If this is your first visit to Phuket, there are a few things you should know about the island before planning your itinerary or booking any tours.
1. Phuket is a small island
Phuket is only 48 km north to south and 21 km west to east; you could drive all around it in a single day. However, there are so many beaches (45!), places to visit and the old town to explore that two days or even three days can be pretty full.
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2. There is a lot to visit outside Phuket island!
If you stay in Phuket long enough, you should dedicate at least one day to exploring the surreal Phang Nga, whether by boat, kayak or car. The immense limestone cliffs emerging from the sea are out of this world. You can see the famous James Bond Island and Koh Panyi, the village on stilts. Outside Phuket, there is also the cave of the reclining Buddha, some waterfalls and the amazingly beautiful Samet Nanshe Viewpoint.
There are so many tropical islands to visit around Phuket and there are three ways to enjoy them:
▷ Island hopping: this is a fun day on a private boat, but it is, of course, more expensive. Read about our experience here.
4. Most activities can be booked once in Phuket
You can book most of the tours and day trips once in Phuket, even the day before. There are, however, a few exceptions for specific tours, such as John Gray Sea Canoe, private cruises and custom tours.
5. You can book your tours at street booths
It is always good to book online in advance for better planning, but it is usually ok to book a tour from a tour counter in the street. They are everywhere, are experienced and work with the same operators as any agent. You can also book with your hotel as most of them have a tour counter, but you can expect to pay a bit more for the same service.
Taking visitors around is a business that has been around for decades, and competition combined with the legendary Thai hospitality makes that you will be well taken care of, and the day goes smooth, from the pickup to the return to your hotel. Of course, the cheaper the tour, the less sophisticated the tour, it is a choice you will have to make. Tourists will be loaded shoulder to shoulder in speedboats, but if you are on a tight budget, you can still go to many places.
Your holiday will depend a lot on the season, but it can be summarised as follow:
- The high season (December to April): the sea is quiet and beautiful, all islands are accessible, but prices are higher, and Phuket is busy.
- The low season, or rainy season (May to November): the sea can be rough (but not always!); it may rain (but not every day!). Prices are much lower, and the island feels relaxed and peaceful.
▷ You can book tours and day trips in advance or once in Phuket.
▷ You can rent a car or a bike, but you will need an international driving license.
▷ You can hire a van with a driver for a day or longer.
9. Most tours come with a transfer from and to your hotel
It will be a great peace of mind for you to know that every single day trip in or around Phuket offers a pickup service in the morning, and drop off at your hotel at the end of the day. There might be a surcharge if your hotel is in the very south or north of the island, but they will come and you will not have to worry about going to a pier.