What’s the Best way to Travel from Bangkok to Phuket?
Deciding where to go in Thailand isn’t an easy decision. But for first timers, Phuket is an obvious choice. Phuket is located around 800km southwest of Bangkok but was the first location in Thailand to cater to large numbers of visitors. It has been thriving since the mid 1970s. Phuket is now the wealthiest province in Thailand and is visited by millions of tourists, foreign and domestic alike, each year.
It’s the ideal combination of palm fringed beaches (Patong Beach, Kata, Karon and Kamala have always been the most popular); a huge choice of shopping; great nightlife and accommodation to suit every pocket. Plus it has a very interesting old town area and is also the gateway to nearby islands such as Koh Phi-phi.
There really is something for everyone from backpackers to millionaires.
But having decided to spend some time in Phuket the next decision will be how to get there. There are direct international flights into Phuket Airport but the majority of visitors will travel via Bangkok.
Although Phuket is an island it is connected to the mainland by two bridges. Sarasin Bridge is a footbridge and was the original bridge to the island. Adjacent is the far larger 600 metre long Thepkasattri Bridge which is used by all vehicles coming onto the island. There isn’t a railway to the island. So travelling to Phuket by train requires taking a train and also a bus.
This means that there are four ways that visitors can travel to Phuket from Bangkok:
1. Fly from Bangkok to Phuket
2. Bus from Bangkok to Phuket
3. Train and Bus from Bangkok to Phuket
4. Drive by car from Bangkok to Phuket
And for anyone wondering . . . Taking a boat from Bangkok to Phuket isn’t possible.
I know you may have seen the guys in ‘Hangover 2’ movie do this trip by speedboat. But in reality, as Phuket is located on the western coast of Thailand, getting there by boat would entail going via Singapore. A journey of around 2,500km. :-)
I’ll go through each of the options above and that will hopefully make your decision about how to get from Bangkok to Phuket easier.
Keep your main goal in mind when choosing the best one for you. Do you want the fastest? The cheapest? The best views? To explore other areas along the way?
Let’s take a look at the options . . .
How to Get from Bangkok to Phuket by Plane
Due to the distance from Bangkok to Phuket (around 850km / 530 miles) many visitors will opt to fly. It’s a very long journey to take overland.
Flying is the most obvious and also by far the quickest way to get from Bangkok to Phuket. And due to the popularity of the route, prices are also very reasonable. It’s not the cheapest way to get to Phuket but is the best value for money. Best of all, if you take a morning flight you’ll be at your resort in Phuket in plenty of time to have lunch by the pool.
There are around 50 daily flights from Bangkok to Phuket International Airport. Passengers can choose to fly from either Suvarnabhumi Airport or Don Meuang Airport. Flights depart several times an house from around 6am until 11pm. Flying time is around 1 hour 20 minutes. One way ticket prices are from as low as 600 Baht ($20)
Seven airlines have scheduled flights from Bangkok to Phuket. Thai Vietjet Air, Thai Smile, Thai Airways, and Bangkok Airways all fly from Suvarnabhumi Airport. AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air fly from Don Meuang Airport.
Flights from Don Meuang tend to be a bit cheaper than those from Suvarnabhumi. But on the flipside, Suvarnabhumi is a much nicer airport to fly from. It’s also easier to get to, being accessible by train from central Bangkok or taxi.
But the best thing about having a wide choice of airlines and flights is that you can shop around for the best deals. Ticket prices can vary a lot and as a rule you will save money by travelling during the middle of the week. If possible also avoid the early morning and late afternoon/ early evening flights. As these are also a bit more expensive. And of course during public holidays all flights will be packed and prices higher.
Check prices for Bangkok to Phuket flights from Don Meuang and Suvarnabhumi.
You’ll land at Phuket International Airport which is located in the north of the island, around 30 – 40km from the main beach areas. Depending on where you’re heading in Phuket there are several options for getting from the airport to your hotel. These include bus, minibus and taxi services.
But note that the airport taxis are expensive. They cost far more than Bangkok taxis. A taxi from the Phuket airport to your hotel on Patong beach can cost more than your ticket from Bangkok to Phuket.
Minibus services run from Phuket airport to hotels on Patong, Karon and Kata beaches. The fare is 180 – 200 Baht /person. The ticket counters are in the arrivals area.
There is also a ‘Smart Bus’ service which runs between the airport in the north of the island and Rawai beach in the south. Buses depart at frequent intervals between 06:00 and 21:00. It makes a stop at the main west coast beaches. But doesn’t drop off at hotels. Ticket price is from 50 to 180 Baht/person. In addition, there is a public bus service between Phuket airport and Phuket Town for 100 Baht / person.
How to Get from Bangkok to Phuket by Bus
Travelling by bus from Bangkok to Phuket is the most affordable option. But there are some obvious drawbacks.
It’s over 850km from Bangkok to Phuket. That’s a very long way to drive. You can expect to have a minimum of 11 hours aboard the bus. And if you are on one of the Second Class buses then this will be nearer 14 or 15 hours. As it will do various detours and will make a huge number of stops on the journey.
The 24 seat VIP buses are very comfortable though. They have large reclining seats and drinks and snacks are served onboard. But, as the price is very similar to flying. If you are taking an overnight bus then it will save you the price of accommodation. But of course, that depends on how well you can sleep on buses. Aside from that there’s no real reason to take a bus unless you have a lot of luggage or a fear of flying.
Buses depart from both Morchit and Sai Tai Mai Bus Stations in Bangkok. Taking a bus from Sai Tai Mai, also known as the Southern Bus Station, will save an hour of travelling time and there are also far more departures from this bus station.
Finally, if you are staying around the Khao San Road area you will notice a lot of tour agents selling Bangkok to Phuket bus tickets. The cheapest tickets will be in very old buses that will be timetabled to do the trip in a reasonable time but will in fact take far longer. You might save a couple of hundred Baht but will most likely have an awful journey.
Or the service consists of a minibus picking you up and taking you to Sai Tai Mai Bus Station where you will be put on a regular bus. Either way, taking one of the licensed public buses from a bus station is the best and safest option.
Bus Timetables from Bangkok to Phuket
Departures from Sai Tai Mai (Southern) Bus Terminal
|First Class VIP Bus||07.30, 17.30, 18.00, 18.30, 19.00||1058 Baht|
|Standard B Class Bus||19.45||660 Baht|
|Standard C Class Bus||18.30||543 Baht|
|Second Class Bus||05.00, 07.00, 09.30, 14.00, 16.00, 17.30, 20.30, 21.30||529 Baht|
Check ticket prices and bus timetables . . .
How to Get from Bangkok to Phuket by Train and Bus
Another option is to take the train part of the way from Bangkok to Phuket. Phuket doesn’t have a railway station so the journey comprises taking a train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, then a bus from Surat Thani to Phuket.
Trains to Surat Thani depart from Hualamphong Station in central Bangkok. This is easily accessible by taxi or MRT (subway). The train journey will take around 11 – 12 hours.
From Surat Thani Train Station, take a bus to Phuket. There is a daily service at 8am. This takes around 6 hours to Phuket bus station.
The main downside is obvious. It takes a long time. You will leave Bangkok in the evening and eventually get to Phuket mid afternoon the next day. It is best to take the overnight train to save money on a night’s accommodation and also to connect to the bus service from Surat Thani to Phuket. As the journey is overnight, you won’t see any sights or views on the way.
So only recommended if you want to save a night’s accommodation and don’t fancy doing the entire trip by bus.
Train Timetable from Bangkok to Surat Thani
The ticket prices for the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani are 578 Baht for a Second Class air-conditioned seat. 1,008 Baht for a Second Class Sleeper berth and 1,579 Baht for a First Class sleeper berth.
There are several trains a day but if you want to connect to the 08:00 daily bus direct from Surat Thani Railway Station to Phuket then you should take one of these trains:
|Sleeper Train||Bangkok||Surat Thani|
Then take the 08:00 bus, operated by Phantip travel, from Surat Thani train station to Phuket. Ticket price is 550 Baht per person. You should arrive in Phuket around 14:00 – 14:30. Tickets for this bus and also private transfers by taxi or minibus, can be booked here .
How to Drive from Bangkok to Phuket
Actually driving is a good way to get from Bangkok to Koh Chang. I drive all the time in Thailand and have driven the length and breadth of the country. Once you are out of the cities the roads are wide and, assuming you avoid holiday periods, there won’t be much traffic.
It is possible to drive from Bangkok to Phuket in a day. You’d need to leave Bangkok early morning and you’d get to Phuket early evening.
Once you are out of Bangkok city centre it’s just a matter of following the main highway, Routes 4 & 41, all the way south to the turning for Phuket. Then just follow the signs for Phuket. All road signs are in Thai and English, and Googlemaps works very well here. Figure on around 10 hours in total for the drive, including time for lunch and a couple of coffee breaks on the way.
Car hire in Thailand is from under 1,000 Baht / day. All the well known, international car hire companies have offices in Bangkok and Phuket.
But note that I don’t recommend driving at night in Thailand. Roads are often badly lit, trucks’ rear lights can be obscured by dirt, many scooters also have rear lights that don’t work, cyclists rarely have any lights at all and to top it off, lots of people drink and drive.
A more enjoyable, and less tiring, way to drive from Bangkok to Phuket would be to break it down into two or three days. Not many people have touring holidays in Thailand but it’s a great way to see the country and you’ll be able to get to places that most visitors don’t go to.
So I’d recommend driving from Bangkok to Phuket, but only if you wanted to have a driving holiday and spend a couple of weeks exploring the south of Thailand by car.
The Best Way is . . .
If you are on a tight budget and time isn’t a factor, the taking the bus will be the best way to get from Bangkok to Phuket for you. Plus, if you take an overnight bus you’ll also save the cost of a night’s accommodation.
The train isn’t ideal as you still have a long bus journey to get from the nearest station in Surat Thani to Phuket. Overall, it takes the same time and often longer than the bus. So travelling by train to Phuket is only really recommended for people who love rail travel.
Driving from Bangkok to Phuket is a great way to experience the country. But only if you are planning a touring holiday which includes a stop in Phuket, as well as taking in other destinations in the south. Not recommended simply as a means of getting from A to B.
This leaves flying as the best way to get from Bangkok to Phuket.
It’s obviously the quickest way to travel to Phuket from Bangkok. It’s not the cheapest but ticket prices are around the same or just a little more than a first class bus. Plus there’s an excellent choice of flights and airlines. This means prices are competitive and outside peak travel times there are bargains to be had year round.
The only real downsides are that the luggage allowance on domestic flights is lower than on international flights. Especially on budget carriers. So be prepared to travel light or pay for the extra weight. And that airport taxis on Phuket are notoriously expensive compared to those in Bangkok.