- 1 By the Numbers
- 2 Weather
- 3 High and Low Seasons
- 4 Culture and Society
- 5 Districts
- 6 Police and Policies
- 7 Flights
- 8 Where to Stay
- 9 What to Do
- 10 Food
- 11 Nightlife and Party Attractions
- 12 Getting Around Phuket
- 13 Shopping In Phuket
- 14 Final Thoughts
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By the NumbersWith over 8 million tourists visiting each year, Phuket is one of the most traveled to places in Thailand. But over the last few years a shift has been occurring because of overseas economics. Out of the top five countries which visit Phuket, making up 2.9 million of the total number of tourists, China comes in first. Rounding out the rest of the five countries are Russia, Australia, Korea, and the United Kingdom.
WeatherThe weather in Phuket follows the weather pattern found throughout the rest of Thailand, with a dry season and a rainy season, and mostly being hot year round. As for the amount of rain in each month, here’s the average number of days of rainfall per month in Phuket. Keep in mind, rain hardly lasts all day long here in Phuket. Instead, it’ll generally rain very hard for about an hour or so, and then dry up pretty quickly. There are exceptions. As for the temperature, the average floats between 27 Celsius and 29.5 Celsius. If you’re from the US, you’d be looking at an average temperature of between 80 Fahrenheit and 85 Fahrenheit. Keep in mind these are just averages and it tends to get pretty darn hot in Phuket. It could get up to 32 Celsius or 91 Fahrenheit.
High and Low SeasonsHigh season in Phuket starts in November and ends in April. Peak high season is in January and February. Low season runs from May to October. Peak low season is in July and August.
Culture and SocietyThailand has always been inviting to outsiders and thrived by becoming the Land of Smiles. Phuket takes that hospitality and mentality to the extreme, as 90% of the island relies on tourism to power their economy. Unlike other parts of Thailand, where English or other foreign languages are rarely used, the majority of Phuket’s establishments have workers that are capable of communicating in English, German, Russian and Chinese. Phuket also has a huge expat community that continues to grow.
DistrictsThe districts of Phuket can be broken down into three main types. The first is the central districts (yellow) that are further inland and make up the island’s shopping, residential, and commercial hubs. These include Phuket City and other inland areas. The beaches of Patong, Ruwan, Kata, Karon, and Kamala make up the second set of Phuket’s districts (blue). Here, the tourism infrastructure and nightlife is more well established. The third set of districts (purple) are smaller and less frequented beaches that maintain remnants of the small fishing village of times past. These include Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Nai Thon, and Bang Tao.
Police and PoliciesPhuket is safe and well policed. The Thai and local government understand that tourism is the keystone to their economies and have built a policy that is well administered to help keep tourists safe. The police service is broken down into four main factions and all have separate governing bodies that, at times, may seem to lack inter-department collaboration.
Immigration Police: Visas and PassportsThe first are the Immigration Police, who are mainly responsible for ensuring tourists and expats who live in Phuket abide by the laws and obtain the right visas for the purpose of their stays. This group does frequent checks and raids if they suspect foreigners are working without work permits or performing certain activities without the appropriate visa. They also do the occasional spot check to ensure visitors have valid visas and no overstays. If you have the right visas and a valid passport, you have nothing to worry about. If you’re working without a permit or staying for extended periods with an appropriate visa, you could have a lot to worry about. You should have your passport with you at all times. But if you prefer to keep your passport at your hotel, a copy of your passport’s picture page, as well as a copy of your valid visa page, should suffice in most cases.
Tourist Police: Assistance and ProtectionThe second type of police in Phuket are the Tourist Police. Their job is to cater to the tourists rather than to police them. These officers are posted around the tourist hot spots and are often more like glorified tour guides and informational officers. They do break up the odd bar fight, but generally don’t do spot checks or make arrests. They also are the most proficient English speakers of all police and are likely your best bet when looking to report a theft or are in need of help.
General Police: Observing Thai LawThe third group of police is the general police or town police. Tourists don’t interact with them much aside from being met at the odd road block or checkpoint set up to screen for drunk driving. However, these officers have far less English efficiency and will generally leave you alone as long as you’re not drunk driving or breaking any laws. However, if you’re committing a crime in Thailand and you get caught, these are the police you will have to deal with.
Military Police: Country SecurityThe final group or force is the military police. These officers are the ones that are stationed at the major checkpoints when you drive onto the island and are responsible for securing the ports and airport. They rarely talk to tourists or non-Thais and are more a security force meant to prevent attacks of those key infrastructures. They don’t make arrests or do any raids. In most cases, they ignore the tourists and won’t even give them a second glance.
FlightsWhether you’re flying from abroad or flying from within Thailand, you’ll find plenty of ways to get to Phuket.
International FlightsFor international travelers looking to visit Phuket, you can fly directly to the island or fly to Bangkok first, then route your way to this southern paradise.
Flying from AsiaFor tourists flying from Asian countries, direct flights to Phuket are plentiful, cheap, and available at almost any time. We have a guide on Thailand airport transfers, which gives you quite a few options on getting to and from Phuket from around Asia. For booking flights, check out Expedia or SkyScanner. For example, every hour there is a flight to Phuket from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia flies from Kuala Lumpur to Phuket for about 3,000 baht during peak season and sometimes as low as 1,000 baht during low season.
Flying from the WestFor travelers flying in from further international destinations, routing through either Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi Airport or Don Mueang Airport) or Kuala Lumpur (KUL) offer great options, as both destinations are major regional hubs. There are a lot of great deals out there when flying into Bangkok from the West. You’ll just have to narrow down your search depending on where you’re coming from.
Flying into KrabiA final option for those looking to cut costs is to fly into neighboring Krabi International Airport (KBV). Flights into Krabi are usually about half the price from other Asian cities when flying directly into Phuket. From Krabi, 3,000 baht will get you to Phuket by taxi, or for 300 baht a shared minibus will do the same.
Domestic FlightsFor those looking for domestic flights to Phuket, there are many options available. Including Phuket, Thailand has nine main domestic airports. Six of those have flights into Phuket, including Chang Mai (CNX,CEI), Koh Samui (USM), Suvarnabhumi (BKK), Don Mueang (DMK), Udon Thani (UTH), Lampang (LPT), and Hat Yai (HDY). All flights are around sixty minutes long and all airports have multiple flights daily. The other two regional airports, Krabi (KBV) and Surat Thani (URT), are both within close driving distance of Phuket–around a two-hour drive. Thailand has six main regional carriers that operate the majority of these domestic flights: Nok Air, THAI Smile, Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai Lion Air, and AirAsia. All three are much cheaper to book through their websites than at airport ticketing counters. Nonetheless, in low season, last-minute flights can be found for cheap online or off. For those who pack light, all domestic airlines listed above allow 15 lbs (7 kgs) of carry-on baggage with each traveler. Most of them, except Nok Air and AirAsia, include a check in baggage allowance of for 22 lbs to 66 lbs (10 kgs – 30 kgs) depending on the airline.
Where to StayLike most provinces in Thailand, Phuket offers a plethora of places to stay, including hotels, guesthouses, hostels, Airbnbs, villas, and more. Finding accommodations in Phuket is easy and there are thousands of options to choose from. Though most of these options do have conventional check-in counters where rooms can be purchased directly, the general savings found by booking online can be extensive. Like most top-tier travel destinations, Phuket has every type of accommodation, from family-run boutique-style guesthouses to 5-star hotels, a few luxurious resorts, and even small one-room hostels. The pricing for these different accommodations varies widely, from about 1,000 baht to even 10,000 baht a night. This is based on a few factors, the main one being time of year. During low season, it’s common to get a room in a 4- or 5-star hotel for less than the price of a guesthouse in high season. This is due to the large difference in tourist volumes during the different seasons. During high season, Phuket accommodations have near-full capacity, but only around 20% in low season. The area of Phuket you’re looking to stay in can also make a very big difference in pricing. The western regions of Phuket like Patong, Ruwai, Karon, and Kamala tend to be more expensive due to their popularity. They have the most active nightlife and tourist-based attractions. For those looking for a more central area to explore the island, Phuket City and Kathu are central locations that make exploring the different parts of Phuket easier, such as off-the-beaten-path areas like Chong Thale, Mai Khao and Chalong.
HotelsDespite the rise of home-sharing trends, hotels in Phuket are still as popular as ever. And whether you’re visiting Phuket for as a couple on your honeymoon or as a solo-traveler with a backpack, you’ll find a hotel that’ll suit your needs. Regardless of what type of tourist you are, though, looking online to find the best prices is your best bet. The two top websites for booking hotels in Phuket are Booking.com and Agoda. Booking.com is preferable for anyone looking to reserve online and pay cash at the hotel. Agoda, on the other hand, requires the full payment to be made in advance via their website.
HostelsHostels are a popular type of accommodation for backpackers and younger visitors to Phuket. Before many of the star-class and resort-style accommodations became prevalent on the island, Phuket was a top-backpacking destination that attracted many in the college and young-adult segments. Though all areas of Phuket do have hostels, the majority of them are on the western and central parts of the island. If you’re a backpacker and nightlife is among the top reasons for visiting Phuket, you should stay in the more tourist intensive areas of Patong, Karon, or Kamala. Phuket City and Kathu also have many hostels for about 20% to 25% cheaper, but they are a little bit further from the popular beaches. Most hostels also have in-house bars or restaurants and tour counters that make planning itineraries and booking tours relatively easy. The average price for a hostel stay ranges from around 150 baht to 250 baht per night. Slight discounts exist for low-season stays, but prices are generally the same year round. This is because low season is when students break from school and travel and book with hostels because of their low costs. Unlike other forms of accommodations, hostels tend to retain a much steadier rate of occupancy. The best ways to book a hostel is in-person, as booking online tends to cost slightly more through third-party sites. The best way to find the perfect hostel for your needs is to walk around the area of Phuket where you plan to stay. This way, you can easily walk into the hostel that looks the most appealing to you and book directly at their front desk. For those looking to get some customer feedback and a general idea of which hostels are good, TripAdvisor has a plethora of reviews on most of the hostels in the area with feedback from fellow backpackers.
GuesthousesA growing segment of travelers are looking for more home-like accommodations. They are now able to book directly with owners through sites like Airbnb or Homestay. In May of 2018, Thai courts ruled Airbnb illegal for daily and weekly rentals in Thailand. Whether this will change how owners and renters use Airbnb in Thailand, we’ll have to wait and see. Airbnbs and Homestays can be found in every area of Phuket, and most hosts double as tour guides or booking services that can take care of itinerary needs–usually for cheaper than conventional tour agents as they are locals and will know where to get the best deals. But most people looking to use Airbnb and Homestays will find that, similar to hotels, pricing can vary considerably between high and low seasons. You can find almost anything in this category, from single rooms in houses to full luxury villas with luxury amenities. The key to using Airbnb and Homestay is to find a host with a solid, verifiable track record based on customer ratings and reviews. Check for what exactly is included, as many of these accommodations charge extra for cleaning, electricity, or use of on-site services like wifi or pools. Airbnbs and Homestays are great for families or large groups, especially as larger houses or villas can cost less than booking multiple rooms at resorts or hotels. In most cases, they even have far better privacy. These bookings also vary in price, from a few hundred baht for a room up to 10,000 baht for the biggest, fanciest villa. If you’re booking a guesthouse through one of these sites, a noteworthy tip is to book well in advance. These types of accommodations go up very quickly in price during high season. As a result, some owners even cancel last minute due to them finding higher-paying occupants.
What to DoIf you’re planning your trip to Phuket, then you probably already know that the island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. But Phuket has a lot more other relaxing and adventurous things to do as well.
BeachesThe top beaches of Phuket are among the most beautiful in the world. Most tourists find their way to Phuket to enjoy the beach and local water sports. Phuket.com has a detailed guide on the Phuket’s beaches. You can check that out when you have the time. If not, here’s how they rank them: Most Popular Beaches Patong Beach on the west coast of Phuket is one of the more popular beaches in Phuket. It draws a mixed crowd of visitors, ranging from those who want to experience the near-perfect ocean scenery to those wanting a bit more excitement in the nightlife on Bangla Road. The beach is also lined with pubs, restaurants, and coffee shops, making it the perfect place for a lazy afternoon. Here are eight more popular beaches in Phuket:
- Karon Beach
- Kata Beach
- Kamala Beach
- Bang Tao Beach
- Nai Harn Beach
- Kata Noi
- Surin Beach
- Mai Kao Beach
- Ya Nui Beach
- Laem Singh Beach
- Ao Yon Beach
- Nai Thon Beach
- Ao Sane Beach
- Pansea Beach
- Nui Beach
- Laem Ka Beach
- Pamwa Beach
- Kalim Beach
- Tri Trang Beach
- Cape Panwa Beach