The overland distance from Siem Reap to Phuket is 1230 km what means that even if you drive all way through from Siem Reap to Phuket without any stops it will take you 17 hours. Taking into account that there is no direct overland transport from Siem Reap to Phuket, you will have to make at least one connection in Bangkok resulting in at least a tiresome 24-hour journey. The only direct link between Siem Reap and Phuket is provided by AirAsia. Their daily flights cut your travel time to the beach to mere 1½ hour. Another great way to travel between the two destinations is to take a connecting flight via Bangkok what is easily done with a handful of daily flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok and almost two dozen flights from Bangkok to Phuket.
Flights from Siem Reap to Phuket
From November 2016, AirAsia operates one daily flight from Phuket to Siem Reap at 6.20am and one flight back to Phuket at 8.40am. Morning departures and flying time of one hour 25 minutes make these flights a great way to hop from ruins in Cambodia and the beach in Thailand and vice versa. Do not expect extra budget-friendly deals, though. During the high season especially tickets sell well in advance and if you wish to fly during the next couple of days, you may find that only USD200/THB7000 tickets are left. With some flexibility and if buying some two weeks or better one month in advance you may score a ticket for about USD80/THB2800.
If you have misses the reasonably priced tickets from Siem Reap to Phuket, do not despair. Connecting flights via Bangkok often offer a great value and with more flights to choose from you are more likely to grab a good deal. AirAsia flies from Siem Reap to Don Mueang airport in Bangkok three times a day and there are over half a dozen of code-sharing flights by different companies to Suvarnabhumi airport. Prices for AirAsia tickets start from about USD65/THB2300, not including checked luggage and check-in fees. It takes one hour to get to Bangkok from Siem Reap by air.
There is no much difference whether to fly to Don Mueang or to Suvarnabhumi, as there are numerous flights from the both Bangkok airports to Phuket throughout the day. From Don Mueang, Lion Air often offers the best deals, while AirAsia has great promotion prices but you should buy tickets well in advance then. From Suvarnabhumi, Thai Smile has the most competitive prices. Flying time from Bangkok to Phuket is one hour 25 minutes.
The international airport of Siem Reap is located 8.5 km northwest of the Old Market area. To get to the airport, take a tuk-tuk (USD5) or a taxi (USD7). Travelling without luggage you can also hop onto a motorbike taxi (USD2). The airport is the second largest in the country after the capital air haven of Phnom Penh but it has very limited facilities for its status.
Note that there is a departure tax for international and domestic flights levied on all the passengers at Siem Reap International airport. At the time of writing the international departure tax was already integrated into the ticket price (USD25) – opposite to domestic flights (USD12).
Phuket International Airport sits in the northern part of the island. It is the second largest airport in the country serving a variety of domestic and international destinations and as such can get really busy, especially during high season, when charter flights are added to the usual number of airlines flying to and from Phuket. Expect long queues at the immigration.
Fortunately, the days when the only way to get from Phuket airport to your destination around the island was to take a taxi at inflated rates (e.g. THB1000), are gone. Taxi rides are still much more expensive compared to those in Bangkok, but today you have several alternatives.
A THB100 municipal bus plies the route between the airport and the bus terminal in Phuket town (one hour) where you can take a local truck-like songthaew to your beach (THB50).
There is an airport shuttle bus, the most hated-by-taxi-drivers newcomer to Phuket transport system. It costs THB120 and runs to Patong Beach (1½ hour). Finally, there are shared taxis (minibuses) to all the beaches around the island which are probably the best way to get to your accommodation (up to THB200).
Getting your Thai visa
Many nationalities get a free 30-day stamp while entering the Kingdom through international airports. If you are planning to stay longer, you have to apply for your Thai visa in advance either in your home country or in one of the neighbouring countries, Laos, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam being the most popular choices. A two-month tourist visa cost USD40/THB1000 and allows you to stay in the country for 60 days plus you can extend your stay for 30 days at the local immigration (THB1900).
Note that your 30-day free stamp can be extended at the local immigration, too. For THB1900 you can get additional 7 days or 30 days, depending on your passport (check in advance).
In December 2016, a new rule was introduced, according to which foreigners are permitted to enter the country on a 30-day free stamp only twice a year, but it refers to land borders only – you can fly in more times on a 30-day stamp but the immigration offices tend to ask questions concerning what you are going to do in the country and whether you are not a tourist but are working illegally.
From Siem Reap to Phuket overland
The fastest and most hassle free way to get from Siem Reap to Phuket overland is via Bangkok. At least three bus companies provide direct international service from Siem Reap to Bangkok, making the travel easy and comfortable. It takes between 8 and 10 hours to reach Bangkok with tickets priced between THB800 and THB1200 depending on the operator. Nattakan company buses go to Morchit, aka the Northern Bus Terminal, in Bangkok, while Giant Ibis Transport and Travel Mart deliver you right to the heart of the backpackers’ district in Bangkok, Khao San Road. All buses except for one midnight bus of Travel Mart (0.30am) leave Siem Reap between 7.45am and 9am.
Note In Siem Reap each bus company has its own bus terminal. Giant Ibis has their main headquarters in Khmer Pub Street, Travel Mart leaves from the centre of town from Sivatha Boulevard, and Nattakan, which is the Cambodian incarnation of Transport Co Ltd, now have their office southwest of the town and thus seem the less convenient choice if you stay anywhere in the centre.
From Bangkok you have endless choices to reach Phuket overland. The overwhelming majority of southbound buses leave from the Southern Bus Terminal, aka Sai Tai Mai, which is a THB100 taxi ride from Khao San Road. If you arrive to Morchit, the choice of bus companies heading to Phuket from there is limited but still reasonable. Buses take from 12 to 14 hours to reach Phuket. Prices vary significantly – from THB500 to THB1000 – and depend on the type of the bus you opt for. Even the cheapest express buses are generally ok, though in a plusher VIP24 bus you can travel with maximum comfort.
All buses have toilets on board but it is often a better idea to wait for a stop which they make at large gas stations where you can use normal clean toilets and stock up on munchies at convenience stores like 7/Eleven, Jiffy or mini Big C. Blankets are normally provided for such long trips but do have some warm clothes packed in your hand luggage as it can get painfully cold inside the bus.
Another convenient option is to take a night train from Bangkok to Suratthani (from THB750 for a second class fan sleeper). Thai trains are comfy enough and provide a necessary degree of privacy even in the second class cars to let you sleep all night through. Though Suratthani train station is not actually located in Suratthani proper but in the town of Phun Phin 20 km west, there is no need to go to Suratthani as there are frequent direct buses to Phuket from the train station, allowing you to enjoy your piece of sunny paradise on the island just in four of hours (THB250).
Onward travel from Phuket
There is no railway line coming up to Phuket, but to take a bus from Phuket to Suratthani where to change for a train heading north from Suratthani to Bangkok is still a popular method for travelling to Bangkok.
Phuket is also a convenient starting point to explore some of the most beautiful islands of the Andaman Sea. Koh Phi Phi is only an hour away by boat; Koh Lanta, in Krabi province, lies two hours to the south. You can reach a hidden gem of the Andaman, [Koh Lipe] by boat, too, but it is better to connect via Satun. The Trang islands, including Koh Kradan, Koh Muk, Koh Ngai (all from 3½ hours to 4½ hours) and Koh Libong (5 hours), are within an easy reach from Phuket, too.