Phuket, Thailand’s largest island nestles in the Andaman Sea. The island is an incredible blend of beautiful beaches, lush green hills, mangroves and rain forests. The tin-mining industry had been the major contributor to its economy since the 16th century. However, In recent years, the tourism industry and rubber production have developed as major industries which contribute to the economy.
Phuket is not just a stunning beach destination. It has great infrastructure, property development, upmarket hotels, and shopping malls.
The city is a favorite destination for medical tourism as it provides quality and affordable medical care, be it critical procedures or cosmetic surgeries. The cost of dental and cosmetic care combined with travel and accommodation is cheaper than in other countries. The aftercare provided is also excellent and helps for quick recuperation. Medical tourism agencies now offer attractive and competitive all ‘inclusive packages’ combining health and holidays. Phuket has two leading private hospitals and they are the Phuket International Hospital and the Bangkok Hospital Phuket. They both have advanced medical facilities and fluent English-speaking doctors and are highly recommended for Cosmetic Surgery, Lasik Laser Surgery, and dental procedures.
Popular Areas in Phuket
For an authentic Thai experience, you can take a walking tour of Phuket town and you will see the Sino-Portuguese houses, shop-houses, and mansions as the architecture show's the Chinese and Portuguese influence on the island since the 16th century.
For a complete holiday feel, you can visit the numerous small islands around Phuket and visit Phang Nga Bay as it is a mesmerizing site with limestone cliffs jutting out of the turquoise blue waters. You can also try sea canoeing, as many grottoes are accessible only by canoes. Phang Nga Bay is home to the now-famous James Bond Island with its iconic large leaning rock. Patong Beach is the most popular beach resort on the island and is always full of people as the town is bustling with activity as It has bars, discos and restaurants serving International cuisine.
With its Buddhist heritage, the island has many small Buddhist temples. The most magnificent of them is “Big Buddha”. The marble statue that sits on top of a hill is 150-feet tall and 85 feet wide and depicts Gautama in a sitting position.
You will not be short of things to do as Phuket has many more islands, museums, the Khao Phra National Park and the Tiger Kingdom to visit.
Weather and Climate in Phuket
Phuket has a tropical climate. It is mostly hot and humid throughout the year. The temperature remains high with an average of 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yet, there is some relief in the dry season from December to March. Temperature and humidity are relatively low and tolerable with a few showers during this period. The southwest monsoon brings the rainy season which is from May to October. The island receives an average rainfall of 87 inches, with peak rainfall in May and September-October.
Getting Around in Phuket
Phuket International Airport is located north of the island and there are many frequent flights to and from Bangkok and other regional airports like Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Seasonal flights operate from major cities in Europe and Australia, during peak tourist season.
Phuket International Airport has services from major International airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qantas, Etihad, Air China, and Edelweiss Air.
For domestic travel, Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, Orient Thai, and Thai Lion Air operate flights from the domestic terminal of the airport.
Once you land in Phuket, there are many transport options available to you and you can take the Municipal air-con airport bus to Phuket Town bus terminal 1 for 100 Bahts. There’s also the airport shuttle to Patong Beach for 120 Bahts. Phuket smart bus is another service that operates to various islands at a fixed rate of 170 Bahts. The other option is the Minibus services, which operate every time a flight arrives. They charge between 100-200 Bahts.
You can also hire metered taxis from outside the airport. The average fare starts from 400 Bahts with an extra surcharge of 100 Bahts. You can also reach Phuket from Bangkok by private cars. The Sarasin Bridge connects Phuket Island to the mainland.
To move around the island, you will need some mode of transport. Public and private bus services are available from the two bus terminals in Phuket. Long distance buses operate from the new terminal but these only connect Phuket Town to the beach towns.
Tuk-tuks and taxis are the most practical means of transport and Tuk-tuks or Songtaews are minivans and are bright red. They don’t even have meters. Hence, it’s advisable to fix the fare before taking the ride.
Metered taxis are better options and usually less expensive than tuk-tuks. However, during peak hours, drivers forgo the meters and charge flat rates. Use the taxi services that have a tie-up with your hotel for reliable rides and reasonable fares.
The other modes of transport are rental bikes, motorbike taxis, and longtail boats.
Tourist Visas in Phuket
International tourists traveling to Phuket and other parts of Thailand must have a passport which is valid for at least six months over and above their period of stay.
Thailand provides tourist visa exemption to the nationals of 48 countries, which include Australia, USA, Japan, and New Zealand. Under the exemption policy, they can stay in the country for not more than 30 days during each visit.
However, passport holders of 28 countries which include China, India, and Russia need to get a visa on arrival. You can get a tourist visa on arrival at the immigration checkpoints for a period not exceeding 15 days.
Thai is the official language of Phuket and is widely spoken on the island. However, you can manage with English in the main parts of the city and the tourist areas.
Thai Baht is the currency of exchange in Phuket. As of April 2019, one US dollar is worth about 31.79 baht. You can, of course, use debit and credit cards anywhere in Phuket.
Many of the major banks have their branches in Phuket Town and Patong. You can find ATMs in all shopping and tourist areas, and in Seven-Eleven stores. Almost all currency exchange booths also offer an ATM service.
Buddhism is the major religion in Phuket. However, you can find many Muslims too, who constitute about 20 percent of its population.
Thai people are very friendly and forgiving and understand that visitors are not very aware of their customs and culture.
The Royal family is held in the highest esteem. It’s a criminal offense to criticize them in public.
Thailand follows the lunar calendar. Hence, religious holidays fall on different dates every year. Some important holidays in 2019 are Makha Bucha (19th Feb), Songkran Festival (12-16th April), H.M. King’s Coronation (6th May), Visakha Bucha (20th May), Queen Sirikit’s Birthday (Mother’s Day 12thAugust), Commemoration of King Bhumibol (5th December) and Constitution Day (10th December).