There are many ways to do the hugely popular 900km trip from Bangkok to Phuket and vice versa, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this post I will explain each of them in detail and give you hints and tips to keep in mind when you decide to go for one particular travel type.
Travel by Night Bus
Many backpackers choose this option and most of them book their ticket in the Khao San area or in Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok. This is not your cheapest option for a bus ride to Phuket however with prices at around 1,000 baht. If you decide to go to the bus terminal by yourself instead you will save the money that ticket agents get in form of commission in places like Khao San or the railway station.
Bangkok has three major bus terminals and the one that has buses to Phuket is the Southern Bus Terminal. To get there, you will have to take a taxi, with meter no more than 100 baht from Khao San Road, 130 baht from Sukhumvit area. There are night buses going down to Phuket until midnight. Of course you can also take a bus during day time but there is not really much to see on the way as you are driving straight down the highway (and not directly along the coast) and moreover you will save the cost for accommodation if you take the night bus. The ticket price is about 500 baht one way for an air conditioned bus with large seats (3 seats in one row); blanket, pillow and a snack are included. The trip takes about 12 hours.
Disadvantage: Spend one night in a bus
Travel by Airplane
A flight from Bangkok to Phuket is obviously your fastest and most convenient travel option, however it’s also the most expensive one. For cheap flights, Air Asia will normally be your choice. Sometimes Bangkok Airways also has promotion fares. Note: Many Budget Airlines like Air Asia no longer depart from Suvarnabhumi International Airport but from Don Muang International Airport north of Bangkok. You will have to take a taxi to get there (about 200 baht from Khao San, 160 baht from Sukhumvit). The flight takes about 1.5 hours. From Phuket Airport there is no public transport available to the beaches either so you will have to take a taxi which costs about 400 baht (to Phuket Town or Patong / Kata Beach).
Travel by Motorcycle
The cost of a rented motorbike is hard to tell, depending on the rental period and the type of bike you rent. Anything from 150 to 300 baht is possible. Of course you can also buy one, and then the price varies even more, from around 15,000 – 20,000 baht for a second hand bike to 30,000-50,000 baht for a new one. Petrol in Thailand is relatively cheap at around 40 baht per liter (December 2012).
If you decide to travel to Phuket by motorbike make sure that you always wear a helmet. Also, only do it if you are confident riding on the hectic roads of Thailand. As the distance with around 900km is quite long, you should break your trip at least into to parts, stopping overnight somewhere along the way, see below.
Advantage: Speed and Independence
Disadvantage: Certain risk of accident
Travel by Rental Car
This is maybe the hardest option to organize your Phuket trip, but it can be a lot of fun while actually traveling. Make sure you find a reliable rental place. That’s more easy in theory than it is in practice with far more motorbikes available for rent than cars for rent. So wherever you go, make sure to carefully read the rental contract (and that it’s written in English) and you got an insurance that covers most or all of the expenses in case of an accident – similar if you rent a motorcycle. Also check for damages and scratches before you rent the vehicle and make sure they are written down in the contract when you rent your car.
Again, as the distance with around 900km is quite long, you should break your trip at least into two parts, stopping overnight somewhere along the way, see below.
Advantage: Safety (statistically your safest travel option!)
Disadvantage: Finding a good deal (from experience the hardest to organize!)
Travel by Bicycle
If you feel fit and adventurous and have about 10 days time for your travel down to Phuket, you can definitely do that by bicycle. Again, you have the choice to either rent one for about 50 baht a day, buy one or bring your own from home. For the last option, obviously charges for excess baggage for your flight will apply, but you might feel more comfortable during this big trip riding on the wheels you are familiar with. You will stop at several more and less touristic places along the way but don’t worry, there are fine budget guest houses in virtually every town in Thailand that have English speaking staff. Thai people are extremely helpful, you will not get lost. Check the places below for the most popular destinations to stay along your way.
Advantage: Cheap and Adventurous
Disadvantage: Time Consuming
Note: It is not possible to go from Bangkok to Phuket by train, simply because there is no railway connected to Phuket. The closest you can get is Udon Thani (about 8 hours), from there you will have to take a bus or minivan (about 4-5 hours).
Places to stay on your Bangkok to Phuket trip:
- Cha Am
- Hua Hin
- Koh Samui
- Koh Pha Ngan
The first three towns are located on the beach, the nicest ones being Cha Am and Hua Hin, however they are just 3 hours from Bangkok. If you really want to split your trip in two halves, you might go for a night in Chumpon instead.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments. I have done the Bangkok – Phuket trip several times and can probably answer you any question you might have. If you have additional thoughts or know a different way on how to get down there, feel free to let me know too!