Phuket 101: A Full Guide to Beaches, Nightlife and More

phuket-panoramaThailand’s biggest island, Phuket is also its most popular vacation destination. Home to some of the world’s best beaches, amazing beach clubs, wild nightlife and amazing food, Phuket has something to offer for every type of traveler.

Our guide to Phuket covers all of the island’s most popular beaches, as well as the best places to stay, things to do and areas to visit.

Phuket Beaches

Phuket’s most popular beaches can be found on the western side of the island. Most of the beaches are connected by a coastal road that stretches from Kamala and Surin all the way down south to Nai Harn and Rawai.

We’ve covered all of Phuket’s top beaches below:

Patong

Patong is Phuket’s busiest and most developed beach. It’s the island’s nightlife capital, with a mix of nightclubs, beer bars and go-go bars. This is where you can find Phuket’s infamous Bangla Road. Expect lots of crowds, plenty of touts and the most “touristy” feel of any beach on Phuket.

The beach at Patong is nice, but not world class. Still, there’s a great range of hotels here, from five star resorts to some of the island’s cheapest accommodation. If you’re planning on meeting someone new here, this is also where you’ll find most of Phuket’s guest friendly accommodation.

All in all, Patong is the best part of Phuket to stay in if you’re visiting for the nightlife and don’t mind a touristy, busy vibe.

Karon

Located just south of Patong, Karon is chilled out, peaceful and aimed primarily at families and couples. The beach is long and less developed than Patong, but still has its fair share of hotels and resorts. The vibe is calm and easygoing, aimed more at families than hardcore partygoers.

All in all, Karon is best for couples and families that want a long, sandy beach with a good mix of restaurants, cafes and other places to eat, but don’t want the loud nightlife or huge crowds of Patong.

Kata

Further south of Karon is Kata, one of Phuket’s most popular beaches. Another good option for couples and families, Kata is more developed than Karon but doesn’t have the same level of mass development as ultra-busy Patong.

Kata Beach is split into two areas. Kata Yai, the bigger of the two beaches, is a great place to swim and a decent surfing spot during low season. Kata Noi, the smaller beach, has a more upmarket feel and is home to several of Phuket’s most luxurious hotels, including the stunning Shore at Katathani resort.

Nai Harn

More popular with locals and expats than tourists, Nai Harn is Phuket’s southernmost beach. The level of development here is lower than on the other beaches and the vibe is much more local, with a variety of seafood restaurants and other dining options right by the water.

While the rough waves here mean Nai Harn isn’t ideal for swimming, it’s a great surf beach and a fun place to enjoy Phuket’s great weather. It’s also a good beach for avoiding the huge crowds on Patong, Karon and Kata if you’re visiting in high season.

Things To Do

Tired of going to the beach? Don’t worry. Phuket has a lot more to do than just spend time in the sun and on the sand. Some of the island’s most popular activities include:

  • Elephant Trekking with KokChang Safari Elephant Trekking, which lets you get up and close with elephants in a safe, humane environment.
  • Cable Wakeboarding and Waterskiing at Phuket Wake Park, Southern Thailand’s biggest cable ski park.
  • Experience a Thai Culture Show at Phuket FantaSea, Phuket’s most popular theme park and show, held in Kamala Beach.
  • Explore Underwater with a snorkeling and island tour by Offspray Leisure, which visits some of the most popular islands and snorkeling locations around Phuket.

Nightlife

Phuket is one of Thailand’s nightlife capitals, with some of the country’s best bars, nightclubs and other nightspots. While it isn’t as huge as Bangkok or as wild as Pattaya, Phuket’s nightlife scene is a major attraction for many visitors to the island.

Almost all of Phuket’s nightlife can be found in Patong, with the majority of bars and clubs around Soi Bangla. This is also where most of the island’s “naughy” nightlife can be found. If you’re planning on partying in Phuket, you’ll want to stay in Patong so that you’re close to the action.

You can also find nightlife in Karon, Kata, Nai Harn and Rawai, although it’s smaller and much quieter than the bustling nightlife of Patong.

Tired of Thailand? 5 Surprisingly Accessible Short Holiday Destinations From Bangkok

Need a break from Thailand? We hear you. As fun, exciting and interesting as Thailand can be, we all need to escape from time to time — whether for a visa run or simply for a change of pace.

Below, we’ve listed five Asian, Middle Eastern and Australasian destinations that are all within a night’s reach of Bangkok, making them perfect for 4-5 day breaks.

Hong Kong

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Flight Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Visit For: Food, Views and Shopping

Hong Kong is one of the world’s densest, most bustling cities, making it great for short breaks but far from ideal for living. If you’re looking for constant activity, great shopping (especially for electronics) and views of the world’s best skyline, two to three nights in Hong Kong makes for the perfect getaway from Bangkok.

Hotels in Hong Kong are a little on the pricey side compared to Thailand’s major cities, although sacrificing room size — which you’ll have to do anyway, thanks to the city’s incredible density — makes it easier to save on pricing. The best areas to stay in? If you’re visiting for shopping, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay are hard to beat, while Central is ideal if you’re aiming for the ultimate Hong Kong Island experience. Can’t work out where to start? Tommy Oi’s guide to things to do in Hong Kong is a great resource for planning your trip.

Dubai

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Flight Time: 6-7 hours
Visit For: Shopping, City Views and Overall Experience

Dubai is the most cosmopolitan city in the Middle East, and it’s also the easiest to get to from Thailand. Believe it or not, although Dubai can feel like the opposite side of the world from Southeast Asia, it’s only a 6-7 hour flight from Bangkok. That’s a quick nap and a movie, making it tolerable for 3-4 day trips.

The key attractions here? The food is great, as are the shisha cafes. Jumeirah Beach, with its perfect sand and world class shopping, is also worth a visit. While Dubai’s nightlife isn’t quite as crazy as Bangkok’s, the city does have its wild side (although you’ll want to make sure your hotel approves first). Overall, a great place to “escape” from Bangkok’s hustle and bustle for a few days and enjoy the sun.

Singapore

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Flight time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Visit For: Food and Shopping

The closest destination to Bangkok on our list, Singapore is also the cheapest and easiest to visit, with numerous flights available on budget airlines and a short and simple flight time. If you’re looking for a place to visit for the weekend, it doesn’t get much better.

Like Hong Kong, Singapore is dense and bustling. However, it has more of a relaxed vibe than its other Southeast Asian neighbors, with a “perfectly managed” feeling that makes it a great break from the noise and activity level of Thailand. Thanks to its low taxes, it’s also a great place to shop for clothes, electronics and other items that are taxed a little too heavily elsewhere in Southeast Asia. If you’re visiting for the first time, check out The Pinay Solo Backpacker’s guide, which covers everything there is to know about Singapore as a destination.

Tokyo

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Flight time: 5-6 hours
Visit For: Food, Atmosphere and Uniqueness

Tokyo is a city like no other. It’s dense and crowded, yet full of expansive parks that feel like they’re miles from civilization. It’s expensive and commercialized, yet full of friendly local restaurants offering incredible food at excellent prices. It’s modern and neon-lit, shot like a 1980s cyberpunk movie yet full of ancient history. In short, it’s an incredible city and the perfect 4-5 day destination.

Thanks to changes to Japanese visa requirements, it’s also an easy destination to visit with Thai friends (who now no longer require a visa to enter Japan for trips of 15 days or less). The best places to stay? Stick to the major stations on the JR Yamanote Line for the best experience and the easiest access to the city’s top attractions.

Sydney

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Flight time: 9 hours, 30 minutes
Visit For: Harbor Views, Nightlife and Sightseeing

The furthest destination on our list, Sydney is still within a night’s reach of Bangkok — just be sure to book an overnight flight and wear some comfortable clothes. One of the world’s most dynamic and interesting cities, it’s also as “different” as you can get from anything in Southeast Asia, offering a mix of Western architecture and a modern, multicultural vibe.

The food? Good, but not on Bangkok’s level (although the wine is excellent). The shopping? Also good, but beaten by Hong Kong and Singapore. However, for an all-round city experience, Sydney is tough to beach, provided you’re willing to tolerate the long, overnight flight there and back.

Like Hong Kong, Sydney is a little pricey when it comes to hotels. Wikitravel has a good guide to the affordable side of the city that includes a few choice affordable accommodation options. Be aware that Sydney is much more spread out than other cities on this list, making central accommodation worth the premium.

Nespresso in Thailand: Machine and Capsule Guide

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Nespresso, one of the world’s most popular capsule coffee systems, recently made its way to Thailand after years of being unavailable.

In this post, I want to give a quick rundown of the availability of Nespresso in Thailand, as well as the best shopping options for Nespresso machines and capsules.

Nespresso machines in Thailand

There are two ways to buy Nespresso machines in Thailand. Nespresso Thailand’s official website lists a variety of machines available to order online, although prices are somewhat inflated compared to what you’d pay in the United States.

For example, the Nespresso Pixie, which barely costs $100 in the USA, is priced at the equivalent of almost $300 in Thailand. Other machines are similarly expensive when purchased from the official Nespresso website.

At the moment, the cheapest Nespresso machine available in Thailand is the Inissia, which costs 6,500 baht.

Another way to buy Nespresso machines in Thailand is by using Lazada, which is Southeast Asia’s local Amazon/eBay copycat. There are several Nespresso compatible machines available from 2,000 baht, which is a fraction of the price you’d pay for the authentic model from the official Nespresso website.

Finally, Nespresso has a boutique in Siam Paragon that sells both the machines and capsules, although the prices are similar to what you’d pay on the official website.

Nespresso capsules in Thailand

Nespresso capsules are available from the official Nespresso website for 22 baht each, which is relatively similar to international pricing. This guide to the best Nespresso capsules is handy if you’re searching for information on which flavor to try first.

You can also buy Nespresso capsules from the Nespresso boutique in Siam Paragon for the same price as the official website.

At the moment, we haven’t seen Nespresso capsules for sale in any supermarkets. The larger Nescafe Dulce Gusto capsules are widely available, as are Dulce Gusto machines (almost always at far lower prices than their Nespresso counterparts).

The Best Weekend Breaks From Bangkok

Tired of the noise, bustle and pollution of Bangkok? While Thailand’s capital truly defines big city living, it’s quite close to several great beach destinations and upcountry retreats that make great weekend getaways.

Need to get out of the city? Pick from any of these four destinations, book a taxi and enjoy a peaceful or wild (depending on your choice) weekend away from Bangkok.

Hua Hin

Located three hours from Bangkok by road, Hua Hin is a family-oriented beach resort city that’s popular with Thais and tourists. The beach here is lined with upmarket hotels, such as the Hilton Hua Hin and Intercontinental.

Since Hua Hin is on the quieter side, it’s best for couples and families. Solo travelers might find the nightlife here a little dull, since options are limited and closing times are fairly early compared to elsewhere in Thailand. Further south, Pranburi is a great choice for couples.

Pattaya

Thailand’s party capital, Pattaya is two hours from Bangkok by car and by far the most popular beach resort close to the capital. This isn’t the place for a quiet getaway, but if you opt for Jomtien or Wongamat instead of central Pattaya, it’s possible to avoid most of the noise.

If you plan on going out and partying, make sure you pick a guest friendly hotel in Pattaya, as many brands forbid non-registered guests. If you’re traveling with your partner, pick a hotel around Wongamat Beach for a quieter experience with a nicer, more refined atmosphere.

Ayutthaya

Famous for its ancient temples, Ayutthaya was once the historical capital of Thailand. The entire city was destroyed by the approaching Burmese armies many hundreds of years ago, creating the archaeological park that covers large parts of the city today.

One of the most popular tourist destinations near Bangkok, Ayutthaya is better for day trips than weekend getaways. We recommend this one if you’re only able to get out of the city for a single night and don’t have time to travel further afield. Take the train for a fun, more local experience.

Kanchanaburi

Further north than Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi is one of the most relaxing upcountry tourism destinations within easy reach of Bangkok. Minibuses depart from Bangkok’s Victory Monument to Kanchanaburi frequently throughout the week and make the journey in about three hours.

Great attractions include the famous bridge over the River Kwai, Hellfire Pass and many other WWII-related sights. Some of Kanchanaburi’s most famous resorts are located along the side of the river, offering beautiful views and a relaxing atmosphere.