Sawadee ka! Phuket Island is in southeast Asia and is Thailand’s largest island and is known as the Pearl of the South. Plenty of sandy beaches, longtail boats and turquoise water to relax and take a quick trip to hit some of the best beaches in Phuket.
Grab your swimsuit, a beverage from a coconut and head to the beach. I’ll let you know all you need to in order to have an epic 24 hours in Phuket!
Phuket Thailand is relatively safe place to travel. In fact, many solo female travelers not only visit Thailand, but have called it home for several months on end.
The weather is always ideally warm with just a rainy season and dry season. The best time to visit is December through February for staying dry (outside of the beach), but it’s also peak season or high season.
Phuket is popular for its beaches, markets and nightlife. If you’re short on time, as you will see in this 24 hour guide, I will show you why the best places you should spend most of you time is unwinding at one or more of the gorgeous white-sand beaches.
HOW TO GET TO PHUKET
Phuket is southern Thailand and a popular tourist destination. Sadly, there are not any direct flights from the United States and from most other countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The easiest (and I use that term loosely) way to get to Phuket is from the west coast and expect a layover in Narita, Seoul or Hong Kong with an average travel time of about 20+ hours to get to Bangkok. Then, there are many direct short flights from Bangkok to Phuket.
You will most likely fly into Phuket International Airport (HKT). There are several airlines that fly into this small airport. I took the nonstop two hour flight from Chiang Mai on AirAsia and you can book your flight here.
Phuket airport is located in the northern part of the island so you’ll need to arrange for transportation:
HOW TO GET AROUND PHUKET
Do not go to any of the “taxi” desks when you land. These desks will negotiate a price and place you in a hired car service, usually a limousine. Instead, exit the airport and look for the counter marked “taxi meter.” This is the actual taxi service with meters. However, you will be charged an extra THB 100 ($3 USD) as an airport service charge.
Transportation in Phuket is costly anyway, therefore I recommend, especially with limited time, to use the fastest and most convenient method. Most hotels can arrange for airport pick up or book your car service in advance.
To get from the airport to Old Town takes about an hour and a half and has many stops. The cost is around THB 115 ($3 USD).
Another inexpensive alternative to a bus. But, the minivan can get just as crowded as the bus, and may take just as long to get to your hotel depending on how many passengers are in the van. If you decide to take the van, the driver often stops at travel agencies where someone tries to sell you tour packages, so just be prepared.
WHAT TO DO IN PHUKET
Book all your tours in Phuket right here!
Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island
Take the all day (speed) boat tour or hire a longtail boat of your own to Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island. This boat trip is definitely a must-do activity.
Because it’s the most popular destination in Thailand, unfortunately these places will be crowded with tourists. But don’t let that deter you. It’s popular for a reason of course!
The boat tour will speed you on the Andaman Sea as you take in the beautiful surreal landscape and water. It’s usually hot and humid so you will welcome the occasional water splashes.
The area in and around Phang Nga Bay is the perfect spot for a romantic cruise. At least Bridget Jones thought so in the Edge of Reason.
If you take the day trip from Phuket, you will be one of the lucky ones to be able to explore the hongs (secret gardens) via kayaking through sea caves. Then speed boat through serene islands while surrounded by the towering rock structures that Phuket is known for.
The tour will take you to James Bond Island, immortalized by the 1974 James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun. However, the real name of James Bond Island is Ko Tapu (meaning nail or spike). Whatever you call it, don’t forget to do the cheezy tourist thing by capturing the moment with the perfect pose.
Although the movie depicted a hidden lair inside the rock island where Bond’s enemy was laying plans for world domination, don’t go looking for this lair because no actual hidden structure exists.
Even though the island is a major tourist attraction, James Bond Island is an incredible sight to behold and and just plain fun to be here as you stroll along the island and take in all the picture perfect greenery.
After taking cheezy tourist photos and kayaking on the Adaman Sea, the boat tour will take you to Koh Panyi, a floating village surrounded by limestone rocks. There are about 300 families that permanently live in this village.
You’ll have time to check out the local community and lifestyle here while wandering down the “streets” popping in and out of gift shops and restaurants.
The village has its own Mosque, school, football pitch and health care center. It truly is a city on stilts.
Phi Phi Island
Koh Phi Phi is incredibly alluring for lovers of snorkeling and diving with its crystal clear water. It also is home to the most pristine beautiful beaches in Thailand. No wonder it is also a movie star! Tourists flock here after seeing the paradisiac blue water and landscape featured in The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Movie trivia break: The hotel at which Leonardo DiCaprio stays in the early part of the movie is the On On Hotel in Phuket Old Town.
Phi Phi Island is another full day trip or you can stay at one of the local luxury resorts. But you will have to choose between Phang Nga or Koh Phi Phi if you only have one day.
You can take a boat tour or take a ferry if you’re not into group tours. However, the tour will take you to a few different beaches unlike a ferry. A better way is to rent a private charter to get here. It is the most expensive option, but Thailand is relatively cheap to begin with so I still consider it an affordable price.
If you want a sneak peek at this eye-popping destination, check out Cutthroat Island with Geena Davis. I’m forewarning you, it was a big flop, but at least these shots are worth the watch.
As I said, unfortunately in recent years, Phi Phi Island really is overrun by tourists and beach partygoers. That’s another good reason for a private charter – to give you freedom to hop to the least crowded islands at leisure.
TRAVELER’S TIP: Similan Islands is a set of islands located about 50 miles (84 km) outside of Phuket. It has white beaches and is way less crowded than Koh Phi Phi. If you wanted to snorkel or dive, this spot is famous for manta rays, whale sharks and coral reefs. Similan Islands is only open to the public from around October to May.
Book all your boat tours before getting to Phuket right here!
Best Beaches in Phuket
As you can tell the theme of Phuket for me is BEACHES! Here are a few great beaches located on the island. If you choose to not to do any of the day tours, I would suggest staying near which beach you would like to visit the most as Phuket’s transportation isn’t easy and can get quite costly.
- Patong Beach: Phuket’s largest and most popular beach. Mainly because it seems to be centrally located and has a colorful nightlife in this area. Complete with loud music, neon lights, and partying ’til dawn.
- Kata Beach: One of the most popular beaches for surfers, and provides great swimming spots. But is CROWDED.
- Surin Beach: Phuket’s own famous beach since 2013 when Paris Hilton spent New Year’s Eve here. This area houses higher end hotels and restaurants.
- Kamala Beach: Has pretty shallow waters so best for families with kids. It’s also known for being a quieter beach. Again, perfect for families.
THAI MASSAGE IN PHUKET
Finish the day off with a nice massage. Thai massage is an ancient healing practice that uses gentle pressure and stretching techniques to relax the whole body, lower stress and relieve muscle tension.
Be aware that this is a very different massage from Swedish or shiatsu, which is what we in the West may be most familiar with.
There are many places to get one and they are pretty inexpensive. You will be given a set of “pajamas” to change in to for the massage. But be warned, you will participate in your own massage and you may be a little sore the next day! But the experience is worth it 😉
Another great experience is having red garra or “doctor fish,” little fish that nibble off the dead skin on your feet. You submerge your feet in a small pool, usually just past your ankles and feel the little fish tickle as they go to work!
NIGHT MARKETS IN PHUKET
The local markets in Phuket are the most popular attraction in Phuket City. You should really try to experience at least one even if you are on limited time. It’s a great place to get local food, hospitality of Thai people, and live entertainment to make your trip especially memorable. Most markets are easily accessible in the heart of the city. Here are a few popular ones:
Chillvia Night Market
141/2 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Town. Open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5pm in the evening till 11pm.
Known to be young and hip, shops here are made from old shipping containers. You’ll find authentic clothes, accessories, shoes and trinkets. And of course, classic Thai street food. If exotic cuisine is your thing, you’ll be pleased to find such foods as fried insects, silkworms. grasshoppers.
Also young and hip for its nightly entertainment when the market is open. Loud music, neon lights, and an amphitheater attracts tourists and Thai teens looking for a good time.
Phuket Weekend Market
Thalang Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Phuket Town 83000. Near Naka Temple. Open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4pm to 11pm.
An immense night bazaar that resembles some of the best western shopping malls where you can not only find fashionable clothing and local Thai cuisine, but the more unique items you can find here are copy shops (fashion, handbags and movies) and a second-hand shoe shop.
The market is also known for its bugs and fried insect as well as durian, jack fruit and the local favorite dessert, mango sticky rice. Don’t forget to finish it all with a jar of beer.
STROLL DOWN BANGLA ROAD
Bangla Road or known as Bangla Walking Street or also known as Thanon Bangla, is famous for its nightly bars, live music, rooftop bars, nightclubs and nightclubs.
Operating as a one-way street during the day, after dark it turns into a crazy pedestrian-walking street. Think the Strip in Vegas on New Year’s Eve.
There’s also a crazy amount of people whose job is to entice you into their bars, nightclub by aggressively approaching you to enter, give you tickets or discounts, or just show you beautiful go-go girls inside. It’s loud, it’s crazy, it’s the Strip in Vegas every day.
Here, there’s scores of women that will catcall you to drink, dance or…whatever with them in a private room. They call men, women, couples. Think Red Light District in Amsterdam, or downtown Vegas.
WHAT TO PACK FOR PHUKET
As with any beach going climate, the sun can get pretty intense. And for a short trip, you won’t need much. Here’s what I recommend to bring:
- Sunhat that protects your scalp, face, shoulder and ears
- Reef safe Sunscreen
- Plenty of lip balm with SPF to protect lips from drying out
- Haircare such as hair mask or leave-in conditioner to protect your hair from the saltwater
- Skincare to moisturize and to cleanse the skin immediately after getting out of the saltwater
- Reusable water bottle
- Mosquito repellant
- Coverups from the sun
- Sandals and possibly water shoes
- Light or linen dresses and clothing
- Beach tote to carry everything!
- My favorite SIM card
WHERE TO STAY IN PHUKET
Phuket is busy and touristy and there are loads of cheap out of the way hotels and resorts that are pretty sketchy. Instead Thailand is a place where you can check in to an affordable luxury resort for several days or just an overnight stay.
- Amanpuri. The Thai-style Pavilions and Villas are located in a coconut plantation. All are socially distanced with private outdoor rooms decorated with tropical flora.
- Surin. Featuring 103 luxurious cottages and suites ideally located on the beachfront on the exclusive Pansea Beach.
- Hyatt Regency Phuket. Built in the hillside, this luxury resort boasts the largest oceanfront infinity pool in Phuket several family friendly pools and spacious cabanas and a delicious menu.
- Six Senses Yao Noi. This resort is actually located in Phang Nga Bay, but I highly recommend this luxury hotel because of the line’s absolute commitment to sustainability, which is why I love it so much. Some of the 56 pool villas overlook the Andaman Sea, providing a magical backdrop perfect for an exceptional experience.
Grab your coconut milk and book your luxury stay here.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PHUKET
As you can see, my time in Phuket was about the beaches. And not even the ones on the island. Phuket is OVERCROWDED and touristy and party central. Which is not my thing. I could also skip all the domestic monkeys that work for a living. Also not my thing.
I more so appreciated the quiet of Krabi, Koh Lanta or Koh Samui. Although not near a beach, I also loved Chiang Mai where I was able to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary.
Speaking of, Phuket has a Green Elephant Sanctuary Park that also rescues elephants from abuse and terrible conditions such as forced labor for riding or entertainment. And one of my favorite charities, Soi Dog foundation, that provide homes for dogs on the street and has rescued thousands from the dog meat industry. Despite my feelings about Phuket, next time (yes, next time), I plan on spending a few days volunteering like I did in Chiang Mai.
Although I did spend over 24 hours in Phuket (but not my much more), I hope this itinerary gives you some ideas when you plan your trip to Phuket. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear what you thought about it and what you did. Please add in the comments below!
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Originally posted: October 23, 2020