Header image courtesy of Mike Swigunski (via Unsplash)
Everyone knows the must-do’s when they visit Phuket—we’re talking about the big beaches, island-hopping, and eating (obviously). But when visiting those spots, one of the most frustrating things is the crowds of tourists packing the areas. So, what better way to avoid these busy areas than to travel Phuket like a local? There’s an endless amount of things to do in the region—that’s why it’s so popular to begin with, after all. Here are some tips on how to explore Phuket, Thailand, like a local.
Whilst there are benefits to visiting the popular beaches of Phuket, which include facilities, dining options, and drinking venues, sometimes the better option is to head to a more quiet location, where you can try local food and buy from family-run vendors. Ao Sane Beach is situated on Phuket’s southwest coast and serves as a little hidden gem. It features a restaurant, but there are no watersport activities available for hire. People come here to bask in the sun and snorkel in the clear waters.
Another area populated mostly by locals, Ao Yon is a quiet respite from the city, bordered by a small village, whose residents frequent the beach. The sandy strand peers over a cove, and its coconut palm trees will keep you shaded throughout the day. We also recommend Banana Rock Beach, a lesser-known location due to its difficult-to-access path. Visitors have to take a challenging trail down a steep hill to get there—but it’s well worth it for the views and peace.
Dotted with shrines and statues, many locals regularly visit temples across the predominantly Buddhist nation to show their respects. Visit the peaceful Wat Chalong Temple, which follows with a steep hill towards the iconic Big Buddha. The Shrine of the Serene Light is a Chinese shrine, hidden in a little courtyard in Phuket’s old town.
Five-star indulgence may be tempting at times, but Phuket houses some of the best street food in the country. Put your taste buds to the test, by trying something more exotic than the classic delicacies—perhaps a scorpion or a “dancing shrimp.” If that’s too much to ask, perhaps stick to the tom yum (ต้มยำ; hot-and-sour Thai soup) and pad thai (ผัดไทย; Thai stir-fried rice noodles)—they’re also delicious. Some of the best places to eat include Go Benz, Go La, and O Cha Rot.
Bangla Road is the place to be when the sun goes down—an iconic street home to the vibrant nightlife of Phuket. Walk through this street to find entertainment at every corner, from the street performers to the bar promoters trying to whisk you into their drinking venue. From dusk till dawn, locals and tourists flock here for a typically crazy night out.
Thailand’s national sport, Thai boxing, or muay Thai, is a highly-engaging, exciting event to watch. The ferocious combat is best watched live, where participants from around the world come to play. Find out where your closest sports ring is to check the schedule of any upcoming matches.
Kathu Waterfall is high on the to-do list on many Phuket recommendations—and rightly so. The famous site is famed for its striking hero fall, but there are even more to explore if you go past the bridge, and up the hill. Here, the hidden gems await.
The budget-friendly appeal of public transportation offers an authentic way to see the city. Although taxis are cheap, public buses are even cheaper. There’s also the local songthaew (สองแถว; Thai-style passenger vehicle), which act as taxis, except you ride in the back with others—also a very cost-effective option. If you’re willing to face the chaotic roads, rent a scooter and see the city on your own terms.
Phi Phi is on most tourists’ lists of island visits—why not substitute it for a lesser-populated beach? Racha Island is 20 kilometres away from Phuket, accessible by speedboat. The beach offers the opportunity to snorkel, suntan, and swim in a turquoise ocean. You can also test your sense of adventure with watersports activities or even boat fishing tours to see native marine life up close.