Phuket was our first, and my favorite, stop on our two week Thailand vacation. Although even from Europe the flight was grueling, the 20+ hours of travel were well worth the vacation of a lifetime. After months of research and hunting for the best deals in Patong Beach, here’s how we decided to spend our four days in Phuket, Thailand.
The easiest and quickest place to pick up a SIM card is immediately upon arrival in the airport. Look for the blue kiosk near the baggage check called dtac. For only $17 you can get 15 days of unlimited 4G data. Especially if it’s your first time in Asia, I would definitely recommend getting a SIM card. Everything is easier with data.
Local Currency–Thai Bhat
When traveling in Europe I always steer clear of currency exchange and prefer getting local currency from ATMs. In Thailand, however, currency exchange is the way to go. Most ATMs have extremely high fees and the currency exchange kiosks at the airport offer an accurate exchange rate. Although it’s not ideal to be carrying large amounts of cash, most hotels and hostels have a safe in-room and it ends up being a much better deal.
Download the Grab App
Although almost all taxis will haggle for their fares, Grab (a Thai version of Uber) usually ends up being a better deal. Although it can sometimes be difficult to set up payment with a foreign credit card, Grab offers a cash payment option as well. There is also an option on the app called “Grab Taxi” which we found to be even cheaper than the normal Grab.
Never drink the water
You cannot drink the tap water anywhere in Thailand. It will make you immediately very sick. We were able to brush our teeth with tap water and that seemed to be fine, but make sure all the water you are drinking is bottled or comes from a filtered water bottle. Additionally, steer clear of any street food that may have unfiltered water in it. My friend bought a popsicle off a street vendor and it became clear it was made with unfiltered water when she started puking at the airport!
Some simple Thai phrases
No matter where you’re traveling, it’s always helpful to know some simple phrases in the local language.
Thank you (feminine) Kap-kun-kah (kop-coon-kaaaaa)
Hello (feminine) Sawadee-kah (sah-wah-dee-kaaaaa)
Not spicy Mai pet
Medium spicy Pet noi
Very spicy Pet mok
Too expensive Feng-mak-pie
Hurt (for Thai massages) Jep
Where to Stay
After much deliberation, we decided to book a hotel in Patong Beach. Although many travelers prefer other beaches nearby, we decided on Patong because it has some of the best nightlife in Phuket. Contrary to popular belief, the beaches in this area are not dirtier than other areas in Phuket. In fact, the beach outside the hotel was one of the most stunning and spotless beaches I encountered in Phuket.
While in Patong Beach, we stayed at The Charm Resort Phuket. Words can’t explain how much we loved this hotel. The instant I arrived for check-in, sweaty, jet-lagged and alone, I was immediately upgraded to a larger suite for the night. The hotel staff was incredibly friendly and accommodating throughout our entire stay. Bonus points: the beach was only a minute walk from our front door.
James Bond Island (Phang Nga)
After arriving in Patong Beach we decided to immediately cross of one of our big bucket list items, James Bond Island or Phang Nga. We booked a day trip on viator.com which included hotel pickup and dropoff, James Bond Island, a delicious lunch, sea canoeing, and a stop at Wat Suwan Kuha (a Cave Temple) all for 55 EUR. Although the day was a little rushed, we were happy we got to see so much in such a short period of time (and lunch was fantastic)!
You can check out the package we booked here.
Although we wanted the luxury of hotels, nothing beats the hostel crowd on a night out. Instead of blindly finding our own way around Phuket’s club scene, we decided to book a pub crawl through one of the top rated hostels in the area, Bodega Phuket. For only 18 USD you get a free drink bucket (yes, an actual bucket), dinner and included transportation from the hostel to the first “pub.” We liked the pub crawl so much we ended up booking through the same hostel when we arrived in Bangkok!
Koh Phi Phi
Another hot ticket item in Phuket, Koh Phi Phi was always on the top of our list of must-sees. We ended up booking a day trip recommended by Bodega Hostel through Phuket New Generation Travel, you can find information about the company here.
The tour was originally supposed to bring us to Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay, unfortunately that was before Maya Bay was closed due to over-tourism. Although the tour included lunch and snorkeling, I think we would have been better off booking a ferry and going to Koh Phi Phi ourselves. Once we arrived on the island and ate lunch, we only had 45 minutes to explore the beach. Regardless, the island was stunning and we still had a great day exploring (even with our excruciating hangovers from the night before).
Instead of Maya Bay, our tour included a short stop on Khai Island. Khai Island was a very small trip of land with white, spotless beaches and a lot of restaurant owners trying to convince you to eat at their establishment. The water was incredibly clear and despite the warnings of sea urchins we didn’t see a single one. Unfortunately, due to a iPhone overheating incident, our photos of Khai Island didn’t make the trip home.
After two hectic, tour-filled days, we decided we need a day of relaxation near home. We spent the day enjoying the white sand on Patong Beach and exploring the many activities available near our hotel.
One of these activities, and something that’s been on my personal bucket list for years, was jet skiing. For only 1500 Baht (roughly 45 USD), you could take a jet ski out in the bay for 30 min. Dark blue water, stunning views, perfect weather and a trusty GoPro made this an unforgettable experience and one that I would gladly do again.
Thai massages are incredibly cheap and boy did we take advantage. We tried a variety of spas in Thailand, ranging from super cheap to somewhat expensive, and enjoyed each and every minute. Some of our favorites in Patong Beach were…
Aya Spa: A bit nicer and more expensive, Aya Spa was one of the best oil massages I got in Thailand. 400 Baht (13 USD) got you an hour long massage in a private room with soothing music and aromatherapy oil.
Anahita Massage: Anahita Massage is one of the cheaper options in Patong Beach, but the masseuses are just as skilled. The rooms aren’t as private, they are separated by only a curtain, but you can get an hour long oil massage for only 250 Baht (8 USD).
While I was waiting for my friends to join me in Phuket, I decided to hop on a day tour to Raya Island. I booked a tour through Golden Region Travel that brought us to Raya Island, Coral Island and offered an included lunch. Since I was traveling alone for the day, I was hoping to meet like-minded travelers to enjoy Thailand with.
Although the tour guides were friendly and the tour was fun, I wouldn’t recommend this company for solo English speakers. I was the only tourist who spoke English on the entire tour and ended up hanging out alone on the beach all day.
Raya Island itself was beautiful to see, although much smaller than I anticipated. If you decide to travel to Raya (A.K.A. Racha island), I would suggest snorkeling rather than hanging out on the beach. The only beach chairs offered had a non-removable umbrella and there wasn’t much room to lay out a towel until the tide went out.
In hindsight, I wish I had spend the entire day on Coral Island instead of stopping at Raya. The beach was much larger and they offered a wide variety of water sports including kayaking and parasailing.
Where to eat near Patong Beach
There are lots of yummy and affordable food options in Patong Beach. We mostly stuck to the food stands and street vendors which were always delicious, quick and super cheap. Below are some of our favorites from Phuket!
Beyond Night Market (Patong Beach)
This market was only a short walk from our hotel and was one of my favorite places to eat in Patong Beach. I celebrated the beginning of my vacation with my first Thai meal here (and first Chang beer)! It’s a small market with a variety of different stands selling seafood, meat, noodles and delicious cocktails. Make sure to always ask for the spicy sauce and try the mango sticky rice at the fresh fruit stand.
We decided to take a break from street food for the night and try out one of the many restaurants in Patong Beach. The food was delicious, but ended up being much pricier than the same meal would have been in the outdoor market. It is nice to have the air conditioned restaurant experience, but overall we preferred eating from the street vendors in every city.
The Banzaan Market was my favorite market in Patong Beach! It was a short Tuk Tuk ride away from the beach, but definitely worth the extra baht. The market is enormous with produce, meat and spices available on the lower inside level, tons of delicious food stands on the upper inside level and even more food vendors surrounding the building. We headed upstairs and ended up having a tasty noodle dinner at the Fb. Banzaan Terrace Restaurant.
Along with visiting all the gorgeous beaches and eating homemade Thai food, make sure to leave plenty of time (and suitcase space) for the incredible shopping in Phuket. We didn’t shop much in Patong Beach because we expected the shopping in Bangkok to be cheaper and have more variety. Some of the items we liked in Phuket we were unable to find in Bangkok, so make sure to get your shopping fix in every city!
Although I’ve only been back for a month I’m already eager to book another flight and get back to Asia. If you do get the chance to visit Thailand, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to explore a few different cities and see the best that the country has to offer. Posts on our time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai yet to come and thanks for reading!