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Thailand, specifically Phuket and the surrounding provinces of Phang Nga, Krabi and Phi Phi, is an increasingly popular superyacht cruising destination. With flat seas, warm temperatures and spectacular scenery, the ‘Land of Smiles’ is an ideal and luxurious option for superyachts looking to visit South East Asia.
A country rich in history and culture, full of charm and delectable cuisine, a trip to Thailand should feature near the top of your list of must-visit destinations – whether your main aim is to set sail or simply unwind in a world-class marina.
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and early April. This is the driest, brightest and warmest part of the year, with anything up to nine hours of sunshine a day and temperatures that can reach 36 degrees. This is perfect no matter what’s on your itinerary.
The rainy/monsoon season falls between the months of May and October. During this season it seems to rain almost every day across the Andaman Coast (Phuket, Krabi, etc.).
Encapsulating everything Thailand has to offer, Phuket is a prime destination for superyachts. The island provides beautiful turquoise waters, endless sunny days, golden sandy beaches equipped with coconut palms, coral reefs that are inhabited by colourful tropical fish, thick forest vegetation that comes up to the shore and stunning limestone cliffs. All of this is discoverable from the comfort of your yacht.
Phuket is the ideal ground from which to explore the Andaman Sea’s calm waters and tropical islands. Phang Nga Bay, right on Phuket's doorstep, is bejewelled with hundreds of islands with limestone cliffs that soar straight out of the water, as well as numerous caves housing ancient cave paintings. Another highlight is the gypsy village at Koh Pan Yi that was originally known for pearl farming and is located with a stunning backdrop of the cliffs. Phang Na can also be explored through its various kayak tours that take you into an entirely different world.
Krabi province, a few hours' sailing to the south, houses the renowned Phi Phi islands, Ao Nang and Railay beaches. It’s popular with visitors and offers crystal clear waters for divers and snorkellers, a variety of restaurants, exuberant night life and a laid-back beach lifestyle. Railay is well known for rock climbing and adventure enthusiasts. Setting sail from Phi Phi, visitors are raptured by the scenic beauty of Bamboo Island and on to the emerald cave at Ko Muk, while Koh lanta and Koh Pu offer a welcoming escape to unwind and relax.
Phuket's West Coast is one of the prime destinations in Asia and a year-round playground for visitors seeking to bask in the sun. The West Coast is lined with a rocky coastline and white sandy beaches. There are numerous bays with good anchorages and excellent on-shore facilities that offer food, lodging, nightlife, ports and other recreational facilities. However, visitors need to keep in mind that the West Coast of Phuket offers no marinas and requirements such as refuelling can be a challenge. While almost all of Thailand offers perfect sailing conditions all-year-round, the West Coast of Phuket is not recommended to visiting yachts during the period of the southwest monsoon.
North-east of Phuket lie the Similan and Surin Islands. These locations offer some of the best diving in the world. If you decide to venture north there is the Mergui Archipelago (UNESCO Heritage) in the waters of Myanmar and it is home to numerous rarely-visited islands that have been relatively untouched and are sparsely inhabited. While just south of Phuket visiting superyachts can enjoy the islands of Koh Racha, Koh Hi and Koh Maithon, and further into Malaysia's waters are the Langkawi group of islands, well known among visitors for good anchorages and smooth sailing.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and boasts great infrastructure. It has an expat community of over 100,000 from all over the world. Visitors can find international products to fulfil their day-to-day requirements.
The island has a delightful old historical town filled with cafes, exceptional viewpoints, hikes, waterfalls and iconic cultural attractions. The sandy beaches are perfect for taking in the breath-taking sunsets, while the vibrant nightlife and cordiality of the locals makes it a fantastic place to be.
To visit Thailand, owners/captains need to apply for a certificate of entry and a special tourist visa through a local agent, specifically one that is certified as a member of the Thai Yachting Business Association (TYBA).
Upon arrival all people aboard the yacht, including the captain, crew and passengers, must report to Immigration to have their passports stamped. A 30-day stay is permitted, however all persons are expected to depart on the same vessel.
Officially yachts must complete domestic formalities with the Harbour Master in each province, or risk being fined. The yacht will be given an onward port clearance which has to be handed to the Harbour Master in the next province on arrival. There is no fee for this clearance.
This official rule of domestic clearance has been in place for a long time, but previously very few ports applied it. This is beginning to change and Krabi Harbour officials are now fining yachts that have not checked into the province from their previous Thailand port (5,000 Thai Baht).
Phang Nga province has been enforcing this rule for some time. The problem there is that the office to report to is in Phang Nga Town, many kilometres from the anchorages by road transport.
All Thailand provinces can apply this rule if they want to.
Yachts may stay in Thailand for a maximum period of six months or for one year if berthed in a marina. A six-month extension is possible, followed by a further six months to a maximum of two years. A fee is payable for each extension.
The Thai government is further encouraging foreign-flagged charter yachts to visit by dropping restrictions that previously banned charters from starting and finishing in Thailand. In early 2021, the government also changed the VAT rules that charter vessels had to pay to visit Thailand. VAT of 10% is now chargeable on the cost of each particular charter, rather than 10% of the overall value of the yacht.
Phuket offers four world-class marinas for superyachts to set up base. Yachts are required to have a valid certificate of registry, valid yacht insurance, customs clearance and a valid passport copy of the captain/owner prior to entering the marinas (and may also include port clearance, crew list, passenger list and other documents which can be ascertained through the agents and are subject to change as required by the government).
The marinas offer facilities of international standard to their visitors and regular clients. They are all located on the East Coast of the Island and they can only be approached from the south of the island as the passage in the north is closed off by the Sarasin Bridge.
Phuket Boat Lagoon is located north of Phuket town in Koh Kaew. Established in 1994 as the island’s first yacht marina, Boat Lagoon has 80 berths and a range of services – and service providers for maintenance and boat overhaul up to 80 tons. It also offers dry stacking and travel lift facilities.
Royal Phuket Marina caters to more of an integrated luxury lifestyle and is surrounded by villas, high-end penthouses and retail stores. The marina launched in 2005 and can accommodate yachts up to 35 metres (115 feet). It offers all expected superyacht facilities, including a travel lift, and is usually filled with day trip boats and yachts that are there for a longer stay. The approach channel to the marina is shared between Royal Phuket Marina and Phuket Boat Lagoon; they are located about half a mile apart.
Ao Po Grand Marina can be found close to the spectacular Phang Nga Bay. The marina has no tidal restrictions and provides 24-hour access. Ao Po serves as a base for charter companies and superyachts, thanks in no small part to its 300 berths and all the staple facilities expected of a luxury marina. The yachts can refuel at the refuelling dock, which has deep water access, and visitors can enjoy the choice of several restaurants and bars, as well as accessibility to a small supermarket.
Phuket Yacht Haven is the largest marina on the island and has an approximate area of 80 hectares. It is ideally located at the north-east end of the island is a 15-minute drive away from the airport. The marina is surrounded by beautiful scenery and makes the stunning Pang Nga Bay easily accessible all-year-round for yachts.
It currently has scope to accommodate 320 berths and is in the process of installing another 14 berths. Yacht Haven provides tailored services for superyachts and can house approximately 30 yachts, up to a maximum length of 100 metres (328 feet) with a max draft of 4 metres. As well as all the usual services, Yacht Haven also offers fuel and provisioning services. It is internationally accredited by ISO 9001, 14001, Clean Sea Level 4 and other international bodies such as Gold Anchor and MIA.
Like the idea of postcard-perfect beaches, great weather and idyllic islands? Start planning your trip to Thailand aboard a superyacht by contacting yacht charter companies and yacht agents who can assist you in developing a tailored itinerary.
Discover other key superyacht cruising locations in our other Destination Guides.
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