First off, let me start by saying Phuket is not the place you think it is. It tends gets a pretty bad rap due to Patong and the surrounding areas, but there is so much more to the island and you should definitely give it a chance if your’e on the fence. I booked a last minute ticket to Phuket from Chiang Mai as I was craving a beach holiday and it was everything I hoped it would be. I want others to see just how amazing this island can be so I’ve put together all my recommendations in one place to give you this helpful Phuket travel guide. I promise there will be something in this guide you will love.
Best Time to Visit
Phuket has a tropical climate and as such, there are 2 distinctive seasons, wet and dry (referring to the wind and rainfall). Dry season is November to February while monsoon season is May to October. Here’s a monthly breakdown to help you decide when is best to visit:
November to February – Dry and high season. Naturally the best time to visit but also the most crowded and expensive.
March to mid-May – Dry and hottest months.
May to October – Monsoon season. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean constant rain day in and day out.
If you take my advice (and why wouldn’t you 😉 ) and stay in Surin, you’ll find that prices are slightly more than what you may be used to in northern Thailand, but still incredibly cheap. You can find a decent Thai meal for around 100 baht and the same for lounge chairs with an umbrella. As always, accommodation will probably be your highest expense which will usually run around 900 baht for a nice single room in a homestay or hotel. Hostel dorms will be about half this if not cheaper. Motorbike rental usually goes for about 250 baht per day.
I would highly recommend getting a scooter if you’re comfortable on one. I discuss how to approach riding in my Bali Travel Guide. The traffic is light and the roads are very well developed so you shouldn’t have any issues. I rented mine for 250 baht/day.
What to Do
Explore the beaches
Phuket has some of the most stunning beaches and sunsets I’ve ever seen and to help you decide which to visit, I’ve put together a post on the best Phuket beaches.
Get a massage
As I said previously, Phuket is slightly more expensive than northern Thailand and as such, massages aren’t as cheap but nonetheless a steal compared to Western prices. You can find a 60 minute full body oil massage for around 300 baht and the same for a 60 minute foot massage.
There are tons of cute local shops on the main roads selling sun hats, flowy trousers, dresses and tops. Be ready to bargain to get the best price.
Where to Eat and Drink
The locals call this “The restaurant with the blue roof” and trust me when I say this will be some of the best Thai food you’ve ever had. I had the best seafood green curry of my life, it was super fresh and just the right amount of spicy and only 60 baht!
Pooh and Friends
Just next to Wanla is another small local Thai restaurant. Go here specifically for the phanaeng curry which is their specialty.
One night I just had a craving for cheese and wine, so I googled tapas and low and behold, The 9th Glass popped up just down the street from me. They do an incredible happy hour promotion from 5-7pm which is buy one glass of wine get one tapa free! I had the potatas bravas and croquetas jambon with a glass of cab sauv for only 250 baht. The portions sizes were quite large so that filled me up!
If you’re still craving some western food, I would suggest going to Mama Mia for a good steak. It’s one of the most affordable options and also quite good. A 200g beef tenderloin is 700 baht and comes with corn on the cob, veg, jacket potato, and sauces.
Open from 9am to late and boasting a beautiful beachside pool, restaurant, and lounge. Come here to soak up the sun during the day and party in the evening.
Where to Stay
While flying to Phuket on a whim was the best decision I made, the second best decision was deciding to stay next to Surin Beach. This is a small area about 30-40 minutes south of the airport. It’s not very developed and most of the hotels dotted around are luxurious so it’s not overcrowded or seedy like Patong. You’re also within walking and short driving distance to some incredible beaches. Bangtao is right next door and this is the same type of atmosphere. Laid back, clean, and access to anything you could need. It’s also next to one of the most affluent areas in Phuket called Laguna.
I stayed in a really nice AirBnb which was only £20/night (link to the property here). There’s also a very new, chilled hostel nearby called Chillhub. The 6 bed dorms are about £10/night. Lastly, there are also plenty of hotels to choose from in the area.