One of the most popular tourist areas on Phuket is Patong Beach on the central western coast, perhaps owing to the easy access to its wide and long beach. Most of Phuket’s nightlife and its cheap shopping is located in Patong, and the area has become increasingly developed. Patong means “the forest filled with banana leaves” in Thai. Other popular beaches are located south of Patong. In a counterclockwise direction these include Karon Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, and around the southern tip of the island, Nai Harn Beach and Rawai. To the north of Patong are Kamala Beach, Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach. These areas are generally much less developed than Patong, and sought out by individuals, families and other groups with a preference for more relaxed and less crowded environs than Patong. There are many islands to the southeast, including Bon Island, just a short boat trip away. Suitable for snorkelling. There are several coral islands to the south of Phuket, the Similan Islands lie to the north west, and Phi Phi Islands to the south east. All the islands are suitable for diving.
Phuket has an international airport located in the north of the island. There are many scheduled flights and chartered flights from domestics and other countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America landing in Phuket.
Road network in Phuket can be divided into the following categories: highways, main streets, small roads and lanes. There is one major highway which links Phuket with the mainland and three other minor highways which link the major highways with the outer districts.
There is no rail-line to Phuket but the nearest train station is at nearby Surat Thani.
There are ferry services to and from Phuket with Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.
Songthaews (passenger pick-up vehicles) are a common mode of transport in both the rural and urban areas. Phuket’s songthaews however, are larger than those found in other areas of Thailand. They travel to and from the town to all the beaches.
Samlors (rickshaws) can be found in the provincial town as a means of transportation within the province.
Tuk-tuks are popular with both locals and tourists for short distances.
Phuket is easily accessible by air-conditioned bus from Bangkok and by non air-conditioned buses from all other northern provincial capitals. For travel within the province itself there are older non air-conditioned buses.
These are found in large numbers in the main town and at Patong Beach. The charges differ depending on the traveling distance.
Hat Patong (หาดป่าตอง) 15 kilometres from town, Patong is Phuket’s most developed beach which offers numerous leisure, sporting, shopping and recreational options along its 3-kilometre long crescent bay. Windsurfing, snorkelling, sailing, swimming and sunbathing number among the many popular daytime activities. Patong is equally well known for its vibrant nightlife, among which seafood restaurants feature prominently.
Laem Phromthep (แหลมพรหมเทพ) Phromthep Cape is a headland forming the extreme south end of Phuket. “Phrom” is Thai for the Hindu term, “Brahma,” signifying purity, and “Thep” means ‘God.’ Local villagers used to refer to the cape as “Laem Chao”, or the God’s Cape, and it was an easily recognizable landmark for the early seafarers traveling up the Malay Peninsula from the sub-continent.
Hat Kata (หาดกะตะ) Situated 20 kilometres from town, Kata has clear water flanked by hills, and picturesque Bu Island sits offshore. Kata retains a village feel at its northern and southern ends and is perhaps more family-oriented, its beach is much quieter than Patong. There is also its sister beach Kata Noi.
Hat Karon (หาดกะรน) The second largest of Phuket’s tourist beaches, some 20 kilometres from town. Large resort complexes line the road behind of the shoreline, but the long, broad beach itself has no development. The sand is very white, and squeaks audibly when walked upon. The southern point has a fine coral reef stretching toward Kata and Bu Island. There is also its sister beach Karon Noi.
View Point (จุดชมวิว) This is located mid-point between Nai Han and Kata beaches. The scenic Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches, and Ko Pu Island can be viewed from this point. This is popular known as the most beautiful of all Phuket’s views if not the best in Thailand.
Wat Chalong (วัดฉลองหรือวัดไชยธาราราม) This is where stands the cast statue of Luang Pho Cham, who helped the people of Phuket put down the Angyee, or Chinese Coolie Rebellion, in 1876 during the reign of Rama V. There are also statues of Luang Pho Chuang, and Luang Pho Cham, abbots of the temple during later times.
Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Conservation Development and Extension Centre (สถานีพัฒนาและส่งเสริมการอนุรักษ์สัตว์ป่าเขาพระแทว) Its duty is to promote, distribute and wildlife within Khao Phra Thaeo wildlife park. The park is full of virgin forest and also actively conserves a number of wild animals; they would otherwise be extinct in fast-growing Phuket. It is a center for study of the environment and the forest vegetation is spectacular. Giant trees supported by huge buttresses are thick with creepers and climbers of every description.
Ko Racha Yai or Raya Yai (เกาะราชาใหญ่) This is a small quite island which doesn’t get too many tourists. It has a small bay on the west is a boat anchorage. The waters at Raya Noi are green, and the fishing there is popular; visitors however, are not recommended to go swimming.
Phuket Fantasea: The very biggest of all Phuket’s extravaganzas, Fantasea brings Hollywood-sized, Las Vegas-style entertainment to the island. Remarkable acrobatics, dazzling light work, stunning set design and a host of animal action combine in a song and dance spectacular that brings to life tales of history and mythology that leave visitors in no doubt that Phuket was at least as, if not more, exciting way back then
Thao Thepkrasattri and Thao Sisunthon Fair (งานท้าวเทพกระษัตรี – ท้าวศรีสุนทร) is held on March 13 every year to commemorate the two great heroines who rallied the Thalang people to repel Burmese invaders.
Seafood Festival (เทศกาลอาหารทะเล), held around May yearly, is designed to publicise the delicious seafood of Phuket and attract visitors during the rainy season.
Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ) is held on the first day of the 9th lunar month (usually October). Phuket islanders of Chinese ancestry commit themselves to a 9-day vegetarian diet, a form of purification believed to help make the forthcoming year “trouble-free”. The festival is marked by several ascetic displays, including fire-walking and ascending sharp-bladed ladders.
Phuket King’s Cup Regatta (งานแข่งเรือใบชิงถ้วยพระราชทาน) is held in December. The Kata Beach Resort hosts international yachtsmen, largely from neighbouring countries who compete in the Kata Beach area for royal trophies.
Laguna Phuket Triathlon (ลากูน่าภูเก็ตไตรกีฬา) is held in each December. The triathlon (a 1,800 – metre swim, a 5.5 -kilometre bike race and a 12-kilometre run and a 6 –kilometre fun run) attracts many athletes from all over the world.
Phuket Travel Fair (เทศกาลเปิดฤดูการท่องเที่ยวจังหวัดภูเก็ต), starting from November 1, is usually called the Patong Carnival, from the place where celebrations occur. Colourful parades, sports events, and a beauty competition for foreign tourists are major activities.
Chao Le (Sea Gypsy) Boat Floating Festival (งานประเพณีลอยเรือชาวเล) falls during the middle of the sixth and eleventh lunar months yearly. The sea gypsy villages at Rawai and Sapam hold their ceremonies on the 13th; Ko Si-re celebrates on the 14th; and Laem La (east of the bridge on Phuket’s northern tip) on the 15th. Ceremonies, which centre around the setting adrift of small boats similar to the Thai festival of Loi Krathong, are held at night and their purpose is to drive away evil and bring good luck.