- Thailand’s largest island (48 km long and 21 km wide), with a population of 350,000.
- One of the most popular beach and party destinations in Asia.
- Nickname: Pearl of the Andaman.
- Currency: Thai Baht (THB).
- Spoken languages: Thai. English is also widely spoken.
- Best time to visit: from November to February (the cool, dry months).
- Arriving via airport: Municipal A/C airport bus service is 85 THB, local bus is 20-40 THB, and minibus is 100-180 THB, depending on destination. Taxis are 600 THB.
WHERE TO STAY
Party animals should head straight for Patong to hop in the fun at a world-famous party destination. Or head to Karon for a little more sanity without completely skipping the action. Up-market tourists congregate in Surin, and peace and quiet can be found in Kamala, Nai Thon, or Nai Yong.
- Used regularly by working class locals, songtheaws offer a great bargain. Rides run about 25-40 THB.
- Tuk tuks are best avoided in Phuket, where drivers have the worst reputations in Thailand for scamming, overcharging, and even attacking foreigners. If you insist on using them, know how to bargain and agree on prices beforehand.
- Taxis provide a cheaper and safer alternative as well as more comfort in the heat. They may be hard to find but can be arranged at a hotel. Finding a taxi willing to use a meter can be a challenge; request them specifically when ordering through the hotel and stick with honest drives when you find them. More expensive, yet convenient, taxis can be found at the beaches. Motorbike taxis are an option as well.
- Rent your own motorbike for 200 THB per day or a car for 1000-2000 THB per day.
- Drinking age is 20 (rarely enforced). Last calls don’t exist in certain venues.
- Hip/local scene: for a less touristy, genuine Thai experience, consider spending a few nights in Phuket Town where locals have their fun.
- There’s no doubt that Patong Beach is the place to go to experience Thailand’s wild side in all its glory. All the discos, beer bars, girlie bars, and ladyboy shows you can handle.
- Karon and Kata Beach are the places to go if you want to step it down a notch but still find a great party.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Fancy a sunset? Prom Thep Cape, or “God’s Cape, “ in Rawai is a must.
- For a unique theme park experience, visit Phuket FantaSea, where an onslaught of nighttime cultural and magic shows have earned it the name, “Disneyland of Southeast Asia.”
- If you need a break from the heat or the crowds, take a cue from the Thais and go lounge about one of Phuket’s waterfalls. Popular Bang Pae, Ton Sai and Kathu Waterfall are all good places to start.
- Note: walking in Thailand’s heavy, humid climate can be a chore for even the fittest among us.
- When in paradise, a walk on the beach is always humbling. Kamala and Karon are particularly recommended in the evening time.
- Wander through Phuket’s Old Town for old European architecture and endless peeks into local life.
- Strong currents sometimes cause drownings, especially in monsoon season. Take warning flags seriously.
- Very modern and chaotic, the culture here has begun to closely resemble that of Bangkok, especially among the island’s youth.
- Phuket is one of the best places to go for scuba diving, yachting, and getting married.
- Dangerous areas: Phuket is a place to take extra caution, and crimes against tourists are on the rise. Avoid gambling (illegal and often wrought with scams). Do not walk alone, especially in dark areas, and beware of pickpockets. It’s also a good idea to completely refrain from renting jet-skis, as the jet-ski scammers are persistent and sometimes violent. Local police rarely side with tourists when things go wrong – be sure to contact the Tourist Police if help is needed.
RECOMMENDED PHUKET GUIDE BOOKS
Recommended trip duration: 4-5 days