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Should You Travel to Phuket?

Phuket has a bad reputation. Travel snobs will tell you it sold out long ago, that it no longer holds any mystery or allure and that you’d be better off going to one of the lesser known islands in Thailand instead. It’s popular because it appeals to the masses. Think of anything you’d like to do on a tropical island and you can make it a reality, and that alone is enough of a reason to make masses of tourists travel to Phuket every year.

My first impressions weren’t great.  The taxi ride from the airport to Naiharn took over an hour, rolling past endless billboards, construction sites and low-rise urban sprawl; not really what comes to mind when you think of an exotic topical island. In reality it is just like any other built-up part of Thailand, except it happens to have some pretty spectacular coastal scenery.

Naiharn Beach

I can’t speak for the whole of Phuket, it’s a big place, but Naiharn has a lot going for it and is a nice place to spend a few days. The beach is better than I expected and isn’t too crowded. There are a lot of Russians there, and while Russian tourists often get a bad rap, I have never had any bad experiences with them, and their love of taking photos with tablets is more a curiosity than an annoyance.  Naiharn is the perfect place to rent a couple of chairs, order a few cocktails and drift between sleeping, swimming and watching unsuspecting people getting barrelled over by the sometimes sizeable waves.

If you travel to Phuket you should stay at Naiharn Beach, it's beautiful and quietA highlight when you travel to Phuket is seeing sunsets like this one at Naiharn

The Phang Nga Bay Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Phuket is take a boat trip. There are a few options available but whichever one you choose will probably be packed with other tourists. We chose to do the Phang Nga Bay tour and just as expected we were chucked on a boat with about 50 other people. The scenery was really nice (sort of a poor man’s Ha Long Bay, but way more expensive), which made it all worth it, but if you are allergic to tourists you should try and rent your own long tail boat. The tours are really expensive, this one set us back 1800 baht each, which normally I wouldn’t even think of paying. It’s terrible value when you can get 1 night on a boat with around 10 other people on Ha Long Bay for much cheaper, but everything is more expensive in Phuket.

Further reading: Crowded Island Hopping in Krabi, Thailand

Limestone islands on the Phang Nga Bay tour, a great thing to do if you travel to PhuketBoats in Phang Nga Bay, a highlight if you travel to PhuketJames Bond Island, a stop on the Phang Nga Bay tour, a great activity to do when you travel to Phuket

You don’t need to go to Patong

I often hear terrible things about Phuket but they are almost always from people who went to Patong or the popular beaches near it. I’ve heard Patong is trash-tourism central and no one should be surprised by what they find there anymore. There are so many options in Phuket that there really is no excuse for choosing one of the dodgy areas, unless you are there for dodgy reasons.

Should you travel to Phuket?

So, should you travel to Phuket? Yes and no. I’m sure there are better islands in Thailand, and even Cambodia, but Phuket is perfect for a weekend away. It’s easy to get to and there is plenty to do, or you can just relax at the beach. If you are on a longer trip then there probably isn’t much point spending too long in Phuket. It’s pretty expensive by Thai standards, and while the beaches are nice there are probably nicer ones on the islands nearby. Save yourself some money and head to them (and tell me what they are like, I haven’t been to any other islands in Thailand!)

What do you think of Phuket? Have you been there or to any other Thai islands? Let me know what you think.

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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5 Comments

  1. May 13, 2014 at 2:51 am — Reply

    We had a great time in Phuket, but there is a lot not to like too. The prostitution, drunk tourists, and lack of authentic Thai cuisine in the tourist areas got to me. It’s important to find a good area to stay, and to make sure you explore the island, because away from the tourist areas there is a lot to fall in love with. We stayed in Karon Beach, but next time I think I would stay in Rawai.

  2. August 18, 2015 at 12:14 am — Reply

    Stopping in Phuket on a Cruise Holiday in January 2015. Will definitely check out Naiharn Beach. Thanks for the info and all your other great posts on your blog!

    • Jon Algie
      August 20, 2015 at 4:31 am — Reply

      Sounds good Robert, it’s a great beach and not too crowded!

  3. February 11, 2016 at 9:57 am — Reply

    We were in Phuket for Christmas, stayed in Kamala and loved it. It is small village with a lovely beach and minimal dodgy businesses around. Drove to Naiharn in our hired car, the beach there was really beautiful and feels almost European for some reason. We also stopped by Patong on our drive back since I really wanted to see what Bangla street is like after reading about it, and boy oh boy! I must have visited different parts of Thailand more than a dozen times but this place still manage to give me a massive culture shock! I don’t think I have ever seen that must filth (no offence) in one place. Glad I saw it, but never again…probably.

    • Jon Algie
      February 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm — Reply

      We wanted to visit that area as well just to see what it was like but it was expensive to get there so we just relaxed at the beach!

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