An extremely popular destination, Phuket Town in Southern Thailand is a magnet for hordes of global tourists, at any time of year…
After initially travelling through Thailand for two months, a flight to Myanmar for a month’s overland travel, return again to Thailand for the third month of more amazing travel. Check out the three-month Thailand route.
Crossing the border on a cramped mini-bus from Georgetown (Malaysia) to Hat Yai (Thailand) and onto Phuket Town in Southern Thailand is easy to organise and a painless exercise in 2014.
The map at right displays that it takes almost ten hours from Georgetown to Phuket. Although this may be true by car, the reality is that by bus, it is a little longer and should take around eleven hours. This duration also includes border formalities, all going well, the ticket seller advises
As with all connecting journeys of any type in any country but especially in SE Asia, things can and do go wrong.
Finally arriving in the bustling border town of Hat Yai, the connecting minibus that is included in the ticket’s price is missing in action and does not arrive for another two hours. So much time-wasting when connections do not go to plan.
Today’s eleven-hour journey turns into thirteen hours and we arrive late in the evening tired and hungry but to the welcoming and smiling faces at The Tint Hotel. This makes the very long travel day more palatable and worthwhile. The staff at the Tint don’t waste any time in making us feel at home but also direct us to the closest food on foot.
As this is my fourth visit to Thailand over many years, my desire to stay in the beach party area of Patong Beach is not forthcoming so instead, decide to stay in the great-valued accommodation in Phuket Town (City).
Although not a small city, this town is a little quieter and offers more to see than just bars, nightclubs, and beaches, which there are loads of back in Australia, if I feel the need.
Strolling around Phuket Town taking photos is pretty cool and pleasurable as a plethora of great and intriguing colonial architecture that’s either renovated or in good condition, line the streets.
Stop at one of the many cafes and enjoy a coffee, scrumptious meal, juice, or just people-watch. Take a little time to absorb your surroundings and not just pass through in a hurry to get to Phuket’s beaches.
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.
Getting around Phuket Town
Blue coloured Songthaews (two or three-bench pick-up trucks) in Phuket Town take you everywhere. This mode of transport is inexpensive and a great way to have some laughs with the locals. Try one for an authentic Thai experience.
Walk to the market area on Ranong Road where Songthaews to most destinations including Patong Beach, line the road waiting patiently to be filled. Certain Songthaews display destinations on small signs in English and/or inThai. Others don’t, but ask any driver or local shop owner as they are always willing to help because this might gain the driver a fare.
Some Songthaews wait until overfull before leaving and others leave with only four or so passengers. There are no real set times, so be prepared to wait around 15 minutes or more for a ride. It isn’t uncommon to see passengers handing from the back and sometimes sides of a Songthaew.
The Songthaews continuously stop along many roads in the region for pick-up and drop-offs, which takes a long time for your journey – what’s the hurry? Designated stops for all Songthaews are still in the busy market area on Ranong Road.
Where to stay
The Tint Phuket Town on Dibuk Road
Usually, a gut feel is a good measure and the best judgement when staying in any accommodation in any country. This time, the Tint (B810/night for a double with a private bathroom) exudes a welcoming and warm gut feel, which proves right. It is such a good hotel that we extended our stay here from five nights to seven.
In addition to being a modern and new hotel, great facilities, a comfy bed, the staff are fantastic and accommodating – great value-for-money, service, and quality.
“Starfish”, one of the lovely ladies at the reception, is always eager to teach you a little Thai regardless of the time of day or night, if you have the patience. Thai is not an easy language to learn. The Tint hotel even offers the lovely touch with several jars of multi-coloured sweets at the front desk for everyone to help themselves, especially wonderful if you’re dying for a quick sugar fix.
At the time of writing (2014), Thailand granted a 15-day visa when travelling overland or a 30-day visa when travelling by air – both visasa 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 the country, although both of these visas are not free.
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 2014, the word on the street is that Citibank (several in Bangkok) does not charge at all for ATM withdrawals, so check this bank out first. To help other travellers that may be reading this article, leave me a comment below if you find Citibank no longer charges for withdrawals.
Check Part 2 of Phuket City for more travel tips, what to see, and also read about intriguing Old Phuket.