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Flights to Phuket

The cheapest flights from Johannesburg to Phuket, or Cape Town to Phuket, include at least one short layover, often in the UAE, Hong Kong or Singapore. Big international carriers, from Qatar Airlines and Etihad, to Emirates and Cathay Pacific fly into Phuket International Airport (HKT), which has three terminals. Thai Airways, the national carrier, and several low-cost carriers, such as Lion Air, serve this airport too.

 

Accommodations in Phuket

From five-star, romantic villas such as the Andara Resort Villas in Kamala or the Banyan Tree Phuket, to low-budget backpackers, Phuket is geared for the millions of visitors that it receives each year. Patong is one of the most popular tourist areas, so avoid staying here if you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing holiday. Karon is not quite as busy, but still has a nice selection of small shops and markets, plus little restaurants and cafes. Honeymooners would do well to stay in Rawai, which is a serene and relaxing beach area. Kata Beach is good for families, as is Kamala (home to FantaSea). Another less crowded area is Nai Yang, which is close to the airport. Bangtao Beach is also a bit more off the beaten track, with various luxury hotels lined up along Surin Beach’s ‘Millionaires Row’.

 

Attractions in Phuket

Phuket’s beaches are one of its major drawcards – and with good reason! There are over 30 beaches to explore, from long stretches of busy shoreline to secluded little coves. Along the west coast, you can catch beautiful sunsets, soft white sand and clear turquoise seas. Phuket is also an excellent base from which to explore some of Thailand’s other islands and beaches. Take a day trip to the renowned Phang Nga Bay to see the incredible limestone cliffs and rock formations, as well as Koh Tapu – known as James Bond island after being featured in a Bond movie. While Maya Bay (made famous in The Beach) has been closed to allow the fragile ecosystem to recover from destructive overtourism, it’s still possible to visit Phi Phi island and enjoy this tropical paradise. For panoramic views of Phuket, take a drive up to the giant Buddha statue that sits atop the Nakkerd Hills, overlooking Chalong, Kata and Rawai. Covered in white marble, the enormous Buddha stands 45m high. The extravagant FantaSea is the biggest show on the island, set in an enchanting complex with a theme park that has carnival-like games, a Palace of the Elephants and places to eat. Expect trapeze artists, a massive cast, animals and a storyline that intertwines tradition and fantasy.

 

Transportation in Phuket

Adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck, songthaews are common in Phuket and are the cheapest mode of transport between the town and beaches. There are also conventional bus services and motorbike taxis. Phuket’s Bus Station 2 BKS Terminal is the arrivals point for buses to and from Bangkok and other major Thai cities and provinces. The station links with transportation by tuk-tuk, metered taxi, motorcycle taxi, songthaew, or local bus to Phuket’s beaches and resorts. You’ll find plenty of motorbike taxis in the main town and at Patong Beach, while traditional tuk-tuks have largely been replaced by the ubiquitous small, brightly coloured vans. Car taxis are quite expensive and charge flat rates between towns, and locals often recommend the ride-share company, Grab. In 2020, bidding to build a 60km tram network in Phuket will begin. The project is set to be completed in three years and phase one will connect Phuket International Airport with Chalong (about 40km). Daily ferry boats connect Phuket to the neighbouring islands of Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.

 

Shopping in Phuket

With several floors of Western high-street stores (think Zara and H&M), plus heaps of eateries and a cinema, Central Festival is ideal for rainy days when you’d rather be indoors. There’s also the Jungceylon shopping complex which hosts two main stores: Robinsons and Big C, along with 200 other outlets, a cinema, bowling alley and food. Banana Walk is a new, stylish shopping centre across from Patong Beach where you’ll find lifestyle brands, a wine shop, food outlets, jewelry stores – you name it. If you’re looking for the best markets, Phuket Walking Street is a weekend market stretching half a kilometre along Thalang Road, with Thai handicrafts and cuisine, alongside Chinese, Indian and other stalls. The original Phuket Weekend Market (or Naka Market) on the outskirts of town has always been popular, selling second-hand goods and everything from cane handbags and trinkets to live animals! Karon Bazaar (a 10-minute walk from Karon Beach) and the OTOP Market (Rat-U-Thit Road) are other options for discovering the traditions and handicrafts of Thailand.

 

Our expert preferred spot in Phuket

When you’re ready for a break from the beaches, Old Town Phuket is a delightful mix of colonial and Chinese architecture, making it a must-see attraction when visiting the island. As you wander the quaint streets, you’ll see colourful colonial-style mansions and townhouses, which house adorable little stores and places to eat, and Sino-Portuguese buildings from the early 1900s. There is the bustle of markets along the main streets during the day and there are bars and restaurants for those who wish to stay into the evening. We’d also recommend snorkeling at Ao Sane, Paradise Beach or Kata Noi. Ya Nui or Laem Ka are other good options.