How to plan your trip to Phuket
Planning a trip to Phuket can be stressful whenever you travel to a new destination for the first time. There are many unanswered questions, and the stress grows proportionally if the cost is high. Phuket is no different. Travelling has become more accessible, and a lot of information is now available online, but finding all the answers can be time-consuming, frustrating and, more often than you think: second or even third-hand!
Before you go to Phuket
December to March are the coolest and supposedly the best months to visit Phuket. The weather is usually perfect, with clear blue skies, calm seas, and a pleasant breeze that keeps the temperature just right. This period is when you should come if you care about the blue sky and suntan and plan to spend a lot of time on the beach. However, with such beautiful weather, December and January are the peak months of the high season, so expect to pay more for your hotel, especially during New Year’s. Expect the south of the island to be very busy, so if you worry about the crowds, you should consider staying in the island’s northern part. The rainy season is from May to November, but it doesn’t mean it will rain every day.
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There are more than 40 beaches in Phuket and visitors can book a hotel on about 20 of them, so it’s no surprise that every first-time traveller is worried about making the right choice to book their hotel. The first thing to know is that the large majority of hotels are on the west coast, and most people will tend to rush to the southwest beaches: Patong, Kata, Karon and Kamala. Most beaches in the northeast are a lot quieter.
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The answer to this question is very simple: Phuket is warm all year round, never colder than 25 C, so you will never need warm clothes! For the rest, you can take your usual medicine and electric adaptors. Still, if you forget anything, you will easily find it in the many supermarkets, convenience stores and night markets. Read more about what to take to Phuket
220Volts – 50/60 Hz – The standard electrical plug type is the Type A and Type C plug, which have two round pins. However, Type G plugs, which have three rectangular pins arranged in a triangular pattern, are also used in some older buildings. Most common is the ‘Two round pins‘, sometimes with the ground (Europlug CEE 7/16) and occasionally the old ‘Two flat parallel blades‘ similar to the US (NEMA 115 or JIS C 8303). Most modern plugs accept both. Adapters are easy to find at many convenience stores. Most hotels use those convenient international plugs that can accommodate a lot of different country plugs.
6. Currency :
Thai Baht Banknotes: 1,000, 500,100, 50, 20.Coins: 10, 5 2, 1 and the useless 50 ‘satang’ (0.5 baht) and 25 ‘satang’ (0.25 baht). Major credit cards are accepted in many stores and restaurants but not in taxis, bazaars, massages, beer bars and other local businesses. Note that payment by QR Code is becoming more and more available, even in small restaurants.
7. Should I change my money before I travel?
The exchange rate is known to be better in Phuket, and there are money exchange counters and ATMs at Phuket Airport where you can change the amount you need for your taxi and maybe a bit of extra, just in case.
Once in Phuket
We already established that changing money in your home country was the least interesting option, but where should you go once in Phuket? The answer is simple: change in the street, at unbranded booths, but walk around to compare the rate as usually there are many booths in beach towns. Bank exchange booths are also ok, just a little more expensive. The difference is so small; it will not make much difference at the end of your holiday, so don’t waste too much time.
9. Can I use my credit card in Phuket
Credit cards are not accepted everywhere in Phuket, but things are improving. You can use one at the shopping mall, convenience stores and established restaurants. It seems difficult to define an established restaurant, but they usually do not have open facades, look a little more expensive, and display a sticker with the accepted cards at the door. The rule of thumbs is
1) Ask the staff before you sit at the restaurant or check the accepted credit card stickers at the door.
2) Always carry enough cash for the day in case they don’t. ATMs and money changers are everywhere and easy to find anyway. Visa is the most used, followed closely by Master Card. American Express is not often accepted outside shopping malls.
Will not accept: Markets, local restaurants, tuk-tuks and taxis.
Will accept: Shopping malls, convenience stores, upmarket restaurants, and some tour agents but with a 3% fee when less than a certain amount.
There are plenty of different ways to reach your hotel from Phuket International Airport, even if you land very late. From the most expensive (faster) to the cheapest (can take hours): 1) you can book a transfer with your hotel, 2) use the airport silver limousines, 3) use a taximeter, 4) Share an airport minivan, 5) ride the smart bus. We describe all the options at length here
Getting around Phuket is easy during the day and not too difficult at night, even very late (unless you are having a party on a very remote beach). Tuk-Tuks are the most versatile ways of transportation, and while they are fun and exotic, the cost can add up quickly. Grab Taxis and Bolt are available but can take a little longer to reach you (similar to Uber, in case you don’t know Grab). Buses are available from beaches to beaches and from beaches to Phuket town; they are cheap but slow. Then you can rent a moped or a car, but driving here comes with a few risks.
Getting a car at the airport is easy, but it’s better to book ahead if you want a specific type of car, especially during busy times. The insurance for the car will only cover damage to other cars, not to your rental car. Before you leave the airport, check your car carefully. Paying more for full coverage insurance is a good idea. You can also rent a GPS there. Renting from the street is a riskier option as you might save some money, but if something goes wrong it could be difficult. In any emergency, you can call the tourist police at 1155. They speak good English.
Phuket is very safe, probably safer than most other countries. Of course, the experience might differ for each traveller, but overall, if you follow the common-sense safety rules, you should never have to worry. We give a few pieces of advice on this page, but remember that these safety tips use common sense. The island offers many options and activities to the solo traveller, depending on how alone you want to remain.
Tours availability depends on the month you will arrive in Phuket and how specific you are about the company you wish to use. Most tours can be booked once in Phuket with your hotel tour counter (a bit more expensive), in the street or at a travel shop. All are safe to use and can organise almost any tour since they all talk to the same supplier anyway. If you want something more special, like a private cruise or a sea canoe with John Gray, you should book online in advance to avoid disappointment. Also, remember that December and January are peak months, so don’t wait until the last minute to make your booking.
Yes, it is easy, comfortable and cheaper than you may think. If you get the right driver, they will take you around the island following your itinerary or discuss with you in advance to organise your day, often offering great advice.
FOMO is a big thing when you spend that much to travel that far, and you can only do it once a year or less! (FOMO means Fear Of Missing Out, just in case you wondered). To make it more challenging, Phuket is blessed with hundred things to see and do, beaches and islands to explore! And that is why we have several pages with large images for you to browse: 40 Best Things to Do in Phuket and 20 Things people always miss, 40 best beaches and 15 best islands. If you are an Instagrammers, don’t miss our ‘Best Instagram Spots in Phuket‘!
Thailand is very open-minded, more than most other countries we know. But of course, there are a few things a traveller should know. Most are just advice and recommendations and will only be frowned upon by Thai people, such as wearing too short clothes in a temple or pointing your bare feet at someone and avoiding elephant trekking. Some others are serious matters and can get you in serious trouble, such as disrespecting the Royal Family.