Phuket (ภูเก็ต), pronounced (roughly) "puh-KET", is Thailand's largest island. It is 48 km in length, 21 km at its widest, and is in Southern Thailand, on the west-facing Andaman Sea coastline, suspended from the southern tip of Phang Nga province by a pair of short but substantial road bridges.
- 1 Phuket Town — the administrative centre of the province with the cheapest accommodation,
- 2 Cape Panwa — home to Phuket Aquarium
- 3 Chalong Bay — home to Phuket's most popular yacht anchorage and the primary gateway to the islands off Phuket
- 4 Karon — the second most-developed beach after Patong, split into Karon Yai and Karon Noi Beaches
- 5 Laem Sing — small bay with stunning views, between Kamala and Surin Beaches
- 6 Mai Khao — many posh resorts, Thai villages, and restaurants, very quiet and far away from it all
- 7 Patong — the largest and most popular beach resort known for its nightlife
- 8 Rawai — jumping off point for lots of local islands, popular with locals for eating on the beach
- 9 Surin — an up-and-coming upmarket destination
- 1 Ko Bon — 10 minutes from Rawai, an ideal island for a day of snorkelling and relaxing
- 2 Ko Hae — 15 minutes by speedboat from Chalong Bay, accessible all year
- 3 Ko Maphrao — fishery villages, walking along nature trails, fishing and biking
- 4 Ko Lon — quiet, mostly Muslim island with a few bungalows
- 5 Ko Mai Thon — gorgeous little island with only one (expensive) place to stay
- 6 Ko Racha — two islands (Yai and Noi), popular with scuba divers and a relaxing snorkelling destination
- 7 Ko Sire — sea Gypsy colony, connected to the mainland by a causeway
- Phra Taew National Park — Phuket's last significant virgin rain forest
- 1 Bang Thao. long, very quiet beach
- 2 Kamala. a quieter beach to the north of Patong
- 3 Kata. busy, clean tourist beach with good surf, also includes Kata Noi, its quieter sister
- 4 Nai Thon and Nai Yang. two quiet beaches in Sirinat National Park
- 5 Nai Han. somewhat quieter beach (probably the best) in the south, near Laem Phromthep view point
- 6 Ya Nui. good snorkelling on a shallow reef that juts out from the beach
Phuket floats in balmy Andaman Sea waters on Thailand's Indian Ocean coastline, 862 km south of Bangkok.
Phuket used to derive its wealth from tin and rubber, and enjoys a rich and colourful history. The island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, and was frequently mentioned in foreign traders' ship's logs.
Phuket's top earner now is tourism, which has transformed the island into Thailand's wealthiest province. Expect prices to be a bit higher than on the mainland.
The west coast of Phuket was hit severely by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, but almost no evidence of the damage remains.
Phuket enjoys great popularity as a travel destination. Most beaches are on the west coast, with Phuket Town to the southeast and the airport in the north.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Phuket is hot and humid throughout the year. The hot season is generally considered to be from Mar to early May. During the summer monsoon season from May-Oct, mornings and afternoons are sunny and clear, but it tends to rain in the evenings and water clarity goes down. Locals consider Nov-Feb the "cool" season, and the weather is quite tolerable. It's comparable to Florida's summer weather in temperature and intensity of rain storms: 25-33 degrees Celsius, scudding clouds, short and thunderous rainfalls in the afternoons and evenings. Surfing is possible off the western beaches.
Phuket is a melange of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims, and Moken people. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. Outside of the provincial towns, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand. The booming tourist economy over the past decade has led to a lot of the young people leading lives not dissimilar to those in Bangkok. Altogether, the lifestyle of the urban Thai-Chinese resembles that of their Bangkok brethren.
- 1 Phuket International Airport (HKT IATA) (is in the northwest of the island). This compact airport is Thailand's second largest hub, second only to Bangkok.
There are very frequent flights from Bangkok and direct flights to many other airports in the region, including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and direct charters to Europe and Australia in the high season. Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and also Jakarta tourists usually step directly to Phuket without step on Bangkok at all, due to distance of Bangkok to Phuket is relatively same with distance of Kuala Lumpur to Phuket. Backpackers can go to Bangkok from Phuket with 12 hours night buses, if necessary.
The airport is notionally divided into Terminals 1 and 2, with some charter and low-cost operators using the second, but these are only a short distance apart and connected by an air-conditioned walkway.
- Australia - Virgin Australia, Air Asia; Jetstar have direct flights from major cities in Australia.
- Belgium- TUI
- Cambodia - AirAsia flies from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
- China- Lots of flights including from Beijing, Zhengzhou, Guiyang, Guangzhou, and Sanya.
- Hong Kong - Thai Smile, Cathay Dragon , HK Express and Air Asia have non-stop direct flights from Hong Kong to Phuket.
- Indonesia - AirAsia flies from Jakarta and Denpasar, Bali, and often this is the cheapest connection between Thailand and Java and more eastern parts of Indonesia (promotional fares are often US$30–50 for a 3 hour flight).
- Korea - Asiana Airlines non-stop services from Seoul with connections from New York.
- Malaysia - AirAsia flies from Kuala Lumpur (KUL), FireFly flies from Penang, using small ATR-Turboprop aircraft, and Malaysia Airlines has flights from Kuala Lumpur. Qatar Airways also operates daily flights from Kuala Lumpur.
- Philippines - Cebu Pacific from Manila.
- Qatar - Qatar Airways operates direct daily flights from Doha, which transit in Kuala Lumpur.
- Singapore - SilkAir has 32 flights a week. Low-cost alternatives are Thai AirAsia and Scoot Tigerair. In addition, Jetstar flies there too.
- Taipei, Taiwan - China Airlines — non-stop direct flights from Taipei to Phuket.
- Switzerland — Edelweiss Air operates direct flights from Zurich.
There are some charter flights in high season from European and Asian countries such as Sweden, Taiwan, and Japan.
Several domestic airlines fly here, including Nok Air, Air Asia, Orient Thai. Tickets from Bangkok can cost around 1,300 baht one-way if booked well in advance, or around 2,000-2,500 baht (including taxes) if bought on the day.
Thai Airways flies from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport several times every day, and once daily from Chiang Mai (but there are no direct flights in the opposite direction). Additionally, they sell tickets from/to many domestic and international destinations with stopovers in Bangkok, which are usually cheaper (especially international) than if you book separate tickets. Cheapest (non-exchangeable and non-refundable one-way tickets from Bangkok cost 2,320 baht. Worth checking if you book just a few days before flight, as low-cost airlines may cost only 200-300 baht less in this situation, but you get world-famous Thai Airways service, and free on-board meals too.
Air Asia fly from Phuket to Chiang Mai direct, twice a day at 10:35 and 19:20, affording an opportunity to combine a beach holiday with experiencing the wildlife and exotic cultures of northern Thailand. From Chiang Mai to Phuket flights depart at 13:00 and 21:45. They fly from two cities in Isaan as well, daily from Udon Thani (handy for a trip into Laos) and four times per week from Ubon Ratchathani.
Bangkok Airways has a monopoly on direct flights between Phuket and U-Tapao (Pattaya/Sattahip) and Ko Samui. They also have 6 daily flights from Bangkok. Fares are usually the same as Thai Airways, but sometimes they have very inexpensive promotional fares as low as 1,390 baht.
Thai Airways International and Bangkok Airways fly to Suvarnabhumi (pronounced: soo-Var-na-phoom), whereas Nok Air and Orient Thai fly from Don Muang Airport. This may be of importance when you have a connecting flight.
Happy Air [dead link] (Phuket to Ranong, also Bangkok to Ranong) with service from BKK and HKT to Ranong.(Ko Phayam and Ko Chang in the Andaman Sea are 20 min from Ranong Airport by boat).
To get from the airport to your destination, there are several options:
- A private bus service runs between the airport and Patong and the reverse. There is not yet an English-language website for this service. Times and fares are unclear. There are reportedly signs directing passengers to the curbside bus, but it is not easy to find (Oct 2013).
- Municipal air conditioned airport bus service (daily, 06:30-20:45, every 60-90 min) to Phuket Town bus station costs 100 baht (Apr 2016) and takes one hour. Local buses run from there and Ranong St Market to all the major beaches until around 18:00 for about 25-40 baht. After getting off a bus just cross the street and wait for the continuing bus there. It is a very convenient and comfortable spot, with no touts or hustlers, plenty of shade and a minimart for drinks and snacks. The bus will stop anywhere along its route upon signalling the driver ("bus hiking"). See Airport Bus Phuket.
If you are going to take the municipal airport bus from Phuket to the airport in the afternoon (especially the 16:30 and 17:30 buses) you should allow yourself plenty of time. With dozens of schoolchildren getting on and off during weekdays and/or congested traffic the bus is frequently delayed en route.
- Minibus services (basically door-to-door shared taxis) are a good value. They charge 100-180 baht per seat, and will get you to your destination much faster than the municipal/government buses. To Phuket town 100 baht is typical; to Patong 180 baht; to Kata Beach 180 baht. When you get off the plane, don't dally, because when the minibuses fill up, they leave. If you miss the first group of them, you may have to wait until the next plane comes in, because they don't leave until they're full. The minibuses will stop at a travel agent about halfway to Patong. They'll ask everyone to get out (you don't have to) and then they'll ask you where you're staying, and they'll try to sell you a hotel or overpriced tours on the guise that they are a government agency. You're not obligated to use the hotels they push. Just say you already booked a hotel, and tell them the name. (If you don't yet have a hotel, just say "Holiday Inn".) They will inform the driver, and he/she will drop you off at the hotel. This is a little annoying, but it's over in 10 minutes, and you're on your way again. Any travel agent can arrange a minibus ride for the way back to the airport.
- Metered (yellow) taxis, aka "Taxi Meter" - Turn right as you exit the airport building (ignore the touts) and you'll see a stand at the end of the walkway. Tell your destination to the staff at the stand and they will give you a paper with the taxi driver number for you to keep in case you need to report a problem. Fares to destinations in Phuket cost around 600 baht and up. The rate is what is displayed by the meter plus 100-baht airport fee. The meter will start with a 50 baht display. You may stumble upon a freelance taxi driver who will take you from the airport to Patong for a flat fee of 450 baht. If the driver is pleasant, you may wish to ask for his mobile number for the return trip later. The same driver can take you from Patong to Phuket Town for 350 to 400 baht.
- Limousine (blue) taxis from the airport are expensive, costing 600-700 baht to Patong or 800 baht to Phuket Town. The airport co-op booth tucked away towards the back is a little cheaper than the competition. Despite the name, most "limousines" are Toyota Camrys with leather seats, though you may get a Mercedes. It is also likely that your limousine will stop at a travel agent in order to sell you hotel rooms and/or tours. Before you purchase your fare, insist that you do not want to stop at any travel agency along the way. (They will try to legitimise stopping at the travel agency by insisting that "the driver must sign in" or "the driver needs to stop here for directions")
There are no direct train services to Phuket. But many trains leave from Bangkok central station going south all the way to Singapore. The most comfortable are the sleeper trains (~685 baht for a berth in a 2nd class air-con car. Travellers by train must get off at Phun Phin railway station in Surat Thani Province and continue for another 5 hours by regular bus to Phuket. Do not buy the bus ticket until you actually see the bus and can make sure it is not standing room only, as it picks up passengers at the popular Ko Samui ferry. If full, wait for the next one. See Surat Thani for more detail.
The most reliable buses from Bangkok are the public BKS buses from the Southern Bus Terminal to Phuket. The journey takes 13 hours and costs between 650-950 baht. There are also some private bus companies, Phuket Travel Tour, Phuket Central Tour, and Phuket Travel Service [formerly dead link]. Khao San Road operations have a bad reputation for theft, often turn out to include a "surprise" transfer to a minibus at Surat Thani, and are best avoided. Richly Travel Center [dead link] offers a bus leaving at 19:00 from near the Hualampong Train Station inside Bangkok (without having to transfer to the Southern Bus Terminal) for 900 baht. The TAT next door offers the same for around 1,100 baht.
From Phuket bus terminal to your final destination, you can take a motorcycle taxi, tuk-tuk, meter-taxi, or bus. A motorcycle taxi into Phuket Town will be about 10-20 baht; to most beaches 100-200 baht (negotiable).
A local bus to one of the main beaches will cost around 15-40 baht. It's not unusual for the tuk-tuk drivers at the bus terminal to tell arriving travellers that the local bus service has finished, even though it hasn't. The bus stop is near the market in the old town. From Bus Terminal 1, make a right onto Phang Nga Rd. Continue down Phang Nga until it terminates at Yaowarat Rd, then turn left. Within a few steps you will see a roundabout. Once at the roundabout, keep right. By keeping right, you will find Ranong Rd. Within 100–200 m you will find the local bus stop.
There are two bus terminals in Phuket, one small, old one in town, and one huge modern one 4 km north of town. You can take a 10 baht pink songthaew (leaves every 30 minutes) between the two. There are also 3 regular songthaew lines within Phuket Town, and both bus stations are served by them. There is a very useful big map just outside the bus stations (look where the taxis are waiting at the old bus station, and at the very rear, not towards the entrance, at the new bus station) that displays the three songthaew routes within Phuket town. Fare's 10 baht, last one at 19:00.
Before exiting the Phuket bus terminal, grab a free Phuket map from the information window. While supplies may always not be on hand, the map is a great way to get your bearing before jumping-off.
Phuket is directly connected to the mainland by the Sarasin Bridge. From Bangkok, take Hwy 4 through Nakhon Pathom, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, through Ranong province’s Kra Buri and Kapoe districts, Phang Nga Province’s Takua Pa and Thai Muang districts and onto Phuket Island. The total distance is 862 km. You may be better off getting to Phuket by public transport and renting a car on the island.
Ferry services connect from Rassada Port in Phuket Town to Ko Phi Phi and to Krabi Province on the mainland twice a day, taking 90 to 120 minutes and costing 350/650 baht one-way/return, for each leg. It's usually a pleasant ride, but can be rather bumpy when it's windy.
From the harbour, you could avoid the minibuses and take a 10 baht songthaew to Phuket Town. If it doesn't show up at the bus stop right outside the terminal, you'll have to walk past the gate outside the harbour and along the road, turning left at the first T-junction, about 600 m, then on the main road you can catch a cheap songthaew. There's a picture of all the routes posted just outside the terminal near the bus stop inside the complex. Last one leaves at 19:00.
There are speedboats from/to Ko Racha (45 minutes), Phi Phi (1 - 1.5 hours), the Similan Islands (about 3 hours) and other islands. Boats and yachts can be chartered all year from Phuket at Chalong Bay, Rawai Beach, the Boot Lagoon, the Yacht Haven and Royal Phuket Marina. Boats from Phi Phi and Phang Nga can be found by visiting the local beaches. A search for Phuket speedboat charters will turn up many companies providing inter-island charters and services.
Prices for transfers on board a tour speedboat are typically between 1,500 to 2,500 baht depending on destination. Phi Phi speedboat transfers (no tour) are provided by the Zeavola Resort, which has dedicated speedboats for Phi Phi transfers. Most companies doing Phi Phi speedboat tours will not accommodate transfers that include baggage due to space limitations.
Prices for speedboat charters to/from Phuket range from 3,000 baht to 60,000 baht+ depending on distance/size of boat:
- Coral Island: 3,000-5,000 baht
- Racha Yai Island: 8,000-15,000 baht
- Phi Phi Island: 15,000-25,000 baht
- Phang Nga: 15,000-25,000 baht
- Krabi: 20,000-30,000 baht
- Similans: 30,000-60,000 baht+ (Nov-Apr only. Lower price from Khao Lak, higher price from Phuket)
Phuket is a large island and you need some form of transport to get around. Public transport is very limited and taxis and tuk-tuks are the only practical means. Another, more dangerous option is rent your own wheels. Hotels generally offer shuttle bus services into Phuket Town, and also have taxi and car hire facilities.
This is the cheapest public transport in Phuket. Represent extra-long pickups of various forms.Within Phuket Town buses run pink, and beyond, to other beaches and areas, go blue. Almost everyone has an inscription in English about the route.
Pink - fare 15 baht. The bus runs from 6:30 to 20:30.
The route number is indicated on the windshield on the left side
Blue - ticket Price depends on the distance and route: 20-50 baht. The bus runs from 7:00 to 18:00. On the windshield (or above it) is written the name of the final stop of this route
Since the bus has no actual stops, you need to "catch" it with your hand raised up. You can exit at any point of the route-you will need to press the bell button located under the ceiling.
- Patong Phuket town
- Kata Karon-Phuket town
- Kamala – Surin – Bangtao – Phuket town
- Nai Harn Rawai-Phuket town
- aquarium-Cape Panwa-Phuket town
- Chalong-Phuket town
- Kathu-Phuket town
- Sarasin Bridge-Phuket town
- Bang Rong pier-Phuket town
In 2018, Phuket has a very convenient and comfortable bus-Phuket Smart bus.
Travel inexpensive from 50 to 170 baht. Thanks to him, you can not only get from the airport to the beach, but also cheap to move between the main beaches of the Western part of the island. Travel between neighboring costs 50 baht. On the first trip you need to buy a plastic ticket, which is called Phuket Rabbit card. It costs 300 baht, of which 100 baht is the cost of the card itself, which is not refundable, and the card account is only 200 baht. You can travel if the card amount is not less than 170 baht. The card validity period is 7 years
The minimum fare is 200 baht. The cost of an hour of rent will be-200 baht. At the same time it can accommodate up to 4 - 8 people. At night, drivers throw an additional 50% of the cost
The fare starts from 20 baht for 1-2 km, they are almost at every corner. Drivers are dressed in bright numbered vests
Prepaid (taxi prepaid)
In any tour office both in the international and domestic terminal of Phuket airport you will be offered a taxi to the desired hotel / beach. You just pay the full amount of the trip, you are given a receipt, which indicates the number of the car, go to the Parking lot, look for a car with the specified number and go to the right place.
Taxi meter (taxi meter)
If you leave the airport building on the street, you will see a counter where you can take a taxi. Rates are as follows:
- 100 baht airport fee
- 50 baht-first two kilometers
- next 2-15 km-12 baht per km
- next 10 km-15 baht per km
Towne-taxi and grab-taxi
Uber. Download the app, choose where and where to go, you can book a taxi in advance for a certain date and time.
Bike rental locations are located in almost every quarter. Standard rental price - from 150 baht (the cost of rent depends on the duration and model). When you rent you need a passport or a Deposit.
Rent at the airport, as there is rent in the city. The longer the rental period, the lower the price per day. Standard rental price - from 600 baht (the cost of rent depends on the duration and model).
Rent a car in Phuket is available for citizens who have reached the age of 20 years.
To rent a car you will need a passport and a photocopy of it, international law.
For those wishing to make regular boat trips, to travel from Phuket to other places, there is a great opportunity to rent a boat or yacht. Depending on the need, you can use a small boat with a outboard motor, a boat with an average capacity of five to eight people or a real pleasure yacht.
Hitchhiking would be delightful if it weren't for the taxi Mafia. Any car could double as a taxi. Mention at least 3 times that you're not going to pay: "no money". "Free ride". "No taxi". Ask if this is clear to the driver. If the driver later on still insists on money, be sure to move on before they get their corrupt police friends involved.
Phuket is one of Thailand's premier tourist destinations and (basic) English is widely spoken, especially in the beach areas. That said, even a little Thai will draw smiles and can be useful in the less frequented areas of Phuket. There are also a number of Thai language courses on the island for those who wish to take their language skills to the next level.
- Individual listings can be found in Phuket's district articles
Phuket is known the world over for its beaches. There is a wide variety of beaches, some calm, some totally ruined by millions of visitors each year. But you can explore the interior of Phuket, a fertile hilly expanse that consists of mangrove forests, fishing villages, rubber and pineapple plantations, small Muslim communities and shrimp farms.
Swimming, snorkelling, diving, yachting, sailing, jet-skiing and parasailing are among the more popular activities on the island. Other activities include freediving, windsurfing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, and deep sea fishing. Popular kite surfing locations include Nai Yang in summer and Chalong Bay in winter season. Sea canoeing is a popular activity in Phang Nga Bay, as many grottoes are only accessible by canoe. Sailing Regattas include the Kings Cup in December, Pangna Bay Regatta normally in February and Phuket Raceweek in July.
Phuket has some decent dive sites. Most dive sites are off nearby islands, but distances are fairly short and there are dozens of dive shops and boats to cater to your needs, most based near Chalong Bay. The reefs in the area are in a healthy condition with both solid hard corals and colourful soft corals. There is also an abundance of marine life. Most of the dive locations are suitable for all levels of divers, but there are also some that are quite deep.
The most well-known dive site in the Phuket area is Racha Yai with its sloping rocky reefs and its abundance of solid coral forests. It is home to Ter Bay where there is an exciting wreck in the depths of 25–35 m. The island south of Racha Yai, Racha Noi, is a haven for experienced divers as the depths are greater and the currents stronger. The overall topography is strikingly different from Racha Yai with huge granite boulders. The diving in Racha Noi compared to Racha Yai is definitely more challenging but the rewards are greater.
Just off Phuket, is the limestone island of Ko Doc Mai that soars vertically from the seabed. It is home to a diverse fish and offers the opportunity to view leopard sharks, moray eels, octopus, and turtles. Phuket can also function as a base for dives further afield, such as Ko Phi Phi. Diving in Phuket's warm clear blue waters is best from mid-Oct-May, when the calm seas and rain-free days make Phuket diving great.
Snuba Diving is the safest and easiest way to try diving on holiday in Phuket. The word Snuba is a portmanteau of "snorkel" and "scuba". The swimmer uses swim fins, a diving mask, weights, and diving regulator as in scuba diving. The air, however, instead of coming from tanks strapped to the diver's back, comes through a long hose from tanks on pontoon rafts on the surface. No certification required, children 8+, just like scuba diving except easier. Snuba trips go to most Phuket dive sites. No heavy equipment to wear, no long classes, maximum depth of 7 m. Professional dive guides accompany each group.
Phuket is a leading dive centre in Thailand and has become a freediving hotspot. It is the home of the area's only AIDA instructor training centre. Most freediving trips go out with scuba dive boats to well-trafficked dive sites, but some freediving off the beach is also possible. The local operators are usually very happy to find like-minded divers and will happily give pointers.
There are many muay Thai camps on the island offering instruction to visitors. There are courses available for people of different levels of fitness, and those who train hard may be given the option to fight. Chalong Bay and Rawai especially is home to almost a dozen muay Thai gyms. If you're interested in a one day lesson or a six month training stint, it's a good place to look.
Sailing and yachting
Phuket has become a sailing and yachting centre of Thailand and adjacent countries. It's the home of Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek, King's Cup Regatta, Phang Nga Bay Regatta, the Phuket International Boat Show (PIMEX), four marinas, and two yacht clubs: the Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC) [dead link] and the Phuket Yacht Club (PYC). Well-sheltered anchorages teem with yachts. The marinas are all on the east side of the island, which makes them an ideal starting point to explore the natural wonders of Phang Nga Bay. An entire fleet of traditional junk-rigged boats is berthed there, offering day trips.
A favorable way by many travelers to experience island hopping is to do private tours. One company that offers private charter tours is Lamoet. Their boats sails to most of the places around Phuket.
Snorkelling can be enjoyed in sheltered bays all around Phuket. It is particularly enjoyable at easily accessible reefs at Patong, Karon and Kata Beaches. Fins, mask, and snorkel can be rented on a daily basis from shops all over the island. Full and half day trips are available to the islands surrounding Phuket. Most popular are Ko Hae, Ko Racha Yai, Ko Khai (a hidden gem in Phang Nga Bay), and Ko Phi Phi. There are many tours available at very cheap rates and speedboats will be filled with up to 65 people. Research your options before signing up for any tour.
Snorkelling trips to Racha & Phi Phi Islands
Agencies sell all-inclusive day trips from all over Phuket. Prices for group tours range from 1,400-3,900 baht. Quality and safety seem to correlate with prices paid. The lower-end speedboat tours take approximately 30-35 passengers per 2-engine speedboat and 50-60 passengers on 3-engine speedboats. Very cheap tours take over 100 people in a speedboat. The higher-end tours take approx 15 to 18 passengers on 2-engine speedboats. Insist on knowing the exact number of guests that will be on the boat. Keep in mind that tour desks will tell you anything to get your money, as they receive up to 65% commissions from the lower-end tours. It is always best to contact the dive company directly to ensure that you are getting what you pay for.
The more people on the boat, the longer it takes to get on and off at each stop, thus lowering the amount of time you get to spend off the boat. A packed boat is not very fun or safe when there are large waves.
Private companies providing small group tours are few. Full day tour prices range from 3,200-3,900 baht (no discounts are offered. Can only be booked direct). The tours include stops at all the major sights, higher quality lunches (from picnic to seaside sit-down restaurant meals), full sets of snorkelling gear, minibus transport, fresh tropical fruits, snacks & drinks on board, foreign owner/guide, small groups, attention to safety, and national park fee. Prices vary based on services, amenities and extras are provided.
Phuket Town is a source of cultured pearls, niello ware, pewter ware, ornaments and dried seafood. Specialist shops dealing in souvenir products can be found on Ratsada, Phang Nga, Montri, Yaowarat, and Tilok-U-Thit Rd, in Phuket Town, Thepkasattri Rd, north of town and at the beach centres of Patong, Kata, Karon, and Rawai.
Phuket's larger beaches are ravaged by ravenous hordes of tailors, who are certainly cheap, but will screw you over if they can. For example, suits done in 24 hours are usually just glued together and will fall apart the first time you take them to a dry cleaner. Choose your own fabrics (you can buy them on Thalang Rd in Phuket Town), insist on multiple fittings and check the quality of work carefully. It makes little difference which tailor shop you choose, since they're all just sales fronts for a few central sweatshops.
There is a night market that opens from Th-Su, a couple of traffic lights past the Central Festival shopping mall. You can buy many things from clothes to jewellery to sunglasses. A great place to visit during your stay.
A small store without a name in Latin letters can be found on Ranong street opposite the market hall and 7-Eleven West of the small roundabout. Standard commodities can be bought there in large quantities (e.g. 12 pack of mosquito repellent, 3 pack of SPF50 sun screen, 5 pack of shower gel) for a discount.
- Individual listings can be found in Phuket's district articles
Food in Phuket is surprisingly cosmopolitan, especially in Patong, as many foreigners have set up shop to cater to their fellow travellers. All the usual Thai favourites are of course still available, with a particular emphasis on seafood. See the individual town articles for detailed listings.
Phuket has its own style of preparation and cooking. Some interesting local dishes include:
- Fried or boiled noodle dishes (หมี่ผัดหรือหมี่น้ำแบบต่าง ๆ), usually with pork or chicken, are available at many noodle shops in Phuket Town such as Mi Ton Pho, Mi Sapam, Mi Ao Ke, Mi Hun Pa Chang.
- Khanom Jin (ขนมจีน), a version of noodles eaten at breakfast, usually served with a spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables.
- Nam Phrik Kung Siap (น้ำพริกกุ้งเสียบ) is a mixture of dried chili and smoked shrimp eaten with various fresh vegetables.
Cashew nuts and pineapples are grown in Phuket and available all year round. The nuts are available dried, fried, or coated. Phuket pineapples are some of the most delectable, sweet and firm available.
- Individual listings can be found in Phuket's district articles
Phuket has a vibrant nightlife, second only to Pattaya among Thailand's beach resorts. Patong's is by far the busiest of the lot. There are plenty of other bars, discos, clubs and activities catering to every taste, from pastor to sex-tourist.
- Individual listings can be found in Phuket's district articles
There are lots of options available in Phuket. But for the more popular hotels and resorts in the better locations you should book at least a couple months in advance during high season (Nov-May). The cheapest air-con room rates start at around 1,000 baht in beach locations or 500 baht away from the beach, with proper resorts starting just under 3,000 baht and up. The best rates are usually found on-line and many hotels offer best rate guarantees when you book direct. Most of the time you will pay more if you walk in and take the rack-rate.
There are 5 main areas for tourists to stay in Phuket. Patong is the most popular due to its active nightlife, street markets and calm water beaches however this area isn’t for everyone (especially people with families). The quieter areas include Kata, Karon, Rawai and Nai Yang, all with great markets and quieter beach areas.
If you want to send mail, post offices and parcel services are widely available. In Phuket Town, there is a post office at the corner of Phang Nga Rd and Montri Rd. In Patong, there is one at the appropriately named Soi Post Office, a side-street of Thavee Wong Rd (near Molly Malone's).
You can usually pick up a free Thai SIM card at the airport in the baggage claim area. Look around for a booth or a kiosk.
The area code for Phuket is 076. Dial the 0 if you're calling from within Thailand.
Pay phones are uncommon, as most Thais have mobile phones. Phuket has very good mobile phone coverage, albeit over slower 2G/2.5G GSM networks. Pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be purchased for a few hundred baht, and local call charges range from 1 to 3 baht per minute depending on the package. You can also pre-purchase a Thai SIM card online.
Mobile Internet is available from all providers, with True Move offering 3G access from a limited network of base stations on the east coast, including Patong, Kata, and Karon. All other networks offer EDGE and/or GPRS access, so don't expect fast Internet connections on your mobile device. For email and basic surfing GPRS speeds are normally fine, but access to websites hosted outside Thailand can be slow.
Unlike many Western countries, Thai networks bill mobile Internet usage by duration rather than bandwidth, with PAYG users paying around 1 baht per minute. Most networks have PAYG monthly unlimited GPRS deals for around 750 baht, and you can easily purchase a SIM and the Internet package at one of the numerous phone shops around Phuket.
There is a wide array of international newspapers and magazines at some bookstores in Phuket Town and Patong. You can also follow local English radio through the website of Phuket FM Radio and on 91.5 FM.
Particularly in the summer monsoon season, there are strong currents on many of the beaches and drownings are a depressingly common occurrence. Four tourists died during a single 3-day stretch in Jun 2009. Heed the warning flags on popular beaches and play it safe if off the beaten track.
Crime as of late has definitely increased in the Phuket area among farangs (Westerners) and you should keep this in mind and be vigilant of anyone who wants to befriend you or trick you into gambling (which is illegal) or anything else you consider out of the ordinary. Katoeys (ladyboys) are notorious for pick-pocketing as you walk around the tourist areas at night. Also muggings do take place on a regular basis. Avoid walking down unlit sois; stick to the main roads. If something looks/sounds too good to be true, it surely is.
Tourist police can be contacted locally by dialing 1155. They have a good basic understanding of English (many are farangs), so if you're in trouble these people should be contacted first. Thai police speak hardly any English and normally take the side of the locals even if at fault. Always insist on the Tourist Police if you have any run-in with the Thai Police. Use only metered taxis and ask hotels to call, take down driver license plate and taxi license number before you get in. You can use the receipt from a taxi to complain to police or find lost property, so take a receipt and license numbers.
Don't overstay your visa! Two offices in Phuket can extend you visa. The extension is valid for extra 30 days of the leaving date stamped in your passport. The cost is 1900 baht. You'll need to provide a passport-sized photo. You can do it there. The Immigration Office in Phuket Town is at the end of Phuket Rd. close to the pier. There is another office in Patong.
A handful of establishments in the touristy nightlife areas have more than one menu: a normal menu, and an absurdly overpriced menu. Both menus contain the exact same items, except the overpriced menu tends to double, if not triple, the prices stated on the regular menu. Upon sitting down, waitresses may elect to bring you one or the other, depending on how touristy/intoxicated you or your groups looks. There are reports of tourists going to an establishment one night and returning the following night, only to see that the prices have doubled. This may be tricky to catch, especially if it's your first time at the establishment. Since the establishments that employ this practice are in the more expensive tourist areas, don't expect the best prices to begin with, but if something seems absolutely ridiculous, such as 500-1000 baht for a cocktail, either leave or ask whoever is serving you politely about the high prices. If you play your cards right, your server may eventually bring out the less expensive menu or offer lower prices. Be especially careful of this menu tactic during the high season (summer), at crowded venues, at the seedier venues, and on weekends. Likewise, one way to avoid this is to dress down slightly and not wear flashy/expensive clothes and jewelry.
Too-good-to-be-true drink offers
The nightlife area is full of many very pushy club promoters on the street waving all sorts of incredibly attractive drink offers in your face in order to get you to come to their bar/club. Unfortunately, a decent amount of these offers are scams and have strings attached in one way or the other. For example, certain promoters may claim that their bar is offering 25 baht beers and shots all night long. While they will honor the drink deal, when you get the check at the end of the night you find out on the bill that you are being charged an absurd entrance fee of around 1500 baht per person that you didn't know about. Refusing to pay once you have already consumed may lead to the staff members getting angry and aggressive. When talking to club promoters in the nightlife area, it is absolutely necessary that you first not accept any deal that is simply too good to be true, and second to ask as many questions as possible before accepting any deal plus state that you will not accept or pay for any expense that was not discussed. Even if the club promoter promises certain terms to you, be sure you confirm the terms with whoever is serving you once you get inside to make sure there is no miscommunication and everyone is on the same page.
Tap water should be regarded as non-potable. Liquids from sealed bottles nearly always are, and should be used wherever possible, for example, when brushing your teeth. Bars and restaurants universally purchase ice made from purified water.
- Bangkok Hospital Phuket (โรงพยาบาลกรุงเทพภูเก็ต), ☏ 1719, .
- Phuket International Dental Center, ☏ .
- Mission Hospital (โรงพยาบาลมิชชั่น), ☏ , fax: . Emergency call 076 237227.
- Patong-Kathu Hospital (โรงพยาบาลป่าตอง-กะทู้), ☏ , fax: . Emergency call 076 340444.
- Phuket International Hospital or Siriroj Hospital (โรงพยาบาลศิริโรจน์), ☏ , fax: .
- Thalang Hospital (โรงพยาบาลถลาง), ☏ , .
- Vachira Phuket Hospital (โรงพยาบาลวชิระภูเก็ต), ☏ 1669, , fax: .
- Ao Nang — 3 hours by ferry, the top beach destination in Krabi province
- Ao Phang Nga National Park — famous for its limestone cliffs, caves, mangroves, fishing villages and James Bond Island
- Khao Lak — family-oriented resort region for those looking for peace, quiet, and nature
- Khao Sok National Park — one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Thailand
- Ko Phi Phi — parts of The Beach were filmed at this stunningly beautiful location
- Ko Lanta — another laid-back island destination that is gaining more popularity
- Ko Phayam — one of Thailand's most beautiful small islands, 20 min by boat from Ranong
- Ko Yao — one of the last islands in the region that is not over-developed
- Similan Islands — national park consisting of nine small islands, hugely popular among divers due to its underwater scenery