From Chiang Mai to Phuket
Phuket is Thailand's largest island and as such it attracts thousands of visitors every year. There is so much to see and do in Phuket – no matter what your budget or preferred style of travel is, Phuket has something to offer.
To travel between Chiang Mai and Phuket you have three main options: you can fly – direct or via Bangkok, take a bus or use a combination of a bus and a
Flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket
The most direct option is to fly. There are 6 daily direct flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket. Air Asia have 3 daily flights – at 11.35am arriving at 1.35pm, at 1.10pm (3.15pm) and at 10.45pm (12.50am). If booking in advance tickets normally cost between THB1,200 and THB2,000.
Bangkok Airways have one daily flight departing at 2.15pm arriving at 4.20pm. This is the first boutique airline in Thailand and it offers more expensive tickets –from THB2,500 if booked in advance. Thai Smile also have one daily service at 9.40am, arriving at 11.35am (from THB1,600). Thai Airlines have a service at 11.35am – expect to pay from THB4,000 and up.
There are numerous options involving a stopover in Bangkok. With over two dozens of daily flights from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and even more from Bangkok to Phuket you are never short of choice. There are many options available starting from THB1,350 for one leg. The journey time is between four and eight hours, depending on the connection in Bangkok.
Note When planning connection flights between Chiang Mai and Phuket, take a note of the airport you are going to land in and take of in Bangkok. Air Asia, Thai Smile, Lion Air and Nok Air use Don Mueang airport while Bangkok Airways, Thai Airlines and Thai Smile fly from Suvarnabhumi airport. It takes around one hour to travel between the two airports, but to be on the safe side do plan your connection within one and the same airport.
From Chiang Mai to Phuket by bus
If you prefer to take in the sights and sounds of Thailand and perhaps visit a few destination along the way, you can travel from Chiang Mai to Phuket overland. There are a number of options involving buses, trains or a combination of both.
If you want to take a bus you can travel directly from Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station to Phuket Bus Station in Phuket Town. The service is operated by Green Bus. All buses are luxury VIP24 services with three seats per row instead of usual 4 and buses accommodate 24 passengers only. This is a long 24-hour journey with several stops along the way though not as bad as it can sound. The seats recline almost to horizontal position and each passenger has airline style entertainment system. Tickets cost THB1,600. Buses depart Chiang Mai daily at 12.30pm arriving to Phuket the next day at 12 noon.
If twenty-four hours on a bus still feels a little too much for you, you can split your journey into two parts in Bangkok. There are regular VIP night buses leaving Chiang Mai from 5 pm till late each day. Tickets prices are between THB550 and THB750 depending on the class of the bus – here are ordinary night buses through to luxury VIP24 services with personal entertainment systems. All buses arrive to Bangkok Morchit Bus Terminal and the journey takes between 10 and 12hours.
The majority of buses to Phuket depart from Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus terminal in Bangkok, though there are few services from Morchit Bus Terminal, too. If you need to travel between Morchit and Sai Tai Mai you can use buses 28, 159, 170.
From Sai Tai Mai, there are at least a dozen of buses traveling to Phuket every day. The journey takes up to 13 hours. Again, you can choose between cheaper standard intercity buses and plush VIP24 buses with roomier seats and top-notch service.
There are several operators serving the route. From Sai Tai Mai, check Phuket Travel which have 4 daily services – express buses departing at 4.30pm and 7.30pm (THB600) plus VIP24 departing at 5.40pm and 7.30pm (THB1000).
Phuket Central Tours have 3 buses, a VIP32 service at 6.30pm (THB685) and two VIP24 services departing at 6.30pm and 7.50pm, tickets cost THB1000.
There are services from Khao San Road to Phuket, too, but they often receive contradictory reviews. There is a 6pm bus operated by Jolly Travel (THB900) which brings you to Phuket before 11pm the next day.
From Chiang Mai to Phuket by train and bus
It is not possible to complete the entire journey from Chiang Mai to Phuket by rail but you still can cover the major part of the distance by train – though you will have to change the trains in Bangkok.
First, you will need to travel to Bangkok. Trains for Bangkok depart Chiang Mai daily from 6.30am to 6pm. The journey time is between 12 and 14 hours. Air-conditioned sleeper berth tickets cost from THB800 and up. First class tickets are available starting at THB1,250. In Bangkok, trains arrive to Hua Lamphong train station.
Note Do book train tickets in advance if travelling during the high season or if you need lower berths – which are usually wider than the upper ones and thus come recommended.
From Hua Lamphong train station you will need to take the Surat Thani bound train. There are over 10 daily trains in the southern direction and the journey time is 10-12 hours. Trains depart at 8.05am, 1pm, 2.45pm, 3.10pm, 3.35pm, 5.05pm, 5.35pm, 18.30pm, 19.30pm and 22.50pm. Tickets cost from THB500 and up depending on the type of the seat/berth.
The Surat Thani train station is located 15km out of the city in the town of Phun Phin. There are orange buses that will take you to the Surat Thani bus station for THB15 or you can pay THB200 for a taxi. If you take the orange bus it will stop at Talad Kaset 1. This is the bus station for local buses. On the opposite side of the road, you will find Talad Kaset 2. This is where you can get the bus to Phuket.
Tip There are bus and minivan services for Phuket from Surat Thani train station – you actually do not need to head to the town proper to continue your journey to Phuket. Tickets cost between THB200 and THB300.
Minivans for Phuket from Talad Kaset 2 leave every hour from 8.00am until 6.00pm. The journey time is 3 to 4 hours, tickets cost THB200.
Onward travel from Phuket
From Phuket, the world is your oyster. You can easily enjoy a little island hopping before heading back to the mainland.
Koh Phi Phi can be reached by ferry. This pleasant journey takes between 2 and 3 hours with ferries departing from Rassada Pier and traveling to Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi. Departure times are 8.30am, 11.00am, 12.20pm, 1.30pm and 3.00pm. Tickets cost around THB360. There are also ferries traveling to Laemtong Bay, departure times are 8.30am and 1.30pm. Tickets cost THB400.
There are daily ferries to Koh Lanta, departing at 8.30am and 1.30pm. Tickets cost between THB600 and THB760. The journey times are between 3 and 4 hours.
You can also reach Koh Samui via a combination bus+ferry trip – check Lomprayah or Phantip 1970 offers. Ticket prices vary greatly between THB500 and THB1300. Koh Phangan is also services daily by Lomprayah departing at 10.00am and arriving 5.30pm. Tickets cost THB1400.
There are 2 ferries each day to Ao Nang, Krabi. Both depart at 10.30am. The faster one costs THB1000 and takes 4 hours. The slower and larger ferry costs THB700 and take 8.5 hours. An easier and cheaper way to get to Ao Nang via Krabi is by bus.
Note You will find many tour operators and hotel offering onward travel from Phuket. Prices do vary and many will include transfer from your hotel to the ferry port. You can also expect some price changes during the peak season.
Phuket airport also offers many travel option to destinations in Thailand and beyond. There are 5 daily flights to Koh Samui operated by Bangkok Airways. The flight time is 55 minutes and flights depart at 9.35am 11.25am, 1.00pm, 4.00pm and 8.50pm. Tickets start at THB3,400.
There are two daily flights to Pattaya departing at 12.50pm and 3.10pm. Tickets start at THB1,500 and the flight takes 1 hour and 35 minutes.
If you want to travel to Bangkok there are flights all throughout the day starting at THB1,000. The flight time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.
You can also reach the Isan city of Udon Thani allowing for easy onward travel to Laos. There is one flight each day with Air Asia departing at 15.45pm and arriving 17.40pm. Tickets cost THB2,380 and the Laos border can easily be reached in a minivan from the airport costing just THB250.
You can also travel internationally. There are 7 daily direct flights to Singapore starting at THB2000. One daily flight to Hong Kong with prices starting at THB2,700 and also indirect flights to Seul in South Korea with prices starting at THB6,600.