A local's guide to Phuket, Thailand

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner for Thailand Thitaporn shares her local knowledge on Phuket, to help you steer clear of the tourist crowds
Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. Photo: Shutterstock
Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. Photo: Shutterstock

When should we plan our holiday to Phuket and why?

Phuket, known as ‘Pearl of the South’, is a large island in the Andaman Sea and the only one in Thailand that has both provincial status and a regional headquarters. It derived much of its former glory and its enormous wealth from tin production, which in Phuket dates back over 500 years and has provided the island with a rich and colourful history. The surrounding waters contain colourful marine life, and the town is notable for its old European style architecture, making it an attractive island for the sightseeing, with lovely seashore, limestone cliffs, forested hillsides and the local way of life.

Today, Phuket is better known as a tourist paradise, a most rewarding place for holidaymakers with its magnificent long white beaches, its crystal blue sea water, its fantastic undersea scenery and calm and relaxing tropical atmosphere.

The best periods to travel to Phuket are from November until mid-April where you'll have the best chances of sunshine, clear blue skies and lots of activities. From May until October, chances are you'll experience some rain showers. If you're looking to travel to Thailand at a particluar time of year, submit a trip request and we can discuss the best places to visit or things to do that match your available dates. 

Where would you recommend we stay in Phuket?

If you want to stay right in the centre of everything, then the beaches Patong, Karon and Kata will suit your needs. Particularly Patong offers more than enough restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment venues to keep you busy into the late hours.

Up-and-coming beaches such as Surin, Kamala and Mai Khao tend to attract travellers who seek a slightly more subdued beach destination; here you'll find various restaurants and small shopping outlets. These beaches attract more families and couples. who want to experience Thailand but on a quieter scale.

The east coast of Phuket is slowly being developed, particularly around the Siray Bay area, where you'll find true peace and quiet. For the more discerned traveller looking for the best of Phuket, the well-established Laguna Phuket is home to some of the best resorts in the country.

If you really feel that you need to be totally disconnected from the world, head off to some of the islands off the Phuket coast where stylish resorts have redefined the art of pure relaxation.

If you're looking to travel to Phuket and one of the above sounds perfect for you, get in touch and we can start creating your tailormade trip from scratch, with hotels and activities to suit your taste and budget. 

Where is a great place for dinner on Phuket?

Phuket has put itself on the map for its extraordinary selection of culinary venues for any budget. Being surrounded by water, it is a given that seafood runs supreme here and you’ll find a vast amount of beachside places to get your hands on some amazing, and fresh, seafood. Kan Eang @Pier Seafood is one of the leading seafood restaurants along Chalong, close to the southern harbour, and an amazing place to try out the entire, sometimes unique, menu they have.

For a more local feel and for those not afraid to try out Thai dishes with an occasional twist, Phuket Town is simply the place to be. Restaurants such as Raya Restaurant, Blue Elephant, Suay Restaurant and Kra Jok See have been on the forefront of changing the food scene on the island.

For visitors who want to overlook the sea while dining, we recommend Baba Pool Club / Soul Food (Sri Panwa), Baan Rim Pa (Patong), and the outstanding cuisine (with an impressive wine list too) at The Boathouse along Kata.

Beef massaman curry.Beef massaman curry. Photo: Shutterstock

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in Phuket?

The southern part of Thailand is not only known for seafood. With its proximity to Malaysia and Muslim influences dotted around the island, you'll find plenty of delicious food on offer. One thing you'll find everywhere around Thailand but has its roots here is Massaman Curry; there is no better place in the country to try this heavy curry dish.

For the whole of October, Phuket hosts a Vegetarian Festival. Outside the parades and somewhat weird processions going on, during a period of 10 days, vegetarian food is all that's on the menu; even the biggest meat lovers have praised the Thais for their outstanding mix of dishes and selection of food during this period. This festival is not only a pleasure to view and watch, but your tastebuds will get their portion of satisfaction!

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in Phuket too?

Phuket and its surrounding islands offer more than enough opportunities to see sun, sea and sand wherever you wish to go. Your evenings can be filled with spectacular shows and cabaret options before heading out to the bars and clubs to dance the night away. 

However, Phuket is lesser-known for its historical importance as a main trading and mining post. Sino-Portuguese influences and the impact Chinese settlers had on the island show the other side of the island. We highly recommend exploring Phuket Town and the smaller communities, away from the beaten paths, for an insight into this side of Phuket.

If caring for the environment is part of your holiday adventure, head to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre where an active team of volunteers works tirelessly to keep these native primates in the wild. The centre also is tightly connected to other animals in preserving them.

Portrait of White-handed gibbon.

Portrait of White-handed gibbon. Photo: Shutterstock

Where is the most romantic spot on Phuket?

With beaches aplenty facing the west, sunsets are pretty spectacular wherever you are. For the most stunning, head down to the Promthep Cape on the southwest of the island. This is one of the few landmarks on Phuket that adds a slightly more dramatic effect when you watch the sun sink below the horizon.

Where can we hang out with locals?

The island has drawn tourists for decades and one can understand that the local communities tend not to hang around the popular beaches. However, there are still a few great spots where mingling with the locals is a possibility. Phuket Town tops the list as the hot spot to meet, eat and drink with the locals. Also lesser-known regions such as the Rawai and Chalong area (south Phuket), one will find still a more authentic Phuket atmosphere.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

Have you ever tried local Phuket rum? Chalong Rum is growing into one of Phuket's latest trademarks and, although still small in size, the popularity of visiting the local distillery and sampling the smoothness of Chalong rum is increasing.

If you're looking for day trips and activities, be mindful that the cheapest prices are not always the best excursions. Try to make sure that you compare apples with apples – there are many suppliers offering ‘the same’ but in the end, quality, insurance and what is included / excluded can make or break a day out on or around the island. We highly recommend to book your excursions with reputable travel agencies who are licensed, provide sufficient insurance coverage and really give you value for money. Alternatively, booking your trip with Insight Guides ensures your activities and day trips are organised for you with a reputable company before you travel. Browse suggested itineraries online now or submit a trip request today

Chalong Bay Distillery Take a tour of Chalong Bay Distillery and sample Phuket's latest speciality. Photo: Chalong Bay

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

Scattered around the island, cashew nut plantations form an important source of income for the local population. If you want to bring home something that is typically Phuket, buy a bag of cashew nuts (although, ensure that these bags are properly sealed and are approved to be taken into your country). 

The spa industry on Phuket is also growing and products available are expanding rapidly with new fragrant oils, soaps and herbs. Take a gift pack with you to bring back some of your relaxing moments on Phuket in your home.

Ready to take your trip to Phuket?

Browse suggested itineraries online now or submit a trip request for her today

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