Phuket Travel Tips
Thais working in the tourism business are used to dealing with foreigners – usually referred to as ‘farang’. This doesn’t mean that they like everything… read more
We have to include this one. Drugs are a major problem in Thailand, as in much of Asia, and the laws are strict. Police tactics in fighting the trade include blitzes on nightclubs; entrapment is not unknown. If caught in possession, you’ll spend some time in a cell awaiting a court hearing and deportation. If caught ‘dealing’ you’ll spend a very long time in a cell. The harshest penalties are reserved for those caught smuggling. Thai prisons are not pleasant places.
Most nationalities can obtain visa-free entry, valid for 30 days, on arrival at an International Airport; you’ll need a current passport and a return ticket. Longer-stay visas are available, for a fee, from Thai embassies and consulates around the world: specify what kind of visa you want: transit visa (valid 30 days); tourist visa (valid 60 days); non-immigrant visa (valid 90 days and hard to obtain). If you have a tourist visa you can, once in Thailand, apply for a 30 day extension. If you plan to leave Thailand temporarily during your stay, you must get a re-entry visa, available from the Immigration Department in Phuket City. These rules are subject to change so check current regulations prior to departure.
Customs are usually no trouble, unless you’re bringing in or taking out pornography, political propaganda, firearms, large amounts of cash (over $10,000), or illegal drugs. The allowances for the usual luxury goods – perfume, alcohol, tobacco and the like – vary, so check them before departure. Please note that you may be required to show that you’re bringing in a minimum amount of currency – the amount varies depending on your visa type.
As a tourist here for a couple of weeks or less, trying to use Thai can be frustrating… read more
Is Phuket safe?
Many tourists seem to leave common sense at home. Not surprising, really – after all, you’ve come on holiday to leave all the usual worries and cares behind for a while. Yet it makes no sense to forget normal caution just because you’re on holiday. Most of the people you’ll meet in Thailand have far less disposable income than you – in many cases their income is a fraction of yours. Thai women are far more conservative in their dress than western women – so to some Thai men, a scantily-clad woman means ‘fair game’.
The best overall safety advice is: if you wouldn’t do it at home, it’s probably best not to do it here.
Swimming in the sea around Phuket
Every year, particularly in the rainy season, people drown in the sea off Phuket’s west coast. Why? Because they ignore the red flags. A red flag means big surf, strong currents and rip tides. It really is quite simple: RED FLAG, DON’T SWIM!
If you go out on a boat trip, think before you dive into that seemingly tranquil water while the boat is at anchor. Tides here can be viciously strong, even in the calm waters of Phang Nga Bay, and you may not be able to swim back to the boat. If in doubt, ask the boat captain or the tour guide. Golden rule: Never, ever jump off a boat without clearing it first with whoever is in charge. At least that way they’ll be ready to go after you if you get into trouble.
Money in Thailand
The unit of currency is the Thai Baht. All major credit cards are widely accepted although you’ll often be told there’s a surcharge for use of your credit card. If you prefer travellers’ cheques, obtain them in Sterling, Euros or US dollars. Currency exchange is available at banks and currency exchange counters. The larger hotels change money, but generally give a poor rate of exchange.
Tipping in Phuket
The majority of major hotels include a service charge and local taxes, however a tip of 10-15 per cent for an appreciated service should be considered in restaurants. Tipping in bars is normal practice if you feel the service has been good, similarly tour and excursion guides will expect a tip. If you visit a spa or massage establishment, again give a tip for good service. Tipping tuk-tuk drivers and airport limousine drivers is not the norm.
Things to avoid in Phuket
As with any tourist destination, Phuket has its share dubious operators. Top of that particular league currently are the jet-ski operators. Most embassies strongly advise against hiring jet-skis as the reports of tourists being ripped off are numerous. We’re unable to offer advice on how to deal with any incident arising out of jet-ski hire.
Health in Phuket
All you need to do is exercise a few basic precautions and you should have no worries…read more
The supply is 220v AC 50Hz. Two- and/or three-pin plugs with either round or flat pins are used, so bring an international adaptor. Expect power outages from time to time in smaller resorts and more remote areas. Make the most of surviving by candlelight for an hour or so. When was the last time you had chance to do that?
Health in Phuket
All you need to do is exercise a few basic precautions and you should have no worries about your health in Phuket. No particular vaccinations or inoculations are officially required before you enter the country, unless you do so from an area where an infection is rife.
Check your route with your local consulate or embassy in case there are necessary inoculations. Ask to be protected against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, malaria and typhoid. Once in Thailand, don’t drink tap water.
Venereal diseases – notably AIDS – are prevalent so take care if engaging in casual liaisons. The official position on rabies is that there’s no rabies in Phuket. However, you’re advised, if bitten by any animal, to seek medical attention immediately. Even if you take anti-malarial tablets before travelling, it is still possible to contract malaria, so if you feel feverish when you return home contact your doctor immediately, mentioning where you’ve been in Thailand. One other significant mosquito–born disease is dengue fever. Dengue symptoms appear more quickly than malaria; if you experience flu–like symptoms while still on holiday, seek medical advice.
You’re more likely to be exposed to malaria or dengue in remoter areas; always take sensible precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Afternoon and evening are the heaviest mosquito hours.
The biggest source of hospital patients in Phuket has nothing to do with diseases. Motorcycle accidents keep both casualty departments and intensive care units busy. Think hard before you hire and drive a motorcycle.
Medical services in Phuket are generally of a high standard, with two international–standard hospitals and a range of public and semi–private hospitals and clinics. See useful telephone numbers for contact details. Although there are medical facilities in the surrounding areas, if you’re taken ill you’re advised to get yourself to a hospital in Phuket.
Not everyone who finds themselves in hospital in Phuket is a victim of accident or disease, though. Over recent years, hospitals here have been doing a roaring trade in breast implants, nose and chin jobs and even ’gender reassignment’ operations. It seems combining some surgery with a week or so relaxing in a tropical resort, while the more obvious and uncomfortable after-effects wear off, is becoming increasingly popular.
Thais working in the tourism business are used to dealing with foreigners – usually referred to as ‘farang’. This doesn’t mean that they like everything they see and hear. Politeness goes a long way – as does keeping your cool. Thailand’s a hot country and it’s a world away from the western way of thinking – things take time, so be patient. Never, ever get into an argument with locals. Walk away and count your losses later. Wounded pride is better than a stay in hospital…
Phuket society is a mixture of Buddhist and Muslim communities; in both cultures nudity or excessive ‘romantic’ behaviour are no-no’s, so don’t be tempted to sunbathe nude; for the girls, you’re advised not even to sunbathe topless, although there are some areas where this is tolerated – although illegal. Best advice is to be aware of what’s going on around you and follow suit. Sex on the beach is a delightful cocktail and a successful tune – but in Thailand the real thing will get you arrested if caught.
The head is the most revered part of the body; don’t ruffle anyone’s hair unless you’re intimate friends. The feet are the ‘lowest’ part of the body and yours should NEVER be pointed at a Thai – especially at his or her head. Feet on the table are totally BAD! Try to remember this one all the time.
When you’re about to enter a small shop or other place of business, take a look at the floor outside the door. If you find shoes scattered everywhere, add yours to them. Thais don’t wear shoes indoors – to them this is the height of ‘dirtiness’; some extend this to their place of business.
You’ll be surprised how just a little awareness of Thai customs puts you head and shoulders above the average tourist.
Phuket’s weather is very different from that of other main Thai resort destinations – and almost exactly opposite from that of Koh Samui.Phuket experiences two seasons:
- Dry season (roughly December – March) influenced by the northeast monsoon. December – February is generally the coolest time of the year.
- Rainy season (roughly April – November) influenced by the southwest monsoon. The hottest time of year is April/May and the wettest is September/October. Oddly, some of the best weather – clear blue skies interspersed with tropical downpours – comes in June/July/August, and that’s when Phuket is at its greenest and most beautiful. But if ‘no rain’ is your thing, avoid the rainy season – but be prepared to pay high season rates.
Mean temperatures: Air – 30-40°c. Sea – 27-31°C
Clothing: Lightweight clothes are suitable for every season, every time of day. There are no places on Phuket or the surrounding areas that require formal dress. Long trousers are useful during the evenings to protect your legs from mosquito bites, but the best protection is to apply repellent.
Time zone: GMT + 7hr
As a tourist here for a couple of weeks or less, trying to use Thai can be frustrating. Most Thai people you’re likely to meet in Phuket will be able to speak at least some English and, because Thai is a tonal language, unless you get your tones spot-on, you’ll have a hard time being understood in Thai. But it’s always a good idea to show willing, so we suggest you learn three phrases really well:
Hello: (if you’re a man) Sawadee Krap (if you’re a woman) Sawadee Kar
Thank you: (if you’re a man) Kop Koon Krap (if you’re a woman) Kop Koon Kar
Goodbye: This one’s really easy – same as hello…
If you want to learn more, we recommend that you wait until you’re here and find a friendly waiter or bartender and get them to teach you a few more phrases; imitation really is the best way to pick this language up, but avoid trying to use individual words on their own – it just doesn’t work.
If you plan on staying longer, or if you really are determined to shine language-wise during your holiday, there are numerous online resources for learning Thai. Find one that suits you best.
Dining with the sunset
Ko Tapu, better known as James...
PIMEX - Phuket international b...
On-water bungalows, Khao Sok
FireFly @ Phuket Multihull Cha...
ATV's into nature
"Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken" - Frank Herbert