Phuket, a tropical paradise in Thailand, has long been hailed as a must-visit destination for travellers from around the world. But is Phuket really worth visiting?
With its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and rich cultural heritage, it's no wonder why people flock to this island every year. But is Phuket really worth all the hype?
As someone who has experienced the highs and lows of exploring this popular tourist destination during my two weeks in Phuket and Krabi, I can confidently say that Phuket is indeed worth a visit, but with a few caveats!
Read on for my personal take on whether Phuket is worth visiting!
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Is Phuket worth it?
Let's address the elephant in the room first: overcrowding. Phuket is undeniably a victim of its own success, especially during the peak tourist season. The beaches can become packed, and navigating through crowded streets can be a challenge.
However, if you plan your visit strategically, avoiding the busiest times of the year, you can still enjoy the beauty of Phuket without feeling suffocated by the masses. I highly recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons, or at least outside of the main "school holiday" or summer holiday times such as July-August or December which are very busy times for visiting Phuket island.
However this leads me to another caveat to consider before planning your trip to Phuket: the rainy season.
Visiting Phuket during the rainy season can be a gamble. From May to October, the island experiences heavy rainfall and potential disruptions due to tropical storms. While the prices may be lower during this period, it's important to be aware of the weather conditions and plan your activities accordingly.
I personally visited in September and had a very mixed experience. I was in Phuket and Krabi for 2 weeks and half of that time was beautiful weather, the other half was torrential!
On the sunny days, we had beaches to ourselves, boat trips that felt like private tours and it really was idyllic. But on the rainy days it was really not great, the streets were flooded, we had power outages on one day on a boat trip to the Phi Phi islands the sea was so choppy that several people on our boat were violently sea sick for HOURS. Some even left the tour to take the slow ferry back to Phuket because they couldn't handle the waves in the small boat.
Cost can also be a significant factor to consider when planning a trip to Phuket. I definitely agree that Thailand is, on the whole, much cheaper than the UK, the USA or most western European countries and it's very easy to find budget-friendly options.
But certain areas of the island can be quite expensive, especially in popular tourist hotspots. It's important to plan and budget accordingly to avoid any financial surprises during your stay and also be aware of what cousts should be, so you don't get ripped off!
We were surprised by prices in Thailand having come from 3 months in Vietnam which is significantly cheaper! So Thailand felt very expensive on the whole!
Speaking of well-known tourist spots...
Phuket is not just about crowded beaches and bustling markets. Some of the best places to visit in Phuket are hidden gems waiting to be explored, such as the stunning viewpoints overlooking the island, serene temples tucked away in the hills, and lesser visited islands just a boat ride away which definitely make visiting Phuket worth it.
I've spoken to a few people who think that Phuket is just for partying and visiting all the popular places with nothing else to see, but stay in Cape Panwa or Kata Beach. Visit the Similan Islands or Khao Sok National Park. Escape the major hubs and go to Nai Harn or Nui Beach for the day.
Stepping off the beaten path can lead to incredible discoveries and unique experiences that go beyond the typical tourist itinerary.
It's also worth mentioning that Phuket's reputation as a party destination may not appeal to everyone.
While the vibrant nightlife scene can be thrilling for some, it might not align with the preferences of those seeking a more tranquil and serene vacation. If partying until sunrise isn't your cup of tea, exploring the quieter areas of the island or neighbouring islands like Koh Yao Noi or Koh Phi Phi might be a better fit for your travel style.
We made the mistake of staying too close to Bangla Road in Patong and the music until 5am every day was NOT enjoyable. For this reason we actually preferred our stay in Cape Panwa in the south of Phuket which was a lot quieter. We also enjoyed our week in Ao Nang, Krabi more because it still had bars and a lively atmosphere but not to the extreme of Phuket!
Another concern that shocked us a lot once we arrived in Phuket is the environmental impact of tourism. The sheer number of visitors has put a strain on the island's natural resources, leading to issues such as waste management and pollution. There is also almost no recycling and the constant use of bottled water for drinking means the plastic consumption was shocking to us, being from countries where recycling is so extensive and normalised.
While efforts are being made to address these concerns, it's essential for travellers to be mindful of their ecological footprint and choose eco-friendly activities and accommodations to minimize their impact on the environment.
This also goes for animal tourism. If you're wondering is Phuket worth a visit for seeing animals - there are a lot of unethical animal sanctuaries that are NOT treating animals well but are using words like "ethical" or "eco" to dupe visitors.
We spent a lot of time researching elephant sanctuaries in Phuket as we wanted to visit elephants but do it truly ethically. Of course we knew riding elephants was absolutely unethical but we also discovered that anything involving bathing with elephants too is not ethical.
Actually the only truly ethical sanctuary is Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, where they only rescue old, disabled or injured elephants from inhumane and unethical environments. I highly recommend checking them out as one of the must visit places in Phuket.
Summary: Is Phuket worth it?
If you're still wondering, is Phuket worth visiting?
Phuket is undoubtedly worth a visit, but it's essential to approach your trip with realistic expectations and an open mind - I really suggest designing a trip that fits your travel style and requirements for the holiday to make sure your time in Phuket Thailand is right for you.
I will say honestly that I preferred Krabi, however my time in Phuket was more impacted by our poor accommodation choices in Patong and very bad weather in the rainy season!
I've put together a quick pros and cons of all the points I've made to help you decide is Phuket a good place to visit:
Is Phuket worth it - Pros:
Stunning beaches with crystal clear waters
Vibrant nightlife and entertainment options
Rich cultural heritage and temples to explore
Beautiful viewpoints and hidden gems off the beaten path
Amazing relaxation holiday
Is Phuket worth it - Cons:
Popular spots can suffer from overcrowding during peak tourist season
Environmental concerns due to tourism impact
Higher costs in certain areas
Party locations may not appeal to everyone
Risky weather conditions during the rainy season
Be aware of unethical animal tourism
I hope this guide helps you weigh up these factors and make informed choices to help you decide is Phuket worth visiting.
You can have a memorable and enjoyable experience in Phuket while being mindful of the challenges it faces as a popular tourist destination.