Stitched against the balmy blue Andaman, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. Most of its beaches are situated along the western coastline, where its medley of resorts and nightlife is as commercialised as it gets. Still, one can find a quiet hammock to while the day away on one of the more secluded beaches, suiting the fickle wayfarer who can never decide between serene solace and frenzied activity.
Groupon’s Pick: Top 5 Must Do
You can engage snorkeling day tours inclusive of fins, masks, snorkels and even lunch from the shops on the island. Popular snorkeling sites include Ko Hae, Ko Racha Yai, Ko Khai, and Ko Phi Phi. Be sure to scout for prices before signing up for a package.
The warm clear waters of Phuket is a diver’s treasure trove from October to May. One famed dive site is Racha Yai, with a real shipwreck to explore, or scour the waters of Racha Noi and you may encounter manta rays and whale sharks. Most dive shops are based near Chalong Bay.
Don’t have a dive license? Try snuba diving. Relying on pure lung power, and with no heavy equipment, snuba lets you enjoy the ocean’s gems up to 7 meters deep.
Not one for the water? Experience the Andaman from on deck. Local tour agents offer day tours that let you choose which islands to visit. Small groups may want to consider speed boat tours. Although slightly pricier, you get to visit places that regular tour boats do not usually stop for.
During the rainy seasons when the seas prove less serene, relish a nature hike to one of three popular waterfalls -- Bang Pae, Ton Sai and Kathu. You can pack a picnic basket or refuel at one of the local restaurants nearby.
Spa & Massages
Thailand is a pamper haven for the weary with unbelievably affordable prices. Choose from traditional Thai massages, oil massages, full body scrubs and more.
Groupon’s Pick: Top 5 Must See
Karon & Kata
Karon’s long beautiful stretch of beach is strung with tasteful resorts and local restaurants. The beach is still quiet and relaxed, and only a few minute’s drive from the frenzy of Kata’s beach parties.
The heartbeat of Phuket’s nightlife, Patong’s curved beach is sprinkled with bars, seedy clubs, souvenir shops, expensive restaurants, beachside eateries, dive shops, bright neons and golden-baked tourists in scanty fabrics.
Only bargain for what you are keen to buy, and always be polite. Say “thank you” and smile before leaving even if you don’t plan to buy.
From souvenirs to food to counterfeit designer goods, the markets let you soak in the local culture while sharpening your haggling kung fu. See a list of markets here.
Prom Thep Cape
Located at Phuket’s southern-most tip, this natural hilly peak is famed for its dramatic sunsets.
Phuket Old Town
Interwoven with colourful century-old shops and modern structures, the town is home to shrines, guesthouses and restaurants where you will sip the flavours of local history.
Groupon’s Pick: Top 5 Must Eat
For more authentic flavours and great value, explore street stalls and hawkers.
Tom yam Goong (Seafood Tom Yam)
Look out for the clear tom yam or tom yam nam sai, but don’t let its unsuspecting appearance catch you off guard!
Spicy Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
Shredded green papaya and chili in lime.
Don’t let its green tint fool you. This specialty contains a whole lot of crushed green chilli, spices, brinjal and meat and can pack quite a punch.
Mango Sticky Rice
Glutinous rice topped with thick sweetened coconut milk and mango slices.
Thailand’s adaptation of the char kuey teow. Dress it up to taste with fish sauce, chili powder, sugar and crushed peanuts.
Prior to arrival, check with your hotel if airport transfer is already included in your holiday package.
Airport Bus is the official Government bus service that offers economical air-conditioned transfer between Phuket International Airport and Phuket Town. It makes stops at key locations where you can catch a connecting bus to Patong Beach, Kata Beach, Karon Beach and more. See www.airportbusphuket.com for rates and routes.
Minibus services charge 150 - 250 baht per seat. While they may get you to your destination quicker than Government busses, they usually stop at a travel agent along the way and try to sell you accommodation and tours. You are not obliged to purchase.
Avoid buying tour packages or accommodation from these agents. You will usually find cheaper packages when you arrive at your destination.
If you find a taxi driver you like, ask for his mobile number for the return trip.
Metered (yellow) taxis can be hired from the airport. The stand is located on the right as you exit the airport building. Fares to most destinations cost about 400 baht or more plus a100-baht airport surcharge. Taxi meters begin with a 50 baht display.
Limousine (blue) taxis, usually Toyota Camrys with leather seats, cost 600 - 700 baht to Patong or 800 baht to Phuket Town.
Once in Phuket, taxis and tuk-tuks (tiny local-style minivans with noisy engines) are your most practical mode of transportation to nearby vicinities.
You may rent a car or a motorbike, but this is less advisable as local driving habits can lend less than pretty surprises.
Tuk-tuks do not have meters. Always ask for a price before getting into a taxi or a tuk-tuk and don’t hesitate to bargain! Short distances around town should not cost more than 40 baht.
Generally, Phuket is fine for visiting most of the year.
Some say the best time to visit Phuket is from November till March during the Northeast Monsoon when it isn’t so humid. Temperatures range between 24°C to 32°C (75°F to 89°F).
The hottest months are in April through May with temperatures ranging from (27°C to 36°C) 80°F to 95°F.
Rainy spells usually begins in September through early October.
Practical Tips & Information
Try to learn up basic Thai phrases. You’ll find that the locals will respond friendlier. This also helps you score better bargains at the street markets.
Hello: sawaddee cup (male speaker) / sawaddee ka (female speaker)
Thank you: kob kun cup (male speaker) / kob koon ka (female speaker)
I'm sorry: kaw tode
How much is this?: nee tow rai?
No thank you: mai khob khun
Don’t understand: may cow jai
Toilet: hong nam
Beware of pick-pockets at all times. In case of trouble, contact Phuket’s Tourist Police at 1155, available 24 hours a day. They will be able to assist you in English.