Phuket Travel Guide

Phuket is the quintessential beach tourist destination in Thailand, and the numbers confirm this: more than a third of tourists visiting the country spend a few days in Phuket during their trip. Located in the south of Thailand and bathed by the waters of the Andaman Sea, Phuket is the largest island in the entire country, 48 km long and 21 wide, although its large size and the fact of being linked to the mainland by a bridge makes many tourists leave Phuket without realizing that it is an island.

β€œThe island is famous mainly because of the many beautiful beaches it has, located mainly on the west coast, and also because of the many opportunities it offers for excursions to nearby islands such as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta. The two most important towns in Phuket are on the one hand the town of the same name, a small town with a special charm that is the capital of the province, and on the other hand Patong, the main tourist center of the island and famous for its intense nightlife . In addition to beautiful beaches, Phuket has developed infrastructures, plenty of beachside resorts and a wide gastronomic and leisure offer. In short, a perfect place to spend a few days relaxing from beach to beach and on excursions, with plenty of options to eat well and go out if you feel like it “

ℹ️ Top Things to Do in Phuket

Take a boat tour

Boat tourOnce in Phuket, you should not miss the opportunity to take a tour and visit many of the beaches and islands near this resort island. Due to the large number of them that there are, we consider that one of the best options would be to take a tour, or several, in order to see as many of them if your time is limited. Among the most famous tours are the one to the Phi Phi Islands together with the Bamboo Island, the tour to the James Bond Island which is known by this name since it appeared in 1974 in a film of this famous saga called “The Man with the Golden Gun “. Other highly recommended islands are the Similan Islands which are located in a protected National Maritime Park.

Climb the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha is one of Phuket’s most iconic images – a big 45-meter-high white Buddha statue on top of a hill, so it’s visible from much of southern Phuket. The statue has a concrete frame, covered with 135 tons of white marble from Myanmar. From the meditation pavilion at the entrance of the place, a cement staircase allows you to climb in about 5 minutes to the upper level, where the Big Buddha and the viewpoint are located. It is a very touristy visit, but the spectacular views make that even if there was nothing at the top it would still be worth the climb. The visit is free, although at the entrance there are several tables where you can make donations, the only source of funding for the place.

Visit Wat Chalong Temple

Wat ChalongBuilt in the early 19th century, Wat Chalong (or Wat Chaithararam) is the largest and most important temple in Phuket, and the busiest, visited every day by both tour buses and pilgrim Buddhist worshipers … many of whom after their visit to the prayer room, they go out into the courtyard to shoot firecrackers in order to increase their spiritual merit. Wat Chalong is in a small landscaped enclosure with several buildings, where in addition to the main temple there is a large 61-meter-high chedi – the tallest structure in the enclosure – where what is supposedly a piece of bone from the Buddha himself. Wat Chalong is quite close to the Big Buddha, so it is a good idea to combine both visits.

Karon and Laem Promthep viewpoints

Laem PrompthepIf you do a route by car or motorcycle around the island, we recommend you go to these two viewpoints. Cape Promthep is a small hill located at the southern tip of the island, between the beaches of Rawai and Nai Han, offers beautiful views of the island and has a small lighthouse that you can climb. Access is very simple, as it is reached by road 4233 that runs along the coast. It is one of the most popular places in Phuket to watch the sunset, at which time the place can get crowded, so it’s best to go first thing in the morning or a few hours before dark. Also along the same 4233 coastal road, but further north, is the very popular Karon Viewpoint which offers great views of Kata Noi, Kata Yai and Karon beaches.

Visit Old Phuket Town

Phuket Old TownThe old town of Phuket Town is surely the most interesting urban area on the island, and well worth a visit if you have plenty of time. You can dedicate at least a couple of hours, enough time to walk through some of its most outstanding streets, admire its colonial buildings and its traditional Chinese shops-houses, go all over its many and varied shops, and have a delicious local snack in some small restaurant or cafe. Thalang Street is where the most outstanding Chinese-Portuguese colonial buildings are preserved, as well as the Thai Hua Museum, highly recommended for anyone interested in getting to know the Chinese community of Phuket. If you are lucky enough to be in Phuket on a Sunday, don’t miss the Lard Yai market that takes place every Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on this same street!

Red-Light District at Bangla Road

The most famous beach in Phuket, Patong, has a pedestrian street called Bangla Road which is the center of Phuket’s nightlife, including many gogo bars and kathoeys, making it also the center of sex tourism on the island. But not everything is gogo bars, far from it: on the street there are also numerous bars with live rock bands, rooftop bars, restaurants, street food stalls and several clubs to go out, such as the Illuzion or Rock City. Although the area is mostly frequented by more men than women, everyone is welcome, and it is a very popular nightlife area for men and women: almost all travelers visiting Phuket go to Bangla Road sometime, if only to go for a walk or have a beer at a table next to the street to contemplate the human spectacle of Bangla Road.

Watch a Show

Siam NiramitIf you like tourist shows, in Phuket you will find some of the most famous and highly rated in Thailand, such as Fantasea, Siam Niramit and the Simon Cabaret. Both the Fantasea – located in Kamala – and the Siam Niramit – located near the city of Phuket – are theme parks whose main attraction is a great theatrical show lasting around 90 minutes that aims to be an introduction to Thai culture, with dances, music, stunts, projections and special effects. There are different types of tickets, which if desired include dinner in a large open buffet restaurant, and the price of both places is quite similar: the most expensive ticket, including dinner, costs about 2,200 THB / adult, while the the cheapest – without dinner – is 1,800 THB at Fantasea and 1,500 THB at Siam Niramit.

Diving

Phuket is the main dive center of the Andaman Sea, and there are plenty of dive centers that will offer you day trips to dive or full multi-day courses. Before hiring an excursion, find out well about the details: the great competition means that there are very cheap offers, but sometimes they are poor quality excursions with an excessive number of participants. To give you an idea of ​​the prices, the day trips with two dives usually cost around 3000 THB, not including the rental of the diving equipment, and if you want to do a live-aboard excursion of several days, a 4-day trip to the nearby Similan Islands can be worth between THB 18,000 and THB 40,000, mainly depending on the quality of the boat.

Surf, Paddle Surf and Kayak

In Phuket there are many options to enjoy the beach in a more active way. From May to October, during the rainy season, Phuket becomes a pretty decent destination for surfing. The best beach for this is Kata Beach, although in Nai Harn, Bang Tao (lagoon) and Nai Thon it can also be done. In all of them there are usually board rental stands, approximately 200 THB / hour, 500 THB / half day or 800 THB / full day. On some beaches, such as Kata Yai, surf lessons are also offered. Another popular option is paddle surfing, for the same price, although in this case the best time of year to practice it is between November and April, when the monsoon wind does not blow and the sea remains calm. On many beaches in Phuket it is also possible to rent kayaks, for a price between 300 THB / hour to 1000 THB / full day.

🏨 Where to stay in Phuket

Best Areas:

In Phuket there is a huge supply of tourist accommodation, spread mainly along its beaches. But on an island as big and with so many beaches as Phuket, deciding the beach area where you want to stay can be a real headache. You will mainly have to decide if you want to stay on a beach with a lot of nightlife –and in this case your option would be Patong–, or on a quieter beach, as practically the rest of the island’s beaches are, although with notable differences. Most of the beaches that we mention below are on the west coast, which concentrates the best beaches on the island, but we start first with the only option that is not a beach but also deserves to be taken into account: the city of Phuket.

Phuket Town

Best for:Β  Classical traveler

Accommodation available: Hostels and 4 and 5 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Good connections via public transportation
βœ”οΈ Lots of restaurants and coffee shops
βœ”οΈ Lumphini Park
βœ”οΈ Decent nightlife
βœ”οΈ Patpong Market

Patong

Best for: Youth and backpackers

Accommodation available: 3 and 4 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Wide range of activities and nightlife
βœ”οΈ Enjoy the famous Bangla Road
βœ”οΈ Stunning sunsets
βœ”οΈ Wide hotel and hostel variety

Karon

Railay beach, ThailandBest for: Water Sports Lovers

Accommodation available: 3, 4 and 5 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Good value hotels
βœ”οΈ Many options for water sports
βœ”οΈ Spectacular viewpoints
βœ”οΈ Good local food

Kata

Best for: Lovers of Surfing

Accommodation available: 3 and 4 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Sandy bay with an incredibly blue water
βœ”οΈ Big waves for Surfers
βœ”οΈ Ideal for couples and families
βœ”οΈ Near the Big Buddha

Laguna

Best for: Families

Accommodation available: 5 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ A premier destination Resort
βœ”οΈ 5 star luxury hotels
βœ”οΈ Perfect for families
βœ”οΈ A lot of activities

Panwa

Best for: Luxury tourist

Accommodation available: 5 star hotels

Advantages:
βœ”οΈ Great swimming beach
βœ”οΈ 5 star hotels with luxury villas
βœ”οΈ Best area to relax
βœ”οΈ Amazing Sunsets

πŸ– The most recommended Phuket beaches

These are some of the most popular and beautifull beaches in Phuket

1️⃣ Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Patong is the hub of tourism on the island that is currently overcrowded and taken over by massage therapists, vendors, jet skis, and beach activities of all kinds. In Patong there are countless hotels and resorts for all tastes and in all categories, as well as concentrating the vast majority of Phuket’s nightlife offer, especially in its famous Bangla Road, which is at the same time one of the most known red areas of Thailand.

2️⃣ Kata Yai Beach

Kata Yai is a wide and beautiful beach, famous for being an excellent place to surf during the rainy season. There is a lot of atmosphere both day and night, with a good choice of restaurants on the seafront. Despite the fact that there are many resorts, few have direct access to the beach: most are on the second line, although some of them are somewhat elevated and enjoy views of the sea. There are also some cheap hostels.

3️⃣ Kata Noi Beach

Located immediately south of the previous one, Kata Noi is a smaller, quieter and more beautiful beach than its older sister, Kata Yai. The nightlife is much smaller. Kata Noi is ideal for those looking for a hammock, sun and peace in a good resort, for example the fantastic 5* Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, although only available to those traveling with a large budget.

4️⃣ Karon Beach

It is a long beach almost 3 km long, and it is one of the ones with the most resorts, although most of them do not have direct access to the beach –although they do have views of the sea–, since they are behind the road. For those traveling on a tight budget, in Karon there are also hostels with good prices. Despite being quite quiet, it is a beach with good infrastructure and a wide range of restaurants, and it is very close to Patong.

5️⃣ Kamala Beach

Kamala is located in the center of the west coast, and it is a good place to stay for those looking for a quiet beach without giving up all kinds of infrastructures and services. It has a very nice medium-sized beach, which has a lot of beachfront resorts, as well as other types of medium and low-priced accommodation.

6️⃣ Mai Khao Beach

Mai Khao is the northernmost beach in Phuket, and also the longest: you can walk 11 km without practically meeting anyone. Pure tranquility except in its southern end, which is next to the Phuket International Airport and where there is an excellent viewpoint to observe the takeoff and landing of the planes by the sea. It is not a perfect beach, but on sunny days it looks really pretty.

7️⃣ Banana Rock Beach

The small beach of Banana Rock is one of our favorites: a small almost virgin cove less than 200 meters long. To access it, you have to park on the road and walk down for about 50 meters. The road that leads to it is not bad either. It is the best of Phuket! It is a little known beach and its access is somewhat more difficult than in the previous ones, so it is usually less crowded and quieter.

8️⃣ Nai Harn Beach

It is a very beautiful beach where despite having a large resort there is an atmosphere of a quiet, isolated beach in a natural environment. Highly recommended! From May to October, the rainy season, it is a very popular beach with surfers. There is some offer of accommodation, but little. What there are usually are beach umbrellas for those who come to enjoy this very quiet beach.

✈️ Arriving to Phuket

There are 2 airports:

πŸ›« By airplane: Phuket International Airport (Code: HKT)

➑️ Really well connected internationally and nationally
➑️ More than 60 flights/day from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang Airports) and other major Thailand cities
➑️ Many international flighs depart/arrive directly to Phuket
➑️ Transfer from the airport by taxi around 45 minutes and 250 THB.

🚌 By bus: The cheapest but maybe not the best option 

➑️ Many departures from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal
➑️ It normally takes between 13 to 15 hours from Bangkok at around 600-1000 THB
➑️ There also are other buses departures from other thai cities such as: Suratthani, Krabi or Hat Yai

🚒 By boat: Well connected with other beach destinations

➑️ Main pier is Tha Rasada. You can go to Phi Phi, Koh Lipe and Krabi from here.
➑️ Another pier is Tha Bang Rong, in nothern Phuket.
➑️ The trip may be cancelled due to weather conditions during the rainy season.

πŸš‡ Where to go next?

Most common destinations after Bangkok:

Chiang Mai, the Center of the North

A Short flight

Chiang Rai, the Northest city

A Short Flight (a bit longer than Chiang Mai)

Koh Phi Phi, the Most Famous Island

1,5h ferry

Krabi, the Base of the Andaman

A couple of hours of bus