13 Best Things To Do Phuket: Complete Guide For 2023
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If you want an amazing time in Phuket, you need to see this ultimate guide to the best things to do in Phuket!
Phuket is situated in Southern Thailand and has become a popular tourist destination of the years. It’s the largest Island in Thailand and most famous for its pristine white sandy beaches, nearby exotic islands, crazy nightlife and a wide variety of accommodation options ranging from luxury to budget dorm style housings.
Best time to go to Phuket
Most people would agree the best time to visit Phuket is November to April when the weather remains sunny and dry with humidity at its lowest, making it ideal conditions for sunbathing, water activities and boating.
However, don’t be alarmed if you’ve booked between April to October, the Monsoon season! We travelled during August and September and only came across a few days of rain, which tend to be short-lasting and in the afternoons. Although, be aware of chopper seas, which are ideal for surfers, but maybe not for leisurely swimmers!
A bonus of travelling during low season is accommodation is A LOT cheaper and can be booked with short notice and tour prices can be negotiated due to lower demands.
You should check out this Phuket travel prices guide.
How to get to Phuket?
Most people arrive in Phuket from the international airport, which schedules flights from all over the world. Phuket Airport is located 32km from the city, 40km from Patong and 46km from Karon. There are plenty of onward travel options available including; airport metered taxis, smart buses, shared minibuses and car rental.
If you’re lucky enough to already be in Thailand, there’s also a domestic airport that schedules cheap flights from Chang Mai, Koh Samui and Bangkok using low-cost airlines such as AirAsia and Bangkok Airways.
Check out these flights;
Travellers who are staying in nearby Phi Phi are Krabi and are looking to extend their Thailand adventures can make use of the daily ferry services.
If you’re staying in Chiang Mai, check out my best things to do in Chiang Mai travel guide.
Do I need a Visa to travel to Phuket?
Most nationalities arriving by air or land can enter Thailand for 30 days without needing a visa, however, if you want to stay longer than 30 days, you may need to apply for a Thai single-entry tourist visa. This can be done within your own country at the Thai embassy before you’re travel dates or you can extend your visa in Phuket at the visa extension office.
Always check before you travel on any Visa changes or if you have any queries about visas or entry requirements, check with the Thai Embassy.
It’s also important to consider whether you need proof of onward travel, especially if you’re backpacking through Asia. Immigration officials in Thailand may ask you for proof of onward travel, for example, a return or onward air ticket. Without this, some airlines may refuse passengers to board the aircraft, which is a waste of time and money for you so don’t risk it!
Best things to do in Phuket
Soak up the sun on Phuket’s sandy beaches
With over 40 beaches in Phuket, it’s impossible to visit them all in one go, so we’ve picked our top 3 for you to enjoy.
Freedom beach surprisingly is located next to the party capital of Patong, but don’t let this you off. Freedom beach has to be on the most beautiful beaches in Phuket with white sand and crystal clear waters, it’s an Instagrammers dream photo opportunity.
Ya Nui Beach is situated in the South of Phuket and tucked in a hidden cove meaning the turquoise waters are perfect for snorkelling and even beach diving.
Last but not least, Surin Beach makes the top three, with soft white sand and lined palm trees this beach comes with a luxury feel due to the pristine resorts and restaurants close by.
Try some Thai Street Food
From noodles to curries, soups to salads, dumplings to spring rolls, and roti to sticky rice, you could spend weeks sampling Thai cuisine. But you’re probably thinking is Thai street food safe to eat? Well yes, more often than not street food is freshly prepared and you get to see what’s going in your dish. We always ate street food and never got ill plus you’ll save lots of money, especially if you’re a budget backpacker.
My top tips when choosing to opt for tasty street food is always pick where the locals go as they know the best stalls in eat at. You should also check whether ice used in smoothies or cold drinks has been made from tap water or purified water. I’d also advise skipping raw fruit and veg unless they can be peeled and make sure your food is piping hot when being served to you. Last but not least always use hand sanitizer, it’s a lifesaver!
Check out this guide on how to get from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan island.
James Bond Tour
The James Bond Island tour from Phuket has become extremely popular with tourist due to the world-famous film ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
The James Bond Island tour includes a scenic cruise through Phang Nga Bay – about 25 kilometres north-east of Phuket, where you’ll admire stunning rocky cliffs rising dramatically out of the sea. Then you’ll get the opportunity to canoe through limestone caves and mangrove forests, before visiting The Muslim fishing village on Koh Panyee for a delicious traditional Thai buffet. This should be on your best things to do in Phuket bucket-list!
Hike up to the Buddha
The Big Buddha sits at the top of Nakkerd Hill between Chalong and Kata and offers the best panoramic views over the whole of Phuket. The Big Buddha can be accessed via 4 km of the winding road via car, scooter, tuk-tuk or public bus or you can tackle the hike but remember to take lots of water and sunscreen!
Open from 8 am to 7:30 pm, the Big Buddha is FREE is visit but donations are welcomed to help maintain the environment. As the Big Buddha is a religious site visitors are expected to wear appropriate clothing to cover their shoulders and knees, however, they do provide sarongs for free at the visitors’ centre.
Stay overnight in Phi Phi
It’s super easy to get to Phi Phi from Phuket; travellers can opt for the ferry or fast boat. I’d recommend the ferry, which takes around 2 hours from Rassada Pier in Phuket Town. Once you’ve arrived in Phi Phi take a private longtail boat and explore the different island and snorkel with an array of colourful fish and other marine life. Spend the evening watching the sunset over the dramatic limestone cliffs, whilst tucking into some tasty Thai food at one of the seafront restaurants and finish the evening with a few drinks at any of the local lively bars. Wake up in the morning and tackle the Phi Phi viewpoint hike for panoramic views of the island, before heading back to the pier ready for your return trip to Phi Phi.
There are plenty of accommodation options to choose from that suit every traveller budget. I’d recommend booking in advance, especially during the peak season to get the best deals and secure your spot as Phi Phi is one of the most visited places in the whole of Thailand!
Barter at a local market
Local markets are often a good place to practice your bartering skills and pick up a good bargain. It’s also a great place to meet local Thai people and get involved with the Thai culture. There are lots of night markets throughout Phuket, but my favourite would have to be:
- Phuket Weekend Market – Phuket Old Town
- Chillva Market – Phuket Town
- Karon Night Market – Karon
- Malin Plaza – Patong
Enjoy a Thai massage
You can’t visit Thailand without getting a Thai massage! There’s probably a massage shop down every street in Phuket and that’s not an exaggeration. This does mean you’ll probably get mithered for your custom as your walk past, but on the plus, you’ll be able to negotiate prices for their services.
Depending on where you have a massage will depend on the price you pay. Often hotels charge more, whereas local shops or beach rentals will charge 300 Baht an hour.
Have a go at surfing
Who knew you could surf in Phuket?! Well don’t expect Aussie style surfing, but there are certainly some good waves to catch at designated beaches to enjoy.
The surfing season in Phuket runs from April to November and is mainly enclosed to the West Coast including Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Kalim Beach, Surin Beach and Kamala Beach. As you would expect, each location each offer very different conditions and attractions, ranging from smaller, slower waves (good for beginners) on Karon Beach to high-speed three-metre waves with a coral reef break on Kalim (best left to those with more experience).
There is a modest selection of surfboard shops and rental companies dotted around Phuket, with the majority being in and around Kata Beach. You can rent a board to go surfing in Phuket for as little as 200 baht per hour, with lessons starting from 1,500 baht for 90 minutes of private tuition.
Take a day trip to Similan National Park
The Similan National Park is made up of 11 tropical islands located North West of Phuket. Travellers can spend the day snorkelling in the shallow crystal clear waters full of reef coral or explore the remote islands and enjoy the quietness.
The Similan National Park is only open October to May to try and preserve the fragile and unique ecosystem so make sure to plan your trip. Day trips from Phuket take 75 minutes to reach the Similan Islands by speed boat and passengers can enjoy snorkelling, swimming, relaxing and the famous Sail Rock Viewpoint. It’s certainly an unforgettable experience you don’t want to miss!
You can book a Similan Island tour here.
Visit Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre
The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre is located Khao Pra Theaw and aims to rescue, rehabilitate and release Gibbons back into the forest of Phuket.
Many of the rescued gibbons were used as pets or left alone in zoo’s and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre has understood the key behavioural features of each unique animal and prepared them for being released back into the wild. The Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre also educates locals to help ensure a sustainable development would go side by side with gibbons and their habitat.
The Centre opens every day from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except Saturdays when they are open until 3 pm. Entry is free but donations are welcomed to help save more gibbons. This is one of the most unique attractions in Phuket.
Why not book a half-day motorbike tour here.
Bathe with elephants at the Jungle Elephant Sanctuary
Enjoy a morning and afternoon interacting, feeding and bathing these gentle giants at the Jungle Elephant Sanctuary, an ethical organisation aiming to rescue mistreated elephants throughout Thailand. Definitely one of the best things to do in Phuket.
The half-day tour allows guest to spend some quality time with the elephants, feeding them sugar cane and bananas and relaxing in the mud spa before cooling off in the waterfall pools. You will also learn about their history within Thai culture and gain an insight into their behaviour. You will also get to enjoy a Thai buffet-style lunch or dinner before heading back to your accommodation – a perfect day out if you ask me!
Experience a Muay Thai boxing class
Muay Thai boxing is one of the most popular sports in Thailand to participate and spectate in and is now gaining worldwide recognition. There is plenty of Muay Thai boxing camps for beginners in Phuket for you to have a go at Thailand’s national sport.
The biggest and most well-known Muay Thai camp is Tiger Muay Thai, situated in Chalong area on the famous fighters ‘Soi’ road. The complex has a state of the art training facilities, which caters for fighters are every level of training.
Learn Thai Cuisine from the master
Why not have a go at a Thai cooking class and take Thai food back home with you!
There are lots of companies in Phuket offering fun, interactive and educational cooking classes teaching students how to make authentic Thai meals, such as green Thai curry, Massaman curry, spring rolls, sticky rice and pad Thai. Most cooking classes also offer free recipes to take home to practice on your friends and family!
Where to stay in Phuket?
Patong – Party Central
Patong is probably the most touristic area of Phuket and is well known for its crazy nightlife, abundant shopping and ladyboy shows, making it ideal for singletons, groups of friends or those looking for the party!
Karon – ‘Patong’s Little Sister’
Karon still has a vibrant nightlife but isn’t as chaotic as Patong. You’ll find lots of restaurants, a few bars and markets to enjoy, without the irritating crowds.
Kata – Family Friendly
If you’re looking for a family-friendly resort, with a relaxing white sandy beach, look no further. Kata is the perfect place for surfing, paddleboarding, diving, snorkelling and swimming in the warm Andaman waters.
Rawai – Couples Getaway
The incredible Rawai is a small fishing village is best known for its chilled atmosphere, lush resorts and authentic Thai cuisine, making it an ideal destination for honeymooners. Rawai is perfect for day trips to nearby tropical islands where hire a traditional long-tail boat and have a go at snorkelling in the crystal clear waters.
Nai Yang – Secluded Beachfront
Located close to Phuket Airport, Nai Yang has a laid back atmosphere and often attracts friendly Thai locals, meaning the Thai food is epic! The nightlife here involves cosy cocktails on the beach watching the sun fade behind the lapsing waves – sounds like heaven to me!
Phuket Old Town – Culture Capital
Full of historic architecture and local Baba culture Phuket Old Town is a magical place to wonder. Embrace and enjoy the art galleries, local shopping experiences and authentic Thai food, whilst also enjoying some of the islands best nightlife. The only thing you’re missing is a beautiful Thai beach!
Phuket is the perfect place for every type of traveller. Sit back and soak up the sun on the white sandy beaches or enjoy all the fun activities this awesome island has to offer.
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