Phuket is a province situated in Southern Thailand and is also the gateway to the Andaman islands, Koh Phi Phi, Similan Islands, Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta are just a boat ride away. The largest island in Thailand, Phuket is a popular tourist destination for beach lovers as it boasts over 36 beaches, the name “Phuket” means “mountain jewel” in Thai because 70% of the island is covered by mountains.
Getting to Phuket is easy as there are regular flights from Bangkok; alternative methods of transportation include minivan and bus for those on a tight budget. Being on the tourist trail you will find that many people speak English and that travelling in Thailand is generally very safe, also for female travellers. The thing to be most aware of is of being pickpocketed and buses and touristy areas are prime areas to be wary and vigilant.
Tourists typically head to the beaches and Kata, Nai Haan and Karon beaches are among the most popular destinations for beach holidays, however, Phuket city also has much to offer and you can see a more authentic side of Thai living in the city itself, where you can explore markets and take in the atmosphere of Southern Thailand.
48 hours is plenty of time to explore Phuket before heading onto the islands. Here is our insider’s ultimate guide to 48 hours in Phuket!
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Best time to visit Phuket
Phuket’s climate is tropical: hot and humid. Temperatures don’t vary too much throughout the year however it is worth remembering that on the East coast the Monsoon season is between May and October, the opposite to the West coast of Thailand.
November to February are the most popular times for tourists to travel to Phuket, and it is best to avoid December and January, which is the peak of tourist season and prices for accommodation double and beaches become very crowded.
How to get around Phuket
There are many methods of public transport in Phuket, these include Songtaew, taxi, tuk-tuk, motorcycle taxi and motorcycle rental. Driving in Thailand is not like driving in the Western world and is best navigated by a local, motorcycle rental is very common among tourists but I would advise against it as Thai drivers are quite aggressive and the rate of motorbike accidents in Thailand, with over 24,000 people dying annually from road accidents, 24 times the road accident death rate in the United Kingdom!
There are also numerous scams for tourists renting motorcycles and then having them “stolen” and having to pay out a huge sum of compensation.
There are safer methods of transportation such as the Songtaew, which is a kind of open bus without fixed stops. You normally hail down a Songtaew, tell the driver where you want to go and negotiate the price and hop on. It helps to know the name of the street in Thai.
Tuk-Tuks and taxis are also good methods of getting around but make sure to negotiate your price before you even get in as often you will find yourself being charged “tourist prices”. Finally, there are motorcycle taxis for those who don’t mind this hair-raising form of transportation.
Things to do in Phuket
Explore Phuket Town
Phuket Town is a colourful city full of hostels, cafes, restaurants and markets. The architectural style of the city is Sino-Portuguese, the Old Town was established many years ago when metal was a highly prized commodity and the town has a lot of charm and style. As you wander the streets you will find excellent cafes in Phuket Town and boutique hostels that are contemporary and trendy. Phuket Old Town is home to numerous Chinese and Buddhist temples.
It is worth visiting the Chinpracha House in Phuket Town, which was a historical home from 1903 built by Prapitak Chinpracha. The home was built when the architect was only 20 years old and is built in the Sino-Portuguese style. Chinpracha House is open every day except Sunday from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Entrance is ฿150.
One of the most picturesque streets is Soi Rommanee, a favourite with photographers. This is also the location for many a wedding photographer and you will often see brides and grooms strolling down the peaceful lane to have their photographs taken.
If you want to enjoy a great coffee and cake, some of the best cafés can be found in Phuket Town. Pay a visit to Tunk Ka Cafe, Macchiato House, Cakebox, or Bookhemian, the boho, art gallery and coffee shop.
Shop at the Phuket Weekend Market (Naka Market)
The Phuket Weekend Market is open on Sunday evenings and a trip to the market stimulates all your senses, here you will find souvenirs and food hawkers selling Thai street food and you can spend hours just wandering and shopping at the various stalls.
Catch some sun at the beach
The main attraction of Phuket is its many stunning beaches. Though Patong Beach is the most popular among tourists, there are quieter and more pristine stretches of beach around Phuket Island. Take a visit to Laylan Beach, Bang Tao, Surin Beach, Karon Beach, Kata Beach or Paradise beach to catch some rays and lounge around in tropical paradise.
Swim at Bang Pae Waterfall
Bang Pae waterfall is situated in the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park and in the wet season or during monsoon you may see a rushing waterfall, which dries to a trickle during the drier months. You can swim in the pool below the waterfall, and be sure to bring food and drinks so that you can spend a half-day enjoying the park and the waterfall. The entrance fee to the park is ฿200.
Inside the park, you can visit the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre where you can learn about the rehabilitation project which helps to rescue and rehome Gibbons. Over 3,000 gibbons are killed yearly in Thailand and hunters often take babies from their mothers, the babies are then sold on to Thais who charge money to tourists to take pictures with the gibbons. If you do see this practice whilst you are in Thailand, please don’t be tempted to take a picture with the gibbons! This practice encourages animal cruelty and we should all try to discourage it.
Have a Thai Massage
Indulge yourself by having a strong Thai massage in one of the many massage parlours. Thai massage typically is a little rougher than Western massage and is meant to ease stress and muscular aches and pains, some massages involve the massage therapist walking up and down your back! Enjoy as many massages as you can as its incredibly cheap at only around ฿200 per hour.
Learn to cook Thai cuisine
Phuket has an abundance of cooking schools; this is the perfect place to learn how to make your favourite Thai dishes as well as learning useful skills to continue your passion for Thai food when you return home. Pum Thai Restaurant and Cooking School situated in Patong, has excellent cooking courses and you can find out more at http://www.pumthaifoodchain.co.th/
Places to visit in Phuket
The Big Buddha
On the top of Nakkerd Hill you can find one of Phuket’s most famous landmarks. Standing at 45 metres tall, the Big Buddha can be seen from afar and it is the perfect place to see the panoramic vistas of Phuket Island. The statue is made from white Burmese marble and catches the sunlight, shining white. Enjoy the gentle tinkling of bells and the sounds of Dharma music and the silence at the Big Buddha whilst taking in the incredible views.
Visit one of the many viewpoints in Phuket
Karon Viewpoint is situated just South of Kata Noi Beach. This viewpoint is popular among tourists and looks out onto the Andaman Sea offering stunning views of the coast and the beaches. In the Northwest of the city you can find Khao Rang viewpoint, there are many bars and restaurants and panoramic terraces for you to capture the perfect panorama shot.
Take in some temples
There are many temples and shrines in Phuket, the most famous being Wat Chalong. The temple complex includes the impressive Grand Pagoda which supposedly is home to a splinter from the bone of Buddha himself and the temple is ornately decorated with scenes depicting the life story of Buddha.
Another shrine worth visiting is the Chinese shrine of Jui Tui, which houses three large statues of Chinese gods including the statue of Tean Hu Huan Soy, god of dance and performing arts. There is also a firecracker house where locals throw firecrackers during festivities and celebrations.
Another shrine to visit is the Shrine of the Serene Light, built over 150 years ago and tucked away in a narrow alleyway. This Taoist shrine has elaborate etchings covering all the walls and has been recently renovated on the outside. Inside you can smell the heady scent of burning incense and fresh flowers.
See Macaques at Monkey Hill
Toh Sae Hill, also known as Monkey Hill is the tallest hill in the town and is home to 400 free-roaming Macaque monkeys. Here you can visit the shrine that honours three holy spirits: Toh Sae Dang, Toh Sae Dam and Toh Sae Kaow, this is where Thais come to ask for lucky lottery numbers and blessings. Be careful not to bring food in your bag and keep an eye on your possessions, as the monkeys are incredibly cheeky!
Party in Patong
Phuket has a seedier and sleazier side, known as Patong. Patong is famed for the beach and its wild nightlife and there are dozens of touts trying to lure you into ping-pong ball shows or ladyboy shows. This area is popular for its nightclubs and outdoor bars full of bar girls and for the curious traveller who wants to see another side of Thailand, this is one place you don’t want to miss.
Where to stay in Phuket
Phuket has incredible luxury hotels and boutique hotels for people with big budgets to those travelling on a shoestring. For style and value we have gathered some of the best budget boutique hotels in Phuket for you! We have also written an extensive guide on Where to stay in Phuket.
Just five minutes from Rawai Beach is a little contemporary resort with spacious reasonably priced rooms. The hotel is perfect for couples and has an outdoor pool and in-house restaurant. Rooms start from a tiny ฿660 per night,
This newly built hotel with private pools will give you a sense of privacy and luxury in Chalong Bay. This hotel is a four star one with air conditioned rooms, wifi and excellent location. Rooms start from ฿1,800 per night for a private pool villa room.
This boutique hotel is a short walk from Kata Beach and decorated in Thai style with wood features and an outside patio. It is also one of the few pet-friendly hotels in Phuket and is excellent value for money at only ฿528 per night.
For a luxury option at a steal, this hotel on Cape Panwa is right on the beach and has a stunning swimming pool for those sunset swims. Rooms are spacious and clean and the hotel has excellent facilities. Rooms start from ฿2,200 per night.
Tours to do in Phuket
Chalong Bay Rum Distillery
If you love rum then a visit to Chalong Bay Rum Distillery is sure to tickle your taste buds! The famous white rum is world-recognised and during the tour you will learn how rum is distilled, the tour ends in a cocktail workshop where you will learn how to make cocktails and afterwards enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Phang Nga Bay
There are numerous tour operators offering trips to Phang Nga Bay, 40 small islands full of lagoons, mangroves and caves. This excursion is usually a full day trip as there is so much to see! A unique way of visiting Phang Nga is to take a Sea Kayak, which allows you to explore the limestone formations, and caves up close, discovering secret lagoons inaccessible by larger boats. Tours by a bigger boat wil take you out to Phang Nga and include visits Hong Island, Panak Island and James Bond Island. Once out there you will be transferred to kayaks where you can explore the coves and bays at your leisure.
48 Hours in Phuket
Start your morning with a hike up to the Big Buddha where you can see the impressive panoramas from one of the best viewpoints on Phuket Island, pay a visit to Wat Chalong, and climb up to the roof so you can get a bird’s eye view of the temple complex.
After building up an appetite, head down to Phuket Town and wander the alleyways to find some wonderful cheap eats, street food is tasty and cheap and you can find meals for under ฿50. If you are worried about hygiene, head to the busiest stalls with the most customer turnover that has an open kitchen, that way you know that the food is fresh. A lot of cases of food poisoning actually come from more western style restaurants or places with enclosed kitchens. Plastic tablecloth and napkin holders are usually a good sign of a great authentic street restaurant.
Enjoy the delicious satay, Thai fish cakes, spicy soups, curry and roti as well as the heavenly sticky rice and mango dessert commonly found around Thailand. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a Phuket Street Food app, which you can download to find the best places to taste the local specialties.
After filling up you can wander the streets of Phuket Town and enjoy the Sino-Portuguese architecture whilst getting lost in the Old Town.
After a day of walking, stop in a massage parlour for a Thai massage to ease your weary and aching muscles, try a reflexology massage for your tired feet, it works wonders!
When the sun starts to set head to Bangla Road in Patong if you are looking for some crazy nightlife or if you prefer something more chilled, head to one of the laid back beach bars on Kata beach, sip a cocktail, feel the sand between your toes and enjoy the glorious Thai sunset.
After all the drinks from the night before, a beach day is in order! Either head to one of the stunning beaches where you can lounge around, do water sports such as paddle boarding or surfing or enjoy some snorkelling amongst the colourful tropical fishes of the Andaman Sea. For quieter beaches head to Karon, Kata or Kamala beaches where you can enjoy a stretch of sand just for you and avoid the crowds.
If you’re feeling more lively and adventurous, head out to Phanga Nga for a kayaking adventure where you can swim, snorkel and kayak to your hearts content, exploring the secret coves and bays and taking in the looming limestone formations of the islands.
End your 48 hours with another spectacular sunset at Promthep Cape, the Southernmost point of Phuket Island, though it may be full of tourists, the ultimate sunset shot is worth it. Finish off with another beachside cocktail as you bid farewell to the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket.
Want to learn how to travel on a Budget? Check out our dedicated “Budget Conscious Travel Guide”
Recommend budget tours in Phuket
- Ethical Choice: Half Day Jungle Sanctuary in Phuket with Lunch
- June Bahtra: Full Day Lunch Cruise Phang Nga Bay by Chinese Junk Boat
- Hong by Starlight Including Sea Cave Kayaking and Loy Krathong Floating from Phuket
- Phi Phi Deluxe Island-Hopping Tour by Speedboat from Phuket
- Half-Day Easy Thai Cooking in Phuket
- Early Riser or Morning Phi Phi Island with Maya Bay Snorkeling Tour
- Day Trip to Phi Phi 6 Islands from Phuket
- Phang Nga Treasures: An Original Adventure (Highly recommended)
- The Real Phuket Sightseeing Tour with Cocktail (Highly recommended)
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