Travel to Phuket can be accomplished in several different ways. The most common and easy way is via airplane. The majority of international travelers arrive on the island via the Phuket International Airport, a modern and well-equipped facility located on the western coast, not far from Mai Khao Beach. There are also plans afoot to construct a New Phuket International Airport in Phang Nga district on the mainland, north of the island. Alas, it is not expected to reach completion until 2025.
Other than that, you can drive from the mainland or take a boat (speedboat/ferry) from a nearby island, for example, Koh Phangan, Koh Phi Phi, Samui, and Yao Yai. These services are fast and reliable and not particularly expensive. You can get a good idea of the cost and availability for each route via www.phuketferry.com. If you opt to drive, you will be looking at approximately 11.5 hours and 9 hours respectively from Bangkok and Hua Hin; and 13 hours to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Whether you reside at HOMA in Cherngtalay or the Old Town, your options for getting out’n’about on the island are more or less the same. From Phuket taxi/car rental to ride-sharing and shuttles, there are several different ways you can navigate the island with ease and comfort. We shall now look at each option in more detail:
Unlike in bigger Thai cities, if you just stand on the curb and wait for a taxi to pass by, you'll be sadly disappointed (and stood waiting a long time!). It's not easy to flag down a passing taxi as they don't roam the island looking for passengers. You are much better off calling the island's main taxi companies and asking them to come to pick you up.
Once the taxi arrives, you'll find the service very much like in any other country. Simply tell the driver where you want to go (most speak good English) and check to make sure they turn on the meter before you embark. However, do note that some private taxis will not use the meter and insist on a flat-fee. You'll need to agree on this rate, with little or no wiggle room, before you head off. This is particularly true with travel to/from Phuket International Airport, expect to pay a hefty fixed price and often an extra THB 100 surcharge as well.
If you plan to stay in Phuket for a while, be it a few weeks or months, you may want to consider getting a more permanent transportation solution. Particularly if you plan to spend your free time exploring the island. You will discover that hiring a car or moto is a very cost-effective way to get about, particularly when compared to public transportation, like tuk-tuks and taxis. If hiring a car and driver are beyond your budget, you can get your own car or motorbike instead.
Renting a car in Phuket is one of the best ways to get around at a low cost. Keep in mind that driving in Phuket comes with a few risks and dangers. You will find car rental places dotted across the island – both local and international brands. Only beware of the former, they are well-known to scam renters with high prices to repair real or fictitious scratches! You'll be looking at anywhere from THB 600 - 2,000 / day depending on the make and model of vehicle you want. The good news is that petrol is cheap. As local drivers are somewhat erratic and road rules are not always followed, we recommend you get full insurance. At most dealers, you'll need an international driving license, credit card, passport, and deposit to hire a car.
Your other option is to rent a motorbike, known as a 'moto'. Small, Vespa-like motorbikes are available everywhere on the island and only a passport copy and a few thousand baht are required to hire them. You can hire a bike for as little as THB 150/day; or even as low as THB 100/day if you take it for a whole month. Be mindful that small shops won't include any insurance and you'll pay a hefty amount for repairs, should you have an accident. Also keep in mind that motorcycle accidents in Phuket, and the whole of Thailand, are the leading cause of death on the road. If you are not already a competent rider, we don't recommend you learn on Phuket's wild roads.
Phuket's ubiquitous tuk-tuks are not like the iconic three-wheeler ones you've no doubt seen in Bangkok. Rather they are modified mini trucks. They’re easily spotted because of their bright red or yellow paintwork. Many also come equipped with disco lights and sound systems, turning the average commute into a disco-karaoke session! Over the years these rides have gained an unsavory reputation for overcharging. But, despite their shortcomings, they are still considered one of the most convenient forms of transport on the island for short distances.
Unlike taxis, they are not hard to find. Groups of them wait outside the island's major attractions, shopping malls, beaches, and hotels all day and night. The rub comes when you come to pay. They will charge as much as THB 300 for a short trip (10 minutes), which is roughly double that of a metered taxi. All you can do is state your destination and then haggle in a good-natured way. Just make sure you're clear on whether the price is per person or per couple/group.
Something few visitors to the island have heard about is the local "Smart Bus" services. It's a convenient and cost-effective (from THB 50 to THB 170, depending on the duration of your ride. And free for children under seven.) way to get about the island. The only downside is that the service is slow. But for those of you on and budget and not pushed for time, it's a good option.
As of now, the bus goes all the way from Phuket International Airport to Rawai Beach. It stops at 12 popular destinations along the way, such as Bangtao Beach, Surin Beach, Kamala Beach, Patong Beach, Karon and Kata beaches, and finally Rawai in the deep south. Some key places that the bus stops at are Boat Avenue (very close to HOMA), Jungceylon Shopping Mall, Patong (aka Bangla Road), Kamala Big C, Kata Night Plaza, Phuket Fantasea, Karon Circle, Club Med, and Rawai Pier.
Like with Lyft and Uber, Grab is a free mobile app that enables you to book a taxi, showing you up-front the exact fee from any pick-up to the drop-off point. While similar apps operate in other Thai cities, Grab is the only one available in Phuket. Having Grab as an option is great because it means you won't need to rely on over-priced taxis and tuk-tuks to get around. Using Grab is easy, all you need is a smartphone and internet connection.
There are three classes of vehicle - with varying degrees of service, comfort, and capacity - available via Grab: regular metered taxis, saloon car limousines, and SUVs. Although there are only about thirty of each car type operating on the island, they are often found in or around Phuket Town and Cherngtalay., so you should not have any trouble booking one.
HOMA will also offer a free shuttle service for residents. This convenient transportation option will run between each residence and key destinations on the island and local points of interest (i.e., supermarkets, shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, markets, and so forth).We hope you’ve found this Phuket transportation guide useful and will put it to good use. Enjoy your stay on the island!