Phuket, Thailand – 5 Travel Tips for a First Timer

When you go online you see dozens of amazing specials pop up to Travel to Thailand -The land of smiles. It really is a friendly place to go, the most popular island is Phuket.

Phi Phi Island Bay

Phuket offers something for everyone

Phuket is great for family vacations.  The island caters for kids, adventure seekers, explorers and the those who just want to unwind and enjoy lying on the beach in the sun all day.  This islands hosts backpackers to five star hotel guests, so there really is something for everyone. (There are some really unique AirBNB’s too!(  I personally have been to Phuket three times already, here are five tips that I wish I knew when I first got to visit this amazing place.

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Patong Beach

1. Avoid Phuket in season if you want to see more

People or a crowd can most certainly create a vibe, especially around Christmas and New Year when every one is in the holiday spirit so this Island gets really busy.  If you have the intention of lying on one of those deserted white sand beaches just know everyone else has the same intentions.  Phuket is not only a popular destination for its beauty but it is also very central to surrounding islands so hundreds of tours are running daily and it can get quiet congested.

If you avoid going between November and February you will experience more in a leisure-able way, queues will be far shorter, you will have a more personal experience and everything wont feel as commercialised.  (You are on holiday after all and don’t want to feel like cattle being herded from place to place)  It will be easier to explore as much of the islands as possible avoiding holiday season.  (and it will be easier to get those holiday selfies without hundreds of tourists in the background)


2. Book tours, scooters and hired vehicles through your hotel or hostel

There are many people who will take advantage of tourists, no matter what country you in.  To be safe about choosing a tour, hiring a scooter or vehicle speak to your hostel or hotel. (They will always have referrals)  If you hit the streets there are plenty options to hire pretty much any form of transport. (Even a Harley Davidson)  It becomes quite risky because they require your passport for security and if something happens you will have to pay some outrages amount of money to get it back.  I have read of some really bad horror stories.

Valid drivers licence

No doubt hiring a scooter is the best way to explore the island.  Make sure you have a valid licence, even though you probably wont be asked to produce one but there are often road blocks where they especially stop tourists. (In a day you can easily go through three or four)  You will be required to pay a spot fine so rather get a international bike licence back home.

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Safety first

Scooters are the most popular form of transport, although there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet just use your discretion.  Remember you are in another country where the road rules are completely different and having to sort out medical and accident bills could be a real inconvenience.  Another option is to hire a car with a driver for a day and they make great guides.

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3. Visiting the temples

Being a prominently Buddhist country the Island has a few Buddhist Temples which are extraordinary to visit and highly recommend.  Being on a tropical island you will probably spend most of the time in bikinis and shorts, however you cant walk into the temples dressed for the beach.  It is a sign of disrespect and this has been their customs for generations.  Ladies, it is very humid on the island but always pack a light weight throw or sarong in you bag to wrap around your legs or shoulders.  Men, make sure you wear a shirt before entering the temples.  This is a place of worship for devotees and monks, they gladly welcome visitors but please respect their customs!

The Big Buddha

The Big Buddha is situated on the hill on top of the Island is a very popular tourist attraction with a beautiful story behind it.  You will be rewarded with a 360 degree view and I highly recommend. (Don’t forget to wear appropriate clothing and respect all the Buddhist relics up there)

RELATED ARTICLE:  Bodh Gaya – Heart of the Buddhist World

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View from the Big Buddha

4. The famous Bangla road

The main area where most of the festivities happen at night is called Bangla Road which is in Patong. Patong beach is one of the most popular beaches.  There are water sports, massages and it offers the most beautiful sunsets.  During the day it’s a normal street but at night it closes to traffic and opens to become a very popular spot for just about anything. The street is lined with Go-go bars, live music bars and night clubs each having their own unique atmosphere and style (I have to just add I have watched some of the best Karaoke at some of these places)

Just a casual walk up this this road is very educational and festivities can go well into the night.  It is not child friendly, chances are you will be slightly harassed by promoters try to get your attention at all times.  This is also the best street to find lady boy cabaret dancers who will post for photos.

Drink prices at the bars are quiet competitive and it is legal to drink along Bangla Road.  Pop into the one of many little shops and between the soft drinks you will find local beers and ciders for half the price.  The beach end of the street is a little quieter and is taken up by restaurants, shops selling souvenirs and clothes.  (Most of the clubs are on the other end) If you looking for the LGBT scene then check out this Complete Gay Phuket Guide.

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Sunset on Patong Beach

5. Shopping in Phuket

Besides all the stalls along the road side, the best places to shop are the variety markets.  Brush up on your negotiation skills, I usually go down just a quarter of what they asking. (You can probably get it for even less most times but at the same time be mindful they trying to support their families) The Thai people believe it is really good luck if you are their first customer. (I always loved that and some of them make quiet a fuss about it)

The best time to shop at the markets is at night because of the heat.  The night markets are the best places to sample traditional Thai food it is really affordable. (So go hungry!)  A word of advice for the clothing: The sizes are usually very small and the branding is an imitation.  I found some the best markets and things to do around the island by speaking to other tourists.  You can get honest opinions from people’s personal experiences and everyone is usually very friendly and helpful.

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Have you got any tips for anyone visiting Phuket for the first time? What is your favourite island in Thailand? Let us know in the comments below.

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Liza Williams

Born in South Africa, fascinated with culture and loves wood fire pizza. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away” Follow me on twitter: @soul_drifters

42 thoughts on “Phuket, Thailand – 5 Travel Tips for a First Timer

  • Pingback:What to See in Patong, Phuket, Thailand - Survive Travel in Thailand

  • November 20, 2017 at 6:52 am
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    Never been to Thailand yet but definitely will visit Phuket one day love to visit the temples and explore the paradisal beach around.

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  • November 20, 2017 at 5:34 am
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    Thailand is one country which has a mesmerizing melange of experiences to offer. From the temples to the beaches it is indeed a treat for the senses. We were in Thailand a few years ago but did not head to Phuket, hope to get there next time and your tips are going to come in really handy.

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  • November 19, 2017 at 12:52 pm
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    It’s so weird but I have been going to Thailand for forever but never been to Phuket. Just because of all the tourists but you are right to go there when it’s not high season.
    I haven’t done many Islands but I did like Kho Chang but I got so sick on the boat! 🙁

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  • November 19, 2017 at 11:02 am
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    Phuket seems like such a beautiful place. The water looks amazing. Thanks for sharing these awesome tips, especially in reference to appropriate clothing. Always best to respect other peoples cultures.

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  • November 18, 2017 at 3:01 am
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    I know that I might not want to go anywhere except those islands…the water here is just so magical. I would love to even do Scuba here , bet there is a colorful world under that. Beautiful pictures. Cheers

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  • November 17, 2017 at 4:12 pm
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    I have been to Thailand once only that too for a very short visit, but Phuket has always on my list, so your guide will surely be helpful for me.

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  • November 15, 2017 at 7:57 pm
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    Bangala road sounds a lot like Las Vegas! We typically like to travel to popular destinations on peak days so we definitely appreciate you sharing when peak season is. We would also enjoy the night market. I am not a good negotiator but I would like to try some different foods while there.

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  • November 14, 2017 at 11:35 am
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    ahh youre so lucky you got to go there 3 times! I was there only ones for 3 days and I wish I could stay longer! I really enjoyed the place, it was so beautiful! One thing I missed was visiting temples, not sure why I didn’t, the view from Big Buddha looks amazing!

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  • November 13, 2017 at 4:51 pm
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    Excellent tips thanks for that, I am in the midst of planning my trip right now and I just get so excited to read posts like yours with all the helpful information you have packed in there. The place looks just like I imagined it to be and I can’t wait to get there.

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  • November 13, 2017 at 10:41 am
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    I haven’t travelled to Thailand yet but Phuket is on the plans (like everyone else who visits the region). I have to admit I like to get away from the bars and go and check out the natural scenery and culture. I didn’t know that there is a Big Buddha here but that would appeal to me. I only seen one and that was on lantou Island in Hong Kong. Great post and great advice here. Bookmarked this page.

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  • September 14, 2017 at 11:56 am
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    I went to Phuket last year and my favourite part was definitely Maya Bay tour ! It looked so beautiful ! I found some deals online, with a great reviews. I must a missed that great sunset in Patong as thats where I was staying! I hope ill get to go back there one day!

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  • September 14, 2017 at 7:49 am
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    Great tips thanks for those. I always wondered about shopping in places like this – as a plus size woman I get enough weird looks as it is not to mention comments. Is there any places were you can just buy fabrics. The Thai silks look out of this world and I would love to bring some home with me.

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  • September 14, 2017 at 4:38 am
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    These tips will be helpful when I finally make it here! Absolutely love the idea of biking around and visiting Buddha temples! Thanks for sharing!

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  • September 14, 2017 at 2:13 am
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    I didn’t realize November through February where the busiest months in Thailand. That must be lovely to visit in the off season.

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  • September 13, 2017 at 8:28 pm
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    These are really great tips, I haven’t been to Thailand yet but this gives me an idea of what cities to visit like Phucket. I would love to visit some temples and Big Buddha. Thanks for sharing!

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  • September 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm
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    These are great tips! I have yet to visit Phuket but will be using your tips when I book!

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  • September 13, 2017 at 4:26 pm
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    Some really great tips!! I’d love to visit Thailand – will be returning to this post when I do 🙂

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  • September 13, 2017 at 4:01 pm
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    Anytime I read about Thailand and Phuket I can’t helpt but wanting to go asap ! Your post is no exception every tips you shared sounds really helpful ! The architecture of the temples is really amazing.

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  • September 13, 2017 at 3:59 pm
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    I briefly visited Thailand a few years ago and it was not my favourite place. I didn’t go to Phuket though, so maybe I should go back there to check out the islands. It looks like there are some great things to keep me busy.

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  • September 13, 2017 at 8:39 am
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    I was in Phuket during the peak season (November), and I can’t agree more on feeling like a cattle in a herd! I mean I enjoyed the trip well, but was constantly wishing if the crowd were thin! Patong beach is surely fun! Hope to make it there during shoulder season next time!

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  • September 12, 2017 at 9:50 am
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    Love these tips about travel in Phuket. Your advice about drivers licenses and travel times are great for reducing potential headaches for when we finally make it there.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 8:34 am
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    Thanks for sharing. Thailand is somewhere I love and in fact embark on a 9 month trip around the world with Thailand being my first destination. However I have never been to Phuket. After reading this article this has only made my urge of going to Phuket even stronger so thank you for sharing some great tips and places to see.

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  • September 12, 2017 at 12:40 am
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    I freakin loved the 24 hours I spent in Phuket, I set myself a budget of $50 AU, I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, had a mani/pedi, massage on the beach, tour of the area, 6 cocktails and left with souvenirs too. I skipped the scooters tho, have had friends who fell off and their insurances didn’t cover them. But… it does look like a fun way to travel about.

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  • September 11, 2017 at 8:31 pm
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    These are all great advice. I also think that if you go somewhere when it is off the season you can see and do more.

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  • September 10, 2017 at 6:56 am
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    Great tips! Been there an year ago! Can vouch for the usefulness of each of them. Keep em coming!

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  • September 10, 2017 at 1:22 am
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    I’ve never seen an unattractive photo of Phuket – beautiful post, beautiful island!! Thailand has been on my bucket list for so long, so thank you for sharing all these tips, particularly around seasonality. Saving this post for later!!

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  • September 9, 2017 at 9:39 pm
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    Great tips! Although Bangla Road doesn’t sounds like my ideal night out it seems to be one of those must-do experiences in Phuket. I’d probably take your advice & grab a cider or two from the shop & just people watch!

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  • September 5, 2017 at 8:45 pm
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    Great tips! I would definitely visit Phuket but not in the busy season.

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  • September 5, 2017 at 7:14 am
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    Comprehensive guide, and the info about the pitfalls to avoid especiallly helpful.

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  • September 5, 2017 at 6:09 am
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    Very good list of what’s to do in Phuket. Thailand is quite cheap to fly to from Europe and certainly has some of the best beaches. The main advice as you say, visit off season.

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  • September 5, 2017 at 3:51 am
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    Phuket looks like such a lovely place to visit! These tips I am sure will be helpful when I make it out there, especially the tip about the motorbike license!

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  • September 4, 2017 at 7:03 pm
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    It looks indeed so lovely. I always regret not going there when I was in Thailand. I’d love to see the Wat Chalong Temple, it looks super cute

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  • September 1, 2017 at 5:53 pm
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    Thailand is a place I can’t wait to visit! These are great tips that will help make my visit better! Thank you for sharing!!

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  • August 31, 2017 at 4:43 am
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    Have been a few times to Bangkok but never to any of the islands – i’d love to see how it is! I think these are great tips for first timers.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 9:55 pm
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    love you post and you adventures, very helpful tips for first timers. I’ll surely bookmark this cause I’ll soon be a first timer in Thailand 🙂

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  • August 30, 2017 at 8:57 pm
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    Great tips! I went to Thailand for the first time in March, and I definitely could’ve used some of these tips. Now I want to go back and see some of the things I missed!

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  • August 30, 2017 at 8:54 pm
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    I’ve never been to Thailand. While I would love to go and see the beautiful scenery, enjoy the stunning beaches and experience the culture, the crowds and drunk tourists put me off. I guess I just think of it as backpacker’s paradise. Are my preconceptions wrong? Hope they are, because I would love to visit!

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  • August 30, 2017 at 8:16 pm
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    Gorgeous sunset picture! We spent time on Ko Lanta and the sunsets were unforgettable.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 6:39 pm
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    Such great tips. Especially about having a licence and the check points. Great read.

    Reply

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