Phuket, a mountainous island situated 800 kilometres south of Bangkok, is Thailand’s biggest island.
One of the most visited tourist destinations in the “Land of Smile,” Phuket has it all – lovely beaches, world-class resorts, great food, pulsating nightlife, cheap shopping, and a host of attractions and activities to keep you occupied and entertained.
But for first-timers, Phuket can be overwhelming, especially during peak months. And with so many things written about it online, one can get confused and fall prey to misconceptions. So to make things easier for you, here are tips on how you can have the perfect holiday in Phuket, Thailand.
1. Decide whether you want to go solo or go with a group. Before you pack your bags for Phuket, you have to decide on whether you will be travelling solo or with a group. Either way, you will do just fine. While Phuket is popular among partyphiles and group travellers, it is also perfect for solo travel and has many less crowded beach towns for you to explore and enjoy.
2. Determine the best time to be in Phuket. There are factors to consider when deciding on the best times to travel to Phuket — budget, weather, and festivals, to name a few.
For those who are travelling on a budget, April to May and September to October might be ideal because things are cheaper during those months. Take note, however, that those months are the hottest as well. The months of September to October are also the wettest. It’s not all rain in Phuket during the wet season, by the way, so you will still get your dose of sunshine.
Many tourists prefer to visit Phuket from November to March when temperatures are a bit cooler. Prices, however, are steeper during Phuket’s cooler months.
Festivals might be another important consideration for you when scheduling your trip, if you want to experience a cultural event while in Phuket. Important festivals in Phuket include the Songkran, Chinese New Year, and Loy Krathong. The Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) happens in mid-April while Loy Krathong, or the Festival of Lights, is in November, on the 12th lunar month. Chinese New Year is celebrated in February.
3. Determine the length of your holiday. Before you purchase a plane ticket, determine the length of your trip because your budget and itinerary also depends on it. Most travellers would spend at least three days in Phuket but if you want to make the most of your vacation, a week-long sojourn in the island should be enough.
4. Scour the internet for the best deals on flights and accommodation. Yes, you might have the budget for luxurious travels but you would still want the best bang for your buck, right? What you can do to grab the best deals on flights and rooms is to compare prices via booking sites and search engines.
For travellers on a budget, you’d find relatively affordable accommodations in Inner Patong, on Bangla Road. That is, if you don’t mind the noise and the traffic. Patong is where the action is and central to everything. For those who want to stay where there is less noise, Outer Patong is a likely choice. Those who choose to stay in mid-range and luxury hotels prefer the area. Outer Patong is still accessible but a bit far from the noise.
But if you’re on a silent retreat, head to Rawai, a peaceful village that’s about 45 minutes away from Patong. There, you can certainly the beach without rubbing elbows with the person next to you. Other recommended beach towns in Phuket include Karon, Kata, and Nai Yang.
Cheap homestays in locations far from the tourist hub are available, but staying close to everything is smarter if you want to save time and eliminate the need for expensive tuk tuk and taxi rides.
5. Plan your itinerary in Phuket. Making your trip memorable means you have a well-planned itinerary. You should include main attractions like the Big Buddha, one of Phuket’s most famous landmarks, and Wat Chalong, the largest temple in the island. For those who want outdoor activities, there’s Khao Sok National Park, considered one of the oldest rainforests in the world, where you can marvel at the beauty of limestone formations, underground streams, caves, waterfalls, and the stunning Chiaw Lan Lake.
Not to be missed during your Phuket holiday is a shopping experience at Phuket’s night markets and a trip to Old Town Phuket. When at the most historically rich part of the island, explore the oldest streets that are dotted with cafes, museums, and well-preserved Sino-Colonial buildings.
An integral part of any trip is the culinary experience. Just like Bangkok, Phuket is a foodie’s haven. You will not have difficulty finding restaurants or eateries serving international cuisine – the island is overflowing with them. For local Thai food, have your fill of som tam (papaya salad), pad thai, and succulent stir-fried meats and veggies. There are countless hawkers and food stalls in the island but for the best street food, go to Naka Market in Phuket Town.
After days filled with excursions and side trips, enjoy the bustling nightlife in Patong or get a relaxing traditional Thai massage on the beach or at any of the reputable spas or massage places in town.
While it is important to have an itinerary, you should allow some room for spontaneity. Be flexible and welcome unplanned activities. Designate “free” days for discovering Phuket’s hidden gems and learning a thing or two about the local way of life.
6. Pack your travel essentials. As with any destination, it is important that you bring all your travel essentials with you during your trip to Phuket. Things to bring will include: travel documents, credit cards, cash, toiletries, light jacket, electronics, sunscreen, insect repellant, and medications. It’s also wise to be updated on your vaccinations and shots.
7. Get insured. Buy travel insurance is always a smart move, even if you’re travelling on a shoestring budget. If you can, choose one that covers trip cancellations and interruptions, lost or delayed baggage, medical emergencies, and accidents.
Are you ready for that ultimate holiday in Phuket? Here are hand-picked tours and activities to add to your itinerary.
By: Brendelyn Balaga