Phuket is a tropical paradise famous for its beaches and resorts. In fact, Phuket is the most visited island in Thailand. It has everything you expect from an island getaway: beautiful beaches, lush green hills, and turquoise waters. There are so many things to see and do in Phuket that it can be overwhelming at first. While it’s very easy to fall in love with this island, there are also some pitfalls many travellers tend to overlook when planning their trip to Phuket. Here we list things not to do in Phuket and 15 mistakes you should avoid when travelling to the island if you don’t want a disappointing experience.
1. Not respecting the Royal Family.
As soon as you enter Thailand, you’ll see larger-than-life portraits of the Royal Family everywhere. That’s because the Thai people hugely revere the monarchy, and strict customs towards it are followed. Any sign of disrespect towards monarchy is a criminal offence and can land you in jail with an imprisonment of three to fifteen years.
2. Visiting tourist traps like Patong
If you are on a packaged tour, most travel agents and booking engines will try to sell you the tourist trap areas like Patong and Kata because these places have plenty of hotels, restaurants, beaches and everything a package holiday maker desires. However, these places are run-down and have a sleazy side too. If you are visiting a couple or family, it is best to avoid them for your stay. By all means, visit them for some time. They have a cultural side too that shouldn’t be missed.
3. Booking a hotel in Phuket Town
Phuket Town is a heritage heart of the island with many charming places to explore, but as a first-timer, you can be misled into believing that being in Phuket Town means you’ll be closer to the beach. On the contrary, Phuket town is 20 km from the nearest beach, i.e. Patong, and traffic can sometimes be a nightmare. It is better to stay near the beach and take a day trip to Phuket town to enjoy the famous weekend markets and heritage streets! There are many great places to stay near the sea like Bangtao Beach, Surin Beach, Kamala and many more. If you are looking for a more laid-back experience, you can choose places like Kok Phu, Rawai, Hat Mai Thon, Nai Thon or Mai Khao.
4. Not venturing beyond touristy beaches.
One mistake that most tourists make is that they don’t go beyond the beach where they book their hotel or resort. Usually, that beach would be Patong, Kata, Karon, or Kamala Beach. That’s really sad, considering there are over 40 beaches in Phuket and the most beautiful ones are the ones where most people don’t go. Rent a bike and go beach hoping, as I did! Some beaches to explore are Banana Beach, Laem Singh Beach, Sai Kaew Beach, Freedom Beach, Naithon Beach, Ao Yon Beach, Ao Sane Beach, Layan Beach and many more.
5. Falling prey to the motorbike rental scam
One of the most common scams you’ll come across in Phuket is the motorbike rental scam. Upon bringing the bike or car back to the rental company, you’re told that you have damaged the vehicle and are given some outrageous figure to cover that damage. And the worst affected are the ones who have submitted their passport as security for the rental. NEVER EVER leave your passport with the rental company. Not only is your negotiating position weakened, but you could also get into serious trouble if you are ever caught in any untoward incident.
The best solution to avoid the motorbike scam in Phuket is to ask your hotel for recommendations. They will usually have a good reliable firm that rents motorcycles. I did the same at Cassia Phuket and got a good deal. Another vital factor to consider is to get a rental contract signed before giving the deposit. Read the rental agreement properly, including any fine print they may include, as you don’t want to be surprised by them in hindsight. Most importantly, take pictures of the vehicle from all sides to determine the presence of any (or no) damages that existed before renting the car. And, do not delay in returning your motorbike; otherwise, you’ll be charged for an extra day.
6. Not researching before you go.
Travelling well is the best revenge. If you want to avoid the mistakes listed above, do your research before you go to Phuket. A little research can save you a lot of last-minute hassle. Learn about the different places in Phuket, their attractions, the best times to visit, and how to get there. Most importantly, don’t forget to check the weather forecast and the best times to visit Phuket. I made the mistake of visiting the famous ‘Plane spotting at Mai Khao beach‘ during lean season – June – when planes don’t land but take off. Thus I could not get those Instagram-worthy pictures that made this beach so famous among the locals and tourists.
Also, it’s a good idea to check out the local festivals or events during your trip. You can also read travel blogs and watch vlogs to learn about the different experiences people have in Phuket. There are many reviews and recommendation platforms like TripAdvisor, Facebook groups, or Expedia, where you can read reviews and suggestions from other travellers. These reviews can help you avoid the common mistakes people make when travelling to Phuket.
7. Believe the best time to travel to Phuket is during the peak season.
There’s no right or wrong time to travel to Phuket. However, if you want to avoid crowds, you should travel to Phuket during the off-season. The dry season in Phuket starts in November and goes until May. But this is when the island is flooded with tourists. If you want to enjoy the tropical weather and avoid crowds, the best time to travel to Phuket is from September to November. If you want to enjoy the beautiful tropical climate, spring is the best time to travel to Phuket. The weather is pretty warm, and it is the best time to enjoy water sports like scuba diving, snorkelling, and water skiing. If you want to enjoy the sea, beaches, and tropical weather, you should travel to Phuket between April and June. The rainy season in Thailand begins in June and lasts until October, but it doesn’t rain for 24 hours. The rain comes and goes in breaks, and you still have time to go outdoors. I went during the monsoon season and could still do all the outdoor activities.
8. Not checking the weather forecast before going out.
Weather is unpredictable. But if you check the weather forecast before you go to Phuket, you can avoid last-minute changes in your plans. I was stranded on Big Buddha for three hours because of this mistake. Firstly I reached the temple’s closing hours, thanks to Google maps which took me elsewhere. The temple closes at 6 pm, and I arrive at 6 pm. On top of that, I was on a Scotty, which made it impossible for me to leave the premise when it started raining cats and dogs. I had no option but to wait for the rain to get over.
Also, you should wear weather-appropriate clothes. If you visit Phuket during the monsoon season, you should remember that the weather is unpredictable, and you may encounter heavy rainfall and strong winds. If you visit Phuket during the dry season, you can expect a tropical climate with average temperatures between 24° and 35° Celsius. If you visit Phuket during the hot season, you should wear light and loose clothing. You can also use a good insect repellent spray to avoid getting bitten by insects. You can find out about the climate conditions in Phuket by checking the weather forecast before you go. Sand, under no circumstances, miss applying the sunscreen of at least 50 SPF.
9. Mistaking someone else’s luggage for yours
Most flights from India to Phuket will reach the early morning, which means you are half asleep when you land. And, when you are not 100% in your senses, you could make mistakes you would otherwise never even think of making, like mistaking someone else’s luggage for yours. I am guilty of doing the same. I realised when I reached the hotel, and the other party had called me. The Phuket airport staff was kind enough to bring me the right luggage. But as a penalty, I had to cough off almost 5000 INR for the luggage mix-up.
10. Not trying out different cuisines.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Pad Thai and highly recommend trying it out if you haven’t already. But please don’t make all your meals Pad Thai meals. Thai cuisine has a lot more than noodles. One great thing to eat in Phuket is the seafood, considering Phuket is an island surrounded by the Andaman Sea. If you are a non-vegetarian, try out Tom Yam Goong, Mee Hokkien noodle, Massaman Curry, Kanom Jeen, Khao Man Gai, Por pia, and Satay, among other foods. If you want to know what are some good restaurants to try out in Phuket, check out 10 Phuket restaurants you’ll like to fly for.
Unlike the perception, Thailand can be as gratifying for vegetarians as it is for meat and seafood lovers, but it takes a bit of caution. Fish sauce is used like salt here, and chefs consider shrimp paste and oyster sauce vegetarian. So, before ordering any food, tell them not to put fish sauce, oyster sauce or shrimp paste. If you are looking for some vegan or vegetarian restaurants in Phuket, check out Happy Cow. I always use it to find vegetarian and vegan restaurants whenever I travel abroad, which has never disappointed me.
And, if you want to try out other cuisines with memorable experiences, I highly recommend trying out multiple restaurants in Laguna Phuket, such as Azura, Atoll, XANA Beach Club, Albatross café etc.
11. Ignoring the red flags on the beach
On a beach holiday, it’s hard to resist swimming in the sea. However, swimming during monsoon can be dangerous, and people who ignore warnings often get drowned. Phuket is no exception, as rip currents are found on many beaches during the monsoon season from May to November. Many people, mostly tourists, have been caught in rips and drowned. So, no matter how good a swimmer you think you are, you will probably lose. Remember, Red flags on the beach mean NO SWIMMING. Yellow and red flags indicate that you can swim between the flags where lifeguards are on duty. So, pay attention to the flags when you are on the beach.
12. Not getting a massage done.
What else can you do if you can’t swim in the sea or go on an island hopping tour? You can get a beach massage done. Beach massages are cheap and available on almost every beach in Phuket, even the most remote! Many types of massages are available in Phuket, and you should try as many as you like. From foot massages to traditional Thai to spa experiences, each type will have its benefits. It rejuvenates you from the exertion of a long flight or too much sightseeing and prepares you for the next day. Another bonus of getting a massage in Thailand is that, compared to many other areas in the world, Thai massages are economically priced, starting from as low as 200 baht, which is 6 US dollars and 441 Indian rupees. However, the massages can be as luxurious and expensive as you want. For example, I was in the mood for pampering, so I got a 60-minute Thai Classic Full Body Massage at the 5-star Banyan Tree Spa in Phuket that cost around 5000 TBH. I cannot tell you how wonderful the experience was. I would highly recommend trying it if you can splurge on wellness. Totally worth it.
13. Not bargaining or bargaining too much
Although Phuket is not necessarily a destination for shopping, Bangkok is. But if you are in the mood to shop, don’t shy away from bargaining. It’s a part of the shopping experience in Thailand, but don’t bargain too much or at every place. You could start at 50-60% of the demanded price at the night market and settle on the price you feel comfortable with. But don’t overdo it.
14. Riding an elephant
Elephant rides in Phuket are one of the major tourist attractions in Thailand. Still, as a supporter of ethical tourism devoid of animal cruelty, I would highly recommend you avoid riding an elephant in Phuket or anywhere. Instead, you can visit a sanctuary or rehabilitation camp, feed the elephants and see them play by themselves in the water and mud! There are four elephant sanctuaries in Phuket that you can visit – Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Paklok, near Phuket Town, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phuket, Naithon Beach, Elephant Retirement Park, Phuket, Bangtao Beach, and Phang Nga Elephant Park
15. Visiting temples in skimpy clothes
Like India, Thai Temples are highly revered religious places, and people are expected to dress appropriately before entering them. Unfortunately, many travellers casually walk in with sleeveless shirts or revealing outfits. Please respect the local customs and wear at least a T-shirt with sleeves, skirts or short pants that reach knee level, and remove hats or caps.
When you visit Thailand next time, I hope you’ll remember these 10 big mistakes you should avoid in Phuket and have a wonderful time there. If you need help planning your Phuket trip, read the Phuket Travel Guide.