One of the very first superstars of the Thailand tourism industry, Phuket, also known as the 'Pearl of the Andaman' has enjoyed huge popularity by traveller's worldwide. Located on the strikingly beautiful East coast of Thailand, it's the largest island in the country and attracts all those in self-indulgent search of sun, sea, sand and 24 hour partying!
Renowned for it's night life, it's Patong and Phuket town that are the spots to hit if you're looking to let your hair down! However, once you get away from the bright lights and bars of the main drags, you'll find some incredibly beautiful beaches and coves lined with palm trees and lush rainforest.
It's the West Coast of the island that has the best beaches; miles and miles of white sand meet turquoise waters. There are tons of activities for the adventures, including watersports of every variety; at certain times of year you can even learn to surf here. Getting a motorbike to explore the back roads and villages makes for a great day - visiting sea gypsy villages, getting out into the jungle and finding deserted beaches.
There's something for everybody in Phuket: world class diving, sailing, golf, Muay Thai boxing camps, plenty of great Thai and International restaurants, zip line adventures, ATV tours and elephant trekking!
There's also a more cultural side to Phuket where you can sip milky iced tea while listening to melodic jazz from a street café. Haggle over homemade batik at a Malay fabric shop. Sample traditional Hokkien Chinese cuisine for less than three dollars and admire historic buildings dating back a century... Check out the article here on exploring Phuket's little seen Old Quarter.
Plus, Phuket's surrounding islands will really take your breath away. Take a speed boat trip to 'James Bond Island,' visit magical Phang Nga Bay or any number of the deserted tropical islands surrounding Phuket such as Koh Ma or Koh Yai.
Phuket is one of the first places in Thailand that attracted tourists; sandy beaches, nightlife, shopping, diving, snorkeling, boat trips, bunjee jumping, you name it Phuket is a tourist haven!
Where to stay in Phuket?
Backpacker budget options can be found scattered in Phuket Town and Patong. Bamboo bungalow types don’t really exist in Phuket, you are looking at guesthouses as the best bet. At some of the cheaper guesthouses in Phuket Town. 300 baht will get you a basic fan-room. There are hundreds, if not thousands of places to stay in Phuket around the mid-range 500-700 mark. Hotels and guesthouses line the streets around the main beaches. Like in most parts of the world expect to pay more for resorts closer to the beach. Along with Koh Samui, Phuket has some of Thailand’s fanciest hotels, complete with spa facilities and all the tours and adventure you could want. You need to pay 3000 baht and up for real luxury. (When you start to complain just remember - this is the price of a travel lodge in Paris!)
- 24-hour Patong
The infamous Patong is the main tourist enclave with shopping malls, hundreds of restaurants and 24-hr nightlife – expect families, couples and groups of guys on holiday rather than your average backpacker here in this holiday hot-spot!
- Cultural Phuket Town
With its’ Chinese shop-houses, old streets, art galleries and museums, Phuket Town is the place to stay if you want to get a feel for Phuket’s cultural and historic side. There are many quirky cafes and interesting boutique shops here and some cheap places to stay. (Backpackers don’t be put off that the original ‘flea-pit’ hostel that appeared in the film, ‘The Beach’ is located in Phuket Town – the cheap hostels nowadays don’t resemble a dirty prison cell!)
- Karon & Kata Beach
Arguably the most beautiful beaches in Phuket, Kata Yai beach is popular with the surfers while it's less busy sister beach Kata Noi provides white sands and peace and quiet. Karon beach is the second most developed beach after Patong, so prices here are more inflated. There are a large number of beautiful high-end resorts and hotels for the flashpackers amongst us...