Phuket is a lovely island of rain forests, rocky shores, golden beaches, green fields, mangroves, mountain ranges, and majestic limestone cliffs, all fringed with greenish-blue seas. It has an outstanding marine life and an astounding range of dive sites that are suitable for beach diving, drift diving, wall diving, and wreck diving. Dive centres, which provide training and organize dive trips, are aplenty on the island. More than three million people visit Phuket annually.
Location of Phuket
Phuket is situated in the Andaman Sea and is part of Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia. It is the largest island in Thailand. On its northern side, it is separated from southern Thailand (which is a part of Malay Peninsula) by a narrow channel that is an extension of the Strait of Malacca. Phuket is connected to the province of Phang Nga in the mainland through a bridge named Sarasin Bridge. Bangkok is about 860 km north of Phuket.
What You Can Do in Phuket
Needless to say, divers can get one of the best diving experiences of their lifetime in Phuket.
When a diver talks about diving at Phuket, what he or she is usually referring to is the diving around any number of islands scattered around the Andaman Sea. On Phuket itself, most visitors tend to focus on more land-locked activities such as shopping, elephant riding, spa retreats, or golf, to name but a handful.
While there is diving on Phuket proper, most people with only a couple of days tend to head out to dive sites within an hour or two of Chalong Bay — Phuket’s hub for sea-going trips. Such sites include Koh Racha Yai, Koh Racha Noi, Koh Doc Mai, Shark Point, Anemone Reefs, the King Cruiser Wreck, and the Phi Phi Islands.
For those with a few more days to spare, liveaboards depart from Chalong Bay to outstanding sites such as the Similan and Surin Islands, as well as Richelieu Rock and even across the border to Myanmar’s Mergui Peninsula and Burma Banks.
However, they can do much more than diving here.
Non-divers also have plenty to do in this enchanting island. Some of these activity options are described below:
- Visitors can have canoeing trips in Phang Nga Bay to explore its caves, lagoons, and huge limestone cliffs. Phang Nga Bay is in the Strait of Malacca between Phuket and southern Thailand.
- Koh Tapu, an island in Phang Nga Bay, commonly known as James Bond Island, is a much-favoured place for tourists because the James Bond Movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ was shot here. Tourist boats are not allowed to go too near the island since it is precariously positioned.
- There are many Buddhist temples in Phuket. The beautiful, three-storied Wat Chalong, which houses a fragment of the Buddha’s bone, is the most important among them.
- At the top of Nakkerd Hill is a huge image of the Buddha known as ‘Big Buddha’, made of reinforced concrete and white jade marble. It is 45 m high and 25 m wide at the base. Near this gigantic Buddha, there is a smaller, beautiful, golden Buddha. From the top of the hill, visitors can have a breathtakingly beautiful view of most of Phuket.
- Suwan Kuha Temple, known locally as Wat Tam or cave temple, is a temple built inside interconnected caves with a very impressive reclining statue of the Buddha and many smaller Buddha statues. Monkeys roam freely inside the caves.
- Near the temple Suwan Kuha, there is a park called Raman Waterfall Forest Park. It has 6 waterfalls and a hiking trail that connects them.
- Phuket’s beaches are good for many water-related activities like surfing, rafting, snorkelling, stand-up paddle boarding, jet skiing, kite surfing, and fishing.
- Kalim beach has provision for zorbing, which is a sport of rolling down a hillside inside a flexible plastic ball.
- Those interested in elephants can explore jungles and streams on the back of an elephant.
- Koh Panyee is a local fishing village built almost entirely on stilts. It will be interesting to watch their way of life in close contact with nature.
- Beaches of Phuket have a lot to offer. Kata Beach and Karon Beach are full of shops and marts and restaurants, and are ideal for shopping and dining.
- Phuket has a very active nightlife. With many bars, night clubs, and Go Go Bars, Patong Beach is ideal for partying and night entertainment. Parts of Karon Beach also offer excellent night entertainment with jazz, salsa, themed events, and lively DJs.
Best Time to Visit Phuket
Phuket’s climate is tropical and it never becomes too cold here. The coolest months are November to February when the temperature is within 23°C and 30°C. Since December-January are even otherwise holiday season, this is the time when most people choose to visit. It is very hot from March to the middle of May, but after that the monsoon sets in and continues till October. Monsoon season is not a bad time to visit because it is the cheapest season of the year and rainfall is never too heavy in Phuket.
Best Dive Season
The best dive season is from November to May. In other words, other than the rainy season, all the other months are suitable for diving. Visibility is high in November and December. Further, with the end of monsoon, the national parks in the nearby islands of Surin and Similan reopen and their dive sites too become accessible to divers.
Where to Stay in Phuket
Phuket has an abundance of resorts and hotels. Given below are the details of a few.
La Flora Resort Patong (5 star)
La Flora Resort is close to many major attractions of Phuket like Patong Beach, Tiger Kingdom, and Soi Bangla, which is the heart of Phuket’s bubbly nightlife. The resort has a collection of 67 rooms and suites of differing sizes and amenities, with a spa that offers traditional Thai massage, fitness room, and 2 outdoor pools. Villas have a private swimming pool, home theatre, living room, round-the-clock room service, international direct dial line, Wi-Fi, DVD player, sofa beds, mini-bar and a private balcony. The resort’s two restaurants, namely ‘The Current of The Sea’ and ‘The Surface’, offer a wide range of dishes and excellent selection of wines, host events, and conduct cooking classes.
Kalima Resort & Spa (5 star)
Kalima Resort is located on a hillside, a short distance away from both Patong Beach and Kalim Beach. It offers its residents fantastic views of Patong Bay and easy access to shopping centres, nightlife, and Phuket’s venue of zorbing at Rollerball. The resort has a garden, fitness centre, sauna, spa, hot tub, kids’ club, kids’ pool, restaurant, bar, souvenir shop, car park, valet parking, ATM, and library besides routine amenities. There are facilities for handicapped people, currency exchange, corporate meeting, Wi-Fi, babysitting, wheelchair access, dry cleaning, car hire, and many more. There is a range of rooms like Deluxe Room, Deluxe Twin Room, 1 Bedroom Pool Villa, 2 Bedroom Pool Villa, Pool Access Double Room, and Duplex Villa with Private Pool.
The Vijitt Resort Phuket (5 star)
The Vijitt Resort, overlooking Chalong Bay, is an eco-friendly resort which has been built without damaging the trees that were on the land. It is situated on Friendship Beach, a long beach in south Phuket, at a distance of a 40-minute drive from Patong Beach. Despite being a bit away from the heart of the town and shopping centres, the resort lacks nothing because it is a self-contained unit with shops, restaurant, bar, coffee shop, salon, library, laundry service, dry cleaning service, playground, garden, kids’ club, kids’ pool, fitness centre, spa, massage centre, outdoor pool, and currency exchange facility.
Royal Paradise Hotel & Spa (4 star)
This one is located near Patong Beach, within walking distance of the nightlife in Soi Bangla, the shopping mall Jungceylon, and Robinson Department Store. The hotel is a big complex, divided into Royal Wing and Paradise Wing. The 248 rooms of Paradise Wing form the upper stories whereas the 102 rooms of Royal Wing are lower down, near the swimming pool. The hotel has got boutique, bakery, florist, clinic, Wi-Fi, laundry service, spa, fitness centre, kids’ club, babysitting service, swimming pools, children’s pool, and jacuzzi. The front desk arranges sightseeing tours, car rentals, and mini-bus rentals. The restaurants of Royal Paradise Hotel offer Thai, Chinese, Arabian, Indian, Asian, and international dishes.
How to Reach Phuket
Phuket’s airport is Phuket International Airport (HKT). It is served by many airlines and receives flights from many countries like Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Moscow, Beijing, Seoul, Frankfurt, Zurich, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jakarta, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore, Bangkok, and Doha. So, reaching Phuket by air is fairly easy.
There are bus services from Bangkok to Phuket from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal. The journey takes about 13 hours. There are daytime buses and night buses to Phuket from Surat Thani, Phang Nga, and Krabi too. You can also hire a car and drive from Bangkok or other places to Phuket, stopping at many interesting places on the way.
Though there is no train station in Phuket, part of the distance can be covered in a train. You can take a train from Bangkok’s main railway station and get off at the train station Phun Phin in the province of Surat Thani. From Phun Phin, there are buses to Phuket. The bus journey from Phun Phin to Phuket takes about 5 hours.
There are ferry services to Phuket from Koh Phi Phi Don in Krabi, Klong Jilad Pier in Krabi, Yao Islands in Pha Nga Bay, Similar Islands, Koh Racha, and Koh Lanta (Koh means island). The ferry from Koh Lanta to Phuket goes via Krabi.
Getting Around in Phuket
There is hardly any difficulty in travelling within Phuket. Many hotels and resorts are so located that beaches, shops, and restaurants are within walking distance. For longer journeys like exploring the island, you can hire a car or take a bus. The buses are basically of two types – blue, open-air ones known as song-taews that ply between the resorts and the Phuket town. Then there are smaller, air-conditioned buses that operate within the town.
Taxis are also aplenty in Phuket. You can easily flag down a passing taxi, or use a mobile app called GRAB TAXI to get a taxi by providing your destination and pickup point. Another public transport that you can use is a tuk tuk, which is a modified mini-truck painted bright yellow or red. You will see tuk tuks in abundance in front of resorts and important tourist attractions.
Things to Know While Travelling in Phuket
About 35% of Phuket’s population is of Chinese origin. The rest are mainly Thai, of which one-third are Muslims. Sea Gypsies, who were there much earlier than others, continue to be there. Phuket celebrates its Chinese Vegetarian Festival in October and Songkran Festival, which is the New Year, on April 13. In November there is a festival named Loy Kratong when people set afloat lotus-shaped vessels with lit candles or incense sticks inside.
What to Wear
Since Phuket is hot most of the time, remember to pack your bag with summer-wear. You can add beach slippers, sports shoes, sunglasses, and cap to your list. Shorts with any lightweight top of your choice and flip flops will be comfortable wear in Phuket most of the time.
To enter Phuket, those coming from countries with the possibility of yellow fever transmission must be vaccinated against yellow fever, with the exception of children who are 9 months or less. This includes even travellers who have spent more than 12 hours during transit at the airport of a country with the risk of transmission.
It is safer to be up-to-date on routine vaccinations for measles, mumps, chicken pox, hepatitis A and B etc. and you should preferably get vaccinated against influenza also.
Phuket is a sun-kissed island so it will be good to take some sun block lotion along. Other things that you will need are mosquito repellents and basic medicines for cold, fever, stomach ailments etc. However, all these things are easily available at the pharmacies in Phuket.
You can drive on an International Driving Licence in Phuket for 3 months from the date of entering Thailand. In fact an IDL is valid for more than that but insurance is often cancelled after 3 months.
A foreign driving licence is valid in Thailand if that licence is in English, or has got an official translation into Thai or English, and has been issued by a country with which Thailand has an agreement permitting reciprocal recognition of driving licences. Many countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have this arrangement with Thailand.
For driving motorbikes, you must have a valid motorcycle licence issued by your country, together with an International Driving Permit.
Passport and Visa Requirements
Anyone entering Phuket must have a passport that is valid for six months more than the person’s intended period of stay in Phuket. (This is the rule for the whole of Thailand.) As far as visa is concerned, 52 countries are eligible for Visa Exemption to Thailand and people from these countries will be granted a visa on arrival if they are arriving through an international airport.
Besides people of these 52 countries, those holding passports of a list of 19 countries are eligible to apply for a Visa on Arrival for a cost of 1000 baht. Both those who are entitled to Visa Exemption and Visa on Arrival have to confirm that they are only tourists and must have proof to show that they will be flying back within 30 days of their entry. Visa will be denied if the return ticket is an open ticket or if they are planning to return from Thailand by train or by road to nearby places like Laos or Cambodia. They must also have proof to show the authorities that they have enough funds to stay in Thailand for the proposed period.
Those who do not belong to either of the above groups, and those who want to stay for a longer period, have to get a Tourist Visa for 60 days from the embassy or consulate of Thailand in their respective countries.
Most major airlines fly to Thailand, with scores more offering direct services into Phuket International Airport. Phuket is also a major destination for budget airlines, including Tiger Airways and Jetstar Asia.
Tropical climate, with the dive season ranging from November to April. Diving is possible in what is called the “rainy” season from May through to October, but only in the relatively-sheltered waters in and around the greater Phuket area. Liveaboards to the more exposed destinations such as the Similan and Surin islands generally cease operating during this time. Water temperatures are generally warm, and for most diving, a 3 mm suit or equivalent should be sufficient.
Documents and Taxes
In most cases, visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days for most countries. If in doubt, please check with local Thai consular office. Passports should be valid for at least six months from date of entry. Departure tax for all international flights is 500 Baht per passenger, and must be paid in cash after checking-in.
On Phuket itself, domestic GSM network and international roaming is widely available. On the various islands, satellite-based phones may be an option by the resorts. Local access numbers for internet / email roaming are available via the iPass network, as are Internet cafes.
Baht (Exchange Rate)
Tipping, optional, but appreciated.
Health And Safety
Generally recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, tetanus and typhoid. Malaria is present in some areas. Mosquito repellent is widely available.
GMT + 7 hrs
Scuba Diving in Phuket?
Check out our Phuket dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!