- Refined, rustic and romantic
- Blue lagoon
- Industrial glam
- Northern Phuket shores
- Coastal glamour
- Millionaire's Mile
- Tropical, tranquil villas with a view
- Forest coasts of Phuket
- Indochine-chic retreat
- Chilled Kamala Beach
- Sino chic
- Sunset-bathed hilltop
- Luxed-up nature
- Fantasy Island
- Understated glamour
- Private bayside
- Mighty mountains, silvery sands
- Coast life
- Farangs, flip-flops and fishing boats
Dropped like a giant pearl into the azure Andaman Sea, Phuket is a textbook tropical paradise of perfect beaches and forest-fringed cliffs.
Jetting in by plane, you’ll spy jungle-clad hills twisting across the island like green dragons’ spines, and the fringes of development where Phuket is expanding around – and even up – the mountains. Away from the beach, the island’s towns and temples offer their own thrills, from the unique Sino-Portuguese architecture of Phuket Town to the hectic tuk tuk-travelled streets of Patong Beach, home to some of Thailand’s most dynamic – and infamous – nightlife. Whether you come here for a party, an insight into Buddhist culture, or just the healthy trinity of sand, sun and serenity, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Perfectly PhuketPhuket embraces a strong sense of eco-friendly entrepreneurship and opportunistic ingenuity: look out for crafty DIY-versions of everyday items around the island. Chances are you’ll see roadside rubbish bins fashioned from old truck tyres, sunloungers built out of leftover piping, and dumbbells shaped from spare concrete slabs.
- Flagging down taxis in Phuket is relatively hassle-free; fares start at THB50. Three-wheeled tuk tuks are everywhere in Patong and Phuket Town, but are becoming expensive. Negotiate a round-trip rate if you’d like one to wait for you while you shop or sightsee; be prepared to pay upwards of THB150 an hour. A cheaper, but slower, option are songthaews, which run between the main resort areas and Phuket Town.
- Tipping culture
- A 10 per cent service charge may be added to your bill, but don’t assume this will get as far as the staff. A tip, where appropriate, is always welcome. For cabs, simply round it up to the nearest 10 or 20 baht.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Phuket’s enthusiastic mercantilism means shops open on time, and will stay open until late into the night. Some cafés and restaurants open as early as 8am to serve the breakfast crowd; and some bars stay open until the wee hours.
- Packing tips
- Yoga-wear for seaside stretchers. Swimwear, sarongs and sandals will be fine for those who don’t plan on anything more strenuous than moonlit strolls or sunbathing on the sand; ocean-going explorers may want to bring kayak-friendly footwear.
- Recommended reads
- Explore Thailand’s hidden depths further while you lie supine on the beach: try the excellent Travelers’ Tales Thailand anthology, or Steve Rosse’s short-story collection Thai Vignettes: Phuket and Beyond. Adventuring seafarer Fernão Mendes Pinto recalls his 16th-century pan-Asian odyssey in The Travels of Mendes Pinto, translated by Rebecca D Catz.
- Succulent seafood from the Andaman Sea characterises Phuket’s menus. Dishes are likely to be barbecued, marinated, and garnished with a medley of herbs and spices. Locally grown pineapples and cashew nuts also feature prominently.
- Regional specialities
- Southern Thais like their food spicier and often add fresh turmeric to curries, giving them a distinctive yellow hue. Khanom cheen nam ya – rice noodles soaked with spicy fish-flake soup and served with a plate of fresh vegetables and fruit – is a popular breakfast dish, while the item that most often crops up on beach-bar menus is pad thai: egg-fried noodles with chicken or prawns, nam pla (fish sauce), chilli, spring onion and a scattering of toasted peanuts.
- Thai baht.
- Time zone
- GMT +7.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for Thailand: 66; area code for Phuket: 076. Remove the ‘0’ when calling from overseas.
- Do go/don't go
- Phuket is most alive during the sunny season, from November to March. Be prepared to pay significantly higher prices for rooms in this period, and make that dinner reservation promptly. When the monsoon lull hits, expect slower service and more irregular opening hours at shops and eateries.
Don't go home without...
tasting a durian. This large, spiky-shelled fruit is notorious for its frankly repellent odour (hence the nickname, ‘stinky fruit’). Although less intrepid stomachs may baulk at the custardy pulp within, many regard durian flesh as a delicacy and, among Thais, its aphrodisiac effects are the stuff of legend.