Visiting Phuket for the first time and wondering how to plan your trip? This Phuket travel guide covers everything you need to know before visiting Phuket.
Phuket, the largest island in Thailand, stands as a vibrant gem in the Andaman Sea. Known for its stunning beaches, rich cultural heritage, and lively atmosphere, Phuket is a destination that offers a diverse range of experiences for travelers.
Visiting Phuket is not the same as visiting a big city for a quick weekend getaway, so it requires some preparation and planning. But this is where I step in to help you with that and answer every question that you might have.
This Phuket travel guide covers everything you need to know before visiting Phuket. We will cover some basics like what makes Phuket so famous and how safe it is for travelers. Then we will dive deeper into the best time to visit, preferable duration, most beautiful places, and more.
Also, at the end of the article, you will find some practical information like currency, visa requirements, and language. So without further ado, let’s get straight to it.
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Things to Know Before Visiting Phuket for First-Time Visitors
Why is Phuket so famous?
Phuket is famous for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and diverse attractions. The island’s beauty lies in its crystal-clear waters, inviting sandy shores, and breathtaking landscapes. Tourists also go to Phuket for its warm climate, making it an ideal tropical getaway.
The beach is undoubtedly the number one attraction when visiting Phuket. You can explore hidden beaches, take part in popular beach activities, enjoy a beach day with your family, or find a secluded spot with your loved ones. Phuket really has it all when it comes to beaches.
The local culture and rich traditions will keep you entertained during your stay. Phuket’s rich history is evident in its architecture, with colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings. Temples, such as Wat Chalong, are a big part of local culture and should be added to your Phuket itinerary.
Nature enthusiasts can explore the lush parts of the island, with its dense jungles and hidden waterfalls. The Big Buddha provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and the Andaman Sea. There are multiple hike opportunities as well.
The nightlife in Patong Beach pulses with energy, offering a mix of lively bars, restaurants, and street performances. Bangla Road, with its neon lights and eclectic atmosphere, is a focal point for those seeking entertainment after the sun sets.
Phuket is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand and one of the top places to visit in Asia. And for all the right reasons, so there is no surprise that Phuket has gained so much popularity.
Is Phuket worth visiting?
Yes, Phuket is definitely worth visiting. The island’s stunning beaches, diverse cultural experiences, and a wide range of activities make it a popular destination.
Whether you’re a beach lover, adventure enthusiast, or someone who appreciates rich local culture, Phuket has something to offer for everyone. The warm hospitality of the locals and the vibrant atmosphere are another great bonus that you will love.
Phuket has many different faces which makes it suitable for a wide range of people. You can choose between a romantic honeymoon in Phuket, fun and active holidays with crazy nights out, or a Phuket family vacation of a lifetime. And yes, Phuket really can satisfy all your requests and desires.
How many days in Phuket?
Phuket is a relatively big island, so you could find a lot of entertainment opportunities. This means that the time spent in Phuket varies.
Generally, 5 to 7 days is recommended to fully enjoy the diverse offerings of the island. This allows time to explore the beautiful beaches, partake in water activities, experience the local culture, and even venture into the surrounding areas.
However, we spent a month in Phuket and still didn’t manage to check off all the things from our to-do list. I mean, most people could easily spend a month hanging out on the beach, so it is totally up to you.
I have met people who visit Phuket for 3 days and while it is a good time to see some essentials, you certainly won’t have a lot of time to relax and get some tan on some of the most beautiful beaches in Phuket.
Is it safe to travel to Phuket?
Phuket is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The island relies heavily on tourism, and local authorities take measures to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors.
However, like any other travel destination, it’s important to exercise common sense and take standard precautions. Be careful with your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and be cautious of potential scams.
Phuket, like many tourist destinations, has areas known for nightlife. If you’re planning to enjoy the nightlife, it’s wise to stay in well-traveled areas and be mindful of your alcohol consumption.
In terms of health, it’s recommended to drink bottled or purified water, be cautious about street food hygiene, and take necessary precautions against mosquitos, particularly in certain seasons.
How to get to Phuket from the airport?
To get to Phuket from the airport, you have several transportation options. The island is quite big, so a ride from the airport to your hotel can take from 1-2 hours depending on the traffic.
Taxis are readily available at Phuket International Airport. You can find them at the designated taxi stand. Make sure to use the official taxi service to ensure a fair fare. The journey to your destination on the island will depend on its specific location.
Some hotels and resorts offer airport shuttle services for their guests. Check with your accommodation beforehand to see if they provide this service. This is usually a bit pricier option, but it gives you a guarantee that the driver will be there waiting for you.
Many tour companies offer private transfer services. You can arrange for a car or van to pick you up at the airport and take you directly to your destination. This is a reputable airport transfer in Phuket, however, make sure that the working hours fit your arrival time.
Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore the island at your own pace and this way you won’t need an airport transfer. Make sure you have the necessary documents and are familiar with local driving regulations. I am a big fan of RentalCars, however, there are multiple options to choose from.
There are several buses available from the airport, however, this might not be the best option considering limited availability and locations. 8411 Airport Bus will bring you to Phuket Town and the price will cost you 100 THB.
Another alternative is the Phuket Smart Bus. The route starts at Phuket Airport and makes stops at the Thalang, Cherngtalay, Laguna, Surin, Kamala, Patong, Karon, Kata, Phromthep Cape, and Rawai. The ticket price is 100 THB.
Grab is the most common way to reach your hotel, however, it requires an internet connection and a bit of waiting time. You can purchase a local SIM card here or simply get one at the airport.
Is it cheap to go to Phuket?
Phuket can be a relatively affordable destination, especially when compared to many Western countries. However, the overall cost of your trip will depend on various factors such as your travel style, accommodation preferences, dining choices, and the activities you plan to undertake.
Accommodation ranges from budget-friendly guesthouses to luxury resorts, providing options for different budgets. If you ask me, Phuket is a great place to splurge on the hotel as luxury options are way more affordable compared to other destinations.
When it comes to food, street food, and local eateries can be quite inexpensive, offering delicious Thai cuisine at affordable prices. If you choose to dine at higher-end restaurants or indulge in international cuisine, your food expenses may increase.
Local transportation options like tuk-tuks and public buses are generally affordable but limited. Renting a scooter or a car is a much better option. Taxi can get quite expensive, especially if you are planning daily drives that cover longer distances.
Activities and excursions, such as island hopping, scuba diving, or guided tours, can add to your expenses. However, there are also plenty of free or low-cost activities, such as exploring beaches, markets, and cultural sites.
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When is the best time to visit Phuket?
The prime tourist season occurs from November to February when the weather is pleasant and humidity levels are lower. This timeframe corresponds to the cool, dry season, creating optimal conditions for beach activities, sightseeing, and outdoor adventures.
The shoulder seasons, from March to May and September to October, bring a mix of conditions. March to May sees rising temperatures and occasional rain, while September to October experiences increased rainfall as the monsoon season approaches.
During these periods, you may encounter fewer tourists, and hotel rates could be more budget-friendly. However, it’s crucial to be prepared for some rainy weather.
The monsoon season, spanning from June to August, brings heavy rainfall and rough seas. While this time might not be optimal for beach outings and water activities, it presents a unique perspective of the island’s lush landscapes in their most vibrant state.
Ultimately, the ideal time to visit Phuket depends on personal preferences. If you want to know the monthly weather breakdown with detailed information, make sure you read when is the best time to visit Phuket.
Where to find the most beautiful beaches in Phuket?
Phuket is famous for its wonderful beaches but the long list of possibilities might be overwhelming, so where to find the best beaches in Phuket?
Phuket has it all, no matter if you want a secluded beach experience, a lively atmosphere, or something safe and family-orientated. If you are the adventurous type, you can also hike to some hidden beaches in Phuket.
Quick sum up about some of the best beaches in Phuket:
- The most hidden beach in Phuket: Freedom Beach
- Top beach in Phuket for couples: Banana Beach
- Best family-friendly beach in Phuket: Kata Beach
- Best beach in Phuket for swimming: Ao Yon Beach
- The most picturesque beach in Phuket: Nui Beach
- Best beach in Phuket for snorkeling: Surin Beach
- The most lively beach in Phuket: Patong Beach
This Phuket beach guide will give you all the information about these beautiful beaches. It covers accessibility, entrance fees, available activities, and more, so don’t miss it if you are a beach lover.
Where to find the best photo spots in Phuket?
Are you someone who likes photography? I believe in this case you will be on the hunt for the best photo spots in Phuket and I am here to help you find them.
Here is an overview of the most Instagrammable places in Phuket:
- Phuket Old Town
- Ma Doo Bua
- The Big Buddha, Phuket
- Nui beach
- Laem Sing View Point
- Cape Phrom Thep
- Naithon Beach Wooden Bridge
- Wat Chalong
- James Bond Island
- Samet Nangshe Viewpoint
There are a lot of picturesque places around Phuket, but I believe you should plan some relaxing time when visiting the island as well. If you want to know more about these locations and other photography tips, make sure you read the best photo spots in Phuket.
Where to stay in Phuket?
This is probably another question on your mind when traveling to Phuket and I am not going to lie – it was confusing for me at first as well. While normally, I would choose to stay in the biggest city and central location, Phuket doesn’t have a ‘central location’.
However, after spending a month in Phuket and exploring different parts of the island, I quickly realized that the island is divided into little towns and surrounding areas, so how to pick the right area to serve your plans?
Best areas to stay in Phuket depending on your travel style:
- Patong – best area to stay in Phuket for parties and adventurous singles
- Phuket Town – best area to stay in Phuket for island hopping and laid-back atmosphere
- Karon – best area to stay in Phuket for first-timers
- Kamala – best area to stay in Phuket for luxury resorts
- Kata Beach – best area to stay in Phuket for families with small kids
- Mai Khao – best area to stay in Phuket for honeymooners and romantic getaways
- Bang Tao Beach – best area to stay in Phuket for wellness and spa resorts
- Nai Harn – best area to stay in Phuket for couples seeking laid back atmosphere
- Surin – best area to stay in Phuket for beach lovers.
While this is just a sum up, make sure you read this detailed travel guide that explains all the pros and cons, so you can make your decision. Hotel recommendations for different budgets are included as well.
How to move around Phuket?
Let me remind you that Phuket is a big island, so walking around won’t be an option. Yes, you can stay in one of the beach towns which gives you easy access to the beach, however, you will need transport to explore the rest of the island.
If you want to visit some nearby town, you should pick between a tuk-tuk or a taxi. Public transport is available and affordable, but very limited, so you might end up losing time with a location bus stop, waiting for it, etc.
But what if you want to tick off multiple attractions in Phuket in one day?
Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore the island at your own pace. Make sure you have the necessary documents and are familiar with local driving regulations. As I said previously, I am a big fan of RentalCars.
As an alternative, you can rent a scooter, however, please be aware of potential scams and never leave your passport to the person who rents the scooter. They can do a copy, but don’t leave the actual document with them during the time of rental.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving, you can also book a car with a driver for a longer period and visit some of the most beautiful places in Phuket. This is just one of the top-rated services in Phuket, however, you can require it directly at your hotel.
In this case, taxis or tuk-tuks are not the best options, because the prices quickly add up, and some places can have a long waiting time if there are no cars around.
What to wear in Phuket?
Choosing the right attire for Phuket involves considering the tropical climate. Lightweight and breathable fabrics, such as cotton and linen, are ideal to beat the heat. Opt for loose-fitting clothes to stay comfortable in the warm weather.
A swimsuit and beach shorts are essentials for a day by the sea. Don’t forget to bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to shield yourself from the strong sun. And bring some extra layers to cover up when visiting a temple.
For exploring the island, comfortable footwear is key. Sandals or flip-flops are suitable for the beach, while a pair of sturdy walking shoes or sneakers are recommended for more rugged terrain.
In the evening, casual attire is generally acceptable, but some restaurants and clubs may have dress codes. It’s advisable to pack a nice outfit if you plan on dining at upscale establishments.
As rain showers are common, especially during the monsoon season, a lightweight and waterproof jacket or poncho can come in handy. It’s practical to carry a small umbrella as well.
Remember to pack sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin from the intense sun. Insect repellent is also essential, particularly during the evenings when mosquitoes are more active.
Ultimately, the key is to dress comfortably, be prepared for varying weather conditions, and embrace the laid-back and tropical vibes of Phuket.
More things to know before visiting Phuket
Visa requirements for Thailand
Getting a visa for Thailand is a straightforward process. Depending on your purpose and the duration of your stay, there are different visa options available.
For short visits, many nationalities can enter Thailand visa-free for a specified period, usually ranging from 15 to 90 days. However, you can extend this period once within the country.
I did an extension in Phuket and while the process was painless, it took me an entire day. Make sure you are in the queue even before opening time, otherwise you might be sent away. And don’t leave that process for the last moment, because you don’t want to overstay.
Thailand is known for its friendly visa policies, but it’s essential to stay informed and comply with the rules to ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay in the Land of Smiles. Always check the latest updates and requirements from official sources to make sure you have up-to-date information.
Currency in Thailand
The official currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht, abbreviated as THB.
Thailand is generally well-equipped with ATMs that accept international cards, making it convenient to withdraw cash as needed. Most banks charge 220 THB for every withdrawal, so it is better to grab a big amount of cash in one go.
Exchanging money can be done at banks, exchange booths, or even in hotels, but rates may vary. It’s advisable to compare rates before making any transactions to get the most favorable exchange.
Credit cards are widely accepted in major cities and tourist areas, but cash remains the preferred method of payment in local markets and smaller establishments. Also, if you pay with an international card, you might get a 3% markup as a transaction fee.
Make sure you notify your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with card transactions while abroad. Also, I highly recommend bringing 2 different cards (with different banks) in case something goes wrong.
Language in Thailand
The official language is Thai, spoken by the majority of the population. It uses the Thai script, a unique writing system that can be confusing for travelers.
While Thai is the primary language, English is widely understood in tourist areas, major cities, and among the younger population. This makes traveling and communicating more accessible for those who don’t speak Thai.
Learning a few basic Thai phrases can go a long way in enhancing the travel experience and fostering connections with locals. The Thai people appreciate visitors who make an effort to engage in their language, even if it’s just a simple “hello” or “thank you.”
Make sure you download Google Translate. This way you can take a picture of the words on your phone and get it translated to your preferred language directly on your screen. You can also use the microphone option to record yourself and get it translated to the other person. Super convenient!
Further reading for Phuket travel guide
Heading North next?
- 10 Best Photo Spots in Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Chiang Mai Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Chiang Mai
- 13 Best Photo Spots in Chiang Mai You Don’t Want to Miss
Other useful tips for visiting Thailand
🏠 Need a place to stay? Browse Booking or Agoda
💃 How about fun experiences? GetYourGuide, Viator, and Klook have it all
🚗 Considering renting a car in Thailand? Use Rentalcars
🚂 If you need transfers, bus or train tickets, check 12Go
🔒 Don’t forget about travel insurance from HeyMondo
And it’s a wrap! I am sure this Phuket travel guide has helped you plan your trip to Phuket and clear every doubt that you might have during this planning process.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.