Phuket: Backpacker’s Guide

Pronounced PU-GET or PU-KET and not “fuck it” contrary to popular belief, so ya’ll can grow up now. lol.

Welcome to (in my opinion) the heart of Thailand tourism! There’s so much going on, so much to do, and you can get a little bit of everything here in my opinion.

It’s known for Patong Beach and the infamous Bangla Rd. where all the action happens. Bars and restaurants STACKED like a strip mall. It’s madness and a lot of fun. Definitely recommend going out on the town here.

PING PONG SHOW WARNING:

Lots of PING PONG SHOWS. These are not ping pong matches sweetheart; bless your heart. These are pretty much strippers doing strip teases and other very very odd acts that you will never see in America or even Europe. To be honest, it was interesting lol. Go if you’re curious, but go drunk. They will find you along the road and claim it’s a “free” ping pong show.

It’s not.

They will bring you in, sit you down, and then take your order for drinks and they’ll hike up the prices insanely. They wanted to charge me 900 baht (AKA $29 USD!!!!) for a beer. I asked to see the menu prior to sitting down, but she didn’t want to give it to me because she knew I wouldn’t be okay with the prices on it. She wanted me to just ask for a beer and see the wallet damage later. SNEAKY!!!!

PRO TIP: When you get in, do not sit down prior to negotiating your drink prices. 300 baht for a beer is fair, plus you get the show.

How to Get Around:

It’s kind of scammy here with rides; they overcharge like crazy and will take advantage of Westerners. I would download the Grab app. It gives good prices and is like the uber of Thailand. I used this app and I met IDY! He is amazing, so nice and filled with recommendations. I ended up using him the entire time I was in Phuket. Took me to the airport, to and from the ferry port, and everywhere else I needed to go. He gave me permission to give out his number.

I highly recommend using him and tell him Haley *that American girl* gave you his number and he’ll give you the best rates and take you anywhere you need to go! Text him before you land at Phuket airport and he’ll pick you up too…no it’s not sketch, grow up. lol.

Idy’s number: +66 84-848-3483

WHERE TO STAY:

There’s a few options on where you can stay. Make sure that when you are booking that you check the map to make sure you are not staying in Phuket town, but rather in one of the areas below. Phuket Old Town is not very nice and to be honest there’s not much to do. I’ve made that mistake before.

Patong Beach

Stay in Patong Beach if you are a backpacker and looking to meet other solo travelers, looking to party, or just looking to be in the center of it all. It is loud and lots to do. Markets, restaurants, bars, lady boys, ping pongs shows, beach, you name it. Just be aware it is dirty, but if you like to be in the action then this is where you should stay. It’s where almost all the backpacker’s stay. SO many options on accommodations here. A lot of hotels (not even hostels) that are really nice and you’ll pay like max $50/night.

If you’re looking for a hostel specifically then Lub d Phuket Patong  hostel, which is SO cute, clean, and trendy is the best one. It’s only $23 USD/person/night. Bearpacker Hostel here is a really good one as well. It’s close to the beach, clean, rooftop pool, cute and it’s $25/night per person. Although if you aren’t keen on a hostel then a nice hotel is going to be the same amount per person or cheaper if you’re traveling with a partner.

Amari Phuket here is a higher end beachfront hotel in Patong Beach. It is really nice, includes free shuttle to Kata Beach (definite bonus) and free breakfast for only $155/night.

You can also get massive 11,000 sq ft villas with expansive views and a private pool for ~$400/night. It all depends on what you are looking for.

If you have specific desires for Thailand (like a massive Villa for cheap) but don’t even know where to start your research to find these places visit the Itineraries page to contact me so I can do it for you.

So many options in this area for as little as $12/night depending on what you are looking for.

Kata Beach

I stayed here and really enjoyed it. It’s about 20 minute tuk-tuk from Patong Beach so if you want to go out on the town then you can, but you can also escape the madness. There’s still markets and restaurants and a big beach that’s a lot nicer than the one in Patong.

We stayed at Chanalai Romantica Resort. It was really nice! Nice location, big clean rooms, nice pool and pool bar. It’s more of a boutique hotel walking distance to the beach area. Not a party hotel by any means. It cost as little as $58 USD a night with breakfast included. Granted the breakfast wasn’t incredible, but it did the trick.

If you want to stay somewhere on the pricier and much higher end then stay at The Shore at Katathani. Sea view villas with a view of the Kata Noi beach, which is incredible. More of a honeymooners spot though.

Karon Beach

Karon beach is the final area that I would recommend staying in Phuket. Next time I go I will be staying in Karon because I think it’s the best part of Phuket to base yourself. It’s (once again) 20 min tuk-tuk from Patong Beach so you can reach the madness if you want it. It’s livelier than Kata Beach but not as crazy as Patong Beach, so I think it’s a good balance.

Mandarava Resort and Spa is only 10 minutes drive from Patong Beach and a nicer option if you are looking for *not a hostel*. It’s really nice hotel and amazing reviews. Only $79/night with breakfast included. Super cool pools and really nice rooms. A little quick math for ya; that’s $39.50/person if you’re traveling with a friend…for a really nice hotel…CHEAP.

If you are looking for a budget deal and you’re okay with a hostel then I’d look into FIN Hostel Phuket Kata Beach. Technically Kata Beach is in Karon Beach but it’s just a smaller “neighborhood” if you will. This hostel was just newly renovated and it’s really nice. Close to everything. Only $17/night for a private room…so $8.50/person/night if you are with a friend. If you want to stay in a 4 bedroom dorm it’s only $8/night. They have breakfast included options too.


On our one night staying in Phuket coming home from Phi Phi Islands we stayed at The Nchantra Pool Suite Phuket. Oh my God. $130/night for a 3 story, 2 bedroom, private pool, beachfront, MASSIVE VILLA with a rooftop. WITH BREAKFAST INCLUDED. Granted it is not in any one of these areas that I recommend staying; however, as a place to recover from Phi Phi Island nightlife right before jetting off somewhere else it was incredible.

Would I recommend basing myself from this hotel for my entire stay in Phuket? No because it’s pretty isolated and hard to get to the main areas. But would I recommend a 1 night thing before the airport? Absolutely.

Idy picked us up from the ferry port and took us here and then picked us up the next day to take us to the airport. Unbelievable. Genuinely…oh and it’s a private beach.

THINGS TO DO:

There’s so many things to do in Phuket. You could literally just walk around Bangla Rd all day and not get bored.

Get to the Beach

Head to the beaches to just flop and lounge all day. I wouldn’t go to Patong Beach just because it’s too crazy. The beaches in Karon or Kata are really nice. But if I needed to give you one beach rec. it would be Paradise Beach, next to Tri Trang. Probably my favorite. If you want a high-end beach with trendy *expensive* wine bars and restaurant options then head to Surin Beach.

Swim with Elephants

DO NOT BOOK AN ELEPHANT TREKKING TOUR OR ANY KIND OF ELEPHANT TOUR. They are mean to the elephants and it’s boring anyways.

You can do an elephant sanctuary if you want where you can bath the elephants but even still I don’t find this as fun…Go to Tri Trang beach to swim with all the elephants! This used to be free and was just a local with his pet elephants, but of course they’ve turned it into a business in recent years. I think it was $20 for an hour in the water with them, but honestly we were in the water for like 2 hours; they don’t really keep track especially if you make friends with the locals there. Afterwards you can grab a beer at the bar there that overlooks the entire ocean; amazing.

Cuddle with some Tigers

Tiger Kingdom is here as well. There are only 2: one in Phuket and one in Chiang Mai. They have several packages that you can purchase depending on what size of tiger, and how many you want to visit. I did all 5 of them (I think there were 5) for $99, but there’s much cheaper options too. I just figured why not do the damn thing and cuddle them all.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal preference to go. Some people may think they’re drugged and what not and they don’t want to go and visit. That’s fine then don’t visit, but don’t @ me for wanting to play with the baby tigers. They’re adorable and they love to play.

Go See a Muay Thai Fight

I know that this sounds weird, but these are insane. If you are traveling with a mans or you are a mans you must go. Even as a girl it’s still crazy. Little kids fighting and they’re amazing at what they do! Then the older age groups fight as well. You can make bets with locals and such; it’s a good time! The arena is like right in the center of the action so you can just go out to the bars after. It’s a good cultural experience in my opinion.

Treat Yourself Sweetie

In Thailand, or anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter, you can get pampered for less than your normal order at Chick-Fil-A. You can literally get manicures, pedicures, 62 different kinds of massages, facials, etc. You can even just pay someone to scratch your head and give you a scalp massage while you watch the sunset on the beach. It is SO. CHEAP. to do here, so go get pampered and take advantage of it because you’ll never find this shit in America…ever. You deserve it sweetie.

PRO TIP: I will say that before you go to a “spa” or whatever make sure you google the name of it or research the reviews on Google Maps. Some are bad quality and others are incredible. Words of wisdom: Read the reviews people.

Phang Nga Bay Day Trip

This was cool and I’d say it’s worth it to see because the scenery is so much different than what you get in Phuket. Emerald waters and crazy green rock formations…a lot like Ha Long Bay in Vietnam in my opinion.

I say that the BAY is cool.

James Bond Island (which most people want to see) is not.

It is in the same bay but much farther away from Phuket, and it’s a rock lol. Just a rock. This rock just happens to be a movie star, but it’s nothing different than the rest of the bay. I’d stay away from it because it’s so touristy and out of the way. Not worth it: tourist trap.

My recommendation if you are wanting to see the bay would be to do the Phang Nga Bay Sea Cave Tour from Phuket. They provide transfer, good information, free time, paddling through sea caves, make your own floating lantern thing that you get to set off at night (sounds cheesy but it was actually cool), see the sea plankton light up at night, and they even provide good food…lunch AND dinner… MAJOR KEY 😉

It’s a long day but if you want to see the bay, then this is the way to do it. This tour does not take you to James Bond Island, but like I said that doesn’t matter.

You’d think that rock in the background of this pic is James Bond Island, but it ain’t 😉 Trust me, the rock formations all look similar. You’re not missing much by skipping James Bond Island, promise.

The Big Buddha

This thing is massive, and I’d say it’s worth it to head up and see it. Mostly for the view. You can see the statue from the towns surrounding it; however, it sits on a very high peak so the view from the top is great.


From Phuket you should be heading to Phi Phi islands for a few nights. Sure you can do a day trip from Phuket, but you don’t really get to experience it that way. I say go and spend some time on the islands and enjoy it. Don’t jam it into your Phuket schedule as a one-day thing.

SNAPSHOT:

WHERE TO STAY:

TIME SPENT:

  • 3-4 nights minimum! 3 FULL days.

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE:

  • I’ll stay in Karon Beach next time

BARS:

  • Head out to Bangla Rd. EVERYTHING is right there. Bar hop, club hop, walk around. Do ya thing. Be safe and watch out for scams and pick pockets
  • SKA BAR: good for sunset, chill cocktails. Reggae vibes.

FOOD:

  • Literally street food. every. damn. day.
  • SKA BAR again. Cheap. Beach bar with good food and a great view. Also, a good lunch spot mid beach day.

MUST SEE:

  • Tri Trang Beach/Paradise Beach swimming with the elephants
  • Tiger Kingdom
  • Big Buddha
  • Muay Thai Fight
  • Bangla Rd (obviously)
  • Phang Nga Bay

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