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:
This region probably has the widest variety of food options outside Bangkok. The island has in the past been used as a meeting point for many international travellers, who have brought with them influences that can be seen in the cooking.
Southern Thai cuisine has mixed with Malay, Chinese and Indian to produce a wide range of styles and flavours. Southern Thailand makes a lot of use of coconut milk, so in Phuket you should expect to find lots of Panang and massaman curry.
The best examples of local Phuket food are in the restaurants in Phuket Town. It’s particularly good for vegetarians, with the tropical fruit and vegetables grown on the island used with typical spicy Thai flair. Along Ranong Road there’s a stretch of excellent vegetarian restaurants serving Phuket-style dim sum and veggie pad Thai.
Seafood lovers will have almost too muchchoice in Phuket. A favourite dish among Phuket’s Chinese population is fried oysters served with egg and curry paste, while Kaeng tai plah is a delicious fish curry made with plenty of cumin.
Phuket has in recent years gained a reputation for producing top class street food in some very scenic spots. Here you can sit with the locals at roadside pop-up stalls, take in the sunset with a bowl of rice or purchase some fresh fruit from a vendor with a rattan basket.
This type of food is very inexpensive and it’s easy to get a full meal with many different options for under 100 Baht.
Similar to paratha in India, Thai roti is a type of pancake that you’ll see served by many street vendors. The joy of the roti is that, once made, it can become any meal you wish by your choice of topping. Choose from coconut, meat or vegetables, or for a real treat opt for a stall with flour dumplings packed with almost any filling you like.
These thin rice noodles are something of a staple in Phuket. Like most Thai food served on the street, you pick your choice of ingredient to go with the noodles – fish, chicken, vegetables – and in five minutes tuck into a fresh meal.
Talad Sod Kaset market
This market is best visited early in the morning, when the locals pick up their cooking ingredients. There are some restaurants scattered about the market serving the likes of rice congee — a type of porridge eaten for breakfast — and spicy roti.
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:
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Park
This area, to the north of the island, is the only significant patch of rainforest on Phuket. Inside the park live tusked wild boar, slow lorises, Malay sun bears and porcupines, among many others.
Phuket’s largest waterfall — Bang Pae — is also here. There are many hiking trails to explore, as well as the Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre, which rescues the animals from captivity before returning them to the wild.
Phuket is considered to be one of the best destinations in the world for scuba diving. You can dive straight from the shores of Phuket’s beaches, head further out on a catamaran to a reef, or take a day trip to nearby Phi Phi Island.
This is a brilliant place to pick up your PADI certification to become a qualified diver and it has some of the most breathtaking underwater scenery imaginable. Among the huge coral formations and caves live leopard sharks, pufferfish, angelfish and multi-coloured anemones — more than enough to see for beginners and experienced divers alike.