Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island. It’s a truly magical place, famous for its beaches, luxe resorts, cultural heritage, and friendly people. Millions of visitors travel to Thailand every year, and many of those head straight to Phuket. Whether you are after Full Moon beach parties and go-go bars or historic temples and deserted beaches, Phuket has a lot to offer.
First, you need to book flights and accommodation. Phuket may be an island, but it has an international airport, which is 32 kilometres from Phuket City. Flights are available from most major airports around the world, so shop around for the best deals. It’s also worth booking flights to Bangkok and spending a few days there first. You can catch a connection from Bangkok to Phuket on various local carriers, including Bangkok Airways and Thai Smile.
With flights in hand, accommodation is easy enough to find. There are numerous beach resorts, backpacker hostels, and small hotels for tourists. If you have plans to travel with family and friends, look at luxury Phuket rentals. You’ll find beautiful duplexes and villas with fabulous views and amazing amenities. Make your vacation a trip to remember and book a luxury rental in Phuket!
Now you have flights and accommodation all sewn up, here is our guide to the top eight things to do when you arrive.
1. Become a Beach Bum
Phuket has some amazing beaches. There are more than 30 stretches of sand dotted around the island, so you will be spoiled for choice. Some are livelier than others, so decide what your priorities are – people watching or solitude – and make your pick. Kata Beach is a top choice with many tourists. There is plenty of space to pitch your towel, plus a few amenities. Other popular beaches include Freedom Beach, Kata Noi Beach, Paradise Beach, and Ya Nui Beach.
2. Take a Trip to Phi Phi Island
Have you seen the Leonardo di Caprio movie, The Beach? If so, you’ll want to visit Phi Phi. This is where the famous ‘beach’ is located. Towering limestone cliffs loom over the idyllic beach, flanked by dense jungle. It’s a beautiful place. There are, in fact, two Phi Phi islands – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Both are beautiful and both will capture your heart and soul. Take a ferry from Phuket Town or book a private speedboat charter if you have a larger budget.
3. Visit the Similan Islands
While we are on the topic of island hopping, it would be remiss not to mention the stunning Similan Islands north-west of Phuket. If you love scuba diving, this is an unmissable destination. The dive sites around the Similan Islands are among the best in the world. The landscape on the islands is also pretty spectacular. Giant boulders teeter precariously on piles of stones. Beneath the waves is where it’s at though. There are amazing underwater caverns to explore, populated with extraordinary marine life. The islands are not open all year, so if you want to plan a visit, make sure you come to Phuket between October and May.
4. Go Shopping in the Night Markets
Most people choose to go shopping at night when the sun has gone down and it’s a bit cooler. Phuket’s night markets are famous. There are lots to choose from, each offering a wonderful and eclectic selection of trinkets, souvenirs, clothing, local arts and crafts, and more. While shopping, you can soak up the atmosphere, listen to music and watch street performers. It’s also a good opportunity to sample some delicious street food. Some of the best night markets on Phuket include Chillva Market, Phuket Walking Street, Phuket Weekend Market, and Malin Plaza Patong in Patong Beach.
5. Visit the Temples
You can’t come to Phuket without spending at least one day exploring some of the island’s cultural highlights. Wat Chalong is Phuket’s best-known and most important temple; it’s also the spiritual center of Phuket. It’s beautifully decorated with glass and has many glittering pagodas. There are no admission charges when you visit these amazing shrines, but you must dress in a respectful manner. This means no revealing clothing or beachwear. Cover up and respect the holiness of the temples. Remember, you will be asked to remove your shoes before you enter.
6. Take a Trip to Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay enjoyed a starring role in the movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. The huge rocky pinnacle in the bay is still called James Bond Island for this reason. As is common around Phuket (and Thailand), huge limestone cliffs jut out of the water, providing a spectacular backdrop to the beach. You can’t get too close to James Bond Island, but you can rent a boat and sail around it. Have lunch at Kho Panyee and explore the caves inside Koh Ping Ghan. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer beauty of the place.
7. Check Out the Nightlife on Bangla Road in Patong Beach
During the day, Bangla Road is relatively quiet, but when the sun goes down, the area comes to life in a glorious, technicolor blaze of neon lights and loud music. Bangla Road is not the faint-hearted. Every sense will be assailed as you walk down the strip. There are beer bars rubbing shoulders with sleazy go-go bars and street performers show off their skills every night. Expect to be hassled by touts selling tickets to shows. Drink lots of beer, enjoy the delirious atmosphere, and end your night with a boogie at Seduction Night Club or the new Tiger Disco.
8. Drive to the Big Buddha
Hiring a car is easy on Phuket. Once you have transport, drive out to the Big Buddha on top of the Nakkerd Hills, at the southern end of the island. This iconic landmark is hard to miss and is visible for miles. Climb to the top and check out the amazing views. There are maps available, to help you identify some of the landmarks on the horizon.
Other attractions include the Phuket FantaSea Show and elephant Sanctuaries – if you visit one make, sure it’s an ethical sanctuary.