Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. It pulls people in with its tropical climate, white sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife. Whether you're after a tranquil and luxurious island getaway, a budget break filled with nights partying on Patong Beach or even an eco-adventure in the rainforest, there are areas of Phuket to suit your holiday style and your wallet. If you're on a shoestring budget, you won't be hard-pressed to find cheap Phuket hotels.
As Phuket has a tropical monsoon climate, temperatures remain pretty hot year-round, but during the dry season between November and March, consistently sunny weather, cool breezes and low humidity draw the most visitors. The rainy season is from June to October when it'll be hot, wet and humid, and hotel and flight prices can be lower during this time. You can still enjoy sunshine during these periods but bring an umbrella for those heavy showers.
Although there are direct flights to Thailand from Gatwick, there are no direct flights from anywhere else, so it's likely you'll need to take an indirect service. Airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Thai Airways offer indirect flights to Phuket from most major airports in the UK including Manchester, Edinburgh and London, with stopovers often in Doha, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.
If you're planning to travel around Thailand, it might work out more cost-effective to fly into Bangkok, then take a low-cost flight to Phuket. You can fly direct from Heathrow to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport which takes around 12 hours. Note that most short-haul flights within Asia depart from Bangkok's second airport, Don Mueang International Airport. As with most holidays, it's best to start searching as early as you can for a Phuket flight deal in order to get the best price.
Phuket International Airport is in the north of the island, just under 20 miles from the centre of Phuket Town, and offers plenty of options for getting from the airport to your hotel. Shared minibuses, which are air-conditioned and surprisingly comfy, regularly depart from the airport and will take you straight to Patong. If you opt for a taxi, it's a good idea to agree on a price before setting off, or make sure the meter is running so you get a fair deal. Airport buses will be the cheapest option and will take you as far as Phuket Town, after which you can get a connecting bus to the beach resorts.
Sticking to your beach resort while on your Phuket holiday is cool if you're after total rest and relaxation, but if you're keen to check out all that the island has to offer, you'll want to check out car hire in Phuket. It's inexpensive and widely available with a range of international car hire companies operating from the airport as well as local alternatives dotted around the island.
There's every kind of accommodation in Phuket from low-cost dorms to five-star luxury resorts, so there's something to suit those on a modest budget, those who want to splash the cash and everyone in between. Public transport is available from the larger beach resorts as well as from towns such as Phuket and Palong. However you're getting around, remember that the roads in Phuket are crowded and fast-moving, with motorbikes, scooters and pedestrians popping up as if from nowhere, so stay on your toes!
Beaches: Phuket is popular with the gap year and backpacking crowd and some beaches such as Patong Beach are very lively, but there are also plenty of quieter beauty spots. If you're looking to escape the tourist hot-spots, Kamala and Nai Thon beaches are much less crowded. Most of the larger beach resorts are in the south of the island where you'll find no end of restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine, as well as companies specialising in snorkelling and diving tours. Prices can vary dramatically, so don't hesitate to shop around.
Phuket Town: The biggest city on the island is busy and bustling and offers an intriguing mixture of old and new sights. In the Old Town the winding streets are lined with houses in the Sino Portuguese style, revealing a glimpse of Phuket's illustrious past, as well as an abundance of restaurants, shops and art galleries. While the nightlife is far from the hardcore experience of Patong, it's corny, quirky and has a distinctive Asian flavour. Attractions such as the Aphrodite Cabaret show and the Lost Legends of Phuket show don't take themselves too seriously, and neither should you.
Chalong: Home of the Boat Lagoon, Chalong's location on the muddy east coast shoreline makes it an undesirable spot for swimming but great for taking boat trips around the bay. From Chalong you can explore the busy island of Phi Phi, or Racha Island and Coral Island which are just on the doorstep of Chalong Bay. Similan Island boasts incredible scenery but note that it's only accessible at certain times of year. There are several must-see monuments in Chalong; the walls of the Wat Chalong temple are adorned with murals depicting Buddha's life, and the 45 metre-high Big Buddha statue sits atop one of the highest points on the island and can be seen from most places in south Phuket.
Phang Nga Bay: Cruising around this bay on a Chinese junk makes for an unforgettable experience. It's a collection of beautiful limestone mountains with plenty of sea caves and virtually deserted beaches, not a million miles (figuratively) from Vietnam's Ha Long Bay. Some notable landmarks are James Bond Island, where Roger Moore filmed The Man with the Golden Gun, and Wat Suwan Khuha, where you'll find a huge golden Buddha reclining inside a cave.
The bright colours of Kao Rang Temple
Koh Khai Nok Beach and its crystal-clear waters
Street food at Phuket Market
Take a ride on long-tailed boats at Ruea Hang Yao
The Big Bhudda is one of the island's top attractions
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