. Highway signs are clear, and the highway is safe and well maintained but driving can be dangerous because many drivers in Thailand do not obey the traffic laws. It is easy to rent a car in Bangkok, but drivers should make sure they have full automobile insurance. This requires possession of a Thai or international driving license.
Bus travel from Bangkok to Phuket takes from 12 to 14 hours. The quality of service ranges from very good to very bad. Almost any hotel or guest hourse can arrange bus transportation. For reliable service , the best option is to take a bus leaving from the Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal at Boromratchchonnani Road, 02-435-1200, 02-435-1199.
Generally, only "VIP" or "first class" airconditioned buses should be used. They have toilets and decent seats. They will make one meal stop and often show movies. Other buses frequently have very uncomfortable seats, make many stops, have no toilets and sometimes have more riders than seats.
Phuket is also connected to most other major places in southern Thailand by regular bus service. Buses will arrive in Phuket town at the centrally located Phuket Bus Terminal on Phang Nga Road. Bus riders should be aware that petty criminals, almost always nonviolent, try to take advantage of bus riders and their luggage.
The buses are busy and tickets should be purchased at least a day or two in advance. It is probably worthwhile to pay a reputable travel agent a small fee - usually 100 baht - and let them get the ticket for you. The price of a ticket for a seat on a 24 seat VIP bus is around 1000 baht and 650 baht for a seat on a 36 seat VIP bus.
Riders should be sure to take a warm sweater as the airconditioning can be rather cool. Minbus service is also easy to obtain but the service is less reliable than regular bus service. Any hotel, guest house or travel agent can help arrange minibus transportation.
There are no direct trains to Phuket Island but it is possible to get off the "north-south" train that operates between Bangkok and Georgetown (Penang) Malaysia at Phun Phin, near Surat Thani, and take a bus or minbus to Phuket. The vehicular trip takes five to six hours.
There are around 12 rountrip buses between Surat Thani and Phuket everyday beginning at 5:00 and ending at 15:30. If arriving in Surat Thani from Bangkok, one will arrive in the morning and it will not be difficult to catch a bus. The southbound train from Bankok leaves daily from the Hualumphong Train station (www.railway.co.th), usually in late afternoon. It takes 12 hours to make the journey to Surat Thani.
It is strongly adviseable to book tickets at least a few days in advance. A reputable travel agent can do this for you. Most people travel second class, which provides travellers a soft seat that converts to a sleeper at night. Most of the travel time during this trip is at night.
If one is heading north from Penang, it is not as easy to get to Phuket if one gets off the train at Phun Phin because the train arrives there at night and the buses to Phuket have stopped running. It would probably be possible to get a minibus, however.
It is not possible to travel directly between Phuket and other countries by regularly scheduled oceanic transportation, but there is a regular ferry service between Phuket and the southern Thai islands of Phi Phi and Krabi, and Koh Lanta and Ko Rocha (via Krabi).
A ferry departs daily from Phi Phi for Phuket at the Ton Sai bay pier at 8:30, 13:30 and 16:30. The journey time is about two hours and the cost is 550 baht one way.
A ferry departs from Krabi to Phuket daily at 15:30 from the Nopphrat Thara Beach. The journey time is one hour, forty five minutes and a one way ticket costs 450 baht.