Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Phuket Blog - Discover The Real Phuket

Phuket Airport

Back in 1999 when I arrived in Phuket, the airport was considerably smaller and quieter than it is now. Although Phuket was already a very popular tourist destination, and had been steadily growing since the 1980s, the airport had way less flights and way less arrivals and departures compared to now. I'm not quite sure where the figures come from, but the Wikipedia page on Phuket Airport has lists of passenger movements and flight movements. Back in 1999, the total passenger volume was about 3 million. This had increased to nearly 5 million by 2004, but dropped back to just over 3 million in 2005 (due to the tsunami on 26th December 2004). But by 2007, passenger volume was up to well over 5 million and it's been increasing ever since. The 2017 figure was over 16 million, with over half of this from international flights.

The airport was overstretched and getting rather outdated with just 1 terminal until the new international terminal opened in September 2016. I flew to the UK that September, out of the old terminal and back into the new one. Wow, a huge difference! Suddenly Phuket airport looked modern! The only issue seemed to be (and this continues to be an occasional issue) the lack on enough staff at immigration. There can be long queues sometimes .. with millions of people entering Thailand through Phuket airport .. there can never be enough staff! But at least the airport is bigger and more modern now. With the opening of the international terminal, the domestic terminal had 18 months of renovations that finished in June 2018.

Phuket International Airport

(above) Inside the new International terminal at Phuket Airport

Phuket Airport Location

This is something that many people don't realise. I know many people arrive at the airport and expect to be a short taxi ride from their hotel. Customers heading to our dive shop at Karon beach are surprised that the taxi can take 90 minutes. Phuket is bigger than you may realise. The island has an area of over 500 square kilometers and the airport is way up in the north of Phuket. From the airport to the main beaches on the southwest coast is a ride of 40 - 50km and at busy times, traffic in Phuket can be a bit slow! Sure if you choose a hotel at Nai Yang or Mai Khao beaches you are way closer to the airport (but further from the main tourism / nightlife / shopping centers). The runway starts right by the south end of Mai Khao beach, which means you can watch planes taking off or landing from the beach :)

Plane Takeoff at Mai Khao Beach, Phuket

Getting To Your Accommodation

There are plenty of taxi options from the airport to hotels anywhere on the island. My suggestion - pre-book an airport transfer. So nice after a flight to see a taxi drive holding up your name and head straight to the hotel without having to worry about arranging anything on arrival. My friends at Easy Day Thailand provide a very good airport transfer service either from the airport or back to the airport. Their rate is around 1000 Baht one way or 1600 Baht for return transfer. That's a fixed rate for any hotel, so a very good deal for hotels further away from the airport! If you book a taxi on arrival from a desk at the arrivals area it might work out a few Baht cheaper to some areas in Phuket. BUT getting back to the airport is trickier. If you get a taxi from outside your hotel for sure the asking rate will be more than you paid to get to the hotel. So that deal offered by Easy Day is a good one!

Phuket Airport Taxi

(above) Phuket Taxi Service by Easy Day Thailand

There is a lower budget option - a shared minibus service. Normally about 200 Baht per person and will depart when full .. then take longer to get anywhere as you're dropping people off all over the place and I do hear these cheap options try to make extra money by dropping everyone at tour agencies along the way. If you are a single, low budget traveler, this may be the way for you.

OR how about hiring a car? Many major rental agencies have services at the airport (Budget, Hertz, Avis for example). You can rent a car for about 1000 Baht per day. Good if you want to explore larger areas and not just stay by the beach and take a few organised tours. I know the traffic can be a little nuts, but if you are an independent tourist, consider renting a car. Be sure to have an international license.

The Future

Something will need to be done here in Phuket .. the numbers can't keep rising forever, but already the airport is a bit too busy even with 2 terminals. There is no space for a second runway in between the sea and the hills, but .. plans are afoot to maybe build a second airport a little north of Phuket island in Phang Nga province - see news here. Now I think the idea is that this would serve Khao Lak .. hard to see how to get everyone on the right flights. If that new airport got built it could be a 2 and a half hour drive to the south of Phuket, so things would need to be managed very carefully. Let's see what happens ...

Flying in to Phuket

(above) Flying in to Phuket from the east looking north across Phang Nga Bay

Related Links

Phuket Flight Radar - Live Air Traffic
Phuket Airport - Flight Arrivals and Departures
Phuket Airport Taxi Service
Hotels Near Phuket Airport

Phuket Airport Location Map

Bookhemian Cafe in Old Phuket Town

I was looking back at some older photos from the years 2002 - 2007. 16 years ago, old Phuket Town was certainly not ready for tourism. The old town streets looked rather dirty and there was really not much in the way of cafes and restaurants. I think things started to change about 2006, and there were plans made to remove overhead cables, the old town festival started in 2009, streets like Thalang Road and Soi Romanee got a facelift and restaurants started to open in the area but the strets still had a good mix of local businesses, homes, old buildings and some tourism. Thalang Road now is quite busy during the day. A lot of people taking photos and maybe 1 too many souvenir shops mixed with places like old printers, hardware shops, the old herb shop, Muslim Roti shops ... And quite a few cafes and restaurants too!

Bookhemian Cafe on Thalang Road

Bookhemian has been open for quite a few years now, located about halfway along Thalang Road - it's the place with the red second floor shutters in the photo above. And .. note the aircon! You'd not find any aircon cafe here 10 years ago. There are a few now (Kopitiam has an aircon room, so does Eleven Two. I remember first time I went into Bookhemian they had a book built into the large door handle, sandwiched between 2 thick slices of clear glass .. and the book was '100 Years of Solitude' which happens to be one of my favourites.

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

(above) Entrance to Bookhemian

Inside there are several different rooms, books lining the walls, it's quiet and cool. I mean "cool" because of the aircon and because it's arty.

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

(above) The front room in Bookhemian .. not a big place! Only a few small tables here, plus there's a table outside the front door if you don't want air conditioning!

I have only come here for a drink. I've been several times with the kids. My daughter loves the lime and honey soda drink. You can also get a beer or coffee here. And a cake! I think there is some food too, like breakfasts .. I have to go check the menu.

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

(above) Lime and Honey drink .. the tables have old printing press letters under the glass. There are a couple of old printing shops along Thalang Road.

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

Bookhemian Cafe in old Phuket Town

(above) The room at the back of Bookhemian, very arty. The stairs lead to an "art space" .. I better go take a photo up there! If I'm walking around old town, maybe looking around for new street art, this is a good place for a cold drink in a cool room!

Bookhemian Cafe - Location Map

Watching a Movie in Phuket

There are, of course, many better things to do in Phuket than watching a movie. You'd not take a holiday in Phuket and plan a visit to the cinema as one of your "must do" activities. But ... if you like movies and maybe there's a movie opening that you really want to watch while you happen to be on holiday then you'll be happy to know that Phuket has 2 large multi-screen cinemas with the newest movies showing. Yes, we're quite modern here in Phuket :)

It wasn't always so .. when I arrived in Phuket in 1999, the only real cinema was in Phuket Town - the old "Coliseum" next to Robinson's department store. And it only showed Thai movies or movies dubbed into Thai. So for many years I didn't go to the cinema, but I do like movies! When I met my wife, one of the first things we bought together was a VCR. Yes, it was that long ago. And there was a very good video rental shop in Patong not far from our apartment (we stayed in Patong at first, but moved out to Kathu). But Phuket was still growing fast during the 2000s. The huge Central Festival Mall (just outside Phuket Town) opened near the end of 2004 and the even bigger Jungceylon Mall in Patong opened at the end of 2006. The old Coliseum is still there, but is now also a newer multi screen cinema officially called C.E. Paradise Multiplex. It normally only shows Thai films or films dubbed into Thai. And you still see the old style posters for this cinema around town ...

Olde style movie poster are still used in Phuket

(above) Latest movies at the old Coliseum cinema in Phuket Town

I only started going to the movies again a few years ago when the kids were old enough. Until then we've been fine with DVDs (our old VCR is long gone). We still buy DVDs sometimes at the Weekend Market ("100% original" of course). There used to be a great DVD shop in the Big C mall, but it's also closed. Now the only place I buy new DVDs is in the B2S store in the Central Festival mall. On recent visits back to the UK I have also bought a lot of DVDs secondhand. Watching a movie at home with the family is nice and cozy and cheaper than going to the cinema! But going to the movies is still great despite all the home-tech we have. I don't have a 20 meter wide screen on my TV. And going to the movies is fun!

As the kids have lots of friends, they go to the cinema more than I do ... sometimes we drop them at the Central Festival mall and then my wife and I can do something else while they are at the movies. We live close to Phuket Town so the cinema we also use is the SFX Cinema at Central Festival. I've not used the cinema at the Jungceylon mall in Patong, but that would be more convenient for most tourists if you're staying in Patong or nearby Karon, Kata or Kamala beaches. There are some movies that get me excited enough to pay for a seat ...

SFX Multiscreen Cinema at Central Festival Mall in Phuket

(above) December 2015 - The Force Awakens .. I went with the kids :)

Ah yes, I'm a bit of a Star Wars fan .. I wouldn't say a "Star Wars Nerd", but I have loved the movies since I was a kid (the original was released when I was 8 years old). So for these new movies (Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi and Solo) I was very happy to watch these at the cinema. We also recently watched Avengers Infinity War and in the past I have been with the kids when they were younger for "kids movies" too. The cinema in the mall is ideal as we can also grab some food (the food court is on the same floor and Central has many different places to eat).

SFX Multiscreen Cinema at Central Festival Mall in Phuket

(above) The SFX Cinema in the Central Festival mall is on the 3rd floor.

SFX Multiscreen Cinema at Central Festival Mall in Phuket

(above) SFX Cinema in the Central Festival mall.

Tickets start at about 200 Baht (a little more at weekends). That's about half the price of a movie ticket in the UK. The screens have several seat types - some seats are a bit bigger and they also have "sofa seats", which would be nice for couples and not much more to pay. There's also a higher priced "First Class" cinema where you get big comfy seats and free drinks/popcorn and a nice lounge area to wait before the movie with some free snacks. It's easy enough to book seats in advance on the website (see links below) .. I always do this and book seats in the row with extra legroom about halfway up the theater. If you book online, you then get an email with a qr code which you can scan at a ticket machine - staff are always there to help, which is good because I've never been able to work out what buttons to press! You can buy tickets when you get there easily enough. Quiet in midweek, busy at weekends, just like anywhere else in the world!

Solo at the cinema in Phuket

(above) We just went to see Solo last weekend .. and yes it was a fun movie that I'll watch again when it's on DVD :)

Cinemas in Phuket - Useful Links

You can check movie times and book tickets at the sfcinemacity website.

SFX Cinema at Central Festival (Phuket Town)
SF Cinema at Jungceylon (Patong)

Phuket Cinemas - Location Map