Is Phuket Worth Visiting?

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Is Phukert worth visiting? There are undoubtedly better and more interesting parts of Thailand, but Phuket has its own airport and huge resort hotels, so is therefore popular in the mass-tourism market. For many it is a dream exotic holiday destination. In this Phuket blog we talk about what we enjoyed about Phuket, and what we didn’t. We list places to see, and places to avoid, the best day trips and hotels in and around Phuket.

Phuket beach photo
If your vacation in Phuket is all about resort hotels, beaches and watersports, we’re sure you won’t be disappointed! The best resort hotel on Phuket, is probably this one, we stayed there, it was very good.

Phuket lies to the south-west of mainland Thailand on the Andaman shore. It’s near other holiday hotspots such as Krabi and Ko Phi Phi, it’s famous for beaches and boat trips to see some beautiful island locations.

Sadly, Phuket is an island with a bad reputation and we found Patong to be best avoided at all costs because of high levels of nastiness. We enjoyed Phuket once we found its good parts and highlights. The markets, museums, and the Old Town of Phuket are well worth your time.

Phuket Museum photo
Phuket has a small, but interesting museum in the Old Town, you can discover more about Phuket’s history.

Chillva Market and the Old Town Night Market were particular favourites of ours in Phuket. We also found some of the best food in Phuket in and around the Old Town.

Phuket Old Town Noght Market Photos
Phuket Old Town becomes a walking street or night market after dark. Colourful Chinese shop houses line the streets here.

We can share our guide to Phuket for travellers like us, right here

Best Parts of Phuket

1. Phuket Old Town and Night Market

Night market Phuket old town
One of the nicest night markets or walking streets I’ve been to in Thailand. Phuket Old Town’s night market lacks the crowds of Chiang Mai and feels rather more up-market and sedate. The restored shop houses in this area are a delight.

Phuket Old Town is certainly worth visiting. It’s is a lovely part of the island with hisoric buildings, a good museum and night market. 

Stroll the quaint restored streets of Chinese shop houses, each painted in vivid pastels.  If you’ve seen this architecture before (it’s common in Malaysia and Singapore) it won’t be new to you, but this is interesting to see in Thailand.

You’ll find these older buildings centred around Krabi Rd., Thalang Rd. and Romnani Soi in Phuket Old Town. Take the chance to eat great food at good prices and maybe visit Phuket’s boutique coffee shops and ice-cream emporiums.

The night market in the Old Town is fairly sophisticated and makes a nice evening out. There is a cat café here too if that is your thing. A full post on Phuket Old Town is on its way.

Phuket Old Town Budget Accommodation

On this trip we used budget accommodation and a series of luxury resort hotels, to be able to fully test accommodation options on the island. Standards were pretty high accross the board and costs were moderate.

One of the most popular and most highly rated hostels in Phuket Old Town is The Neighbours Hostel. It’s in a charmingly decorated shophouse building and well located. It has private doubles and dorms for under $20 and under $10.

The  Rommanee Boutique Guest House has nice doubles and will let 2 younger kids stay free and is under $35, again, good reviews and popular.

Cassa Blanca Boutique Hotel Phuket has possibly the best rating among the 4 and 5 stars nearby. Around $50 – $70 for doubles and 2 very small kids stay free.

2. Phuket History and Museums

Good Things About Phuket. Museum Phuket Old Town School House Krabi Rd.
A Chinese schoolhouse turned museum, and well worth a visit. Phuket Old Town.

Phuket’s history is quite fascinating and its Chinese heritage and unique cultural mix is evident in many ways. On the whole, we thought that Phuket felt more like Malaysia than the north of Thailand because of its cultural blend.

Check out the Thai Hua Museum on Krabi Road, Phuket Old Town. This old schoolhouse is a magnificent and well-preserved Sino-Portuguese building and a good place to learn bout the arrival of Chinese workers in Phuket and their retained culture.

We’ve seen Chinese shophouses in many places around the world but this is the place to learn more about them.

Try also, the  Kathu Phuket Mining Museum to learn how tin changed the face of this island.

3. Good Food in Phuket

What we loved about Phuket Old Town restaurant Kopitiam
Kopitiam by Wilai in Phuket Old Town is a great place to eat. Good food, OK prices. Try their grilled tofu with tamarind sauce and their amazing collection of alcohol-free drinks.

If you know where to look there is great food on Phuket, but there are also some culinary disasters. Look for street stalls and small pavement cafés that are busy with locals, that’s always a good sign.

Tourist restaurants, even if they claim to be Trip Advisor recommended, can be really bad and terribly over-priced. The hotel food we tried on Phuket was universally good, or you could try eating in the locals’ markets. Two restaurants we can personally recommend are:

4. Phuket Markets

Phuket things to do. Chillva Market
Modern Chillva market, fantastic food and a great evening out with bars and live music. You’ll see hardly any tourists.

Chillva Market and the Old Town Walking Street market were our favourites. Chillva is impressively modern with a stunning array of hygienically produced, delicious food.

It also has bars and live music to while the evening away.  The Old Town weekend market on Talang Rd is also a great place to hang out. You’ll find musicians performing here but the main focus is tourist souvenirs and some street food.

Market Opening Times

Please double check this for yourself, I can’t keep up to date with every change, guide only.

  • Chillva Market Opening Times, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday Saturday, 5pm to 11pm.
  • Phuket Weekend Market, Saturday and Sunday 4pm to 9pm
  • Phuket Old Town Sunday Walking Street, Sunday 4pm to 10 pm
  • Phuket Indy Market, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 4pm to 10pm

5. Best Day Trips in Phuket

Things to do Phuket Phang Nga Bay day trip
Touring Phang Nga Bay and James Bond island from your Phuket base is a must-do. There is a cheaper way to do it, we’ll publish that post soon.

There are several big-budget, big-draw, day trips to be taken by boat from Phuket. Don’t miss Ko Phi Phi, Monkey Island, and some amazing snorkelling opportunities.

Also to the north, towards Krabi you can visit James Bond Island and Phang Nga Bay. These tours carry hefty price tags, search locally for the best deal.

We chartered our own boat for Phang Nga Bay and saved hundreds of dollars, but for this, you really need your own hire car.

6. Phuket’s Best Scenery, Natural Reserves and Clean Beaches.

Things to do Phuket karon beach phuket
The view of Karon Beach from Phuket’s Big Buddha.

We were universally impressed by clean water and sand around Phuket. Water quality seemed far better than Ko Samui. Jet skis, powerboats and parascending can make swimming hazardous.

Unfortunately, the beach cafés, restaurants and bars around the island had recently been demolished or were being demolished. There are now few places to sit and enjoy the beaches, other than on the actual beach. It’s a shame.

There are many beaches around Phuket’s coast, mostly concentrated on the west side. You should find one to suit you. Our family enjoyed swimming at quiet Laguna beach, this is where the Ironman was held, but it was not free from jet skis and speed boats, often ploughing straight through the designated swimming area.

Our feeling is that Phuket and the busy Thai islands are possibly better enjoyed from a hotel pool although I’m sure there must be quiet beach spots that we didn’t discover.

There are some lovely view points around the island that you can discover by car or by scooter, for the very brave.

7. Phuket’s Best Hotels

What we loved about Phuket Good hotels Novotel Karon Beach
We were impressed by the hotel quality on Phuket. These family resort hotels were superb, but there are hostels and small guest houses too, in some parts. This is Destination Resort Phuket Karon Beach.

We were very impressed by hotels on Phuket. We stayed at two resort hotels, both owned by Novotel, as guests of the company

Destination Resort Phuket Karon Beach was the flagship resort of the company and an absolutely superb Phuket hotel for families. The above link takes you to Agoda, where you can check rooms and prices. We always recommend Agoda for booking in Asia, we use them, and they’re good, or you can go to here

The resort hotels we tried offered accommodation, entertainment, and dining of an excellent standard. We would recommend them highly, particularly for family vacations or maybe to take a “break” from long-term backpacking or travel.

Both experiences were rather like being on a good cruise ship, the customer never needs to leave the resort. You can see our full review posts on these hotels below:

8. The Big Buddha, Phuket

Things to like about Phuket. The Big Buddha
At the top of the hill you’ll find Phuket’s Big Buddha or Giant Buddha, but also this nice little grove of trees and a few inquisitive monkeys.

Phuket’s giant white Buddha, known as “The Big Buddha” sits majestically on top of a hill overlooking the sea and shore. The views are spectacular and it’s an interesting place to visit.

The site is still being built through public donation and is a mammoth undertaking. In all my years in Thailand, I’ve never seen monks praying and chanting in a building site before.

There are monkeys to be seen up there and a nice little grove of trees housing sacred Buddha footprints.

9. Phuket Hosts Ironman Events

Phuket Ironman 70.3 Thailand Half Ironman 2016
It was a tough event, mainly due to the heat, but Phuket’s half Ironman was certainly a highlight of our international Ironman travels this year.

This was what brought us to the island, The Phuket Ironman 70.3 event is a tough competition, well worth entering. You can read more about this half Ironman event and my husband’s experience of the race, here.

Hiring a Car in Phuket

This is what we did and we found it super useful, Phuket taxi drivers love to charge the Earth so having your own rental vehicle is very handy for getting around Phuket’s beaches and sightseeing. See this post on hiring a car in Thailand or get a fast quote here.

Parking and heavy traffic may cause you issues in some parts of Phuket, but on the whole, we thought renting a car was a good idea and helped us to see more.

That’s our round-up on Phuket, things to do, things we loved and a few highlights. There are plenty of things to avoid on Phuket, certainly, like the endless animal attractions, we saw baby elephants wherever we went and it was hard to avoid. But don’t rule Phuket out because of the bad things you’ve heard. It’s an interesting place to explore and Phuket Old Town will certainly capture the heart of most travellers. Prices don’t have to be high, we paid the same for our first guest house on Phuket as we did in Chiang Mai (around $25/night) and food costs can be kept just above normal Thailand rates if you go to the right places. Detailed posts on most of the above are coming soon. We hired a car on Phuket, it’s cheap and to really explore the island, it’s essential. (read more on car hire in Thailand here). Back to our main Thailand Travel Page.

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

4 thoughts on “Is Phuket Worth Visiting?”

  1. wow nice information, indeed its a great for phuket traveler You might also be interested in a best food delivery service provider with 24/7 delivery service with all over phuket. download app or order online

  2. Thanks for all the insights! We are thinking of going to Krabi. Did you ever post about your time in there? Would love to hear about it


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