Your Phuket Airport Survival Guide

Congratulations, you’re arriving at Phuket Airport! It means the start of an awesome trip. We’re here to give you the lowdown on everything you need to know for a smooth and stress-free transit through the airport. It’s located a fair way north of Patong Beach, so you’re going to need to know the best way to travel to get your holiday going as quickly as possible. Read on for the full guide to this gateway to paradise. 

Check Your Terminal

You’ve landed! Welcome to Phuket, the pearl of the Thai coastline. The first thing you need to do is work out which terminal you’re at, but this is a pretty straightforward task. Did you fly from somewhere else in Thailand? Then you’re at the domestic terminal. Have you come from abroad? Then you’re at the international terminal. Simple!

The terminal that you’re in will determine the amenities on offer inside, so once you know where you are, read on.

Prepare Your Paperwork

If you’re at the international terminal then your first task will be to clear immigration. Unfortunately, Phuket Airport has a reputation for long queues, but you can hustle things along by having your landing cards and paperwork filled out in advance. Lend pens to other travelers! Help people navigate the building! You’re all in this together and the better prepared the whole plane-load of travelers are, the smoother the whole thing will go.

Do You Need a Visa for Thailand?

If you’re at the international terminal then a big consideration will be your visa. If you’re coming for a while and need a specialist visa then you’ll (hopefully!) have sorted it in advance; otherwise you should check what paperwork you need to get into the country.

The citizens of many western countries don’t need a visa if they’re visiting for fewer than 30 days, which is a great (and free) result! This handy phenomenon is known as the Thai visa exemption and it’s glorious for backpackers. If you do need a visa then you might be able to get an e-visa on arrival, but be sure to do some internet research to see if this applies to you. When you get to Phuket Airport, make sure you join the correct queue for your situation. Don’t worry if the queue moves slowly, the pace of life can be different here, relax and embrace it!

Spend More on Beer and Parties: The Cheapest Thai Visa Runs

Amenities at Phuket Airport

Once you’ve cleared immigration and got your visa sorted, next up is grabbing your luggage. There are five carousels in the international terminal but it will be pretty obvious where your bags are appearing; read the signs or follow the crowds! Signage is in both Thai and English so you shouldn’t go far wrong.

After the baggage hall come the custom counters. Don’t try and bring in any restricted items, including anything featuring an image of Buddha. Stick to the rules and this part shouldn’t be a problem. Then it’s out into the arrivals hall for money changers, ATMs and counters selling local SIM cards. It can be a good idea to grab a SIM card here if you’re arriving late or at a weekend, as you may have to travel into Phuket Town to grab one otherwise.

Transport at Phuket Airport

Now we’re into the important bit- how to get away from the airport and onto the beach! The journey time from the airport to Patong can be around 45 minutes in a private vehicle but quite literally hours in the ‘Smart Bus’, so choose wisely!

Meter Taxis

The brightly painted meter taxis are many travelers’ first choice of transport at Phuket Airport. To find them you’ll need to leave the terminal buildings, as the desks in the arrivals hall that say ‘taxi’ are actually selling more expensive limousine services! The taxi drivers hang around outside and should always do the trip on the meter which means the costs are pretty predictable.

Prepare to pay around 900 baht ($30) to reach Phuket Town, 1,000 baht ($33) to reach Patong Beach and 1,200 baht ($40) to reach Kata or Karon Beaches.  

Grab Taxis

If you’ve traveled elsewhere in South East Asia then you’ve probably jumped in a Grab Taxi at some point. Maybe you’ve even been on the back of a Grab Bike! The problem in Phuket is that the Grab Taxis here are expensive. Like, quite a lot more expensive than in either Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Is that logical? No, but it’s true. Make sure you check the quoted price carefully before you commit to jumping into a Grab at Phuket Airport!

Airport Limousine

If you’re feeling flush and time is of the essence then consider an airport limousine transfer. It’s best not to get too excited about the ‘limousine’ element as we’re not talking stretch luxury here, but rather an executive saloon car with air conditioning. The important point is that it’s a private transfer in a clean, cool car which will take you straight to your hotel. 

Whether you think the service is worth the cost or not depends on how much you don’t like the other modes of transport on offer!

The ‘Smart Bus’

Next we come to the cheapest but least time-efficient mode of transport at Phuket Airport. The Smart Bus looks like a great deal at only 90 baht ($3) to Phuket Town or 200 baht ($6.50) to Karon Beach, but what price your sanity?! These public buses rumble slowly down the highway, calling in at every beach and winding down every road. 

Last time we took the bus from Patong to the airport, it took 2.5 hours at night with no traffic. Bear in mind that a weekday rush hour will delay it even more! Our advice is to think carefully before rounding off a lengthy plane journey with a trip on the Smart Bus. 


If the bus sounds like a mission too far then the public minibuses are a pretty good choice. Yes, you’re sharing the ride with other members of the public, but the minibuses go directly from the airport to their destination without making multiple detours en route, and they’re well versed on slinging all the luggage on the roof so it doesn’t get too cramped inside. Just be wary of letting the drivers do this in the rainy season if you want to get your bags back dry, as the rains can come with little warning!

The minivans will do drop-offs direct to the hotels around your destination, which is brilliant if you’re the first one out although frustrating if you’re the last! The drivers should all know where our awesome Bodega locations are so you can arrive stress-free and ready for happy hour. The fare is around 150 baht ($5) from Phuket Airport to Patong Beach. 

Now That You Know, You Need To Go

Phuket Airport isn’t big but it’s got all the essentials nailed. As long as you’ve got your visa sorted and either a bit of cash or a bank card that works, you should have no problem sailing through the terminal buildings and onto the transport outside. Now you’ve got all the lowdown, the only thing left is to get your ass to Thailand!

Patong Beach Guide: Phuket’s Hedonistic Playground