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

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 as well!  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 IN 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 commercialized.  (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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Scooters in Phuket
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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Snorkeling on the island tours

If you planning a trip to Thailand, read more of our blog post here

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)

If you enjoy visiting the Big Buddha, read about our visit to 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)

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

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* All cost for this trip was paid for by us (Soul Drifters) All opinions are our own.  Images may be used around the web as long as you credit us and link back to our website souldrifters.com. Images may not be used for advertising and commercial purposes. You are welcome to contact us for rates and terms for commercial rights. 

Liza W

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

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

  • 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.

    Reply
  • 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!!

    Reply
  • 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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