Tips Before you come to Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is not like the rest of Thailand. It is a very unique place focusing on higher-end travelers. If this is your first time in Phuket or you haven’t been there for a long time then this post is for you! Preparation is key to a headache free stay.
Here’s what you need to know before you come to Phuket:
1. Know where you are staying.
This one is the most important parts of the trip. It may ruin it for you if you don’t prepare.
For people who are looking for picturesque beaches and accommodations: you must do your research. Do you want beach proximity and therefore more touristy areas or a remote location close to mountains where locals live? Do you want to drive to stores or walk to them?
If this is your first time on Phuket island I would not recommend staying in Patong. During the tourist season, December to February, it becomes a zoo. The seemingly good vibes are ruined by screaming and uncharacteristically aggressive Thai people. The competition is fierce and so is the demand so do not expect to have a lot of negotiating leverage during the tourist season.
After leaving and visiting most places in Phuket here is my incredibly honest take on some of the places described by Tripadvisor as the must-visit places.
Patong is a city for either teenagers or lonely elderly gentlemen looking for a company and a massage with a happy end.
If you want a city location and less busy atmosphere then Karon or Kata are good options. It is more family friendly and it is not as populous as Patong. Karon beach can still be enjoyed even during the tourist season from the Northside. If you are facing the sea you have to go (drive) right to avoid the crowds.
Almost no waves. It gets pretty empty if you head north of the beach. Karon city is located right by the beach more towards the Southside and is a very nice tourist town.
Phuket town is for visiting only. This is where many locals live. There is a port nearby where most tours sail from. Besides the old city and weekend night markets, there isn’t much you can do there.
Nai Harn is a nice beach with a catch. Every time I went there, there were sneaky waves. Why sneaky? Because some are small until a big one hits you out of nowhere. It was not a pleasant experience.
After reading reviews for Paradise beach I did not bother even going there. Turns out it is overdeveloped and polluted. So sad. 🙁
My favorite calm, picturesque, clean, and no people spot was Ao Yon beach. I loved that place. You should check it out.
2. Renting a car or a scooter is advisable.
Renting a car is a very good idea. You don’t have to pick up the smoke and street smells from the road. Sit and enjoy your air-conditioned mini-universe. A scooter might cost you starting 200 THB per day. A car rental starts at $500 USD and up.
3. Eating where locals eat is a very good and cheap idea.
Restaurants that cater to locals are friendlier and have better everything. In my experience picking the worst looking hole-in-the-wall “restaurant” is a way better option than going to a spot where they cater to tourists. Tourist spots, unfortunately, are never that good. At most they are mediocre.
Fun fact: I never got an upset stomach from a hole-in-the-wall spot.
4. Shopping is just like everywhere else.
In Phuket the are many shops, outlets, and plazas. Each and every single one of them has almost the same stores and variety as the rest of the world. I suggest not spending time on shopping but doing tours. There is such a thing called OTOP stores that sell local goods. OTOP stores are government sponsored businesses that produce local crafts and trinkets. If you are buying one you are supporting a whole community.
5. Bring money and your own sunscreen!
Phuket is not cheap. Many tourist and backpackers alike associate Phuket as a budget destination because of mainland Thailand. It is not. It is like Nice in France. Whether it is worth it or not I will let you decide when you come here. A lot depends on where you stay and eat (see points above).
It gets especially expensive during peak season, Dec 13 – Feb 13th. This is when it rains the least, the weather is nice, and all sea creatures avoid shallow waters because of low tide.
Sadly, it is also the season when many fruits like durian, mangosteen, lamut, and others are not widely available. If they are available then prepare to pay same prices like at home or more. Today is Jan 23d and I begin to see more and more fruits everywhere. So this is good news!
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