Some information and history of phuket is provided to make sure your stay will be as plesent as possible, avoiding most of the comon tourist traps.
Although airlines now fly directly to Phuket from Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong without Bangkok as an intermediate stop, the majority of travellers to Phuket step off daily flights from the capital city, Bangkok.
The domestic branch of Thailands national carrier, Thai Airways (THAI), offers 13-16 daily flights to these southern destinations: 1-2 flights daily to Hat Yai, and faily flights to Narathiwat in the deep south near the Malaysian border.
THAI also flies to the Malaysian island of Kuala Lumpur daily; to Singapore daily; to Perth on Sunday, and to Frankfurt daily (although the plane stops in Bangkok first).
Dragon Air offers direct flights from Hong Kong, Air Lauda flies from Vienna, Silk Air flies daily from Singapore, Air Mandalay connects with Yangon, and Eva Air with Taipei.
Numerous charter airlines fly in package tourists from November to April only.
One of the quaintest flights to make is on Bangkok Airways for the 50-minute flight to Ko Samui from Phuket. These are once daily April - October and twice daily November - March.
Smaller luxury liners from around the world occasionally stop in Phuket. The SuperStar Gemini from Singapore docks at the island once a week.
When To Visit
Phuket enjoys essentially the same weather as Bangkok with hot summers (March - June) and mild winters (mid-November through mid-February). The best months are November through February, although during the monsoon season (May - October), the rain generally falls only in the late afternoon with clear weather the rest of the day and stunning sunsets.
Unless you are particulary fond of rain, avoid the month of September; Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year periods should also be avoided as hotels are packed. Either book well in advance or avoid visiting during this period.
The Phuket branch of the Immigration Division (Monday - Friday 08:30 - noon, 13:00 - 16:30, Tel 076 212108) can extend visas. The office is on the eastern end of Phuket Road in Saphan Hin, off on the right just before the sculpture of the tin dredge shovel. You must present yourself together with two passport-sized photographs and a photocopy of your passport. It normaly takes about 1 hour to complete the process.
Royal Thai Embassies or Consulates around the world can issue Tourist Visas good for 60 days at 300 baht. These can be extended in Phuket for an additional 30 days for a fee of 300 baht.
The same embassies can issue Transit Visas, valid for a 30-day stay for 200 baht. These can be extended for an additional 30 days for a fee of 200 baht.
Short-term 15-day Transit Visas are given at the airport on arrival for most nationalities. They can be renewed for an additional 7 days for a fee of 500 baht.
Should you wish to remain in Thailand beyond 90 days, you have to leave the country while waiting for your new visa to be processed. The most convenient cities to go to are Penang, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
If you wish to leave Thailand and return before the expiration of your visa, apply at the Phuket immigration office for a re-entry permit (500 baht) prior to your departure. An exit visa, however, is not required.
Although the threat from cholera, polio and typhoid is minimal and inoculations are no longer required for entry into Thailand, vaccinations are suggested. Smallpox is no longer a threat.
Malaria is confied to the jungle areas outside the island but the visitor may want to take a course of Maloprim or other anti-malaria prophylaxis before arriving and during the stay.
Certificates indicating recent inoculation agains yellow fever may be requested at immigration checkpoints from visitors arriving from infected areas of the world. Rabies is prevalent but the chances of getting bitten are small.
Clothing is casual; suits are virtually unknown. Think summertime no matter what season you arrive. Natural fibres and blends are preferable to synthetics as they breathe well in the moist air. Phukets vendors sell stylish beach outfits. The prices are so low that you can buy everything you need after your arrival. It may be economical to discard clothing before departing and save your luggage space for souvenirs. While you can rent a mask, fins and a snorkel, it may be more convenient to take your own.
The exceptions to the liberal clothing rule are Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques where a dress code is mandatory. There, shorts and sleveless blouses for both men and women are frowned upon. Shoes must be removed upon entering both temples and mosques, so sandals or slip-ons are handy. You need a sturdy pair of leather shoes or running shoes it you plan to motorcycle around the island.
While malaria is not a problem on Phuket, dengue fever is, especially during the monsoon season from May to October. Carrying a bottle of mosquito repellant for the evenings and mornings is a good ideal, as is wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants. The mosquito is most active at dawn and dusk.
A hat is essential as are sunglasses. Not a clothing item but something which will be welcome is a Walkman, pirated cds of the latest hits are very cheap.
Electricity is rated at 220 volts, 50 cycles. Generally, flat-pronged plugs are used.
Thailands principal currency unit, the baht, is divided into 100 satangs. Bank-notes come in denominations of 1,000 (grey), 500 (purple), 100 (red), 50 (blue), 20 (green) and 10 (brown).
There are 5 different coins, a large 10 baht coin (silver/bronze), a smaller 5 baht coin (silver), and a tiny 1 baht coin (silver), and two very tiny and small gold coins, 50 satang and 25 satang, only available as change is large super stores as Lotus and Big-C.
Since the July 1997 devaluation of the Thai baht, the currency has stabilized at around 40 to the US dollar. For daily rates, check the Bangkok Post or the Nation newspapers. Government rates are also posted at banks and exchange kiosks. There is no currency black market.
Exchange rates are more favourable for travellers cheques than for cash; hotels generally give poor rates. Change money at the small kiosks opertated by major banks. They are found at Patong, Kata, Karon beaches and Phuket town. Kiosks are normally open from 08:30 - 20:00. Banks are open 08:30 - 15:30.
Use your Visa and Mastercards to get cash advances up to your credit limit at the Bank of Ayutthaya, Thai Farmers Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Thai Military Bank. You can use the same cards for cash at ATM machines at all the above banks except the Bank of Ayutthaya. American Express card holders should obtain cash advances from Bankok Bank at 22 Phang-nga Road (Tel 076 211292/5).
Tipping is a new custom in Thailand, an ancent rite among people from the West who have invaded the island. It is not a widespread practice but is growing in popularity. A 10 percent service charge is added to the bill at expensive restaurants but a small gratuity will be appreciated.
In ordinary restaurants, tip no more than 10 percent. There is no tipping in noodle shops or for street vendors. Room boys should be tipped but will not be offended if they are not tipped. If a shop is open-fronted, in the market, or not air-conditioned, do not top.
The airport tax for passengers departing on international flights is 500 baht. The tax for passengers departing for destinations within Thailand is 30 baht.
The island of Phuket, surrounded by the Andaman Sea, is located 890km or a 70-minute flight south of Bankok on Thailands Western Coast. Measuring 49km long and 21km wide, and covering a total area of 587sq km, it is approximately the size of Singapore. Draped around it like a pearl necklace are an additional 70sq km of islands.
Resembling the serrated shape of one of the seashells for which it is famed, the eastern shore was once the bank of a flooded river. Like the islands in Phang-nga Bay, the coastline on this side comprises limestone shoals and virtually no sandy beaches. Much of the shoal area has been destroyed by offshore tin dredging.
By contrast, the western coastline is of granite rock which has been sculpted by the waves into a series of 16 coves carpeted in powdery white sand.
The island is suprisingly hilly with several peaks rising to 500m. Eleven percent of the interior area is forested, including some primary forest in the centre of the island. Phuket has a population of 250,000 people, 60,00 of whom live in Phuket town in the south central part of the island. The rest of the population is concentrated in towns of no more than 3,000 - 5,000 people and in villages or houses scattered in the rubber plantations and fields.
How Not to Offend
Thais regard the Royal Family with genuine reverence and react strongly to illconsidered remarks. They will not tolerate a refusal to stand for the Royal Anthem before the start of a movie.
Show similar respect towards Buddhist images, temples or monks. Thais take a dim view of men or women wearing shorts and sleveless dresses when visiting temples. Leave beachwear for the beach; dress properly even if the sun is threatening to bake you.
A monks vow of chastity prohibits him from touching a woman, even his mother. Women should stay clear of a monk to avoid accidentally touching him. Remove your shoes when entering a Buddhist temple or a Taoist shrine.
Similar respect should be shown towards Muslim religious sites. Foreigners are allowed into mosques but if a Muslim waves you away, just go. As a mark of respect, visitors should remove their shoes before entering a mosque and women should cover their heads with a shawl.
The Thai greeting and farewell is Sawasdee. It is said while raising the hands in a prayer-like gesture, the fingertips touching the nose and by slightly bowing the upper portion of the body. It is an easy greeting to master and will earn you smiles wherever you go.
Thais belive in personal cleanliness. Even the poorest among them bathe daily and are dressed neatly and cleanly. They belive that the head is the fount of wisdom and all parts of the body from head down are progressively unclean. It is, therefore, an insult to touch another person on the head, point ones feet at him, or step over him. Kicking is anger is worse than spitting on a Thai.
The annual monsoon begins earlier (May) than in northern Thailand but generally ends late in October. Other than the period from 15 September to 15 October, when the rain falls steadily, most monsoon days are rain-free except for showers in the afternoon.
The best months are November through February when daytime and nighttime temperatures are low. In the hot season, afternoon temperatures can rise to 30-34 C but are tempered by cool breezes and dip to tolerable levels at night. Temperatures range from a daytime high of 34 C in the hot season to a nighttime low of 21 C in the cool season. The water temperature never drops below 20 C.
Hot Season (March to mid-May), 27 - 34 C.
Rainy Season (mid-May to mid-November), 23-33 C.
Cool Season (November to February), 21 - 32 C
Phuket, like the rest of Thailand, is 7 hours ahead of GMT.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Thai goverments official tourism promotion organization, maintains an office at 73-75 Phuket Road in Phuket town (Tel 076 212213. 076 211036). It offers numerous brochures on accommodations, services and activities on the island.
Free travel magazines that provide up-to-date information on current events can be found at hotel reception desks. Visitors will find the following publications, which are locally available, very useful: Phuket Magazine and Phuket Gazette.
Airport to Town and Beaches
Located on the northern end of the island, the airport is a 30-km or 45 minute drive from Phuket town. As local bus services are infrequent, passengers must travel by one of the following means.
Many of the major hotels have their own limousines to ferry guests with reservations (you can make a reservation at the airport) to their premises. They charge up to 600 baht per car.
By mini-bus to Phuket town, 100 baht per person; to patong, 150 and Kata, Karon, 180 baht per person. By Taxi, to town, 400 baht; to Patong, 550 baht; to Kata, Karon, Rawai, Naiharn, Panwa 650 baht.
Taxis and motorcycle taxis are communal service and available everywhere. The fares are between 20 and 40 baht. Air-con microbuses run around town at a fare of 10 baht.
Town to Beaches
There are medium-sized buses services between the town and various beaches. Buses leave for the beaches at the market on Ranong Road at half-hour intervals from 6:00 untill 18:00. After that, you must hire a taxi (tuk tuk). The fare must be agreed before departure. Normally from town to Patong beach, the fare is around 210 baht, to Kata and Karon beaches, 270 baht.
Private cars, jeeps and motorbikes
Can be hired from a car-rent company for your convenience.
Tourism Authority Office
73-75 Phuket Road, Muang District, Phuket 83000.
Tel 076-212213, 076-211036
Tel 076-340477, Only at the following times, 10:00 - 12:00 and 13:00 - 15:00.
Tel 076-219878, 076-217547
Marine Police, Sea Rescue
Example of dialing to/inside phuket, we use number 076-340917 as sample:
When calling inside thailand/phuket, you dial the whole number (076340917) including the starting 0. And when calling from outside thailand use +66 76 340917.