Acting as the gate to the popular tourist destination – Phuket Island, the Phuket International Airport had trouble keeping up with the mass of tourists entering its’ doors. Around 12.5 million passengers were welcomed from October 2014 to September 2015 into the second busiest airport in Thailand. A major accomplishment for an airport that opened its doors on October 9th, 1988 and was built only to sustain around 6.5 million passengers.
To accommodate the rapid passenger turnover of the airport, a new terminal was opened in mid-September 2016. The terminal is hailed to be the gateway to the Andaman Sea and increases the capacity from 6.5 to 12.5 million passengers per year. Not only does the new terminal allow for a capacity increase but the airport also finds a solution for the overflowed immigration checkpoints, as it has 15 new immigration channels. Apart from the new features that will speed up arrivals and departures: 5 baggage carousels, a 285-meter departure curb, and a 300-meter arrival curb; the terminal also hosts an expanding shopping area and an array of new cafes and restaurants.
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The more worn in part of the airport houses, food and dining in both the land side and airside part of the airport, with a couple of restaurants open 24/7. The arrivals carpet is rolled out on the ground floor, and the departures are on the second floor. There are also lounges and airport hotels nearby.
There are currency exchange counters available in the arrivals area. However, they do fill up very fast, and the queue can then be very slow. Additionally, the exchange rates at the airport are not the best, therefore making it financially better if you get enough cash to reach your destination and then do the currency exchange somewhere where you will get more bang for your buck.
The main terminal is mainly used for domestic travel, and the new terminal operates for international travel. Having said that, the immigration lines on both terminals, even with the addition of new counters, can be quite long. During the high season (December to May) the airport manages 46 airlines from around 37 destinations. The airport is unique; in its take off you will be greeted by the Phang Nga Bay and on arrival by the Andaman Sea.
Upon arrival, the distance to the popular location of Patong is about 40 kilometers and takes around 30 minutes. Kata is about an hour away (47.4 km), Karon a little bit closer but still takes around an hour (43.4 km). Panwa is 43.9 km away and will take you 1 hour. Bangtao, Surin, Mai Khao are all under thirty minutes away from the airport with Mai Khao (8 km, 18 minutes) being the closest.
There are various methods of transportation at the airport, taxi services, minivans, airport shuttles that will take you to your destination. Mini buses are a great option if you are traveling on a budget, they usually cost at 200 baht per person and can host up to 10 people. Regarding renting a car, the car rental counters are located right outside the domestic gate, when arriving from international just turn right past customs and walk to the end. The rates range from 1,000 baht/day with insurance to rent a GPS for 100 baht/day.