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A palm-fringed paradise of pristine beaches, exotic wildlife, and cocktails on tap, Phuket is Southern Thailand’s headline act. Jutting out into the Andaman Sea, this is Thailand’s largest island, as well as its busiest, and while the crush of tourists in high season can be overwhelming, its popularity is well deserved. The capital, Phuket Town, is the obvious starting point, with its buzzing markets and non-stop nightlife, but the best hotels can be found along the west coast, hugging the shores of Kamala Beach, Karon beach, and Kata Beach. Farther north, Surin and Layan Beach, and laid-back Rawai, at the southern tip of the island, offer respite from the crowds, while busy Patong Beach is the life of the party, boasting the island’s best nightlife. Phuket also serves as the departure point for many of the surrounding islands and there are a huge variety of day trips available. Cruise beneath the jagged limestone cliffs of Phang Nga Bay, home to James Bond Island; admire the Hollywood-worthy landscapes of the Phi Phi Island, where Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed, or discover the underwater wonders of the remote Similan Islands.
November marks the end of monsoon season in Phuket, and islanders waste no time in celebrating the glorious winter weather. Peak season runs through March, when temperatures are ideal for beach days and snorkeling, and the Lantern Festival (Loi Krathong Festival) and Patong Carnival draw in the crowds. If you can bear the heat, which sometimes climbs as high as 100°F (39°C), come in April for the legendary Thai New Year (Songkran) celebrations—the gigantic water fight will cool you down.
Whether you prefer a taxi or tuk-tuk, you’ll need wheels to get around Thailand’s largest island. The cheapest option is catching a songthaew, which run to most destinations on the island—ask locally for the routes as formal timetables are hard to come by. For a bit more flexibility, rent a motorbike or car, or download Grab (Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber). If you want to explore further, regular ferries and speed boats cruise out to the surrounding islands.
Escaping the beaten track isn’t easy in Phuket, but there are still a few lesser-known spots to seek out. For uncrowded sands and underwater views with more fish than snorkels, Banana Beach, on the northwest coast, is reached by a steep trail and remains one of the least developed of Phuket’s beaches with a single beachfront restaurant. For a street food hub with a more local vibe, try the small Kor Jaan night market along Kra Road in Phuket Town.
Phuket is known for its tropical beaches, vibrant nightlife, and rich culture. Tourists flock here to try outdoor activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling and to enjoy a relaxing vacation on the beach. The Thai island has everything from zoos and museums to great restaurants and lively bars....More
Phuket is pronounced “poo-ket” not “foo-ket.” You'll see the “ph” letter combination in the Thai language often, but it’s always pronounced with a hard “p” rather than the “f” sound that English speakers are accustomed to....More
Phuket is a large island with several regions. Singles and young travelers flock to popular Patong. For a more family-friendly stay, there's Kata and Kamala beach areas. Surin and Karon boast lovely beaches. Stay in Bangtao for more sophisticated nightlife. Beachless Phuket Town is a thriving cultural hub....More
Phuket is known for its outdoor activities, from scuba diving to parasailing to relaxing on the beach. Popular day trips from Phuket include the nearby Phi Phi Islands and James Bond Island. At night, you can visit a bustling night market with authentic Thai food and souvenirs....More
No. Phuket is an affordable destination. Stay in modest rooms on the cheap or go for luxury resort options with higher price tags. Enjoy local street food for a dollar or two, or sit down to a nice meal that costs about what fast-casual food does in Europe or the US....More
The cheapest activity to do in Phuket is relaxing on its sandy beaches, which is free. For a more adventurous activity with a relatively low price tag, try a parasailing tour over Patong or a Muay Thai boxing match....More
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