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Phuket, the complete guide to the Pearl of Andaman

by Pierre To
18 minutes to read
Phuket, the complete guide to the Pearl of Andaman

A guide to Phuket, the island that with its tropical climate, stunning scenery, heavenly beaches and nightlife enjoys great popularity as a travel destination.

See also :
The ten most beautiful beaches in Phuket

What you need to know
The 'Ph' in Phuket is not pronounced as an 'f':
we say "Poukette" and not "Foukette


L'Phuket Island (in Thai : เกาะภูเก็ต), which is also a province, is the largest island in ThailandIt is 867 km south of Bangkokthe capital.

The population is a melting pot of BuddhistsThai-Chinese, Muslims and sea gypsies, the Moken.

The majority of the population in rural areas is Muslim.

The rural population speaks a southern dialect.

Phuket city

Phuket city

The climate

The island has a very pleasant climate for those who are cold, it is warm and humid all year round.

The hot season is generally considered to be from March to early May, the rainy season from May to October.

When to go to Phuket

West coast of Phuket island

West coast of the island

The locals consider the period from November to February to be the "cool" season, which is the preferred period for tourists, the high season.

To follow the weather forecast by province in Thailand


Map of Phuket

Phuket in yellow

The island is located in the Andaman Sea west of the Malay Peninsula.

It has a mountain range running north to south.

The highest peak is 529m above sea level, at Mai Tha Sip Song (which translates to: the twelve canes).

70% of the island is still covered by forest, including a beautiful primary forest that is little visited by tourists.

The western side has several beautiful sandy beaches, while on the east coast they are muddy.

Laem Promthep is the southernmost point of the island and is very popular for its sunsets.

Laem Promthep

Laem Promthep


The regions

Map of PhuketWest Island

Bang Thao, Kamala, Karon, Kata, Laem Sing, Mai Khao, Nai Thon, Nai Yang, Patong, Surin.

This region is the best known in the world.

There is a wide variety of beaches, some of which are visited by millions of people every year.

Patong is one of the most famous places to party in Asia.

South East of the island

Chalong Bay, Cape Panwa, Nai Han, Rawai, Ya Nui

This area has some beaches that are worth a visit.

Chalong Bay is the largest town and acts as a port for boats coming from Phang Nga Bay.

Centre of the island

Bang Rong, Ko Sire, Phuket-Town, Khao Phra Taew National Park, Thalang).

Apart from the town of Phuket, the interior of the island is very little visited by tourists.

This mountainous and fertile expanse consists of mangrove forests, fishing villages, rubber plantations, pineapple plantations, small Muslim communities and shrimp farms.

Phra Taew National Park is a great escape from the tourist crowds.

Where to land in Phuket?

See also : The ten most beautiful beaches in Phuket

Patong Beach

Tourists Patong beach Phuket

Tourists relax on a beach in Patong, Phuket. Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran

Patong is known for Bangla Road, the place where bars and discos are concentrated, a paradise for nightlife lovers and belles de nuit.

On Patong, you have a wide choice of accommodation, ranging from luxury resorts to budget hotels.

It is a very touristy area, with the beach, many bars, restaurants for all tastes, markets, entertainment, massage parlours.

If you like partying, crowded beaches, shopping, entertainment, then Patong will appeal to you.

Patong by night

Bangla road in Patong, Phuket - Photo : Nicolas Lannuzel

If you want a quiet place to rest, this is not a good choice!

Kata Beach

Kata Phuket Beach

Kata Beach in Phuket

Between May and November, Kata is a small paradise for surfers from all over the world.

It is an active area, but quieter than Patong, perhaps better for families with children.

The beach is beautiful and there is a good selection of shops, restaurants and activities.

If you want to enjoy the beach, sports and fun tourist activities, Kata will suit you.

Karon Beach

Karon Beach

Karon Beach on Phuket Island. Photo: Dominic Rivard

Karon is the third longest beach on the island and is sometimes called Patong's little sister, as it also has a very lively nightlife.

If you like shopping, lounging on the beach during the day and partying at night, then Karon is a good choice.

Rawai Beach

This is a tourist beach in Phuket that has retained its local atmosphere with its gypsy village and long-tailed boats.

There are boats to take you from island to island.

It's really a quiet and peaceful place compared to Patong.

This is a more authentic part of Thailand, if you are tired of the touristy areas.

Rawai is also close to Nai Harn and Chalong, which is ideal for exploring other Phuket attractions, such as Cape Promthep and the Great Phuket Buddha.

If you are not interested in nightlife, shopping, enjoying great restaurants, visiting the islands, then Rawai is for you.

Nai Harn Beach

Nai Harn Beach Phuket

Nai Harn Beach Phuket

It's a beautiful beach, not too developed for tourism and popular with the locals.

There are fewer hotels, restaurants and a small nightlife.

For nature lovers, scuba divers and surfers.

Mai Khao Beach

It is a secluded beach 11 km long, the longest beach in Phuket and is located near Sirinath National Park.

If you like quiet beaches, are not interested in nightlife, crowded restaurants and shops, and can afford to pay for more expensive accommodation, this is the beach for you.

Phuket Town

Phuket Old Town

Old town of Phuket. Photos: Achadtaya Chuenniran

Phuket town is the capital of the island, where you will find many restaurants, shops and attractions at lower prices than in the tourist areas.

There, no beach, just a nice little Thai town with its Chinese quarter, its shops, its pleasant atmosphere.

For culture lovers, budget accommodation and restaurants, to discover a more authentic Thailand than the touristy beaches.

Find a hotel in Phuket

You will have no trouble finding hotel accommodation, but if you come during major party or between November and February, the high season in Thailand, it is best to book in advance.

You can find the best hotel deals in Phuket with Booking.com

Things to see and do in Phuket

See also our article :
What to do in Phuket, the 10 activities not to be missed

Many activities

There are many activities to enjoy on the island:

Bungee jumping, go-karting, quad biking in the jungle, rock climbing, paramotoring, paragliding, tree climbing, AK47 shooting, horseback riding on the beach, golf and much more...

Impossible to get bored!

The vegetarian festival

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 8

Vegetarian Festival

This festival takes place every year in the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, usually in late September or early October.

Participants eat strictly vegan food for 10 days to purify themselves and take part in sacred parades and rituals in which they walk on fire and pierce different parts of their body with various objects!

See :
Vegetarian festival in Phuket and throughout Thailand

Gibbons Rehabilitation Centre

Gibbons Rehabilitation Centre

In Thailand, the wild Gibbon population has suffered terribly from poaching of babies, execution of mothers and domesticated Gibbons being abandoned or killed because they become aggressive as adults.

The Gibbons project in Khao Phra Thaeo National Park, near the Bang Phae waterfall, aims to save abandoned Gibbons by reintroducing them to a wild environment.

You can contribute to the success of this Rehabilitation Project by buying T-shirts or making donations.

You can also participate in the volunteer programme.

For more information see our article :
Refuse to have your picture taken with a baby Gibbon in your arms

Transport in Phuket

The island has an international airport and a bridge that connects it to the rest of the country, so given the success of the region with tourists, there is no shortage of ways to get there!

To get an idea of prices or to book a ticket, see 12go.asia :

Powered by 12GB system

Joining or leaving the island

By air

The international airport is located 30 km north of Phuket-town.

You can compare prices for long-haul flights to Phuket at Skyscanner.

A flight from Bangkok to Phuket takes less than 1.5 hours and costs 600-4,000 baht (600 baht with low-cost airlines in low season).

By bus

The journey from Bangkok to Phuket by bus takes about 14 hours.

From Bangkok, buses to the island leave from the Sai Tai Taling Chan bus station (Southern Bus Terminal).

You can also find Bangkok-Phuket buses at the Mo Chit bus station (Northern Bus Terminal).

Most buses to the island will drop you off at the Phuket-town bus station, from where you can find buses or taxis to the various beaches on the island.

By train

From Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok, you will need to take a train to Surathani, the southernmost station in the country, from where you can find buses to reach the island.

See also : Transport in Thailand, getting around in the land of smiles.

Getting around Phuket

Motorbike taxis

Motorbike taxiThis is a quick and cheap way to get around the island, if you have a large backpack you can ask the driver to take it between his legs.

The song taew

Song TaewSong taew or song téou means two benches (song = two; taew = bench), these are converted pick-ups. An economical way to travel between the different places on the island

Taxis and tuk tuks

Taxis are no longer allowed to pick up customers outside the airport, the tuk tuk mafia controls the market.

Tuk tuks do not have a good reputation on the island, inflated prices, scams, they are the subject of many complaints.

Unfortunately, after 5pm, they are often the only alternative for getting around in the tourist areas.

Renting a car or motorbike

It is important to check the condition of the car or motorbike before renting, and if there are already scratches, you can take pictures of them to avoid any scams.

A one-day car rental costs between 1000 and 2000 baht.

Scooters can be rented by the day for 150 baht in low season and up to 400 baht in high season.

Be careful on the roads, there are many motorbike accidents, especially on Phuket, see : Car or motorbike rental in Thailand

The history of the island

The island was known to Europeans as early as the 16th and 19th centuries under the name of Djonkseylon, its Siamese name was Koh Thalang (Thalang Island).

The island, known for its richness in tin, attracted the covetousness of foreigners.

In 1685, the French succeeded in obtaining a monopoly on tin, but in 1688 they were forced to leave Siam.

In 1785, the navigator Sir Francis Light passed by the island and warned the local administration that the Burmese army was preparing an attack.

Kunying Jan, the wife of the recently deceased governor of the island, and her sister Mook decide to react and gather all the forces on the island.

The two sisters and their armies bravely resisted the Burmese, who after a month-long siege were forced to retreat on 13 March 1785.

Since then, the two women have become local heroes, receiving the honorary names of Thao Thep Kasatri and Thao Sri Sunthon from King Rama I.

In the 1820s, the exploitation of the precious tin was finally entrusted to Chinese traders.

During the reign of the King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)The island is the administrative centre of tin production.

In 1933, the island became a province.

On December 26, 2004, the west coast of the island was hit by a terrible Tsunami caused by an earthquake in Indonesia, in memory of this tragedy, a memorial was built on the beach of Patong.


Symbol of Phuket

Symbol of Phuket

The provincial seal shows the two heroines of the province, Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthon.

The provincial tree is the Burmese rosewood (Pterocarpus indicus), and its flower the pepper flower (Bougainvillea sp.).

Photos of Phuket

Wat Chalong in Phuket
Wat Chalong
Phuket town, motorbike
Phuket-town, the town
Phuket town seen from above
City from above
Phuket town in the evening
City in the evening
Siam city bank of Phuket
Siam city bank
Patak Road in Phuket
Patak Road
Robinson of Phuket
The Robinson of Phuket-town (shopping centre)
Rawai Beach in Phuket
Rawai Beach
Karon Beach in Phuket
Karon Beach
Beach in Phuket
Sunset over Phuket
West coast of Phuket island
West coast of the island
bungalows of Sala Thai Hotel
bungalows of Sala Thai Hotel
Giant Buddha on the heights of Phuket
Giant Buddha on the heights
Phuket Airport


Presentation of the many attractions and things to do on the island:


Simple map of the island

Map of Phuket

Google map

Source: www.wikipedia.org/; http://wikitravel.org/ Photos : Pirogue in Phuket : Geotravellers ; Kamala Beach : Gossipguy, West coast of the island : Oberpepe ; Vegetarian Festival : Joseph Ferris III ; Laem Promthep : edwin ; Patong beach : jbremer57

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