Phuket was our first stop on our two week Thailand vacation (and my favorite stop!). Although the flight was grueling, even from Europe, 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, I hope you enjoy my list of things to do in Phuket, Thailand!
general advice for visiting thailand
The easiest and quickest place to pick up a SIM card is immediately upon arrival at the airport. Look for the blue kiosk near the baggage check called dtac. For the equivalent of $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 taking out cash from ATMs. In Thailand, currency exchange is the way to go!
Most ATMs have extremely high fees and the currency exchange kiosks at the airport offer the most accurate exchange rate. Although it’s not ideal to be carrying large amounts of cash, most hotels and hostels have a safe in the room and it ends up saving you money in the long run.
DOWNLOAD THE GRAB APP
Although almost all Thai taxis will allow you to barter for a better fare, Grab (the Thai version of Uber) usually ends up being a better deal. It can sometimes be difficult to set up payment with a foreign credit card, but Grab offers a cash payment option as well. You can also select “Grab Taxi” which we found to be even cheaper than the normal Grabs!
NEVER DRINK THE WATER
You cannot drink the tap water anywhere in Thailand. It will make you very sick. We were able to brush our teeth with tap water without getting ill, but make sure all your drinking water is bottled or filtered. 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 was very 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 accommodation in the Patong Beach are of Phuket. Although many travelers prefer beaches in less touristy areas, we decided on Patong because it has some of the best nightlife! Contrary to popular belief, the beaches in this area are not dirtier than other areas in the south of Thailand. In fact, the beach outside of our hotel was one of the most stunning and spotless beaches I encountered during my time in Phuket.
There are many choices for hotels in Patong Beach, but we decided to stay at The Charm Resort Phuket. Words cannot express 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!
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 and Coral Island with 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-traveling English speakers. I was the only tourist who spoke English on the entire tour and didn’t end up meeting anyone 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 available 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!
JAMES BOND ISLAND (PHANG NGA)
After my friends joined me in Patong Beach we decided to immediately cross off one of our big bucket list items, James Bond Island or Phang Nga. We booked a day trip on Viator which included hotel pickup and drop off, James Bond Island, a delicious lunch, sea canoeing, and a stop at Wat Suwan Kuha (a Cave Temple) all for $60. 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 staying in 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. $18 will get you a free drink bucket (yes, an actual bucket), a buffet-style 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
A visit to Koh Phi Phi is a must-see on your list of things to do in Phuket! 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, but 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 making the trek to Koh Phi Phi by ourselves. Once we arrived on the island and ate lunch, we only had 45 minutes to explore the beach. Regardless of our timing complaints, the island was stunning and we still had a great day exploring (even with our excruciating hangovers from the pub crawl the night before).
Instead of Maya Bay, our tour included a short stop on Khai Island. Khai Island was a very small strip of white, spotless beach 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 it back with us.
After three hectic, tour-filled days, we decided on a day of relaxation near our hotel. We spent the day enjoying the white sand and clear waters of Patong Beach and exploring the many activities available near our hotel.
Jet skiing has been on my personal bucket list for years! For only 1500 Baht (roughly $45), you could rent a jet ski out in the bay for 30 minutes. 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 of pampering. 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) 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, separated by only a curtain, but you can get an hour long oil massage for only 250 Baht ($8).
where to eat near patong beach
Not only are there a lot of exciting things to do in Phuket…but there are also a lot of things to eat in Phuket! You’ll find 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 shockingly cheap. Below are some of our favorites from Phuket!
BEYOND NIGHT MARKET
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.
The Banzaan Market was my favorite market in Patong Beach! It was a short Tuk Tuk ride away from our hotel, 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 bought 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. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always true and some of the items we liked in Phuket we were unable to find in Bangkok. So make sure to do some shopping in every city!
…some food for thought
Thailand was the first, and only, country I’ve ever visited in Asia. We didn’t know exactly what to expect and, as a result, we got very caught up in planning and booking organized tours. Next time I visit Thailand I will be doing a lot of things differently. For example, as much as I loved staying in Phuket, I’ve heard that Koh Samui is a much better spot for first-time Thailand tourists. I would also stay away from booking organized tours and focus on booking our own transportation instead!
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.
If you enjoyed my list of things to do in Phuket, Thailand, don’t forget to check out my related posts…
Thanks for reading and make sure to follow my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps!