Here is my ultimate guide to holidaying in Phuket, the to-dos and don'ts - with your family.
1. Airport pickup
I have to be honest. Phuket is no longer as cheap as it used to be. Everything is so expensive now so it is really important that you do a thorough check on everything so that you don't end up overpaying for everything. Some things are unavoidable though. So for airport transfer - for those of you who do not have hotel people picking you up at the airport, the options are to take airport taxis or you could order a GrabCar (newly launched in Phuket and still in the experimental phase). Phuket is quite a big island. So depending to where you are staying, taxis' rates vary from 500B to 1000B.
Here is an approx rate:
Airport to Kamala, Patong (the most popular area for tourist) - 500B
Airport to Karon, Kata, Chalong - 1000B.
2. Where to stay?
The upcoming go-to place would be Karon or Kata area. The beaches are way nicer. Not too commercialised and most importantly, you won't be stuck in traffic and waste you time trying to get around like if you are to stay in Patong.
We used Airbnb and we got a very good deal for a very nice place in Chalong (10 minutes away from Karon). And on our last two days, we stayed at Anantara Phuket, just to get a taste of luxury - a treat for myself actually.
3. Getting around
If you are coming with kids, rent a car! It is too pricey to get around with taxi. During peak seasons, the taxi charges around 200B for a 10 minutes journey. They will rip you off, man. And do bear in mind, with children, you might need to make several trips back and fourth. So imagine spending on a few trips by taxis. You can get a good car for about 1400B per day (RM1 = 8.2B). And if you are renting for a week, you are most likely to get a package rate. Must rent a car if you need comfort especially for the kids. This was our ride during our stay.
4. Recommended beaches
Phuket is all about its beautiful beaches. Sure, there are a lot of other tourist attractions but if you visit Phuket, you must not miss the beaches. Now, since this post is to help families with children - I am going to suggest the beaches that are suitable for you and your family. There are a few that we really loved during our recent visit.
Karon beach - beautiful beach, not too big waves (safe for kids), white sandy beaches, plenty of restaurants, plenty of marts to get your necessities from.
Nai Harn beach - OUR FAVOURITE! Beautiful! Just beautiful. It is not publicly known by tourist so it is yet to be discovered by the ungrateful beach bums who'd litter so it is still very clean. There is this part of the beach where it has a wading pool. It is suitable for young children to play at whilst the older ones can play by the beach. Mind you, the waves here can get quite big and strong (it is very good for those who surf) but during this time of the year, the waves are safe for non-surfers to play by the beach. The sand is white as snow and the sunset is just so beautiful. Since it is not commercialised yet, there are no shops/marts around so do buy your necessities like water and snacks before heading there. There are some stalls and ice-cream bikes but it is very pricey.
Kata beach - it is next to Karon beach. As beautiful as Kata. One of the most beautiful sunsets I saw.
Kamala beach - quite nice. We had great times, went there twice. Plenty of amenities around. Sunset is beautiful here. Quite crowded but bearable.
5. Other places to go
Phuket Fantasea - A must go! Your kids will thank you! The entrance tickets are quite expensive but it is definitely worth it. For show (with buffet dinner), it is 2,200B per adult, 2,000B per child. For show only, 1,800B per adult, 1,800B per child. Children under 4 year old do not require tickets.
The show is beyond amazing, your jaw will be tired when it has ended. The show - Fantasy of a Kingdom is a Las Vegas style Thai cultural show infused with cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art show elements. The essence of being Thai, everything from the love for freedom and fun, courage and compassion, is being represented in each scene. As the Prince of Kamala journeys through each progressive scene, he slowly discovers these aspects and learns what it means to be the perfect Thai.
In addition, there are many free street and stage shows, parades and live band performances throughout the night. Some activities such as Elephant Rides (I do not condone elephant rides though) will have an additional cost. The show starts at 9.00pm, buffet dinner starts at 6pm. I suggest you be there early, enjoy your dinner (don't rush your kids), and explore the park (they will have a gala time) before the show starts (at 9pm).
The Big Budha - One of Phuket's main attractions (apart from its beautiful beaches) since a few years ago. It's located on top of the hill, South Phuket City. Started construction a few years back and still ongoing. It has stunning vistas of both sides of the island – Chalong Bay lay in one direction while on the other they looked down over Kata and the Andaman Sea.
Khao Rang Hill Viewpoint - View of Phuket from atop. There are many view points. This is one of them.
Chalong Bay Rum Distillery - 3000B per person for the tour with free Mojito! There is a very friendly cat (if your kids are into cats like mine) and you get to learn how rum is made.
Phuket Town Weekend Night Market/ Patong Night Market - a lot of yummy street food! It is heaven for people like me. Big fan of street food here!
Phuket Aquarium - 1000B for entrance fee. It wasn't really impressive but it was a good break from the beach. Our kids had fun.
Phuket Botanic Garden - if you love nature, this is the place to go. It is a beautiful garden. Kids really enjoyed themselves playing with butterflies, birds, beautiful flowers, fishes. 5000B for adults and 3000B for children.
Wat Chalong - beautiful temple. The architecture is just so majestic. Felt like I was in Vatican City.
Phuket Trickeye Museum - we didn't get to go during the recent trip because we wanted to save this for a rainy day but it never rained while we were there and the next thing we knew, it was time to go home. Sad. You should pay this place a visit. I saw some funky and cool pictures online.
Indie cafes - Phuket is monopolised by foreigners who decided to settle down and most of businesses there were owned by foreigners (fact). So the cafes there have a good mixture of of western and Thai culture. One of the interesting cafes that we went to is called A Spoonful of Sugar, located near Nai Harn beach. Apparently, there is a cafe with the same name in India too.
JungCeylon Mall - for you to waste time and enjoy some aircond in between the beach trips haha. It is located in the smack of Patong. Sometimes, kids get tired and this was the place we'd go to so that they could have a taste of home (shopping malls). They have pretty good activities for children lined up during holiday season.
Haha. We didn't go to any bar at all during this trip. So our nights were spent strolling down the streets, eating street food and occasionally listening to livebands at any hotels by the beach. If you want to and can afford to, the nightlife in Patong is fantastic. If you don't drink and not a music lover, you can get a taste of nightlife walking along Bangla Road. Just beware of people in costumes who would offer to take pictures with you and then ask you to pay them money!
Where do I start?! Ah, eat everything you can afford! A good seafood dinner for 3 +1 is around 1000B. That is if you take 1 medium sized fish like Snapper or Seabass, 1 big bowl of tomyam and another dish, 4 rice and drinks. If you just order dishes without taking the displayed fresh seafood, it is only around 700B.
Lunches - we took a lot of street food and we eat at small stalls at non-commercialised areas. It'd cost only about 150B to 200B for the whole family. Big difference.
Don't forget to eat the famous Nutella Pancake! We had this a few times a day, everyday!
Don't forget to apply lotsa sunblock and drink tons of water because it is scorching hot there in Phuket. So I guess that's pretty much it for now. Toodles from The Lims.