The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Phuket
Often referred to as the Pearl of the Andaman, Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. With an impressive coastline featuring long stretches of sandy beach strung together by dramatic rock formations. While this means that some parts of this large island can be busy, there is still a traditional and authentic side of Phuket to discover–plus it means there is always something to see and do.
Best Time to Visit Phuket
If you’re not a fan of crowds, avoid January and February. These are peak travel months for Phuket and much of the rest of Thailand. if you don’t mind sharing your beach with a throng of other people, it’s at least a great time to meet like-minded travelers. The rainy season in Phuket runs from April through to October. However, many Phuket regulars cite this as the best time to visit, as hotel and travel rates are low and the beaches are much less crowded. There is usually a downpour daily in the early evening at this time, but throughout much of the day, the weather is usually sunny and pleasant.
Getting To and From Phuket
Phuket has the huge advantage of having its own international airport. Direct flights are possible from many major airline hubs, while Air Asia offers low cost regular flights to Phuket from destinations such as Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Japan, and India. Phuket Town has a main bus terminal that sees buses arriving and departing from just about everywhere in Thailand throughout the day and night. Phuket can also be easily reached by boat from Krabi on the mainland, plus the surrounding islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi.
Islands Around Phuket
- Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island
A boat trip through the dramatic limestone karsts–jutting out of the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea–is the best way to fully appreciate Phang Nga Bay. James Bond Island and Koh Panyee are just two of the more famous spots in this bay, and it makes for a great day trip, particularly if stopping off at the quieter beaches along the way. The so-called James Bond Island was featured inThe Man with the Golden Gun.
- Similan and Surin
Heading northeast from Phuket will lead to the pristine islands of Similan and Surin, where divers are in their element amid clear waters and an array of marine life, including leopard sharks, octopus, and colourful exotic fish.
- Phi Phi
Perhaps the most famous of all the islands around Phuket, Koh Phi Phi in fact refers to two islands in this part of the Andaman Sea. Phi Phi Don is the main island where most visitors head to (mainly backpackers) for all night parties and days spent recovering on the pristine beach. Phi Phi Leh is the quieter southern island. This has no overnight accommodation and features a number of coves and caves, as well as Maya Beach–the famous setting for the film, The Beach.
Events and Festivals in Phuket
- Vegetarian Festival
Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held over a nine-day period, usually in October, and came about due to the Chinese community’s belief that a vegetarian diet during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar enables them to obtain good health and a sound mind.
Songkran takes place in April, which marks the beginning of the traditional Thai New Year, and Phuket is a great place to celebrate it as the whole island comes alive in celebration.
- Loi Krathong
Loi Krathong held in November, thousands of these small candles are sent to float gently out to sea so that waters around the whole of Thailand become awash with light. If staying in Phuket or another coastal area, it’s possible to see these for miles out to sea, with reports of sightings close to the Similan Islands.