Thailand’s largest island, Phuket is huge at about 49 km long and has a curvaceous coastline with perfect white beaches between craggy rock formations and jutting peninsulas.
Phuket is one of the most popular places to visit on the Thailand tours holidays with plenty of different things to do and see. For the traveller that wishes to avoid the touristy areas, it is possible to visit Phuket Old Town which is regarded as the island’s cultural centre.
Many of the buildings have a Sino-Portuguese architecture feel that is seeing a lot of revival and attracting more baristas, artists and designers among the more traditional barbers, temples and shop-houses that are regularly seen on the streets. Plus, the massive beach scene continues to grow with new beach clubs and hotels appearing on the western coast.
The busiest and biggest beach is in the town of Patong, while rawai is a very laid-back and blissful location, and Phuket Town is a culturally rich capital that is extremely artsy. Other great beach resorts include Karon and Kata which are located on the west-coast. The more luxurious time is experienced in Ao Bang Thao and Hat Surin, while a quieter time is found in the Khao Phra Thaew reserve and Sirinat National Park.
For the high-end travellers on the Thailand tour holiday packages there are plenty of things to experience, such as Thailand's swankiest hotels, fabulous white beaches, luxury shopping, top-rated dining and deep-sea diving.
The climate in Phuket is great year-round with the preferred time to travel on the Thailand travel packages running from November to March when the rain starts to clear and the Andaman Sea is a lot calmer. The weather for the rest of the year is still hot and humid, and there is still plenty of time to get involved in activities, such as hiking through the jungle, relaxing in a spa, bird watching, or diving amidst the limestone islands.
The weather starts to get more difficult from July to October when the red warning flags start to appear and the sea gets whipped up. Plus, there is plenty of rain this time of year and no guarantee of being able to enjoy days of sunshine.
How to get there
The closest airport to Phuket Town is the Phuket International Airport which is about 30 km northwest. On arrival at the airport, the onward travel to the southern beaches is in the region of 40-45 minutes.
A short ride on a motorbike taxi can cost in the region of $2, while a tuk-tuk trip across the island – up to 3 km – can cost about $10.
Where to stay
The guesthouses and hotels are quick to get booked up in the high season (January to March) so it makes sense to book early for the best places to stay and the most attractive deals. The Patong region of Phuket has a varied range of places to stay, from the low-cost hostels to the high-end hotels. Elsewhere, the beaches of Kata and Karon are more peaceful and have a lot of resort-style accommodation available.
Most of the best prices for guesthouses and hotels in Phuket are in regions like the picturesque Chalong Bay or the less touristy hotspots. For those travellers interested in architecture, there are plenty of buildings with Sino-Portuguese architecture that overlook Phuket Town.
The hostels prices for the budget travel or backpacker cost in the region of $5-$15 which gives access to fans and a shared bathroom. Also, there are plenty of budget hotels that aren’t too expensive with most including air-con.
Eat and drink
The restaurants in Phuket on the Indochina tour packages offer a very diverse menu with local and western dishes. For the more unique dining experiences it benefits to visit one of the floating seafood restaurants. The eateries offering the traditional Thai treats are easily found across the entire island, while the best place for western food are seen in the Patong district.
The cost of the food in the touristy areas of Phuket is slightly more expensive than other places in Thailand. In many cases it can be approx 25% more expensive. Eating lunch at a Thai restaurant is about $4-$5; an evening dining can easily cost $7-$8 or more, while a western meal can start at about $9-$10. The most expensive meals are likely to include those based on fresh fish which can reach about $20.
Phuket has a great combination of established shopping centres and popular markets. Popular shopping options include the large Jungceylon shopping centre; Central Festival Phuket is great for Thai silk, while the OTOP Market is appreciated for its traditional wooden puppets which make a cherished souvenir.
One of the most appealing souvenirs is the traditional Thai cloth used to make bags and sarongs, and widely available in seaside villages like Rawai, Phuket Town and around Patong. Other markets include Phuket Indy Market and Phuket Weekend Market, which are always laid-back and very busy.
Things to see and do
Cabaret shows, fabulous Thai temples, exotic wildlife and beautiful landscape, Phuket has literally everything needed for a complete Thailand family tour. The tours of the country can range from those related to traditional Thai life like the ancient temples to the modern amusement parks.
Phang Nga Bay
A slow and relaxing cruise around Phang Nga Bay makes it possible to see the fantastic limestone islands that are featured throughout the emerald waters. With the collapsed caves and limestone cliffs to explore, there is plenty to see and do here. Plus, for the more relaxed time it is possible to stop at one of the isolated beaches.
Tour the temples
Phuket is very unique when it comes to its collection of temples. One of the must-visit is Wat Chalong, which is not only the largest in the region, but is also linked to the monks, Luang Pho Chaung and Luang Pho Chaem. This is a popular destination for the Thai locals to get blessed. Plus, there are plenty of Buddha statues to see, while the Grand Pagoda has a wall with plenty of paintings that depicted the life story of Buddha.
A visit to Pum’s Thai Cooking School makes it possible to learn to cook traditional Thai food. It is located relatively close to Patong Beach with classes that range from 1 to 6 hours in length. Plus, it is possible to try the dishes once prepared and can be repeated on returning home. Most sessions start at about $15 and increase with the length of the class.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park
A day-trip to the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park is certain to appeal to the traveller interested in preserving the environment and helping the endangered species. It is located in a dense forest with plenty of giant trees, as well as the Nam Tok Sai waterfall that is worth a visit. Plus, concealed among the mangroves is a quite pleasant floating restaurant.
Also, the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park is home to the Gibbon Rehabilitation project, which includes tours of the park to see the gibbons that are to be rehabilitated and released into the wild.
A visit to Hat Karon on the Thailand honeymoon vacation is perfect for its white sand and perfect scenery. This beach has a long stretch of coral reef that runs to Kata and Bu Island. Plus, there are a few local shops and restaurants to try while in the local area.
Thalang National Museum
For the traveller that wants to learn more about historical Phuket, the best option is to stop at the Thalang National Museum. This museum is home to a wide range of artefacts that relate to the times of war with Burma and parts of Old Phuket. There is a small fee to enter the museum.
Hire a bicycle
A bicycle hired for the day at about $6 makes it possible to enjoy more freedom and fully explore the sights in Phuket. For those that want to relax and swim, a trip to Laem Singh Beach is certain to appeal with this laid-back and secluded spot a perfect destination for not only relaxing in the sun, but also for snorkelling opportunities. But, be careful on the main streets where riding a bike is quite tumultuous.
Sirinat National Park
A visit to Sirinat National Park is great for the nature lover that likes to go camping. This park was established in the early 1980s and includes three beaches, including Mai Khao, Sai Kaew and Nai Yang. Plus, there is also a thick mangrove jungle that has a combination of fresh and saltwater. Also, this is a great place for the Leatherback Turtles that are often seen to be laying their eggs on the beaches.
A destination that is approx 3 hours from Phuket is the Similian Islands which is appreciated for its perfect diving opportunities. While it may be quite a trek from Phuket it is still worth the effort to see some of the stunning and bizarre rock formations.
Phuket Mining Museum
One of the more interesting places in town is the Phuket Mining Museum, which includes plenty of details models and artefacts. Plus, it highlights the different mining techniques that have been used in the region throughout the years. The entry fee is in the region of $3.