Phuket is the ideal getaway. Thailand’s largest island offers an incredibly diverse vacation experience, where you can literally choose your own adventure.
You will be amazed at the way Phuket manages to cram so much into the available space. Separated from the mainland by the narrow Pak Prah Strait, Phuket is often referred to as “the Jewel of the Adaman,” and it’s easy to see why.
Most visitors arrive at Phuket International Airport in the northern district of Thalang. Unsurprisingly, this is where you’ll find most of the luxury Phuket villa rentals and upmarket resorts. One look at the beach at Mai Khao is all it takes to understand the allure.
Alternatively, visitors can also drive across the bridge from the Thai mainland, which is very easy, and the traffic is not normally as heavy as you might expect. During major festivals like Songkran you could expect much more traffic, so plan ahead.
When arriving by air from an international airport, you will be required to fill in an Arrival Card (even if you are Thai!), so be sure to ask for one from a flight attendant if you haven’t been issued with one before your plane begins its approach phase. It is best to fill this in before you actually arrive, because it will save time. Phuket International is a busy and small airport, so anything you can do to speed up the after-arrival formalities is good.
Most travelers are heading to Patong Beach from the airport, and there’s a shuttle bus that runs between the two areas for 120 baht. If you’re staying in one of the more luxurious locations in the Thalang area, it will probably be more efficient to get a taxi, and an average ride should be somewhere in the vicinity of 300 baht. For reference, a taxi from the airport to Patong will cost about 700 baht.
One of the best things about a Phuket vacation, apart from spending time on the magnificent beaches and enjoying the nightlife, is the huge choice you have in terms of where to eat. The only important thing to keep in mind is to never go to any place recommended by a taxi driver. If that place needs a taxi driver to recommend it, then it’s probably not going to meet your expectations.
Better ways to find information include reading online reviews and checking out where the locals are heading. If you’re lucky enough to find a long-term expat living in Phuket, you can also ask them for recommendations. This is the most likely way to get genuine information that’s not biased by the chance of earning a referral fee for taking you there.
Virtually every cuisine you can imagine is on offer here. There are many expatriates living in Phuket, and many of them own restaurants. Some of them are even acclaimed chefs in their own right, and may have experience working in top restaurants in Europe and elsewhere.
In general, Thai foods will tend to be among the less expensive choices, while foreign cuisines will often tend to be more upmarket. That’s not always how it plays out, however, so try a few different places until you find those that meet your personal criteria for great food, value, and service. The great places are definitely there to be found.
Beyond the beach, there are plenty of other activities and attractions to visit. The great thing about Phuket is that it’s so large, about 1.5 times the size of Penang, so it is possible to find a diversity of experiences to choose from.
Among the top places to visit include:
Khao Phra Thaeo national park – this park has survived due to its unsuitability for development into construction of condominiums and hotels. It’s compact and a bit steep, but there’s still plenty to see, and it’s also cooler inside the forest, as the trees block out some of the sun. Inside the park you will also find the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, which is definitely worth a visit, and you can conclude your trek with a refreshing swim at Bang Pae Waterfalls.
Flying Hanuman zipline – this is an activity for thrill-seekers, as you’ll be zipping through the forest on a cable 40m (130ft) from the ground. It may sound scary, but it’s quite safe and often provides a fantastic chance to see the native wildlife as you go past them really really fast.
Splash Jungle Waterpark – an imaginative waterpark where you can splash out and have fun in a beautiful jungle setting. It’s a family-friendly activity, and fun for young or old alike.
Dolphins Bay Nemo – fantastic dolphin show on the south east coast, easily accessible from Phuket Town. It’s ethically operated and reasonably priced, making it one of the best attractions in Phuket.
There are a lot more surprises awaiting you in Phuket, and this article barely covers even a tenth of the possibilities. The best way to discover Phuket is to dive right in and see for yourself, so what are you waiting for? A Phuket vacation is whatever you want it to be.