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TRAVEL THE WORLD | Phuket, Thailand – Travel Guide
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Phuket, Thailand – Travel Guide

As it turns out, we’ve been to Phuket four times in the last year. It’s just such a cheap and convenient weekend break for us. Not all of Phuket is to our taste, however, trial and error has enabled us to find some pretty awesome places! You should watch our video above to get a real taste of how a trip to Phuket can look like 🙂

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How to get there?

Phuket is very easy, and cheap, to get to from Singapore. Flight time is just under 2 hours, and we tend to get flight after work on a Friday and return late on Sunday night. We usually fly with AirAsia or JetStar. Depending on how far in advance you book the flights and what day of the week / time of the day / season of the year you fly, a low cost flight from Singapore to Phuket will cost about 90-450 USD (~75-380 EUR).

Once in Phuket we get a taxi to our hotel and then rent a scooter and travel everywhere on the island by scooter. Scooters typically cost about 6 USD per day, so it really saves you money as taxis can be quite pricey (for South East Asia standards) in Phuket (a taxi from the airport to Surin beach costs us around 24 USD).

Whenever we’ve rented a scooter we haven’t been asked to show a driver’s license, usually just a form of ID or a deposit. There can be quite a lot of traffic on some of the main streets in Phuket town, but aside from there it is usually quite comfortable, and very convenient, to drive around on scooter.

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The easiest & cheapest way to travel around Phuket

When to go?

There are two mains seasons in Phuket – rainy season (monsoon) and non-rainy season. The Monsoon season usually lasts from mid-May to October, making this the cheapest season to visit Phuket. When it rains it pours, but it doesn’t usually last more than a few hours and it’s rare to get continuous rainfall for days.  

Monsoon usually stops between November and mid-May, with November to February being the coolest months (mid 20°C-30°C) and also busiest season. March to Mid-may tends to be slightly less busy as the humidity rises and temperatures increase to above 30°C.

We have been to Phuket both during Monsoon and non-monsoon seasons and this is what we found:

December & January: Most touristy period by far, there was even a 1 hour queue outside the airport to get inside the departures terminal when we went around the 12th of January. The hotels tend to be full and much more expensive than during Monsoon season, and it’s difficult to go anywhere without being surrounded by tourists. However, the weather was by the far the best, with continuous sunshine throughout the day, no rain and less humidity than during the other months we visited.

August: This was the period with the fewest tourists and when we were really able to enjoy the island and its beaches without being surrounded by people. We even went to some popular beaches which were almost empty, something very rare for Phuket. It did however rain quite a bit; it rained every evening and night (so no chance to go around on scooter at night) and rained for a couple of hours (usually in the morning) every day. But once the rain stopped the clouds would clear and the sunshine came in, and we got to really enjoy the empty beaches. One of the days we were there the weather was very misty, something we had never seen there before. You couldn’t see more a 2-3 meters away due to the mist. We don’t know if this was an exceptional thing to happen or if it happens regularly during these months, but it made it very difficult to drive the scooter and to do anything (we visited the Big Buddha in the end but could barely see it).

October: This period was more busy than August but much less so than Dec & Jan. The weather was ok; we never experienced full sunshine but never experienced downpours either. The sky was usually cast over with intermittent sun. Temperatures were ok – not too hot. We preferred the August weather with rain and then sunshine than this one where the sun never fully came out, but I guess it depends on what you like (we like to tan so we missed the sun).

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When Phuket gets misty during the monsoon season

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Grey weather during low season

Where to stay?

We can only comment on the hotels in which we have stayed, and we have stayed in three different hotels, in different locations and at different price points (low/medium – medium/high prices for Phuket).

( Use our AirBnB link to get $35 off your first stay: www.airbnb.com.sg/c/cserkumian )

The Surin Beach Resort

We discovered the Surin Beach Resort when wanting to stay somewhere close to Surin beach but that wasn’t too expensive. The hotel has rooms, an infinity pool and a restaurant/breakfast area that overlook Surin Beach. The views are truly beautiful, and it is only a short walk down to the beach itself. 

The hotel itself is very good value for money. We paid about 130 USD (108 EUR) per night, but it was during New Years Even so the prices were slightly elevated. The rooms are clean and spacious, with big balconies giving an awesome view of Surin beach. It isn’t a luxury hotel, but if you’re looking for somewhere decent, not too expensive, close to the beach and with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, then it is perfect.

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View from the balcony in our room at The Surin Beach Resort

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Surin beach with a view of the Surin Beach Resort at the back (low building made of glass)

The Nai Harn

We stayed a long weekend at The Nai Harn, and it was one of the best hotel stays we’ve had in a while. The rooms are a bit “expensive” for Phuket (we paid ~250 USD / 215 EUR per night) but this a small boutique hotel right near the beach and with spectacular views.

Each room has a large balcony with a balinese bed that overlooks Nai Harn beach. Moreover, there is an stunning view of the hotel pool with the beach in the background from any of the staircases. The view aside, the rooms are beautiful and the food in the restaurant is delicious. Breakfast was included in our stay, and the options were so varied and delicious that we often wouldn’t be hungry for lunch.

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Loung area of the hotel overlooking the ocean

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Staircase going down to the beach

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Views from the room balcony

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Outrigger Laguna Phuket Hotel

This hotel is located on Bang Tao Beach and makes up part of a huge “integrated resort” that shares it grounds with other luxury hotels such as the Angsana. It is so big that they even have a free shuttle from the entrance gates to the lobby. We paid approximately 190 USD (163 EUR) per night at this hotel. The rooms are very big, with a huge bathroom and a nice little reading window overlooking the gardens. The restaurant, pool and beach areas are also very nice, however, if you prefer more quiet, boutique style hotels, then this may not be to your taste. The resort does get quite busy and many visitors stay onsite. When we went, the pool area was often full, and there were not many available sun loungers on the beach.

Where to go?

We’ve been to so many beaches in Phuket, we will only mention our favourite / recommended ones. We like beaches that are clean and not crowded (the opposite of Patong beach). The beaches we went to often corresponded with the locations of the hotels we stayed in, so we will include our opinions on these places too.

Surin Beach

This is a relatively long white sand beach, which doesn’t have any hotels built onto it. It is clean, with nice turquoise water and hardly any waves during the dry season. During the monsoon period there tends to be waves, some of which have knocked us out quite a few times haha! However, when we went they weren’t too high to avoid the waters.

There are no cafes / restaurants on the beach, however, there are vendors that sell drinks, coconuts (our favourite), fruit and some thai food!  This beach can get quite busy, especially during peak season, but not to the point where it is overcrowded and you’re struggling to find a spot to lie down.

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Playing beach tennis on Surin Beach

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One person having more fun than the other on Surin Beach

There is a “secret” viewpoint overlooking Surin beach and the private beach of “The Surin” hotel (it’s not technically private, as all beaches in Phuket are public, but the hotel is built in a way that you cannot access the beach without passing through the hotel … unless you have a boat).

In order to get to this viewpoint you need to drive up (on a scooter, or walk) a bumpy uphill path through the forest. It only takes about 5 minutes but requires some driving skills. When facing the ocean, the little hill is to the right of Surin beach, right after the beach ends. We really recommend checking this out as the view is really beautiful (but bring some mosquito repellant as they’re feisty there).

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View of the public side of Surin beach

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The “private” side of Surin Beach (technically there are no private beaches in Phuket but a hotel has placed itself in a way where it is almost impossible to access this side of Surin Beach without going through the hotel

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Nai Harn Beach

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If you’re not staying in the area, it may not be worth the trip down to this beach as it doesn’t offer anything special and it can be quite crowded. We brought snorkelling gear here, however, there was nothing much to see and the visibility wasn’t great.

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Drinking fresh coconuts on the beach

Bang Tao Beach

Bang Tao beach is the second longest beach in Phuket, a lot of which is taken up by the laguna complex. However, the rest of Bang Tao beach is almost untouched by development and not very busy. When we went, we had the beach almost to ourselves and the water was clean and calm. However, the sand is more yellow than it is at Surin beach and the water less turquoise.

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Laguna neighbourhood

When we stayed in Laguna we explored the area around the hotel and really enjoyed this neighbourhood, so we kept coming back on later trips. It is a perfect neighbourhood if you like good massages, good food, good coffee, good mangos and cute art boutiques.

We tried a couple of massage parlours in this area and particularly liked the massages at the Thai Carnation, where we went for a couple of 1.5 or 2 hours Thai massages! The masseuses are very professional and friendly and it is one of the best thai massages we’ve ever had (and we’ve had many). Opposite this massage place is a little art gallery that we love going to and from where we have bought paintings. The artist is local and his paintings are often colourful and representative of Thai culture or scenery.

While visiting this area we got hooked on one restaurant in this area called Tawai Thai Restaurant, where the Thai food is excellent and they’re able to make dishes vegetarian. The prices are tourist prices, but the Mango and Papaya salads there are to die for. The restaurant also offers cooking classes. To the back of this restaurant there is also a little avenue called Boat Avenue with boutique shops and numerous cafes that we often go to when in the mood for a proper espresso.

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Delicious mango salad in Tawai Thai Restaurant

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Papaya Salad

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Guillermo playing with the local kids at Tawai Thai Restaurant

What to do?

See the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha, on top of the Nakkerd Hills, northwest of Chalong circle, is relatively new, having been constructed in 2007. It has gotten quite popular and has been quite busy (with tourists, not local people) every time we have been. However, it has a certain charm with all the bells and flags surrounding this 45m tall Buddha. Moreover, there is a 360 degree view from the top where you can see up to the sea.

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Getting here by scooter is quite a long drive if staying more in the north of the island but it is the last 6km up to the Buddha that’s the hardest, as it is up a steep and curvy road which is often very busy (with many cars too). If you’re not a confident scooter driver it may not be a good option to go here by bike.

Along this road they offer elephant rides, as well as opportunities to take pictures with baby elephants (for a fee). We strongly suggest you do not do either of these things as elephants are not meant to be kept in captivity to be rode on, and these baby elephants are kept confined a little area all day just for tourist to take pictures with them. The only way to prevent these wild animals from being caught and held captive is to not fund this industry.

Once you reach the top there is a separate scooter and car park (free for scooters, not sure about car park). The entrance to the Buddha is free, although you can make a donation if you wish. Women need to cover up their legs and shoulders, and free sarongs are provided at the entrance (on lend).

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If not dressed appropriately, women will have to wear borrowed sarongs to cover shoulders and knees

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Tips:

    • Avoid coming by scooter if not a confident driver  
    • Do not stop to take pictures with / ride on the elephants
  • Ladies – cover your shoulders and knees (or you will have to wear a borrowed sarong to do so)

Enjoy the sunset at Promthep Cape

Promthep Cape is the island’s best-known and most photographed sunset locations. However, it seems to be mostly known by the locals as nearly all the visitors here are Thai. Every evening tour buses, cars and scooters arrive just before sunset, crowding the car park, as people get ready to capture the sunset views. When we first arrived we thought we would regret coming here as it was incredibly busy and noisy … not really what we were expecting as a romantic sunset spot. And that feeling lingered as we left the car park and entered the cape area, as it was filled with at least a hundred tourists, all standing tightly together trying to find the best stop to capture the sunset. However, we notice a little path to the left between some bushes and decided to follow it. After about 15 mins of walking (sometimes climbing, but nothing too difficult) through the bushes and over the rocks we reached the southern tip of the cape where we could pick a nice quiet spot to watch the sunset. There were only about 10 people on this side, and this side is about 5 times as big as the northern part of the cape. We had bought some some fruit and candy floss from the stand at the car park and just sat there, eating our snacks whilst enjoying a romantic and peaceful sunset.

It was incredibly beautiful, well worth doing and even better than we had originally expected. Coming back was a different story as there was no lighting at all haha. We had to use the torches on our phones and try our best not to trip. The second time we went we made sure to leave 10-15 mins before the sun fully set.

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The southern tip of the cape

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At the top of the cape, between the main road/car park and the cape there is a little elephant shrine, which is worth visiting. It is a circle of many elephant sculptures of different colours, sizes and materials, with an area for praying in the middle. It is very beautiful and visitors can bring incense into the middle as their offering.

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The Elephant Shrine

Tips

    • Buy some snacks from the stalls to enjoy during the sunset
    • Walk past the crowds and to the southern tip of the cape to enjoy the sunset in peace
    • Make sure to bring a torch and leave before the sun fully sets if walking to the southern tip of the cape, as there is no artificial lighting and the path can be rocky / slippery
  • Visit the elephant shrine

Visit a temple

There are several temples you can visit whilst in Phuket, however, we have only been to Wat Chalong temple. This temple was built in the 19th century and is the largest and most visited temple in Phuket. It has beautiful gold, red and white exteriors and there many buildings you can enter to visit. Inside the buildings, walls and ceilings are decorated with golden statues and paintings illustrating the life of Buddha. Shoes are required to taken off and left outside some of the buildings, and it is recommended to cover up your shoulders and knees as it inappropriate to enter a place of worship with these body parts on display.

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Tips:

    • Do not wear expensive shoes as you will have to leave them outside the building unattended
  • Cover up shoulders & knees

Visit the night market

There are quite a few night markets in Phuket but we only visited the Naka Weekend Market. As the name suggests, it is weekend market. It is about a 25 minute drive from Patong and an easily accessible by both scooter and car. A variety of food and goods are sold here and it is quite easy to negotiate and get a good bargain. There are stalls afters of local fruits and thai delicacies, including insects, being sold here.

Locals seem to be very fond of Durian and it can be found here during the right season (May-August). For those who eat fish, a fun option is to visit one of the stall where they sell fish and have a seating area behind. You can select your fish / seafood and they will grill it for you and serve it for you to eat.    

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Insects for sale at the night market

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Sugar cane juice

Tips

    • Book in advance and ask for a table closest to the sea for the best view. Get your hotel to call for you if there are language barriers.
    • Tell them in advance if it’s a special occasion. For birthdays they will bring cake with candles and take a picture for you which they print and give to you for
  • Order the mango sticky rice –  they use butterfly pea flower to serve both blue and white sticky rice! So good!

Enjoy thai food with an excellent view

We ate at both of the Baan Rim Pa (link) thai restaurants a couple of times, as well as it’s sister Italian restaurant Da Maurizio, a couple of times. The views are beautiful and ocean facing, the service was great when we went and the food was also excellent. The prices are more elevated than many other thai restaurants but we thought it was well worth it for the views and atmosphere. Great place for a romantic dinner or special occasion!

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The best mango sticky rice

Tips

    • Book in advance and ask for a table closest to the sea for the best view. Get your hotel to call for you if there are language barriers.
    • Tell them in advance if it’s a special occasion. For birthdays they will bring cake with candles and take a picture for you which they print and give to you for
  • Order the mango sticky rice –  they use butterfly pea flower to serve both blue and white sticky rice! So good!
trav3ltheworldblog
3 Comments
  • tara haynes
    Reply

    Great job, so far! Keep up the good work.

    March 9, 2015 at 2:46 pm
    • lindsey brunk
      Reply

      Great job, so far! Keep up the good work.

      March 9, 2015 at 2:46 pm
  • christen batson
    Reply

    Pretty fresh colors!

    March 9, 2015 at 2:46 pm

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