When I think of Phuket, I think of three things – its beaches, its limestone karsts, and its seafood. We experienced all three on our most recent trip, albeit in varying amounts thanks to August’s inclement weather. We had copious amounts of seafood but very little of the other two. Not that I minded.
I had been to Koh Samui many years before so with both destinations being in southern Thailand, I expected Phuket to be similar. It was for the most part, but the one thing that did surprise me was the Russian. And by Russian, I mean the language. There was a lot of it. Many signs and ads were in Russian. Entire restaurant menus were translated into the Russian language.
I asked our hotel staff why that was and they said Phuket is marketed heavily in Russia, so a good chunk of the island’s tourists during that time of year are Russian. I expected China or countries within Southeast Asia, but never Russia! It just goes to show what an international tourist destination Phuket has become.
No matter what country you’re from or which language you speak, I hope this Phuket travel guide can help you plan that first trip to this dream island destination in Thailand.
VISIT PHUKET QUICK LINKS
This travel guide to Phuket is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.
Top-rated hotels in Kata, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Phuket.
- Luxury: The Shore At Katathani – Adult Only – SHA Extra Plus
- Midrange: The Boathouse Phuket – SHA Plus
- Budget: Sino Hostel @ Kata
- Sightseeing Tour: Phuket Discovery Half Day Tour
- Island Hopping Tours: James Bond Island Day Tour
- Food Tour: Phuket Old Town 15-Taster Food Tour
- TAGTHAi – One-stop Thai tourism app
- Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
- Private Transfers
- Car Rental
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GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
PHUKET TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Because of the current global situation, Phuket travel guidelines can change almost everyday. Our friends at Booking.com created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Before planning a trip to Phuket, be sure to check Booking.com for information on travel restrictions to Thailand. If you do decide to visit Phuket, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.
You may need a visa and other documents to travel to Thailand depending on what passport you carry. Visit iVisa.com to learn about the requirements and to apply for a visa (if necessary).
PHUKET TRIP PLANNING
Do you ever worry about missing out on something when planning your own trips? If you do, then you may want to have a destination expert plan your Phuket trip for you.
ViaHero is a travel planning service that links travelers with local experts to create custom itineraries to different destinations around the world, including Phuket. If you’d like to try them out, then you can get a 5% discount on their services if you enter WILLFLYFORFOOD upon checkout using our link.
PHUKET AT A GLANCE
Phuket refers to both the province and the island in southern Thailand. It’s the country’s second smallest province but it’s biggest island, home to beautiful white sand beaches along its southern and western coast and a spattering of smaller islands just off the mainland.
Explore the Old Town and you’ll learn that tin mining used to be a major source of income for much of the island’s history. The demand for tin petered out in the twentieth century and gave rise to other industries like rubber production and tourism, the latter being the province’s main source of income for that last two or three decades.
Tourists flock to Phuket to enjoy its beaches and many luxurious resorts. Not only is Phuket the country’s biggest island, but it’s also its busiest, receiving an estimated ten million visitors annually.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PHUKET
Phuket is a tropical island destination so the best time to go is largely dependent on the weather. Phuket is least rainy from around the end of November till mid-April, making this the ideal time to visit. The seas will be at their calmest as well.
NOV-APR: Weather-wise, this is the most ideal time to visit Phuket. However, it’s also the busiest. High season starts in late November and goes till around mid-April, with peak months being January and February. If you’d like to go when the weather is best but are averse to crowds, then consider going in December or March. If you like getting into water fights, then you may want to go in mid-April for the Songkran Festival.
MAY-OCT: This is the monsoon season in Phuket. We were there in August and while we did enjoy a few sunny days, the unpredictability of the weather made it difficult to plan anything. When it rains it pours, and the wind can be frighteningly strong. I could see the waves crashing from our villa in Karon Bay and there was no way anyone was swimming in that ocean.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Phuket
To help you better understand the monthly weather patterns in Phuket, I’ve created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are highlighted in orange.
TRAVELING TO PHUKET
There are several ways to get to Phuket depending on where you are, but most travelers will probably be flying into Phuket International Airport (HKT). It’s located in the northern part of the island so you’ll need to arrange for a transfer to your hotel.
BY SMART BUS: The Phuket Smart Bus is a new transportation service that launched in 2018. It takes passengers from the airport to Rawai, making 11 stops in-between. It makes stops in Bang Thao, Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon, Kata, and Rawai, which is basically every recommended area along the island’s western coast. At around THB 100, this is the cheapest way to get to your hotel. You can check the Phuket Smart Bus website for more information.
BY AIRPORT BUS: This is what I took to get from the airport to the bus terminal in the Old Town. If I remember correctly, the journey took a little over an hour. Click on the link to purchase tickets for the Phuket Airport Bus on Bookaway.
BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the fastest and most convenient way. Ren and her friends arrived a couple of days after I did and booked a private transfer to our hotel in Kata. You can try arranging for a transfer through your hotel or booking it in advance on Bookaway.
BY TAXI: I read about Phuket’s infamous “taxi mafia” so I was averse to riding them in Phuket. Apparently, taxis and tuk-tuks control transportation on the island and have been known to charge extortionist fares. There are metered taxis and limousine taxis (fixed fare) you can catch from the airport, but I honestly don’t know what the advantages are considering you can book a safer (and perhaps cheaper) private transfer in advance.
BY RENTAL CAR: As I’ll discuss in the transportation section of this guide, it isn’t as easy to get around in Phuket. One of the easiest ways to get around is by rental car. If you do that, then you can pick it up at the airport and drive it to your hotel.
The above information assumes you’ll be flying into Phuket, but there may be other ways to get there depending on where you are. I know for example that you can take a bus to Phuket from Bangkok, or a ferry and bus to Phuket from Koh Samui. These will be cheaper than flights so I suggest checking Bookaway to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
The unit of currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB).
I used to exchange currency on every trip but I now find myself withdrawing more frequently from ATMs instead. It’s more convenient and the rates are competitive.
We didn’t exchange currency in Phuket but there are plenty of currency exchange offices in popular tourist areas like Kata and Patong. Just be sure to check the rates and ask if they charge a fee to find the best one.
NOTE: If you plan on withdrawing THB from an ATM, then be advised that some machines may give you the option of proceeding “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. Proceeding with conversion allows the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at highly unfavorable exchange rates.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN PHUKET
The most popular coastal areas to stay in Phuket are Kata, Karon, and Patong. If you’d like a taste of Phuket history and culture, then the Old Town is the best place to stay.
Of those four places, I’ve stayed in Kata, Karon, and the Old Town. I’m not as big a fan of beaches so my favorite was the Old Town. It has the most interesting food on the island and is similar in look and feel to Penang in Malaysia. Keep in mind that it isn’t as easy (or as cheap) to get around in Phuket, so it’s important to choose an area that’s right for you.
Listed below is a brief description of the most popular areas to stay in Phuket, along with a color-coded map to help you better understand where each of these areas are. Click on the link for a live version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
ORANGE – Kata
YELLOW – Karon
RED – Patong
GREY – Phuket Old Town
GREEN – Kamala
LIGHT BLUE – Bang Thao
PURPLE – Surin
DARK BLUE – Rawai / Nai Harn
I’ll provide targeted links under each description but you can book accommodations in Phuket through Booking.com or Agoda.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, Kata may offer the best balance between beach quality, restaurants, activities, and nightlife. It doesn’t have as many shops, restaurants, and bars as Patong, but it doesn’t get as busy nor as crowded either.
We stayed at Sugar Marina Resort SURF Kata which is a lovely and modern 4-star hotel just a short walk from Kata Beach. They have a pool and offer a great breakfast buffet. You can book a room at Sugar Marina Resort SURF Kata on Booking.com or Agoda.
If you like Kata Beach but don’t think this is the right hotel for you, then you can do a search on Booking.com or Agoda for alternate listings. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: The Shore At Katathani – Adult Only – SHA Plus
- Midrange: The Boathouse Phuket – SHA Plus
- Budget: Sino Hostel @ Kata
Karon is the area just north of Kata. It seems to have nicer resorts than Kata (especially higher up on the cliff) and a more developed downtown area that’s reminiscent of Patong. Personally, we preferred Kata over Karon.
Ren and I were invited to stay at Centara Villas Phuket, a lovely 4-star resort known for its standalone bungalows in a lush tropical setting. The resort is situated on the edge of a cliff and offers terrific views of Karon Bay.
If you’re traveling to Phuket on your honeymoon or as a couple, then this is a great place to stay. You can book a room at Centara Villas Phuket on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out my article on Centara Villas Phuket for more pictures and information.
If you don’t think Centara Villas Phuket is the right place for you, then you can check on Booking.com or Agoda for alternate listings in Karon. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: Mövenpick Residences Karon Beach Phuket
- Midrange: Mandarava Resort and Spa, Karon Beach – SHA Plus
- Budget: Karon Studio Apartment
Patong is one of the busiest areas on the island, largely because of Bangla Road which is the center of Phuket nightlife. It has the densest concentration of bars and clubs with plenty of shops and restaurants. If you like to party, then this is where you’ll want to be. However, many of the establishments along Bangla Road are known to be sleazy so it isn’t for everyone.
Check out Booking.com or Agoda for listings in Patong. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: Patong Heights
- Midrange: Rak Elegant Hotel Patong – SHA Plus
- Budget: Slumber Party Hostel Phuket
PHUKET OLD TOWN
If you’re traveling to Phuket to lay on a beach, then the Old Town isn’t for you. But if you’re interested in getting a feel for local life in Phuket, then this is the best place to be. It’s home to plenty of charming Sino-Portuguese shophouses, temples, and museums, not to mention the most authentic and interesting food in Phuket.
I stayed at Fulfill Hostel which is a hip and trendy hostel offering both dorm and private rooms. It’s centrally located so it was easy for me to walk to all the city’s main points of interest. You can book a room at Fulfill Hostel on Booking.com or Agoda.
If you’d like to stay in the Old Town but don’t think this is the right place for you, then you can search for alternate listings on Booking.com or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: The Westin Siray Bay Resort & Spa, Phuket – SHA Plus
- Midrange: Snoozy
- Budget: OK CHIC PHUKET HOSTEL
Kamala is the area just north of Patong but it’s nothing like it in terms of atmosphere. It’s a quiet area, quieter than Kata or Karon but it does have a good number of restaurants, just not much in the way of nightlife. If you’d like a more relaxed stay in Phuket, then this is a good area to consider.
Check out Booking.com or Agoda for listings in Kamala. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: Andara Resort Villas – SHA Plus
- Midrange: Vivace Hotel
- Budget: Sea song inn
Bang Thao is where you’ll find the Laguna Complex which is a self-contained group of luxury resorts. The complex fronts a long stretch of beach and is home to multiple lagoons and a golf course. If you’re traveling to Phuket with family and don’t care to explore the rest of the island, then this may be a good place to consider.
Check out Booking.com or Agoda for listings in Bang Thao. You’ll find plenty of hotels and resorts outside the complex as well. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels:
- Luxury: Banyan Tree Phuket – SHA Plus
- Midrange: SAii Laguna Phuket – SHA Plus
- Budget: OYO 503 Phuket Numnoi
Surin is the area between Kamala and Bang Thao. It’s home to one of the best and most exclusive stretches of beach on the island. If you want a quieter and more luxurious stay in Phuket, then this is probably where you’ll want to be. Check out Booking.com or Agoda for listings in Surin. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels:
- Luxury: Baanjai Surin Beach Phuket – SHA Plus
- Midrange: Palmyrah Surin Beach Residence
- Budget: Surin Beach Residence
RAWAI / NAI HARN
Rawai and Nai Harn Beach are at the southern tip of the island. We didn’t explore this area but from what I understand, it’s a favorite spot among locals. Rawai is described as being similar to Patong but quieter, and is the jumping off point for island trips by traditional Thai longtail boat.
However, Rawai Beach is unsuitable for swimming so if you’d like to stay in this area, then it may be best to choose a hotel near Nai Harn Beach. It’s said to be one of the nicest on the island. You can check Booking.com or Agoda for listings in Rawai / Nai Harn Beach. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels in the area:
- Luxury: The Nai Harn – SHA Plus
- Midrange: Vivi Bungalows Resort
- Budget: Sense of Yanui
You can also book hotels and homestays in Phuket using the handy map below.
THINGS TO DO IN PHUKET
1. Lay on a Beach
Laying on a beach and doing absolutely nothing is one of the best things you can do in Phuket. It’s home to long stretches of white sand beach that are among the best in Southeast Asia. But you already knew that. Pictured below is Kata Beach on a clear day in August.
We didn’t go sunbathing but we did camp out at one of Kata’s beachside tables to drink ice cold beers and feast on fresh seafood. I do a lot of restaurant research for our trips but sometimes, spontaneous experiences at no name places like this one are the most memorable.
2. Hike to the Big Buddha
The Big Buddha is one of the most well-known attractions in Phuket. It sits above Nakkerd Hill, less than 10 km from Kata. At 45 meters tall (148 ft), it’s the third-tallest statue in Thailand and can be seen as far away as the Old Town. The views from the Big Buddha are spectacular as well.
The Big Buddha is accessible via a steep 6 km uphill road so it’s best visited by car. It’s in the vicinity of Wat Chalong and Karon Viewpoint so you can visit all three places on the same day. Depending on how long your car charter is, you can even visit the Old Town on the same trip.
You can try arranging for a private car charter through your hotel or through Klook. There are a few guided tours on Klook and Get Your Guide that take you to the Big Buddha.
Photo by BigaPixel via Shutterstock
Estimated Time to Spend: 1 hr
3. Explore the Old Town
Most people come to Phuket for its beaches so the Old Town is often overlooked, which is a shame because for me, it’s one of the most interesting towns on the island. It’s home to a wealth of Sino-Portuguese architecture and temples, not to mention the best and most authentic Phuketian food. There are a lot of cute “Instagrammable” cafes in town too.
If you like Penang in Malaysia, then you’ll enjoy Phuket Old Town as well. It’s like a mini-Penang.
Like George Town in Penang, you’ll find murals in the Old Town as well. This was taken at the mouth of picturesque Soi Romanee, a popular alley for Instagram photos. Make sure to visit the former governor’s mansion (now the Blue Elephant restaurant and cooking school) and Chinpracha House for great examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture.
If you’d like to visit on a guided tour, then you can book one through Klook or Get Your Guide.
Estimated Time to Spend: At least half a day
4. See Three Bays from Karon Viewpoint
Karon Viewpoint is one of the most popular viewpoints on the island. Located just south of Kata Noi beach, from there you can get terrific views of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches. As described, you can visit Karon Viewpoint on a private car charter or as part of a guided tour (Klook | Get Your Guide).
Photo by aphotostory via Shutterstock
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins
5. Pay Your Respects at Wat Chalong Temple
There are 29 Buddhist temples you can visit in Phuket, though none are more important or as impressive as Wat Chalong. It’s Phuket’s largest temple complex and features a 60 meter tall stupa (197 ft), at the top of which is housed a bone fragment from the Lord Buddha.
Wat Chalong is located near the Big Buddha so you can easily visit both on the same day, either on a private car charter or guided tour (Klook | Get Your Guide).
Photo by tratong via Shutterstock
Estimated Time to Spend: 1-2 hrs
6. Check Out a Night Market
Thai night markets are always fun. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a great place to soak up the atmosphere over snacks and cold beers. I visited two in Phuket – the Kata Night Market and the Lard Ploy Khong or “Indy” Market in the Old Town. The former (pictured below) takes place everyday while the latter is held only from Wednesday till Friday at 4-10PM.
Scenes from the Indy Market. Check out this article on the most interesting night markets to visit in Phuket.
7. Go on a Food Tour
For me, there’s no better way of getting to know a locality’s cuisine than by going on a food tour with a knowledgeable local. I find that to be especially true in Phuket, which is home to a dying cuisine that you can’t find just anywhere.
Phuket is overrun by tourists so all throughout the island are restaurants serving tourist-friendly Thai dishes like pad Thai and som tam, but venture into the Old Town and you’ll find a much more interesting type of cuisine. True Phuketian food has many influences – most notably Hokkien and Malaysian – blended seamlessly in its distinct brand of Peranakan cuisine.
If you’d like a taste of real Phuketian food, then I highly recommend going on this Phuket Old Town food tour with A Chef’s Tour. It’s an in-depth 4-hr tour that gives you a taste of the Old Town and its food through the eyes of a local. You can book the tour on Get Your Guide.
Length of Tour: Around 4 hrs
8. Take a Cooking Class
While going on a food tour is a great way to become acquainted with a new cuisine, there’s no better way to really understand it than by taking a cooking class. It’s one thing to taste a dish, but it’s another to learn how to actually make it.
We took this fun cooking class in Phuket that taught us how to make Thai favorites like tom yum goong, pad Thai, and green curry with chicken. You can book the same class on Cookly or search through their list of cooking classes in Phuket.
Length of Class: About 4 hrs
9. Party on Bangla Road
As described, Bangla Road in Patong is party central in Phuket. It’s loud and sleazy in parts so it isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to party it up in Phuket, then this is the place to do it. It’s like a more raucous version of Khao San Road in Bangkok.
It’s easy enough to go bar hopping on Bangla Road, but if you’d like to hit some of the best spots with a local, then you may want to go on this Phuket pub crawl.
Photo by Sylwia Kempa via Shutterstock
10. Get a Massage
Getting a massage on a tropical island should be on everyone’s must-do list. I’m not even fond of massages but I got two in Phuket – one full body and one foot massage – and I was snoring like a fire truck within the first 15 minutes. Simply put, there’s nothing better to do on an island than to relax, and there’s no better way to relax on an island than by getting a massage.
There are plenty of massage parlors you can walk into without an appointment. The two we went to were both in Kata. But if you want the best experiences, then you may want to book a treatment at a proper spa.
ISLAND HOPPING TRIPS
The weather in August was too erratic for us to do any of these trips, but if you visit Phuket in summer when the skies are clear and the ocean is more receptive, then here are a few island hopping trips you can take from the mainland.
1. Phang Nga Bay & James Bond Island
Phang Nga Bay is a 400 sq km bay between Phuket and the southern Thai mainland. It’s known for its sheer limestone karsts that jut vertically out of the emerald green water, none more famous perhaps than Koh Ta Pu or James Bond Island. If you had time for just one island hopping tour in Phuket, then this should probably be it.
You can try booking a tour through your hotel or an online travel agency. Klook and Get Your Guide offer several Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island tours. You can go by cruise, longtail boat, even by helicopter.
Photo by Kwiatek7 via Shutterstock
The famous James Bond Island. This 20 meter tall (66 ft) vertical islet has been a favorite tourist destination since its starring role in the 1974 James Bond film “The Man with the Golden Gun”.
Photo by Banana Republic images via Shutterstock
Length of Tour: Full Day
2. Koh Phi Phi
Like James Bond Island, the Koh Phi Phi archipelago was made famous by a movie, this time the 2000 film “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a beautiful set of islands by all accounts but based on what I’ve read, it’s fallen victim to overtourism with hordes of young partygoers flocking to the island for its beach parties.
It may still be a pleasant place for a day visit, especially during the slower seasons, but don’t expect the virgin paradise you saw on The Beach. You can check Klook and Get Your Guide for tour options to Koh Phi Phi.
Photo by Matej Kastelic via Shutterstock
Length of Tour: Full Day
3. Similan Islands
Similan Islands is a set of unspoiled islands located about 84 km northwest of Phuket. It’s known for its pristine white sand beaches and unusual rock formations that can be seen aboveground and underwater. Aside from its unique undersea topography, the chance to see manta rays and whale sharks makes the scuba diving around Similan Islands some of the most sought after in the world.
If you were hoping to experience that virgin paradise in Koh Phi Phi, then you should probably go to Similan Islands instead. Do take note that Similan Islands is only open to the public from around mid-October till mid-May.
Photo by Kosin Sukhum via Shutterstock
If you scuba dive, then your best chance to see manta rays and whale sharks is between February and April. With that said, there are plenty of marine wildlife to see at any time of the year like giant barracuda, batfish, scorpionfish, moray eels, and nudibranchs.
There are no accommodations on the islands so your best bet is to go by liveaboard cruise. Klook offers several packages ranging from one-day excursions to seven-day dive trips.
Photo by Wanwalee Wongsawan via Shutterstock
Length of Tour: Full Day
4. Other Islands
Along with the main island, Phuket is comprised of 32 smaller islands so there are other places you can visit aside from the ones listed above. There’s Koh Racha Yai, Koh He (Coral Island), Koh Yao Yai, and Koh Bon, just to name a few. If you’d like to explore any of these other islands, then check out Klook’s complete list of island hopping tours in Phuket.
Photo by isarescheewin via Shutterstock
THAI FOOD GUIDE
Thailand is home to one of the best cuisines in the world. If you’re curious about Thai food and want to try as many dishes as you can, then be sure to check out our Thai food guide for a list of 45 must-try dishes in Thailand.
Savory Thai dishes are delicious, but so are Thai desserts. If you have a taste for the sweeter things in life, then you’ll definitely want to look for these 25 traditional Thai desserts on your next visit to Phuket.
WHERE TO EAT IN PHUKET
It isn’t hard to find great food in Phuket. From local crowd pleasers like pad Thai, seafood, and som tam to international fare like pizza and sushi, this island’s got you covered. But if you’d like a taste of the real Phuket, then you need to go to the Old Town. I divided my time on the island between three areas – the Old Town, Kata, and Karon – to come up with this list of must-eat restaurants in Phuket.
If you don’t have time to visit all ten eateries in our Phuket food guide, then I recommend starting with these four.
1. Kwong Shop Seafood
Kwong Shop Seafood is a great but inexpensive Thai seafood restaurant in Kata. There were five people in our group and we enjoyed a feast of steamed squid, crab yellow curry, whole fish with red curry, and seafood hotpot for around THB 400 per person.
2. Red Onion – CLOSED
Red Onion is one of the most popular restaurants in the Kata area and with good reason. They serve fantastic Thai food at very reasonable prices. Everything we ordered was terrific, from the fried garlic and pepper prawns to the pad Thai to the duck with red curry.
3. One Chun Cafe & Restaurant
One Chun Cafe & Restaurant is one of the best restaurants in the Old Town. It’s a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee known for serving many interesting Phuketian and southern Thai dishes. I was here specifically for one dish – the khanom jeen kang poo (THB 370) or crab yellow curry with khanom jeen noodles. It was incredible and the single best dish I ate in Phuket.
Raya is owned by the same family as One Chun Cafe & Restaurant which explains why both restaurants are so good. Like One Chun, Raya is a Michelin Bib Gourmand awardee known for serving classic Phuketian dishes like this fantastic moo hong (THB 250) or slow-cooked pork belly stew. Moo hong is referred to as Phuket’s signature dish so if you were to have just one thing in Phuket, then it should probably be this.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN PHUKET
Phuket is a big island. To help you make sense of where everything is, I’ve pinned all the places recommended in this guide on this map. Click on the link for a live version of the map.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN PHUKET
It isn’t as easy or as cheap to get around in Phuket. There isn’t a developed public transportation system and the “taxi mafia” allegedly controls much of the ground transportation on the island. To help make sense of it all, I’ve outlined below the available means of transport to get around the island.
TUK-TUK: What are known as “tuk-tuks” in Phuket are different from the tuk-tuks you’ll find in Bangkok. Instead of the three-wheeled vehicles with handlebars, they’re four-wheeled mini-trucks that are either red or yellow. Like taxis, tuk-tuks have a bad reputation in Phuket. They’re more expensive here than anywhere else in Thailand, often charging a minimum of THB 200 even for the shortest of trips. On top of that, they’ve been known to take passengers to unsolicited stops like jewelry shops where they’re given a commission. If you need to ride a tuk-tuk, then be sure to settle on the fare beforehand and tell the driver not to make any other stops.
TAXI: Taxis have the same reputation as tuk-tuks and charge similarly extortionist prices. If you’re lucky enough to get a metered taxi, then good for you, but based on what I’ve read, they’re few and far between. Exercise the same caution with taxis as you would with tuk-tuks.
GRAB: We took Grab a couple of times in Phuket. Though the rides felt safe, the fares were surprisingly high, at least three times what we would have paid in Bangkok for similar distances. From what I understand, these ridiculously high Grab fares are a ripple effect of the taxi mafia.
SMART BUS: As described, the Phuket Smart Bus travels between the airport and Rawai, making stops in Bang Thao, Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon, and Kata. At just THB 50-170 per ride, this is a cheap and reliable way of traveling between towns along the western coast of the island.
SONGTHAEW: This is what I took to get from the Old Town to Kata. These old blue trucks or songthaews comprise the local bus system in Phuket. They’re cheap – about THB 40 to Kata from the Old Town – but they’re not the most reliable. There’s no confirmed bus schedule and routes are limited, taking passengers from the Old Town to the main beach areas and back. Other than the three stations in the Old Town, there are no designated stops along its route so you’re expected to stand by the main road and flag one down as it approaches. Follow the link for more information and an unofficial songthaew schedule.
MOTORBIKE TAXI: This isn’t the safest way of getting around but may be a viable option for short distances. You’ll recognize motorbike taxis by the colorful vest the driver is wearing. Short trips should cost around THB 40 so be sure to agree on the fare before hopping on.
PRIVATE CAR CHARTER: If you’re researching public transportation options to get to the island’s main tourist attractions, then it’ll be easier and more convenient to go by private car charter. If there are enough people in your group, then it may be a cost-effective solution as well. As described, you can visit the Old Town, Wat Chalong, the Big Buddha, and Karon Viewpoint all on the same day. Click on the link to book a private car charter through Klook.
RENTAL CAR: If you’re traveling with enough people and comfortable with driving in Thailand, then renting a car is one of the easiest ways to get around Phuket. It isn’t the cheapest option but it’ll give you the most freedom. You can reserve one through Rentalcars.com.
No matter which mode of transport you choose, I highly recommend using the Google Maps app (iOS|Android) to navigate. It’ll tell you exactly how to get from point A to point B, either by walking or public transportation. Had it not been for its GPS feature, then I wouldn’t have known where to get off to get to my hotel in Kata from the Old Town. It’s very reliable.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / PHUKET ITINERARY
Phuket is an island destination so it isn’t the type of place you’ll want to just rush through. But if you’re pressed for time, then I’d say three full days is the absolute minimum. You can refer to this 3D/4N sample Phuket itinerary to help you plan your trip.
• Lay on the beach and do nothing
• Phuket Old Town
• Wat Chalong
• Big Buddha
• Karon Viewpoint
• Island hopping tour
PHUKET TRAVEL TIPS
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
If you enjoy planning your own trips, then Sygic Travel will be useful to you. It’s a free trip planning app that I’ve been using for several years now. It helps you make efficient itineraries by allowing you to pin points of interest on a map then grouping them together by location. It’s available for free on iOS and Android.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
Having a steady connection to the internet is a must these days, especially when traveling. You’ll need it to navigate, do research, and stay connected on social media. I have a terrible sense of direction so having access to Google Maps makes it indispensable for me.
Personally, we prefer renting pocket wifi devices but sim cards are fine too. Whatever works best for you. You can purchase a sim card or rent a pocket wifi device through Klook. You can pick them up at Phuket Airport or from either airport in Bangkok.
3. Check for Discount Passes
I buy vouchers to tours, pocket wifi rental, airport transfers, etc from a few websites. Among the sites I use, the ones that have the biggest inventory in Phuket are Klook and Get Your Guide.
I’ve already included many links above but what I’ve posted is just a fraction of their total inventory. If you’d like to find deals on tours, shows, attractions, spas, and restaurants, then you can search through these lists of Phuket deals on Klook and Get Your Guide. Even if I don’t buy anything, I often learn about activities I wouldn’t normally think of myself so it’s always worth a look.
4. Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance wasn’t something we always thought about. But the older we get, the more we understand how important it is. The fact is, you never know what can happen on a trip.
With that said, we don’t always get travel insurance. We follow a basic rule. If we plan on doing anything physical, anything that could get us injured, then we’ll definitely get insurance. If not, then we may not since our credit cards entitle us to free basic travel insurance anyway (except medical). So it really depends on the trip.
When we do feel the need for it, then we’ll buy insurance from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re travel insurance providers often used by many long-term travelers. Follow the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Will Fly for Food readers get 5% off on Heymondo by using our link.
5. Rent a Car
As described, the Phuket taxi mafia and limited public transportation options can make getting around Phuket a pain. If you want as much freedom as possible while you’re on the island, then you may want to rent a car.
6. Bring the Right Power Adapter
You’ll find two-pronged round or flat sockets in Thailand, either Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type F. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.
I’m not an expert on Phuket but I do hope you find this guide useful. I’m only sharing the things I learned from our trip. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please let us know in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for stopping by and have an amazing time in Phuket!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Phuket. See what’s in our backpack for a complete list of our travel gear. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon and other affiliate links.)
This Phuket travel guide contains affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a booking at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!
Saturday 10th of October 2020
Thank you for sharing this blog post with us.I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so amazing and beautiful. I always wondered there's nothing much there apart from beaches. Now i know..thanks to your post!
JB & Renée
Tuesday 13th of October 2020
You're welcome Tim. :)
Sunday 3rd of November 2019
I went to Phuket, Thailand and I can say it is one of the best. Traveling really can never go wrong, you just have to double check your pocket and budget properly. Thanks for sharing!
Travel in pictures
Wednesday 2nd of October 2019
Hi, Splash beach resort Mai Khao Phuket is wonderful for families with kids. It has a water park, sandy beach, infinity pool, kids club, kids pool, excellent facilities and more. We enjoyed it very much, took many pictures and have many tips to share.