Note that Phuket airport is going through a major upgrade and will be completed by 2016. Extensions look massive and hopefully will solve many of the current issues such as parking.
Arriving at Phuket Airport – Everyone knows that the most stressful time for any traveler resides between the leaving home and arriving in a (satisfactory) hotel room. Everything in between is just a long list of things to worry about: taxi, luggage, lost passport, how far is the gate, why is the queue so long, etc. We can’t predict everything, but at least we can give you few hints about Phuket International Airport.
Be ready to queue… immigration is a lucky draw, the queue you are about to pick will always be the wrong one anyway. But think about this: even if it goes faster than you expect, your luggage hasn’t arrived anyway! So take it easy, you’ll get through eventually.
Important point, there are 2 luggage claims: Domestic and International. If you did your immigration in Bangkok you will arrive at the Domestic terminal BUT your luggage are waiting in the International terminal. Since you are now aware of that fact, you will quickly spot the sign pointing to the right direction, and it’s only 10 meters away out the door.
You booked your transfer in advance of course? If not you have 5 options.
Best and maybe not as expensive as you think, several counters are located right outside the baggage claims. They might appear a bit pushy and look like touts, but they are not. It’s just competition: if they don’t convince you, the next counter will (or might). It cost a bit more than taxi meter, but it’s hassle free (well most of the time) and prices are clearly displayed (expect 400 to 600 Baht but you get a nice new Camry.)
Located far outside, turn to the right as soon as you step outside and walk all the way to the end of the building… it’s not really far. Make sure taxi turns on the meter! There is a surcharge of 100 Baht for Airport… I haven’t use it myself but I will. A reader reported a Phuket Airport-Kamala by Taxi meter cost 400 Baht while it would cost 600 to 700 by limo. There used to be another weird story when taxi would stop on their way at their office and a travel agent would come to the car, trying to convince you to change hotel for all kinds of silly reasons, the real one being their commission of course. (It happened to us too).
Seriously? Phuket Airport is on Mai Khao Beach, 30 to 40 km from your hotel and you just did few thousand miles.
Mini Bus Join-in:
Probably the best option if you are on budget. Mini buses can usually carry up to 10 people and costs around 200 baht per person. It might take a bit of time to fill-up the mini-van and if you are unlucky you will be the last to be dropped off.
Easy, they are just outside the domestic gate. If you arrived from international, turn right past the customs (before stepping outside) and walk all the way to the end, you’ll see the logos from far anyway. Better take an internationally known brand, and make sure you have your international license… later I’ll tell you how fun it is to drive in Phuket! Rates for a Honda Jazz or Honda city start at 1,000 baht/day with insurance. You can rent a GPS for 100 Baht/day.
There are several ATM past the customs, all from well known banks, so safe to use and exchange rate is good. (I don’t cover bad luck cases). – Hotel representatives are not allowed inside the Airport terminal so if you booked a transfer with your hotel, go straight outside and find your name. – Once you picked up your luggage, there is STILL one duty-free shop! Your last chance to pick a bottle of something…
There are two terminals, but the entrance is the same. Good Tip: if someone drops you, taxi or friend, at the departure terminal and you see a big queue outside the door waiting at the scanner (happens a lot if you leave at the same time as a big charter), ask your driver to drive DOWN at the ARRIVAL door… there is usually nobody there! Once in, walk either right or left to one of the elevators to reach the second floor. Then send me a thank you mail once home.
In the terminal, there is not much excitement here, especially since you are leaving. Proceeding to the check in counters is simple but time varies, like anywhere else. If you have time to waste there are several restaurants or pubs. Bill Bentley is cool, and Thai Airways restaurant on third floor is comfortable and food is pretty good, but I wouldn’t recommend it if your time is short… service can be slow, as well as the bill. I always thought if someone should understand he words ‘speed’, or ‘fast’ or ‘I’m in a rush but I’m hungry’ that would be the Airport staff… wrong guess.
Then you also can pick between local counters, Subway or Burger King (often crowded). If you pass immigration and move inside international lounge, you’ll find… oh, surprise: Another Burger King! There is so far only one Duty Free shop for perfumes, alcohol and cigarettes, but you can still find few interesting deals.
If you plan to leave your car for a domestic flight somewhere, it costs 200 baht per day and finding a parking spot can be stressful at certain hours, so allow extra time. Reaching the airport at the end of the afternoon as well… traffic is very unpredictable.
to Patong: 37.7 km, 53 mins
to Kata : 47.4 km, 1 hour
to Karon : 43.4 km, 1 hour
to Panwa : 43.9 km, 1 hour
to Bangtao : 21 km, 29 mn
to Phuket Town : 32.8 km, 40mins
to Rawai : 48 km, 58 mins
to Chalong : 40 km, 50 mins
to Kamala : 27.6 km, 36 mins
to Surin : 23.3 km, 29 mins
to Mai Khao : 8 km, 18 mins