Visit Phuket: A Thailand Travel Guide (2022)

Travel Tips
Travel Tips
Sep 13, 2023


  • Things to know if you're visiting Phuket for the first time
  • Getting to Phuket - Phuket 's Airport(s)
  • Transportation in Phuket
  • Best Time to Visit Phuket
  • Top 3 Attractions in Phuket
  • Phuket Hotels
    • Katathani Phuket Beach Resort(SHA Plus+)
    • Le Méridien Phuket Beach Resort (SHA Plus+)
    • Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa Phuket(SHA Extra Plus)
  • Food in Phuket
  • Shopping in Phuket
  • Local Customs in Phuket
  • Discover more places related to Thailand
  • Find even more inspiration for Thailand here
  • Show More

As an island paradise, Phuket is surrounded by many amazing beaches, hidden gems, and beautiful temples. It will surprise and delight visitors with its lush hills, friendly people, and mouth-watering cuisine. With hundreds of hotels to select from, easy transport options, and countless dining and shopping venues, Phuket caters to every conceivable need.

Visit Phuket: A Thailand Travel Guide (2022)

Phuket is Thailand's largest island, together with 32 smaller islands that make up the southern province of Phuket. Linked to the Thai mainland by the Sarasin Bridge, it is often referred to as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea” and one of Southeast Asia’s top tourist destinations. Phuket City is the capital of the province and is situated in the southeast of the island. Out of a population of around 437,000 people, the vast majority of them live in and around Phuket City and Patong Beach.

Named after the Malay word bukit, meaning hill, Phuket was an important trading port in the region and noted in history as a major source of tin. Through the centuries, it came under more foreign influences than other parts of Thailand. In the early twentieth century, the expansion of rubber plantations resulted in the clearing of large areas of the island. Then in the 1970s, a burgeoning tourist industry started with the first beach bungalows at Patong beach. Today, almost 10 million visitors come to Phuket each year.

Getting to the island couldn’t be easier as there are many domestic and international flights arriving at Phuket International Airport daily. Visitors can transfer to their final destination by metered taxis or limousine taxis, minivans, airport buses, as well as private hotel transfer and rental cars. Getting around town is also simple and convenient. In addition to reasonably priced taxis, visitors have to option to use authentic local transports like the tuk-tuks, songthaews and motorbike taxis.

If you are visiting Phuket for the first time, you will soon discover that this island is much more than just about sun, sea, and sand. Explore the colorful lanes and shophouses of old town Phuket, soak up the atmosphere, and indulge in authentic Thai flavors. Be awe-struck by elegant temples like Wat Chalong and Wat Phra Thong. Immerse yourself in the unique local culture and way of life in the Muslim fishing village of Koh Panyee. And last but not least, take the adventure to the go-kart speedway, soccer crazy golf, or Thai box stadium.

While Phuket is a vacation destination that can be visited year-round, to maximize your holiday experience, choosing the ideal time to go is vital. The peak tourist season and the best time for sun and beach are from November to March. Late December and January are another peak time but expect high prices for hotels and airfares. The off-peak seasons are between June-July and September-October due to the monsoon season. But if you don’t mind the weather, this is a great time for low crowds and good deals.

Not sure where to stay on the island? Here are a few popular areas to consider for your first visit. If you want to stay by the beach, Kata is a smaller beach town attached to the pristine Kata beach or Nai Harn beach area for those luxury resorts. For partygoers, Central Patong is the busiest part and the party hub of Phuket. For culture lovers, stay in Old Town Phuket with its charming shophouses and quaint eateries.

Phuket offers foodies some of the best seafood and Thai cuisine. Whether in gourmet restaurants or market vendors, make sure you sample some local favorites include Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Kuay Tiew noodle soup, and Massaman curry. In terms of shopping, from exclusive malls like Jungceylon Shopping Mall and Central Festival Phuket, to colorful local markets like Chillva Market and Phuket Walking Street, you are in for a treat.

To avoid those cultural pitfalls and travel mishaps, first-time visitors to Phuket should be aware of local customs such as dressing appropriately when visiting temples (cover your shoulders and legs), public criticism of the Thai royal family is illegal, no alcohol sales on religious and royal holidays (e.g. Buddha Day), and haggling is common with market vendors but not in convenience stores or shopping malls.

The most convenient and time-saving method to reach Phuket is by air. Of course, being an island, visitors can also opt to travel by boat, such as a ferry, a shuttle boat, or a night boat from Bangkok. For those who fly, Phuket International Airport (HKT) is located in the northern part of the island and is one of Thailand’s busiest airports. This sleek modern airport was last expanded and renovated in 2016. There are three terminals with T2 being used for international flights. For visitors eager to exchange money, several currency exchanges and ATMs can be found in both the Arrivals and Departures areas.

There’s no shortage of transportation services to take you to your hotel, including taxis, mini-busses, and airport buses. The fastest and hassle-free option is by taxi. Available 24/7 outside the Terminals, visitors can easily spot the official taxis as they have red and yellow-colored vehicles with a taxi sign on the roof. Make sure the driver turns on the taxi meter, and there is a surcharge for the airport that will be added to your fare. Typically, with good traffic conditions, average fares to Phuket town is between 600 – 900 baht, Phuket Beach for 700 – 1,050 baht, and Kata or Karon Beach for 775 – 1,250 baht. For a more comfortable transfer experience, Airport Limousines or Limousine Taxis are also available. Visitors can find several counters right outside the baggage claims. Though more expensive than a regular taxi, they are still far cheaper than hotel transfers.

One of the cheapest ways to get to Phuket town is by Airport Bus. Visitors can choose between a big bus and a van, the main difference is that the big bus will take longer but cost less. Catching the bus back to the airport, head to bus stop No. 7 at Phuket Bus Station 1.

Finding transport on Phuket is easy, visitors who prefer comfort over cost can arrange a private car for the day, and for those who want the authentic local experience can hop on a songthaew or tuk-tuk. Either way, remember that they drive on the left-hand side on Phuket, to rent a car or motorbike you’ll need an international driver's license.

For private transportation options that can take you directly to your destination, taxis and tuk-tuks are your best bet. Metered taxis are plentiful and can be flagged down from the street. Most drivers speak some English, alternatively write down your destination in Thai. If your taxi is operated by private firms and doesn’t have a meter, be sure to agree on a price before setting off. If you want something more thrilling than a taxi, hop on a tuk-tuk. These modified mini trucks are easy to spot as they are typically bright red or yellow. Once again, set a price before departing and clarify if that price is per person or group.

A popular local transport is the songthaews or local open-air buses. These colorful blue pick-up trucks operate on main streets with no fixed bus stops. Visitors need to first identify the destination names in English shown on the outside of the bus, then flag them down.

Another option is the motorbike taxi, which is great for solo travelers. Look out for drivers wearing colored vests at busy junctions and tourist attractions. Also, there are plenty of places where visitors can rent their own scooter, motorbike, or car, but remember roads can be dangerous in Thailand in general, so only consider this if you have the necessary license, insurance, and experience.

Phuket has a tropical monsoon climate, so it is hot and humid year-round. But if you like the heat, the island is an ideal vacation spot no matter the season. The most pleasant months to visit are from November to March when the heat and humidity are manageable. The monsoon season occurs from May to October, so expect higher rainfall and humidity levels. During this time swimming on the west coast of the island is not recommended. April to May are typically the hottest months when the temperature often reaches 36 C (80 F to 95 F). February is the driest month, while the coldest is in December.

Depending on what you want to do on your holiday, there is a perfect season for you in Phuket. The peak tourist season and the best time for sun and beach are from November to March. Late December and January are another peak time, so expect the highest prices for hotels and airfares. November through April have the best conditions and visibility for diving and snorkeling. The off-peak seasons are between June-July and September-October which happen to be the monsoon season. But if you don’t mind the weather, this is a great time for low crowds and good deals.

From beautiful white sands, towering palm trees, to bustling cities, Phuket is one of the world's best and most exotic beach destinations. Here are three top attractions on this island retreat.

One of Phuket’s most famous beaches as well as its longest is Patong Beach. This stunning 3 km (1.8 miles) golden sand beach is a must-visit place in town because it is where all the actions take place. You can relax under the rows of coconut trees, take a dip in the crystal blue waters, or have a thrilling time with all the water activities on offer like parasailing, kitesurfing, and jet skiing. If visiting one beach is not enough, check out other amazing beach locales like Kata Beach, Karon Beach, and Paradise Beach.

For those interested in authentic local culture and architectural gems, strolling around the rustic and charming Sino-Portuguese streets in Old Phuket Town is like stepping back in time. Take in the beautifully preserved colonial-style shop houses in all the colors under the sun, step into a quaint local bakery or café, and learn about the history and culture of this island in its temples and museums. Phuket Town lies on the southeastern coast of the island, you can use a tuk-tuk or hop on a local blue bus, then head to the popular Thalang Street in Old Town.

There are many awe-inspiring monuments and temples on Phuket, and the serene Phuket Big Buddha is one stop you should not miss. Perched at the top of Nakkerd Hills between Kata and Chalong, this 45 meters (148 feet) high sitting Buddha statue and its peaceful surroundings offer an enchanting escape from the bustling town and resorts below. From the summit, the spectacular 360-degree view is something to behold.

Opened: 1985Renovated: 2014Number of Rooms: 479

Visit Phuket: A Thailand Travel Guide (2022)

Katathani Phuket Beach Resort is a three-time winner of the prestigious Thailand Tourism Award and a well-established, popular resort in Phuket Island. Deluxe beachfront hotel and spa on secluded Kata Noi Bay, Phuket Thailand. Embraced by lush green hills and a sparkling blue sea, Katathani sweeps naturally across the entire revered stretch of Phuket Island’s famous Kata Noi Beach.

Katathani is a classic beachfront resort designed to delight all. Choose from the beach suites in our luxury Thani Wing or, just across the lane, the garden setting of our Bhuri Wing, both designed to accentuate the character of Thai Style and to weave the sensual beauty of nature into every element.

Visit Phuket: A Thailand Travel Guide (2022)

29 Soi Karon Nui, Tambon Karon, Amphur Muang, Phuket, 83100, Phuket Province, ThailandShow on map

The Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort is located on Phuket's southwestern coast along its own exclusive beach, amid 40 acres of tropical greenery. The resort is just a five-minute drive from Patong and about one hour from Phuket International Airport.

Le Meridien Phuket provides luxury guestrooms and suites with rich traditional Thai interiors and private balconies for panoramic views over the beach.

This Phuket resort features a wide range of culinary options (Japanese, Italian, Asian and seafood), with ten world-class restaurants and bars delivering unique, relaxing dining experiences.

This Phuket property features six meeting rooms, two lagoon-sized swimming pools, four tennis courts, a pair of air-conditioned squash courts, a world-class spa, a variety of sports facilities, a discovery center for kids and the historic Margaret Lee cruiser offering guests opportunities to embark on unique cruise adventures.

6/2 Moo 6 Kamala, Kathu, Phuket, 83150, Phuket Province, ThailandShow on map

Visit Phuket: A Thailand Travel Guide (2022)

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind luxury experience, then you've come to the right place. We are a true oceanfront luxury resort right in the middle of Kamala and Patong Beaches (5-mins drive away). Both Kamala and Patong Beaches are not within short walking distance. Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa Phuket(SHA Extra Plus) has one of Phuket's last remaining unspoiled private beaches (over 600 meters long) and several highly unique features. We have a 4,000 square meter free-form Lagoon Swimming Pool, one of the largest in South East Asia, 14 acres of orchid and tropical gardens, a hillside Cable Car, a world class Spa, 5 unique dining experiences, a pier, and Phuket's first privately funded coral conservation center. This secluded beach and tropical oasis awaits you.

Phuket is much more than just beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, the city also has a diverse and renowned culinary scene. One favorite dish for tourists and locals is Pad Thai. This national dish of a stir-fried rice noodle is particularly popular in Phuket when cooked with shrimp. Then customers can make it their own by adding toppings like chili flakes, fish sauce, and crushed peanuts. To try this delicacy, head to the Pad Thai Shop and Takieng Thai Restaurant.

Next on the list is Tom Yum Goong, a sour and spicy soup with shrimp and vegetables like mushrooms. If you love the well-known Tom Yum soup, then you’ll be happy with this variation as it added juicy shrimp on top. For alternative proteins, order Tom Yam Talay for added seafood and Tom Yam Gai for chicken. Consider Blue Elephant and Mom Tri’s Kitchen for the best versions of this good eat.

Massaman curry is another must-try dish in Phuket. This popular curry dish is hearty, creamy, and rich with flavor and comes in many ways, including pork, beef, or fish. The Oriental Spoon Restaurant and N.C. Restaurant are considered great choices.

As an exotic beach vacation spot, Phuket has a wide range of local specialty products to keep tourists satisfied. Top up on your beachwear and accessories like sandals and flip-flops. Treat yourself to top-quality Thai silk at great prices. The elephant is a symbol of Thailand, so all the elephant decors, carvings, and plush toys will make great gifts. Other ideas on what to buy include cushion covers, cashew nuts, carved soaps, and Phuket pearls.

There is a wide variety of retail experiences from shopping malls to local markets in Phuket. If you feel more comfortable in a modern mall, Jungceylon Shopping Mall opposite Bangla Road in Patong is a perfect spot for shopaholics. Visitors can splurge to their heart's content in over 200 stores and stalls selling designer and local clothing, cosmetics, shoes, electrical goods, and many more. Other notable malls include Central Festival Phuket and Central Patong.

If you prefer to mingle with the locals, then shop in markets like Chillva Market. Located next to Yaowarat Road, Chillva Market has a vibrant and energetic atmosphere with amazing food and fashion stalls that give a local feel. There’s nothing more satisfying for a shopper than affordable and attractive prices, so go on a shopping spree and enjoy yourself. Similar markets in town include Phuket Weekend Market, Banzaan Market, and Phuket Walking Street.

For being one of the busiest tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, Phuket is considered relatively safe for tourists. But visitors are advised to take extra precautions in locations known for their nightlife and tourist attractions, as pickpocketing and mugging are not rare at all. While the overall risk for female solo travelers is low, but they should still avoid dark alleys and walking alone at night. For emergencies, dial 911 for the police, 199 for fire, 1669 for ambulance and rescue, and 1155 for tourist police.

The official currency used in the Kingdom of Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB). While tipping is not required in Thailand, small gratuities for great service are appreciated by guides, drivers, and hotel porters.

Officially called the Kingdom of Thailand, it was formerly known as Siam until 1949. Covering an area of around 514,000 sq km (198,456 sq mi), Thailand is one of the largest countries in Asia and the 51st biggest in the world. Located in the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, it is bordered by Laos to the north, Cambodia to the east, Malaysia to the south, and Myanmar to the west. There are 76 provinces and 2 specially governed districts which are Bangkok (the capital) and Pattaya.

Thailand has a population of around 70 million people, and it is a multi-ethnic nation with 62 recognized ethnic communities. The official language of Thailand is Thai. But the country is home to 71 living languages, for example, Lao is spoken along borders with Laos, and Malay is used in border regions with Malaysia. In Phuket, due to its tourism dominated economy, the vast majority of local people can speak good English.

There is only one time zone in Thailand – the Indochina Time (ICT) and it is always 7 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). The ICT is used all year round, so there are no Daylight Saving Time clock changes. Thailand is in the same time zone as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

This article was updated on 2021-12-23 to reflect the announcement that Thailand has suspended quarantine free entry until further notice. Travelers who have already received a Thailand Pass to travel under the Test & Go or Blue Zone Sandbox programs will be allowed to travel as scheduled. No new Thailand Passes will be issued for these programs until further notice.