Referred to by many as ‘the pearl of the Andaman’, Phuket is a mountainous island located to the south-west of mainland Thailand. At 48km long and 21km wide, it’s the largest island (it also has 32 accompanying smaller islands) and is divided into three main districts (and 17 further sub districts) – Mueang Phuket, Kathu and Thalang. Phuket is home to around 600,000 people, including more than 30,000 expats, and at peak season around 1 million tourists from around the world visit the island.
From the 16th century until the early 20th century Phuket’s main industry was tin mining, but in recent times its economy has focused on rubber production and tourism.
In 2004, Phuket was severely damaged by the Boxing Day tsunami and several hundred tourists and Burmese migrant workers were killed. An extensive period of rebuilding work and redevelopment has followed and no signs of the damage are now visible. Many resorts, hotel and apartments have since been developed and in 2005, Fortune Magazine voted Phuket one of the top 5 retirement destinations in the world.
The main population groups in Phuket are Buddhists and Muslims, and around 30% of the island’s population is of Chinese descent from migrants who relocated to Phuket to work in tin-mines. There is also a large Burmese migrant workforce in Phuket. Residents are known for being friendly and welcoming to expats.
If you are planning to relocate to Phuket to undertake regular, temporary, or voluntary work then you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa from the Thai embassy in your country before you travel. There are different requirements depending on the type of work you will be undertaking and how long you intend on staying in Phuket.
Your future employer should prepare a supporting statement confirming your employment offer and will need to present other supporting documents. It generally takes about 2-4 weeks for a visa to be issued. A full list of embassies and a link to their websites is available online. At the time of writing in 2015, visa fees for Phuket were:
Expats are required to report to the appropriate immigration office or police station with jurisdiction over their residence every 90 days, and are sometimes required to leave and re-enter Phuket.
Phuket has become increasingly well connected and is about a ten hours’ drive away from Bangkok. Phuket International Airport is 13 miles from the mainland Phuket and charters domestic and international flights to over 50 destinations across Europe, the USA, and Asia and receives over 20 flights a day from Bangkok International Airport.
Most residents and visitors to Phuket will arrive by plane or car, but a regular ferry service also links it to Krabi, Phi Phi Don Island and the Yao Islands. In peak seasons, ferries to and from Phuket can be very busy so it’s worth checking departure times and purchasing tickets in advance of your journey.