An extremely popular destination, Phuket Town in Southern Thailand is a magnet for hordes of global tourists, at any time of year…
Crossing the border on a mini-bus from Georgetown (Malaysia) to Hat Yai (Thailand) and onto Phuket Town in Southern Thailand, is easy to organise and a painless exercise.
My map at right says it takes nine hours but by bus, it’s slightly longer at around eleven hours including border formalities, all going well.
As with all connecting journeys of any type in any country, things can go wrong. Arriving in Hat Yai, our connecting minibus, which is included in the ticket didn’t arrive for another two hours. Today’s journey took around thirteen hours and we arrived late in the evening to the welcoming and smiling faces at The Tint Hotel – made it all worthwhile.
At the time of writing, you receive a 15-day visa when travelling overland or a 30-day visa when travelling by air, both are free.
If you want to spend more time in Thailand, then you can apply for a 60 or 90-day visa prior to arriving in Thailand, but you have to pay for both of these these.
As this is my fourth visit to Thailand, I don’t have any great desire to stay in the beach/party area of Patong Beach but instead, decide to stay in the better-valued Phuket Town. It’s a little quieter and has more to see than bars, nightclubs, and beaches, which there’s loads back in Australia, if I wish.
Walking around Phuket Town and taking photos is pretty cool as there are loads of great Colonial architecture that’s either renovated or in good condition.
Stop at one of the many cafes and take in a coffee, scrumptious meal, juice or just people watch; take time to absorb your surrounds and not just pass through.
If you want to give the more frequented towns of Patong Beach or Krabi a complete miss, then Phuket Town is a good alternative and also a great base to see the gorgeous surrounding islands.
Blue Songthaews (two or three-bench pick-up trucks) in Phuket Town will take you everywhere, are inexpensive, and a great way to have some laughs with the locals.
Walk to the market area (Ranong Road) where Songthaews to most destinations including Patong Beach, line the road. Some have destinations advertised on signs in English or Thai, others don’t, but ask and a driver or local shop owner will always be willing to help as it might get the driver a fare.
Some Songthaews wait until full before leaving and others leave with only 4 or so passengers. There are no real set times, so be prepared to wait around 15 minutes or more for a ride.
The obvious renown sights around Phuket are its beaches, Chalong Bay (B30 by Songthaew), and Kamala (B50 by Songthaew), which are good day trips when you’re based in Phuket Town.
The Songthaews stop along many roads in the area for pick-up and drop-offs, but designated stops for all Songthaews are still in the market area on Ranong Road.
The 19th Century saw the beginning of the tin boom here, which led to the construction of many fine mansions and shops that are still well preserved.
The architecture is described as Sino-Portuguese with a strongly Mediterranean character. You can see many shops, especially along Dibuk Road with Chinese fretwork carving on old wooden doors.
Take the time to do a little walking tour around Old Phuket as it’s an easy walk with delightful architecture, especially at night on Thalang Road when the buildings are lit with gorgeous changing colours.
Where to stay
The Tint Phuket Town (Dibuk Road)
You can usually get a gut feel when you’re staying at a place if it will be the best accommodation in that country for the money, service, and quality. This time, the Tint (B810/night for Dbl with bathroom) was the gut feel, which was right. It is so good that we extended our stay here from five to seven nights.
Apart from being a modern new hotel, great facilities, and comfy bed, staff are fantastic and accommodating!
“Starfish” – one of the lovely ladies at reception – is always eager to teach you Thai regardless of the time of day or night, if you have the patience. The hotel even has jars of sweets at the front desk so that you can help-yourself if you’re dying for a sugar fix.
Try the Kopitiam by Wilai (18 Thalang Road) for authentic great Thai food at good prices (no reduction in spice for Westerners, so authentic).
Chang beer is a cheaper price here (B60) than other restaurants in Phuket Town.
The market (Friday and Saturday nights) down from the Tint Hotel, is great for cheap delicious treats to curb any hunger pangs.
Many locals go to these markets so you know that prices are genuinely cheap.
Get a pedicure or some waxing done on a tiny stool by the roadside or buy souvenirs and clothes at super cheap prices. Street performers and artists also grace the main market street so it’s a great night out.
You can have anything done at this market…
All ATMs in Thailand charge B180 to withdraw money, which is on top of what your local bank charges. Although, some banks limit withdrawals to B10,000 at a time and other banks limit withdrawals to B20,000.
Apparently in 2015, the word on the street is that Citibank (a few in Bangkok) will not charge at all for ATM withdrawals, so check this bank out first. To help other travellers that may be reading this blog, leave me a comment below if you found Citibank no longer charges for withdrawals.
Although I don’t like big store chains as I believe they drive local businesses into the ground, whilst in Thailand, you can’t but help to notice the 7/Eleven chain that grace (invade) almost every corner of Thailand.
This chain is cheap, convenient, and typically used by locals, as well as foreigners. Actually, apart from convenience items, you can pick up tasty fast foods (chicken meatballs, sticky rice burgers, Gyoza, sandwiches, and loads more), which staff are happy to microwave on the spot.
Many items sold are cheaper than the supermarkets and even some street stalls.
Phuket Town to Khao Lak
From Phuket Town Number One bus station, the orange bus (B100) drops you off along the very long Highway 4, in Khao Lak. So, make sure you know exactly where your hotel is, otherwise, you’ll be walking miles out of your way with heavy packs.