Phuket Travel Guide
You don’t come t0 Phuket for the shopping or the cultural experiences. Though you can do both, you come to Phuket for the beaches, the sun and all the water sports you can imagine. Phuket has everything from good surf breaks on the west coast beaches to excellent off-shore diving. You can sail, kayak, kite-surf, ride water ski, or just lay one the beach and sunbath.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and boasts beach after beach. Even though its probably the most popular place for tourists in Thailand, its quite possible to find beaches with hardly another tourist on them. Yes there really are that many beaches! Patong, Kata and Karon are the “big three”, but there are many more including Kamala, Mai Khao, and Cape Panwa.
The west coast has the “best” beaches – and they start about 5 minutes walk from Phuket International Airport! All the west coast beaches have some surf, and they can be dangerous in the wet season, though there are life guards on the more popular beaches. The eastern side of the island is better suited to boating as there is quit a lot of mangroves and silt. The smaller, southern beaches around Chalong and Cape Panwa
Planning a Phuket Trip
Costs: Phuket is the most expensive part of Thailand, and one of the cheapest beach holidays you can have. At the same time. In general the prices are higher than elsewhere in Thailand, local workers have the country’s highest minimum wage. Backpackers consider it over-priced (though if you in the flashpacker range off-season, there are some great bargains. On the other hand tourists looking for a cheap beach break and comparing prices to Australia or Europe are delighted.
Season: High season is pretty much October-May – particularly the Christmas-New Year break. The weather is pretty much perfect, the crowds are big, and prices are at their peak. However you can go in August – in the middle of the low season which is supposed to be the middle of the “wet” or “green season” (thanks marketing geeks), and not see rain for a week.
Getting To/From Phuket
Phuket’s International Airport sees about 8 million arrivals a year, and is Thailand’s second busiest. If you are arriving from points south of Thailand (Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand) there is absolutely no reason to fly to Bangkok first – its a long diversion. The airport has direct international flights not just from nearby Malaysia and Singapore but also further afield including Europe, Middle East and north Asia.
If you have arrived in Bangkok you can of course fly to Phuket – takes about an hour and there is plenty of price competition on the route. There are also plenty of other connections from Thailand’s many airports. Bangkok is about 860km north of Phuket – and will take about an hour to fly or about 24hr on a bus (less on a VIP express one).
If you are island hoping from the south -in the dry season you’ll find frequent connections from Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Buses run year around. Buses will also get you from Phuket to Koh Samui . Buses will take you anywhere you want in Thailand (and Malaysia and Singapore for the masochistic). Although Phuket is an island, its connected to the mainland by a double bridge in the north.
Phuket is not on Thailand’s train system.
Getting Around Phuket
Phuket is about 48km long and 21km wide at its widest point. Unlike most other places in Thailand, local taxis and tuktuks are expensive. The tuktuk mafia fixes prices around the popular beach areas and they are quit outrageous compared to the rest of Thailand. You may well be better off negotiating a private car transfer with your hotel.
For this reason many foreigners will rent a car or motorbike. This is not Bangkok, so long as you are experienced driver and are not in a hurry its not too difficult to drive a car around Phuket. The roads are paved, and windy in places, but not in a bad condition.
Motorbikes are entirely a different story though. Tourists who die in the surf or from drugs in Thailand make all the headlines, but every years tourists die or are seriously injured from accidents on their hired motorbike. And quite often their travel insurance won’t cover them (you are riding illegally unless you have a motorbike licence in your home country, insurance doesn’t cover you when you break the law, even if everyone else is doing it!).
There is also a public bus system which covers Phuket Town to all the major beach locations. Buses run regularly but only until about 5pm, they don’t run in the evenings. There are set routes and fares, but you can get on and off anywhere (there are no stops except at the terminals), push a buzzer to get off, wave the bus down to get on, pay as you exit. Prices generally run to only a few baht, and be prepared to argue if the driver tries to over-charge you.
Accommodation in Phuket
You can have any type of accommodation that you want in Phuket. Everything from uber-luxury retreats, to grubby backpackers exist on the island. Probably most people stay in something in-between the extremes! Also given the size of the island consider changing location if you are there for more than a week, just to see a different side of Phuket.
The party animals will probably want to be in Patong, the town that never sleeps. The beach is OK too, though I think there are better ones, but this is where all the bar/girl/boy action is centered. And the sex tourism.
If you are booking anything about about 1000B /night – you may well get a better deal online than you will from the front desk. You don’t necessarily have to book far in advance, in the low season the day before will be fine.
The very cheapest deals are in Phuket Town itself, and nice little town, and historically interesting, but not on the beach (about 30 minutes from Patong by bus). Click here for more information on where to stay in Phuket
Map of Phuket
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