What to Expect on Arrival and Leaving Phuket Airport
Due to the evergrowing number of flights to Phuket, its international airport is going through a major revamp and enlargement that should be completed in 2015. Try to get a window seat if you are flying into Phuket International Airport - the sights are simply unforgettable. Aircraft flying in from the east follow an approach path that's smack-bang right over Phang Nga Bay and its graphic limestone karsts, isolated green islets and multihued fishing boats. At both high and low tide the bay is a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of colours and contours.
Even though Phuket airport ranks second in the country in terms of passenger and freight volume it is quite a modest affair and within minutes of landing you will be in the terminal. Only a few hundred metres to the west, the Andaman Sea laps up on Mai Khao Beach ('White Wood') and Nai Yang Beach.
During Phuket's high season (December - May), when several flights can land one after the other, queues for immigration can sometimes be a little trying and officials thin on the ground - so be prepared for a wait unless you're willing to elbow all and sundry aside to get to the head of the line (but then again you're probably the same guy who got the window seat).
On the positive side, Phuket airport's compactness means that it's just a short stroll from immigration and customs to the luggage carousel and the front door.
Getting to Your Hotel
A limousine service is also on hand, albeit a more expensive option (you can buy tickets for this service on the first floor of the terminal). The silver-grey vehicles are parked en masse directly opposite the terminal's main doors.
They have a reputation for driving very fast as the quicker they go the more fares they can make in one day. If your knuckles are white after the first few kilometers gently say, 'Cha cha, khrap' - which means 'go slow please'.
A well-signed taxi stand is located just outside, to the right of the main building. The taxis are red and yellow and are supposed to use their meters but you will probably have to insist that the driver turns his meter on instead of bargaining and haggling for a price.
The average fares from the airport are Phuket 400 baht, Patong 550 baht, Kata/Karon 650 baht. NB This charge is for the taxi, not per head. Please note that you will have to pay a fee of 100 baht on top of the taxi-meter fare. The trip will usually take approximately 30 minutes to Phuket, 40 minutes to Patong Beach, and around one hour to Kata Beach and Karon Beach.
There is an hourly and inexpensive bus service to Phuket Town from 06:30 to 21:30 but none to the west coast. You can buy tickets (90 baht in large buses and 100 baht in mini-buses) at a counter on the ground floor and the grey-orange-and-black buses marked AIRPORT BUS are to be found outside in the parking lot. This is not a non-stop, express service: buses halt along the way for passengers to embark/disembark. All airport buses go to Phuket Bus Terminal 1, off Phang Nga Road in Phuket Town). Read More...
Tickets for minivans are for sale at two counters on the ground floor (Phuket 100 baht, Patong 150 baht, Kata/Karon 180 baht). Minivans sometimes stop off at tour agencies where you will be asked to book a tour from which the driver makes a commission. Minivans take longer than a taxi to deliver you to your hotel as they drop off other passengers at hotels along the way.
There are four currency exchanges on the airport's ground floor (and one in the departure hall) but then again they are sometimes under siege by new-arrivals and do not offer the best rates. Better to use one of the airport's many ATM machines (there are seven in a row on the first floor) as the charge for a transaction is minimal. Make sure your card has a 'Cirrus' logo on the back - good for international transactions.
Duty Free On Arrival
Yes, go for it! Located just after immigration. A tip: wine is expensive in Thailand but local spirits are cheap so it makes sense to go for a litre bottle of red or white.
Disabled People's Facilities
Phuket Airport has lifts, toilets and telephones adapted to disabled persons' needs as well as designated parking spaces.
SIM Cards & Telephone Services
SIM cards are for sale at the airport's minimarts and if you go to the International Service Centre on the ground floor there is a kind lady who will set your mobile up for free. There are also mobile phones for rent (on the first floor) and enough payphones for an army of teenagers throughout the premise.
If you're desperate to send that email off there's an Internet service on the first floor with silly prices - 100 baht, or US$ 3 for up to 15 minutes.