Landing in Phuket for the first time is a thrill for the senses. As soon as you step off the plane, you’re greeted by a warm tropical breeze, Buddhist altars ladened with fragrant flowers and a whole lot of local colour (a tuk tuk with disco lights, anyone?)
On the flip side, landing on this Thai island for the first time can also feel stressful. With so many paradise beaches to choose from and countless touts trying to sell you everything from bracelets to timeshares, to say you might feel overwhelmed would be an understatement.
After visiting the island countless times hunting down the most gorgeous properties in Phuket, we’ve put together this handy guide.
Here, we cover all the essentials, including:
- What the weather in Phuket is really like
- How to get to Phuket
- The best accommodation in Phuket
And, of course…
- The absolute best things to do in Phuket once you get there!
Best Time To Visit Phuket
From November until April, weather in Phuket is at its finest. High season – and prices! – reach their peek in December and January, but then again, the sunny weather also means that there are plenty of things to do in Phuket, ranging from scuba diving to kayaking to plain old lazing by the pool.
When is the best time to visit Phuket depends on your priorities. If you want to avoid the crowds, you might want to consider visiting Phuket in November, though your beachside bliss might be interrupted by heavy rain showers as the monsoon season draws to a close.
You can usually find much better deals in February and March compared to the peak season around Christmas and New Year. Another thing to consider is Songkran, or Thai New Year, which takes place in April and draws in huge crowds. This might be a pro or a con depending on your personal tastes – personally we can’t resist any festival that justifies a massive water fight.
Between May and October, weather in Phuket tends to be very, very wet and you see the price of food, tours and accommodation go down drastically. You can make real bargains and you don’t have to deal with tourist troves – but if you’re dreaming of a picture-perfect beach holiday, this might not be the best time to visit Phuket.
Rainy weather in Phuket also means conditions might not allow for boat trips, scuba diving or snorkelling. If you do decide to travel during the rainy season, there are also things to do in Phuket that don’t require venturing outdoors.
How To Get To Phuket
No matter where you’re travelling from, getting to Phuket is pretty straightforward, as Phuket International Airport is connected to hundreds of international and domestic destinations. Major airlines like Thai Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines offer direct flights from several Asian cities, including Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
If you’re travelling from Australia, Jetstar is currently the only airline offering direct connections to Phuket, with flights departing from Melbourne and Sydney.
If you’ve booked a flight to Bangkok, there are several daily flights connecting the Thai capital with Phuket offered by various low-cost airlines, including AirAsia and Thai Lion Air. When figuring out the travel costs, do take into account that most low-cost carriers charge extra for checked in luggage.
If you prefer to travel by land, you can also reach Phuket by catching a bus or renting a car. No ferry ride is needed, as Phuket is connected to the mainland by a 600-metre long bridge. If you plan on taking the bus, brace yourself for a bit of head scratching, as navigating Thai timetables can be challenging to say the least. A bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket takes about 12 hours, while Krabi Town is about four hours away. The nearby Phang Nga Town is just an hour’s drive away.
Where To Stay In Phuket
When looking for the ideal accommodation in Phuket, it’s best to start by choosing the area where you would like to spend your holiday. Phuket’s best beaches are located on the island’s west coast and each beach caters to a slightly different clientele, ranging from relentless party-goers to jet-setters looking for tropical tranquility.
Patong is the most famous beach in Phuket, attracting travellers from all over the world. The area is famous for its nightlife, which paired together with daytime activities like surfing, spa treatments and treks to Kathu Waterfall make Patong perfect for those looking to stay in the heart of the action.
Villas We Love: Villa Penda C7 offers the ideal setup close to the action, but still allows you to enjoy soothing privacy away from the bustle. The villa is serviced by a shuttle bus whisking you straight to the Patong Beach esplanade – and those ocean views don’t exactly hurt, either.
Kamala and Surin
Kamala and Surin are ideal for those looking for a tranquil holiday in the lap of luxury. The area is often referred to as Phuket’s “Millionaire’s Row” thanks to stunning villas and exclusive beach clubs frequented by world-class stars, including Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell (bet you didn’t know celebrity spotting is among the most popular things to do in Phuket!). The area’s hillside estates boast magnificent views of the Andaman Sea and the beaches offer fine white sand and clear blue waters.
Villas We Love: Villa Siam is the epitome of Surin cool. With a staggering eleven bedrooms, this luxury estate is tailor-made for entertaining on a Hollywood scale. Villa Siam houses a private cinema and an infinity pool which gives the illusion of stretching out all the way into the Andaman Sea shimmering below Surin’s exclusive cliffs.
Kata and Karon
Kata and Karon are two neighbouring beaches offering excellent conditions for diving and surfing (but keep in mind that surfing is only available during the rainy season). Thanks to these adrenaline-inducing water sports, Kata and Karon are both popular destinations among younger travellers, but they also attract families thanks to a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of dining options and accommodation available right on the beach.
Villas We Love: Villa Amanzi Kata Noi is a prime example of easy breezy tropical living. Six bedrooms and a hilltop location overlooking Kata Noi Beach make the villa ideal for families, while a private sauna and a massive infinity-edge pool add a bit of bucket list splendour. With rates as low as $75 per person per night, Villa Amanzi Kata Noi offers amazing value for those travelling with a group.
Things To Do In Phuket
Now that you’ve found your ideal beach, it’s time to look at what else Phuket has to offer. Here are our eight picks for activities that you simply must try when visiting Phuket for the first time.
1. Thai Massage
The divine feeling you get after an authentic Thai massage is worth all the pain you may feel while getting stretched and pulled into all directions. As you might have guessed, this is not your usual day at the spa. Thai massage includes acupressure and Ayurvedic principles and it’s believed to be highly beneficial for the immune system and your overall health. Phuket offers countless opportunities for getting a great massage, ranging from humble beach shacks to international spa emporiums.
For a budget friendly option, try Kim’s Massage & Spa in Phuket Town, where you can get a one-hour massage in a beautifully tranquil setting for THB 300. If you’re looking for sheer luxury but still want an authentic Thai experience, head for Spa Burasari where you can indulge in a 90-minute massage session for THB 1900.
Kim’s Massage & Spa
Location: 21 Thavornwogwong Road, Phuket Town
Location: 18/110 Ruamjai Road, at Burasari Resort, Patong
2. Thai Boxing
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is a combat sport that’s growing in popularity well beyond the Thai borders. In Phuket, there are a few arenas where you can watch a fight – Bangla Boxing Stadium in Patong is a popular choice.
If you are on the look out for a tad more physical things to do in Phuket, there are also numerous Muay Thai gyms with professional coaches where you get to try out the sport firsthand. One option is Suwit Muay Thai Training Camp & Gym. This classic gym offers an authentic experience completely void of imported glitz and glamour.
Bangla Boxing Stadium
Location: 198/4, Rat-U-Thit Road, Patong
Suwit Muay Thai Training Camp & Gym
Location: 15 Moo 1, Chaofa Road, Chalong
3. Discover the Neighbouring Islands
Surprise – one of the best things to do in Phuket is actually leaving it. Once you’ve explored all the beautiful beaches of Phuket, catch a boat and head to one of the nearby islands. Among the most beautiful and famous ones are Krabi, Koh Yao Noi, Phi Phi (where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach was shot) and Koh Tapu, often referred to as “James Bond Island” thanks to its starring role in the 007 movie The Man with the Golden Gun.
There are many options for visiting any of the islands surrounding Phuket. Countless companies sell day trips to the islands with modes of transport varying from traditional longboats to modern speedboats. Prices vary depending on the season and the type of boat and how many islands you want to cover on your trip.
4. Simon Cabaret
From a small underground show, Simon Cabaret has evolved into the dazzling flagship of Phuket’s nightlife. The cabaret act features an all-male cast of fabulous ladyboys dressed to the nines in sequins and glitter, with elaborate choreography and set design drawing inspiration from across the globe.There are three daily performances, starting at 6 pm, 7:30 pm and 9 pm. Overall, the shows are very PG, meaning a visit to the cabaret is actually among the more family-friendly things to do in Phuket.
Despite their huge popularity, the performances at Simon Cabaret are shrouded in tantalising mystique as no photos or videography are allowed during the shows. There’s a meet-and-greet with the stars after the performance, but keep in mind that any photos you take might come with an additional charge.
Location: 8 Sirirach Road, Patong Beach
Photo via Simon Cabaret
5. Old Phuket Town
Though the island is mainly known as a beach destination, there are things to do in Phuket that go far beyond snorkelling and sunbathing. Old Phuket Town was originally built by tin miners in the late 19th century and once worked as hub for traders of Siamese, Chinese and Eurasian descent, to name but a few.
In keeping with its colourful history, the old town is still a vibrant hub housing temples, museums, cafes and beautifully preserved Sino-Portuguese shophouses. You can easily stroll your way across Old Phuket Town on foot and simply enjoy the ambiance.
Besides the inimitable architecture and vibrant history, every Sunday the streets of Old Phuket Town are transformed into a large night market, where you can buy souvenirs, handicrafts and try authentic Thai food. You can find the vendors lined up on Thalang Road starting from 4 pm every Sunday. If you’re looking for even more retail therapy, you can also visit the larger Phuket Weekend Market. also known as Naka Market, on Chao Fa West Road every Saturaday and Sunday starting around 4 pm.
Phuket Sunday Market
Location: Thalang Road, Phuket Town
Phuket Weekend Market
Location: Chao Fa West Road, Phuket Town
6. Wat Chalong Temple
Thailand is a country of a thousand temples (there are around 40,000 according to popular estimates), so if this your first time visiting Phuket or Thailand by large, you must squeeze at least one temple visit into your trip.
Wat Chalong, or Chalong Temple, is the largest temple in Phuket and also one of the most beautiful. The temple was originally built in the 19th century and the main pagoda houses a sacred relic: a splinter from the bone of Lord Buddha. Because the temple is so beautiful, it’s also very popular with locals and tourists alike. To avoid the largest crowds, try visiting the temple on a weekday. There’s no admission fee to visit Wat Chalong, but donations are welcome.
Location: Chaofa Road (West), Chalong
7. Nightlife on Bangla Road
The party scene of Patong is legendary and Bangla Road lies at the very thumping heart of the action. The 400-metre stretch of road is solely dedicated to pedestrians on the look out for loud music, cheap drinks and a plain old good time. Though the rowdy scene of Bangla Road is certainly not for everybody, it’s one of those things you just have to experience firsthand at least once. It’s also one of the most popular things to do in Phuket so you might as well find out what all the fuss is about!
Bangla Road offers a dizzying mix of sleek night clubs, rowdy beer halls and risqué go-go bars. The most popular way to navigate the neon-lit jungle of Bangla Road is to simply hop from bar to bar. For great live music, check out the ever-popular Monsoon bar.
Location: 27 Bangla Road, Patong
8. Big Buddha
Towering at a lofty 45 metres, the Big Buddha is an iconic part of Phuket skyline and visitors climbing up to the statue are treated to sweeping 360-degree vistas of Phuket, with views covering everything from Karon Beach and Chalong Bay all the way to Phuket Town. In addition to the stunning views, the snow-white statue is photogenic in its own right. There’s no entrance fee to visit the Big Buddha and many visitors credit a trip to the statue as one of their favourite things to do in Phuket.
Though the statue itself was only built in the early 2000s, the atmosphere surrounding the Big Buddha feels mysterious and ancient. The statue is built from white marble and against a small fee, guests can purchase a small piece of the stone, write down their name or a short message and leave their mark on this stunning island.
Location: Yot Sane 1 Chaofa Road (West), Chalong