Discover Phuket: A Tourist’s Paradise
Known as the “Pearl of the Andaman,” Phuket is a destination that elicits mixed emotions. It may be too developed, commercialized, trendy, and sometimes expensive for some, but it continues to attract visitors from every corner of the globe due to its sandy beaches, luxurious spas, outstanding diving sites, and high-class dining establishments. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, interested in snorkeling, surfing, yachting, or kayaking, or you wish to immerse yourself in the cosmopolitan ambiance of Phuket Town with its coffee shops, art galleries, guesthouses, and Sino-Portuguese mansions, the island offers endless opportunities for exploration and relaxation.
As the largest island in Thailand, Phuket doesn’t always feel like an island due to its connection to the mainland via the 700-meter Saphan Thepkasattri bridge, which was completed in 2011. The bridge runs parallel to the smaller Saphan Sarasin, built in 1967 as a replacement for the ferry service to the island and now serving as a pedestrian bridge.
Island Hopping: Explore More Tropical Paradises
While Phuket itself may lack the quintessential island atmosphere, it serves as a gateway to other breathtaking destinations, allowing you to embark on a memorable island-hopping adventure. Here are some popular options:
Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao: Lomprayah offers a combined bus and high-speed ferry service from Phuket to these picturesque islands of the Gulf. The journey takes approximately 6½ hours to Koh Samui, 7½ hours to Koh Phangan, and 8¾ hours to Koh Tao.
Koh Phi-Phi: During the peak season, five to six ferries operate daily between Phuket and the pristine island of Phi Phi. While it has become more developed, the natural beauty of the island remains breathtaking.
Koh Lanta, the Trang Islands, and Koh Lipe: Ferries traveling from Phuket to Koh Lanta, the Trang islands, and Koh Lipe typically pass through Koh Phi-Phi. This option requires changing boats, which can be a slightly nerve-wracking experience.
Alternative Destinations: Phang Nga and Khao Lak
If you seek a different experience away from the bustling tourist hubs, consider exploring Phang Nga province and the tranquil beaches of Khao Lak. Phang Nga offers lush jungles, impressive karst formations, and stunning islands with secret caves and pristine beaches. For a quieter beach experience, head to Khao Lak, which also serves as a great base for further inland explorations.
To reach Phang Nga Town or Khao Lak from Bangkok, you can take an overnight bus operated by Lignite Bus Company. These buses depart from the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, with options including Express, VIP, and VIP24 buses. Departure times are generally around 7 pm, and travel time to Phang Nga Town is approximately 10¼ hours. Ticket prices range from THB600 to THB970, depending on the bus type. Note that the 6:40 pm express bus travels directly to Phang Nga without stopping at Khao Lak. For Khao Lak, use the VIP and VIP24 buses departing at 7:05 pm. Alternatively, you can travel directly from Phuket Airport to Khao Lak via a PGS Toyota Camry service, which costs THB1920 for up to three passengers and takes approximately two hours.
Getting Around Phuket: Transportation Tips
In Phuket, taxis are known for their high fares, while public transportation is limited to large trucks that mainly operate between Phuket Town and the beaches. This arrangement can be inconvenient if you need to travel between different beaches, as you often have to pass through Phuket Town, resulting in lengthy journeys.
A popular and flexible mode of transportation in Phuket is renting a motorbike or scooter. Most rental shops require your passport as collateral until you return the vehicle. However, be cautious as some rental shops may insist on charging for alleged damages to their scooters. Before renting, carefully inspect the vehicle for any existing scratches and take photos as evidence. Daily rates for scooters range from approximately THB200 to THB300, and larger bikes are also available for rent.
For greater freedom and convenience, renting a car is an excellent option. You can usually find car rentals priced around THB1200 per day, with rates occasionally dropping below THB800 during the low season. Look for rental companies in Thanon Rasada. Local companies often offer better rates, but global operators occasionally provide online promotions when booking in advance.
Phuket invites you to immerse yourself in its beauty and indulge in a remarkable travel experience. Whether you choose to explore its captivating beaches, embark on an island-hopping adventure, or discover the hidden gems of nearby Phang Nga and Khao Lak, this tropical paradise promises unforgettable memories.
Fly, Bus, or Train? Choose Your Ideal Journey
If you’re planning a trip from the vibrant city of Bangkok to the stunning island of Phuket, you have several transportation options at your disposal. Whether you prefer the convenience of air travel, the scenic route of a bus journey, or the leisurely pace of a train ride, there’s a mode of transport to suit your preferences and budget.
Option 1: Fly from Bangkok to Phuket
Undoubtedly the easiest and quickest way to reach Phuket is by air. Multiple flights depart from both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, ensuring you have a plethora of choices. The flight duration is just under an hour and a half, making it a convenient option for travelers with time constraints. Additionally, with numerous flights available, you’ll have no trouble finding affordable air tickets, typically ranging from THB1000 to THB2000.
Option 2: Take a Bus from Bangkok to Phuket
For budget-conscious travelers seeking a direct connection between Bangkok and Phuket, the bus is a viable alternative. Departing from the Southern Bus Terminal, Sai Tai Mai, located in the Thonburi district on the western side of the Chao Phraya River, buses offer a cost-effective option. Companies like Phuket Travel and Bus Express operate along this route, providing both express buses and more luxurious VIP24 buses. Express buses generally cost around THB660 to THB690, while VIP24 buses offer enhanced comfort at a higher price of THB1000. VIP24 buses feature three seats per row, providing more legroom and space. All buses are equipped with amenities such as snacks, air-conditioning, and blankets. During the approximately 13-hour journey, buses make several pit stops at large gas stations offering convenience stores, cafes, and restroom facilities. Departure times vary, with early morning buses available at 6:30 am and 6:40 am, as well as numerous afternoon and evening departures from 2:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Keep in mind that booking tickets in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak season.
Option 3: Combine Train and Bus Travel
Although Phuket does not have a railway station, you can still incorporate train travel into your journey by taking a train to Suratthani, the nearest transfer point. Trains from Bangkok to Suratthani depart from Hua Lamphong train station, conveniently accessible via the MRT subway. The most convenient option is the night train #85, departing at 7:30 pm and arriving in Suratthani at 7:10 am. However, there are multiple other train options available to suit your schedule. Choose between the 1st or 2nd class sleeper cabins, both offering air-conditioning and a comfortable and private environment for an overnight journey. Prices typically range from THB1550 to THB1000, depending on the class.
Once you arrive at Suratthani train station, situated in the town of Phun Phin, approximately 15 km away, you can continue your journey to Phuket via bus. Regular buses depart for Suratthani and other southern destinations, including Phuket. You have the option to plan your own combination journey or purchase a joint train and bus ticket. If you opt for a joint ticket from Bangkok to Phuket, you can catch a standard air-conditioned Phantip Travel bus to Phuket at 7:45 am, with a travel time of approximately 4 hours and a fare of THB250.
While the train and bus combination takes longer, around 15½ hours compared to the direct bus journey, it offers a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for railway enthusiasts. Both 1st and 2nd class air-conditioned carts provide ample privacy, making the longer journey worthwhile.