Love it or hate it: the Pearl of the Andaman is too developed, too commercialized, too trendy and, well, sometimes – too expensive. Yet its sandy beaches, fashionable spas, outstanding diving sites and high-class dining venues continue to lure hordes of tourists from literally every corner of the world. There are endless opportunities for going on an adventure – from snorkelling or surfing to yachting and kayaking, and if you wish to taste the real cosmopolitan flavour of the island, spend a bit of time exploring streets of Phuket Town clogged with coffee shops and art galleries, hip affordable guesthouses and stately Sino-Portuguese mansions. Be ready to pay more for food, lodging and transport than in any other Thai resort city or island, relax and just enjoy your experience.
From Koh Phangan to Phuket
To get to Phuket from Koh Phangan as quick as possible and with minimum of headache, buy a combination ferry+bus ticket. You can as well first get to the mainland (Suratthani or Chumphon) by ferry and then take any of a great number of buses heading to Phuket. It is not going to cost much cheaper but gives you more flexibility.
From Koh Phangan to Phuket by a combination ferry+bus ticket
There is a hassle-free option for getting from Koh Phangan to Phuket offered by Lomrayah. You have to board the company’s ferry at Thong Sala on Koh Phangan and then change it for a bus in Suratthani. The bus brings you directly to Phuket Lomprayah office in Bangkok Road in Phuket Town. There are two departures a day from Koh Phangan, at 7.20am and at midday; with either of them you are going to reach Phuket in about eight hours. Tickets cost THB1000. Buy your ticket at least two days in advance and arrive to the pier not later than half an hour before the departure.
From Koh Phangan to Phuket by separate ferry and bus tickets via Suratthani
It makes sense to consider this option if by some reason you want to leave Koh Phangan between Lomprayah’s departures mentioned above or if you are late for their midday ferry: you still have a chance to hop onto afternoon 2.30pm ferry.
Note that tickets offered by 12go include transfer from the pier to Suratthani town, Suratthani train station or Suratthani airport: double-check your drop-off point before buying your ticket (THB650-THB800).
There is an abundance of buses from Suratthani to Phuket leaving from Suratthani bus station, Suratthani train station or from the airport all day long, so it is not a problem to get a seat (from THB250; 4–5 hours). Check Phantip Travel or order a private transfer with Phantip Charter (all inclusive rates start from THB4700 for a Toyota Commuter accommodating up to 9 passengers). While buses from Suratthani arrive to the main bus terminal in Phuket (Bo-Ko-So), chartered vehicles drop you off at a chosen beach, hotel or any other location on the island.
If you choose to get from Koh Phangan to Phuket by separate ferry and bus rides, you will pay more or less the same as with a combination ticket, but will definitely spend more time. Taking a taxi is obviously a more expensive way to travel.
From Koh Phangan to Phuket via Koh Samui
A less obvious option for reaching Phuket from Koh Phangan is to get to Koh Samui first and then buy a combination ticket from Koh Samui to Phuket. The only reason to do it is if you want to save some baht in your pocket.
Tip: If you are planning to go to Phuket after visiting all the three islands of the Gulf, leave Koh Samui for last and start your journey to the Andaman Sea from there.
Lomprayah sells ferry+bus tickets from Koh Samui to Phuket at THB750 with two departures a day from Na Thon pier (8am and 12.45pm; 7 hours). Phantip Travel offers even more economical deals at THB450. The company uses slower and cheaper ferries to get from Koh Samui to the mainland, but total travel time in only one hour more compared to what Lomprayah provides. There are also two departures a day, both in the morning: at 7.30am and 9.30am.
Note that travel time between Koh Phangan and Koh Samui depends on the operator. Lomprayah is the fastest one (20 minutes, THB300); Seatran Discovery takes about 30 minutes, Songserm and Haad Rin Queen – 40-50 minutes. Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery are the most expensive operators, as well; but cheaper Songserm and Haad Rin Queen arrive to Samui after the bargain Phantip Travel takes all their passengers on board.
Tip: You can get to Koh Samui by the first ferry of Lomprayah at 7.20am and then get a combination ticket with Phantip Travel (THB300+THB450) for their 9.30am departure.
Which beach on Phuket
With the military putsch of 2014 great changes came for Phuket beaches. Sun loungers and umbrellas were prohibited, and quite a considerable number of bars, restaurants and other venues which were found encroaching on public beaches, had been literally levelled to ground. Though the declared aim of this holy war was to return the island its natural beauty, the results are considered by many quite controversial. A new zoning has been introduced, where some commercial activity, as well as rental umbrellas and mats are now permitted. Well, yes, you have to admit that the beaches do look nicer, but hey, the chances to hide from that scorching sun while enjoying your beach holiday by the seaside are nearly non-existent.
Here is a list of some of Phuket beaches to start your explorations with.
Beautiful but seedy Patong beach is a solid proof of the burden which package tourism is.
Kata with its bustling restaurants and cafes welcomes tourists of all ages and tastes.
Add a touch of glamour to Kata – that is what Karon beach is about.
Long sweeping Kamala retains its small-town charm, but rapidly developing resorts will most probably wipe it out very soon.
Stylish and stunning, Surin beach inspires. 5 stars, no less.
Tip: Red flags on Phuket beaches are not decorations – do not disregard their warning. There are yearly drownings on Phuket – both due to high waves, which often come during May–October monsoon period, and to the treacherous rip currents. The best strategy is to stay out of the sea: use your hotel pool instead. If you do venture into the sea and get caught by a rip current, do not panic and do not struggle with the current. Let it carry you away from the shore instead. When the rip current weakens (normally no more that 300m from the shore, often less), get out of the stream and head back.
Many of the Thai beaches are notorious for the jet ski scams with jet ski operators demanding considerable amounts of money from tourists for ‘damaged’ jet skis. The authorities declare that now the situation is under control, but it is still better to think twice before renting. Watch out for the jet skis while swimming, too.