Imagine long, lazy days spent relaxing on stunning, palm-fringed beaches under the golden sun: Phuket is paradise on earth. Thailand's largest and most famous dream destination, the island is as colourful as it is cosmopolitan. You'll find lots to explore, from shimmering temples to colonial mansions. You may even see elephants coming down to play in the waves and cool off. Phuket is the perfect destination for both laid-back and adventure-filled holidays.
Few islands can boast such an abundance of beautiful beaches as Phuket. Winding coastal roads along the west coast are backed by verdant green foliage, offering easy access to a plethora of stunning shores, from remote stretches of palm-fringed sand to the bustling energy of the beaches around Patong. For a get-away-from-it-all feel, head to Mai Khao Beach in the northwest of Phuket, which is tranquil and calm, even during the high season. Surin Beach, also known as Millionaire's Row, appeals to the luxury crowd, offering high-end restaurants and wine bars, and Kata Beach will charm you with its spectacular palm-lined white sands, and calm, clear waters.
Phuket's national museum contains a variety of ancient artifacts including exhibits about the famous Battle of Thalang where the well-known heroines Chan and Mook defended the island against the Burmese in the 18th century. You will also find exhibits about Phuket's tin mining history, the indigenous Sea Gypsy culture and the island's Chinese heritage.
Set within achingly beautiful grounds, Wat Chalong is the most important temple in Phuket. The temple is dedicated to two venerable monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, who helped the injured in the tin miner's rebellion in 1876. It features a few chapels and prayer rooms, but is most famous for holding a splinter of a bone from the Lord Buddha in the Grand Pagoda.
Promthep Cape is perhaps Phuket's most photographed location. Situated at the top of the island's southernmost hill, Promthep Cape offers a 360-degree vista filled with tropical blue waters, verdant, green foliage, and white sand beaches. A lighthouse museum is filled with historical maritime artefacts and offers a viewing balcony from which you can see the Phi Phi Islands, Koh Racha Noi, Koh Racha Yai, and Koh Kiaow with its Buddhist monastery, as well as numerous other isles. There is a small shrine near the peak, featuring a number of wooden elephants. This viewpoint is especially famous for its dramatic sunset.
The chaotic, bustling resort of Patong is an experience in itself. Set next to a curved stretch of sand, the town and beach fuse to make one thriving area that sparks with energy. The beach is bursting with hotels, shopping malls, souvenir shops, neon signs, bars, and restaurants and the steamy streets teem with people experiencing the vibrant nightlife. Muay Thai (Thai boxing) can be seen at the Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Thailand from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Thai Airways, Eva Air and British Airways offer a direct service from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas and Etihad all offer indirect services from the UK.
Departure Taxes: Since 2007 international departure taxes have been included in the price of flight tickets, helping to take the hassle out of organising holidays to Thailand.
British Passport holders are not required a visa to enter Thailand for tourist stays up to 30 days only, more than sufficient for most holidays to Thailand. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Thailand. Please contact the Thai Embassy for up to date country and visa information on 0207 589 2944.
You can exchange your UK Pounds for the Thai Baht (pronounced Baaht) prior to leaving the UK, but you will generally save a few Baht if you wait and do it upon arrival. There are several currency exchanges at Bangkok's international airport. FOREX booths are sprinkled throughout the larger cities and post their daily exchange rates on electronic notice boards.
Cash exchanges incur no commissions or fees, so cash is the easiest, and in most cases the cheapest way to go. However, this has obvious risks associated with it, so do be careful carrying excessive amounts. Traveller’s cheques are generally only accepted at banks or foreign exchange shops and you will incur a commission fee. Cash machines are plentiful throughout Thailand. Major credit cards are accepted by most hotels and restaurants. Smaller merchants may not accept cards or will add a fee.
THB - Thai Baht
While some people may leave the small change from a large note, tipping isn’t generally expected and is in no way mandatory in Thailand. Many hotels and restaurants include a 10 percent service charge, but if you receive exceptional service then an additional gratuity would be appreciated. In taxis it is customary to just ‘round up’.
April-June and September-October
Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid immunisations and malaria tablets are recommended. All travellers should be up to date on routine immunisations. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country or area. For full details, please contact your GP.
Packing for your holiday to Thailand is mostly a matter of common sense. It also depends on which season you are travelling in. Although the weather in Thailand is marked by three seasons - rainy (July-October), hot (March-June), and cool (November-February - it is generally hot and humid throughout much of the year. As such, you should pack clothing for hot, tropical weather, including:
With explosive flavours drawn from fresh ingredients, Thai food has increased in popularity throughout Western civilisation. Thai cuisine blends several Southeast Asian and Indian elements into a rich amalgamation of distinctive flavours. A typical Thai meal emphasises lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and includes four main seasonings: salty, sweet, sour, and spicy.
Thai Red, Green, and Yellow Curries
Thai curries are heavily influenced by Indian spices, yet still manage to maintain a unique flavour thanks to the addition of local spices and ingredients like Thai holy basil, lemongrass, and galangal (Thai ginger). These full-bodied dishes are usually shared and served over rice.
Chim chum is served in an earthenware pot with meats, vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles cooked in a clear herb broth of galangal (Thai ginger), kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass. Spices such as Thai holy basil and chillies can be added. It is served with nam chim (dipping sauces).
Phad Thai is a noodle dish that has become extremely popular throughout the rest of the world. It combines stir fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, ground peanuts, egg, spring onion, and bean sprouts, topped with tofu or meat such as pork, chicken, or prawns.
Street stalls are dotted throughout Thailand’s streets, in every city and town. You won’t be able to go a block without seeing at least one portable eatery. Eating from street stalls is cheaper, and often tastier, than going to restaurants. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh, and cooked right in front of you.
The most famous of all Thai street stall dishes, som tom, is made from unripe papaya mixed with shrimp paste, peanuts, tomatoes, and green beans. A few chillies are thrown in to spice it up, but you can ask for it to be mai pet (not spicy).
Salapao are tasty dumplings, similar to Chinese steamed dumplings, filled with pork, red beans, and custard. They are extremely popular in Thailand and are eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Prices in Thailand are fairly inexpensive, particularly compared to what you are used to at home. A plate of Thai food, some noodles, and a soft drink might cost between 40 to 70 Thai Baht, grilled chicken with sticky rice from a street vendor might cost about 20 Thai Baht, one litre of bottled water from a store might cost seven to 12 Thai Baht, a bottle of wine from a supermarket might cost about 450 Thai Baht, and a small Singha beer from a bar might cost 60 to150 Thai Baht.
Most Thai's wear clothes similar to Westerners: suits to work, uniforms to school, jeans and T-shirts at the weekend. This is especially true in cities and tourist areas such as Bangkok. In some rural areas and for special occasions you might find people wearing traditional Thai dress. Chut Thai phra ratcha niyom (Thai dress of royal endorsement) includes several sets of clothing, typically made of silk, used on formal occasions and holidays.
Thai people are shy, polite, and sensitive by nature. Their culture is conservative and ruled by the family structure and the Buddhist religion. Young people respect their elders, teachers, and Buddhist monks, and behaviour is tightly controlled. This is a country where where the rules of saving face apply and explosive displays of emotion are frowned upon.
While parts of Thailand have been westernised in some ways, it is still a traditional Buddhist country, where certain cultures and traditions are revered, including:
Due to Thailand's unique and diverse geography the country is home to a rich and varied array of animal species. There are more than 100 national parks in Thailand, with over 20 marine parks. Larger mammals include tigers, Sambar deer, otters, leopards, and Civet Cats. Monkeys, sheep, and wild hogs are prevalent, as are crocodiles, lizards, and turtles. There are more than 900 bird species either indigenous to Thailand or that migrate to Thailand.
The most iconic, and certainly the most famous animal in Thailand is the elephant, of which approximately 1,000 remain in the wild or in Thailand’s national parks. There are many conservation centres, farms, and nature parks that allow you to interact with these majestic creatures for a truly unforgettable holiday experience.
The Tiger Temple is a Buddhist forest temple situated in western Thailand which is home to approximately 90 tigers, as well as many other animals. Every day tigers are led to a nearby quarry where they roam freely and visitors are allowed to pet and interact with them.
Whether you want to take an organised tour or just wander on your own with a pair of binoculars, Thailand is home to nearly 1,000 species of exotic birds. Thailand retains a large number of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to protect diverse habitats, including rainforest and wetlands, where you can view colourful, unusual birds.