Phuket Town (เมืองภูเก็ต Mueang Phuket) is the provincial capital of Phuket Province.
Phuket Town is the largest town in Phuket Province. It has a population of 63,000 and is the economic hub of the island. For the most part just an ordinary, scruffy provincial Thai town, it's hardly a major tourist attraction, but the Chinatown area is worth a quick look and there are some great Thai-style shopping opportunities too. Overall, accommodation and food in the town is cheaper than near the beaches, and can provide a refreshing change of pace.
Buses and "Songthaews" connect Phuket Town to major beaches around the Island, and start from Ranong Rd at the Down Town Market. To get there if you are at the old (number one) bus station, follows these steps
1) Walk back out to the road you came in on, and turn right on Phang Nga Rd.
2) Walk to the end of the road, about a kilometer, turn left at Phuket Rd.
3) Turn right at Ratsada Road. Keep walking until you pass a roundabout (Suriyadej Fountain Circle). You will see a fleet of large blue "Songthaews" a couple of hundred meters along on the left. Songthaews come in different size and shape. The first ones you come to go to Patong. Further along, they go to the other beaches. You will also see buses going to Patong at the bus station itself, for 40 baht.
The most popular service at the market is the one to Patong (25 baht, 45 minutes) which leaves every 30 minutes between 07:00 and 18:00. Fares to other beaches range from 15 to 30 baht. If you miss the last bus back a taxi will cost 200-400 depending on your bargaining skills.
Bus Terminal 1 (the old terminal downtown) has no markings indicating it is Terminal 1. Buses from here run to local destinations, for example, Khao Lak and Takua Pa. To Khao Lak is 90-120 baht.
Phuket International Airport is 30 km to the north of Phuket Town, about 30 minutes by taxi (500 baht), 45 minutes by shared minibus (100 baht) or 1.15 hr by the only #1 Government-endorsed [Bus Phuket] from the bus terminal (100 baht) check out www.airportbusphuket.com. This is still the old Number One bus terminal.
Buses run to the airport between 06:00hrs-18:30hrs, and from the Airport to Town between 08:00hrs-20:30hrs.
There is a large sign on the wall with times. Pay your ticket with the money collector on the bus only, and not at the Airport Terminal.
Bus Terminal 2
This is the (relatively) new terminal, some distance from the old one and most of the longer-distance buses come and go from there.
To get from one station to the other (and vice versa), you will see a fuchsia/hot pink-coloured songthaew. It parks in bay number 12 at the new bus station. This is the bus station shuttle and it will take you to the old number one bus terminal for 10 baht. It orbits between the two stations.
When arriving at this station, you will immediately accosted by taxi drivers. Do not immediately engage a taxi unless you are in a hurry. Take a minute to survey your options. The taxi desk is at the rear of the station. Out of sight, at the front of the station, are where the motorbike taxis hang out. This is usually a much cheaper option.
If you want to go to Patong or the other beaches directly from this (number two) terminal, then you will pay 250 baht per person to hire a songthaew outright as you would a taxi. This price assumes a full passenger load.
To get to the beaches far more cheaply, take the fuchsia songthaew to the number one bus terminal and follow the suggestions there.
Phuket Town is just a little too big to be covered comfortably on foot. There's little organised public transport as such, but motorbike taxis and four wheeled tuk-tuks cruise about looking for fares.
Phuket Town's low-key attractions are mostly related to its colourful Chinese history and heritage, found in the Chinatown area on the northwest side of the city around Thalang Rd.
- Jui Tui and Put Jaw Temples (corner of Ranong Rd and Soi Phuthon, just west of the Ranong bus terminal). Put Jaw is the oldest Chinese Taoist temple in Phuket, built over 200 years ago and dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy (Kwun Im), while the adjacent and connected Jui Tui is its larger, more modern annex. If you have a question that is puzzling you, ask it and throw the two red mango-shaped pieces in front of the altar in the air: if they land same side up, the answer is "no". If they land different sides up, the answer is "yes". Free admission, but donations welcome.
- Khao Rang (เขารัง). A great view of Phuket Town, the southern part of the island, and some of the offshore islands, can be obtained by going to the top of Khao Rang Hill, on the town's northwest border. There are also several restaurants featuring spectacular views of the city, a health park for exercise enthusiasts, and a comfortable, expanse of grass at the top with a bronze statue of Phraya Ratsada Nupradit, the revered Governor of Phuket during King Rama V's reign.
- Old Phuket (ย่านเมืองเก่าภูเก็ต), Dibuk Rd, Phang Nga Rd, Yaowarat Rd, Thalang Rd, Krabi Rd. The beginning of the tin boom in the 19th century led to construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well-preserved. The architectural style, typical of the region, is described as Sino-Portuguese and has a strong Mediterranean character. Shops present a very narrow face to the street, but stretch back a long way. Many, especially on Dibuk Rd, have old wooden doors with Chinese fretwork carving. Other streets, forming what might be called "Old Phuket", with similar structures are Phang Nga Rd, Yaowarat Rd, Thalang Rd, and Krabi Rd, and a walking tour of the area is easy and delightful. Some other old European-style buildings of note are the Provincial Hall, the Phuket Courthouse, and Siam City Bank.
- Phuket Cultural Center (ศูนย์ศิลปวัฒนธรรมจังหวัดภูเก็ต), 21 Thepkrasattri Rd, Ratsada (in the area of Phuket Rajabhat University on Thepkrasattri Rd), ☎ , , , fax: . Daily, 08:30– 16:30, except public holidays. History as well as the arts and culture of Phuket, such as houses, ways of life, and utensils of the city of Thalang in ancient times. The library collects books on Phuket's history and culture. For a group of visitors who need a guided tour, address a letter of request to the Phuket Cultural Center. Free admission.
- Phuket Culture Museum, Rajabhat University. It's very informative. Phuket's history is told in pictures. Free admission.
- Phuket Zoo (สวนสัตว์ภูเก็ต) (on the way to Chalong Bay), ☎ , . Daily, 08:30-18:00. The zoo contains a collection of Asian and African mammals and birds. Elephant and crocodile shows every day. 500 baht (adults)/300 baht (children).
- Saphan Hin (สะพานหิน). A land reclamation project provided abundant new land now used for parks and public facilities at Saphan Hin, located where Phuket Rd meets the sea in Phuket Town. In the circle is the Tin Mining Monument, shaped like a large drill bit, dedicated to the memory of Captain Edward Thomas Miles, the Australian who brought the first tin dredge to Phuket in 1909. The monument was built in 1969 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of tin dredging in Phuket. There is a sport centre in the park.
- Thai Village and Orchid Farm (หมู่บ้านไทยและสวนกล้วยไม้ภูเก็ต), Thepkasattri Rd (about 3 km from town), ☎ , . Daily 09:00-21:00. Serves daily a typical southern Thai lunch followed by a spectacular cultural show including Thai dances, Thai boxing, southern customs and elephants. Handicrafts are also on display. The complex also houses a dining hall decorated with over 20,000 varieties of orchids and tropical trees. Digestion is aided by the lilting sounds of Thai classical and folk music played on traditional instruments. Cultural shows are performed daily at 13:00 and 17:30. 650 baht (adults)/330 baht (children).
- Thaihua Museum, Krabi Rd. In an old Chinese language school, this museum tells the history of Chinese immigrants on Phuket. 200 baht (100 baht for students).
- Wat Mongkol Nimit, Dibuk Rd. A classical Thai-style temple with a soaring roof and lots of colourful glass tiling.
- 1 Chamber of Secrets @ BaanTeelanka (Room escape game at Baan Teelanka), Bypass Road km2 (Between Premium Outlet and Siam Niramit), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10:00-18:00. An exciting room escape game at Baan Teelanka, the Upside Down House and the garden maze. 1,800+ baht.
- Raintree Spa Phuket, 1 Montree Rd, ☎ , (mobile), e-mail: email@example.com. Has a variety of spa treatments that include traditional Thai massage, body treatments, facials, and spa packages.
Shopping seems to be the main reason for visitors to come to Phuket Town. In addition to local markets and a slew of malls and departments stores, Chinatown's Thalang Rd offers a large selection of boutiques and galleries retailing traditional handicrafts as well as antiques from the region. Phuket Night Bazaar occupies a large area where you can get local stuff (though you might find the same things much cheaper at the Big C supermarket!).
- Ranong Market Ranong Rd, is the largest local market. A warren of stalls selling anything and everything, it can be hot, sweaty, and chaotic, but an interesting experience if you've not been to one before.
- Weekend Market, Wirat Hong Yok Rd (opposite Wat Naka (Naka Temple) on west end of the road). Endless stalls with the cheapest of Thai souvenirs and counterfeit goods. Food court is large and is alone worth a visit.
- Central Festival, Chaloem Phra Kiat Rd. Phuket's branch of the Thai department store chain, also selling anything and everything, but now in air-con comfort and a zero added to the price tag. It's still probably cheaper than the street markets at the beaches. The food section offers a large variety of Western products and the fresh products seem to be of better quality than Big C or Tesco Lotus. Prices are much higher though.
- Ocean and Robinsons (next to each other on Tilok Uthit 1 Rd). Robinsons is a big department store, and there is a Tops Supermarket, as well as McDonalds, KFC, and other regrettable Western imports.
- China Inn Cafe & Restaurant, 20 Thalang Rd, ☎ . Dinner in beautiful historic Sino-Portuguese building in Phuket old town with romantic atmosphere. Thai and European food. Open: M-W, 11:00-18:00; Th-Sa, 11:00-23:00. Closed Su.
- Phuketiquette (formerly Circle Cafe) (on Ranong Circle, between Rasada and Yaowarat), ☎ . 08:00-21:00. Home of arguably the best coffee in Phuket, and probably the best value for money in Phuket Town. Great mix of Thai and international food, and a very friendly, young owner who will offer you great advice on what to see and do while in Phuket. Free Wi-Fi, DVD club. 50-200 baht.
- Farang Restaurant (Chaloem Kiat Rd, next to Index), ☎ . Italian and Thai food.
- Fuji Japanese Restaurant, Central Festival Phuket 3rd Fl., ☎ . Fine Japanese restaurant with reasonable prices.
- Kra Jok See, 26 Takua Pa Rd, ☎ . Serving Thai cuisine tailored to Western palates, the restaurant sheds its inhibitions at 22:00 when the tables are pushed back and hostesses pull guests onto the floor for dancing, which is heaps of fun.
- Laem Hin Seafood (แหลมหินซีฟู้ด), 90/11 Moo 7 Ko Keaw, ☎ .
- The Living Room Restaurant (Dibuk Rd just past Montri Rd.). Great restaurant for tasty Thai and Thai-Chinese food. Indoor and outdoor eating section/beer garden. Dimly lit interior for romantic dining. They've got a spot for live music as well. 80-200 baht.
- Natural Restaurant, Soi Phutorn, ☎ .
- Raya, New Dibuk Rd, ☎ . Thai cuisine, southern style. Popular dishes such as crab meat curry served with white noodles. Shrimp with tamarind sauce. Pork with garlic and black pepper. Fish with tamarind sauce. Salty pork. Fish with yellow curry and vegetables.
- La Romantica, 70 Phang Nga Rd (across from the On-On Hotel). Best pizza in Phuket Town. Large authentic thin crispy margherita for 140 baht or numerous pasta dishes for between 140-200 baht. Thai family-run with Italian chef/owner.
- Ruam Jai Restaurant, 215 Ranong Rd, ☎ . 06:00-16:00. A locally-run restaurant with friendly staff serving delicious all-vegetarian food. The prices are very reasonable. A plate of white/brown rice with two or more dishes from the buffet of about 15 different courses is around 25-35 baht. Try also locally-made fresh juices, 10 baht each. Popular among locals; it can be crowded around mealtimes. One of 3 vegetarian restaurants in close to the local bus terminal.
- Siam Bakery, 13 Yaowaraj Rd (north of Ranong Circle). French-run bakery offering pastries and drinks (~50 baht) in pleasant air-con surroundings.
- Weekend Market (Opposite Wat Naka). Numerous stalls sell a variety of meats, vegetables, noodles, fruits, and sweets that can fill a stomach for a handful of baht.
- Kota Khao Mun Kai. 6am - 5pm. Very nice clean local place to get a specialty of the region, Khao Mun Kai - chicken with rice. The owners are very friendly to foreigners and will help show you how to eat it. 60 baht for food, 10 for a drink.
- China House, 43 Yaowaraj Rd. Chinese tea and other drinks in an impeccably restored shop house that doubles as an art gallery. On the expensive side though, with drinks 50-100 baht.
- Coffee Max (On the roundabout where Ranong Rd meets Yaowarat Rd). Small, friendly coffee shop offering hot and cold coffee and tea drinks and a selection of pastries and cakes. Free Wi-Fi.
- Michael's Bar, 12 Takua Pa Rd. Owned by a British expat, a friendly, low-key place to grab a few drinks at a reasonable price. Has Wi-Fi and a PC for customer use, free for the first 20 minutes. Good happy hour prices.
- Smile Cafe (Near the junction of Montri Rd and Phang Nga Rd). Run by a friendly young Thai couple who make a great ice-blended coffee or green tea.
- Ban Nai Inn, 22/98 Luang Poh Cham Rd, Soi 1 (Behind the long distance bus terminal. Walk past the motorbike taxi drivers), ☎ , fax: . Small guesthouse. Rooms are basic, and include TV, refrigerator, air-con, separate shower, and wardrobe with lockable drawer. Little English is spoken, suggesting that this is a destination more popular with Thai tourists.
- Crystal Guest House (คริสตัล เกสต์เฮาส์), 41/16 Montri Rd, ☎ , . 26 rooms. 250-450 baht.
- Crystal Inn ((คริสตัล อินน์), 2/1-10 Soi Surin Montri Rd, ☎ , fax: . 54 rooms. 950 baht.
- Damrong (ดำรงค์), 52 Luang Pho Rd, ☎ . 45 rooms. 180-280 baht.
- Down Town Inn (ดาวน์ทาวน์ อินน์), 56/19 Ranong Rd, ☎ . 24 rooms. 250-450 baht.
- Imperial Hotel, 51 Phuket Rd, ☎ . 48 rooms. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, mini bar with fridge, and cable TV. 650-750 baht.
- Lub Sbuy Guest House (Around the corner from the bus station), ☎ . Clean, safe and friendly modern guesthouse/hotel, but overpriced for what it is. Basic rooms (with fan) at 700 baht and air-con rooms at 1,000 baht available, dorm 250 baht.
- Phuket Backpacker (In the centre of town, next to the local food market on Ranong Rd), ☎ . Establishment for Western travellers, with sociable common room and kitchen facilities. Fan cooled rooms at the back are popular with cockroaches and mosquitoes, so be prepared to share or fight for your space (and bring your own lock for the door). Fast and free Wi-Fi, but the range does not extend to the outlying rooms. The rooms are pretty pricey considering the facilities and the condition. 550 baht.
- Phuket Cyberinn Hotel (On Soi 4 off Bangkok Rd in the heart of Phuket Town), ☎ . A 3-storey hotel is surrounded by many shops, street bazaars, and wonderful old buildings. Easy to reach many beaches around Phuket. 750 baht.
- Phuket Resotel, 2/6 Luangphor Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Air-con throughout, with a lift. You also get breakfast, a quite good buffet. Rooms are a little worn, but clean. Plenty of channels on the TV, and the shower is hot. 690 baht.
- Sino Inn Budget Hotel (On Mea Luan Rd close to the 7-Eleven), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Rooms with en suite toilet and shower with hot and cold water, fridge, mini bar, TV, and air conditioning. Clean, comfortable and fully furnished with a balcony. Free mini bar and Wi-Fi. 2,000 baht.
- Art-C House, ☎ . Very nice clean hostel with private rooms and ensuites. There is a nice rock climbing gym inside, with three top rope walls and a fairly large bouldering area. Phone up before you go to make sure it is open. ~300 baht a day including equip hire, 150 baht if you are staying there.
- Baba House Hotel, 33/28 Moo2, Chaofa Road, Wichit, Phuket 83000 (5 minutes from King Power), ☎ , fax: . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Best Serviced Apartment & Hotel is located 5 minutes from Cahlong temple, King Power, Central Department Store. 15 Minutes from Big Buddha. 10 minutes from night market. Not far from town. Full amenity like gym, pool, Wi-Fi and Breakfast, Baba House has it all. It has only 30 rooms. Great service and great tour discount. All rooms overlook a long 30' pool & Big Buddha. Rooms include air-con, fridge, hot water thermos, utility kitchen sink, Flat screen TV, cabinet closet, working table, security safe, key card door, refirdge. Free Wi-Fi in room. Parking garage. 1,200 baht low season - 1,700 high season (nov - march).
- Baan Suwantawe, 1/9-10 Dibuk Rd (At the corner of Dibuk and Montri Rd), ☎ . A gem of a small hotel (~24 rooms) centrally located. Small (great) staff, so not a full-service hotel, but otherwise exceptional. All rooms overlook a pristine pool. Rooms include air-con, fridge, hot water thermos, utility kitchen sink, giant TV. Free Wi-Fi in lobby. For 100 baht/day reception will give you a patch cable for Internet in-room. Covered parking garage. Maybe Thailand's best book store across the street. Highly recommended. 1,400 baht low season - 1,700 high season (nov - march).
- Bhukitta Hotel & Spa, 28 Phang Nga Rd. In the heart of Phuket City providing easy access to old town and many attractions. The design of the hotel combines an elegant blend of contemporary design with a modern Thai touch, all the latest amenities and free Wi-Fi. 1,250-4,500 baht.
- Daeng Plaza (แดงพลาซ่า), 57 Phuket Rd, ☎ , , , fax: . 800-1,400 baht, includes breakfast.
- Metropole Phuket, 1 Soi Surin, Montri Rd (5-10 min walk from the main bus station and the market), ☎ , fax: . Large hotel. May once have been an opulent choice, but it feels like a decision was made some decades ago to spend minimal effort on upkeep or cleaning of the hotel. At least the cheaper rooms and the "gym" are in desperate need of renovation. Free Wi-Fi. 3,000 baht.
- Royal Phawadee Village, 3 Sawatdirak Rd, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thai-style pavilions are placed strategically throughout the resort leaving open spaces for exotic Thai flora to flourish. 2,500+ baht.
- Sino House Phuket Hotel and Apartment (โรงแรมชิโนเฮ้าส์ ภูเก็ต), 1 Montree Rd, ☎ , , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Boutique business hotel in the heart of Phuket Town. Providing clean and fully furnished rooms with air-con and free high speed Internet access in rooms.
- 1 Immigration Office. Visa extension (30 days) can be obtained here. Picture (can be done there) is requested. The charge 1900 baht
Catch a ferry from Rassada Pier to Ko Phi Phi, Rai Leh, or any of the surrounding islands.