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Welcome to the ultimate Backpackers Guide to Phuket — your quintessential compass to navigating this tropical paradise. From the hidden alleys of Old Phuket Town to the lively beats of Patong’s nightlife, we’ve got you covered with all you need to dive into the heart of Southeast Asia’s beloved island hub destination.


Welcome to Phuket: An Island of Endless Possibilities

Immerse yourself in the azure embrace of the Andaman Sea with our Backpackers Guide to Phuket, a treasure trove of adventure for globe-trotting explorers. This Thai paradise unfurls as more than a picturesque island; it’s a pulsating tapestry of culture, thrills, and tranquil beauty. Our guide is your passport to basking on sun-drenched beaches, delving into rich traditions, and reveling in the nightlife. Phuket is an island adventure that promises to leave a lasting imprint on your wanderlust soul.

Classic Phuket Beach views
Traditional long tail boats on the shore of Phuket, photo courtesy of Canva

Journey to the Jewel of the Andaman

Effortless Planning for the Avid Explorer

For those intrepid spirits keen to chart their course with ease, consider organising your travel itinerary in advance. With 12go Asia, a platform designed for the modern nomad, you can book your transport to and within Phuket with just a few clicks. Whether you’re soaring through the skies or cruising over the ocean’s waves, ensure your journey is as smooth as the island breeze by planning ahead. This trusted service streamlines your travel so you can spend less time on logistics and more on experiencing the vibrant life of Phuket.

By Air

Your gateway to this tropical haven is the Phuket International Airport, a hub that connects you to the world. Arriving here, you’ll find yourself a mere taxi ride away from the heart of the island’s enchantment.

A well known airline across Southeast Asia, Air Asia, photo courtesy of Alif Shaari

By Road

For those who prefer a road trip, an extensive network of buses awaits to ferry you across the country to Phuket. Or, rent a car and meander at your leisure, discovering hidden spots along the way.

By Sea

Opt for a nautical approach and glide across the sea with ferry services linking you to the nearby islands. It’s more than a trip; it’s a scenic expedition that showcases the best of the Andaman’s seascapes.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Federi

By Train and Bus

Combine the charm of a train journey with the efficiency of bus travel, and you have a recipe for an authentic Thai travel experience. It’s a path less taken but one that rewards you with sights and sounds of the picturesque Thai countryside.

Check out the best rates for online tickets below:

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Phuket’s Cornucopia of Experiences

Discover Pristine Beaches

From the pulsating shores of Patong Beach to the tranquil havens like Kata and Karon, Phuket’s beaches are a mosaic of moods and settings. Each offers a unique beach experience, whether you’re looking to party, play, or just pause and breathe in the beauty.

A little slice of haven during a quiet day at Patong Beach, photo courtesy of Canva

Nightlife Extravaganza

As dusk falls, Phuket transforms into a playground of neon lights and rhythmic beats. Bangla Road awaits with its carousel of bars, street performances, and the famed Phuket FantaSea Show – a cultural spectacle not to be missed.

A dazzling Cabaret performance — a must experience for our Backapckers Guide to Phuket
A dazzling performance by the Simon Cabaret, photo courtesy of Simon Cabaret

Cultural Treasures

Journey through time with visits to the Big Buddha and Wat Chalong, or take a stroll through Old Phuket Town where history whispers through colorful Sino-Portuguese buildings.

The Great Buddha of Phuket, photo courtesy of Miltiadis Fragkidis

Adrenaline-Pumping Activities

Dive with the denizens of the deep at Similan Islands or zip through the jungle canopy. Phuket is your playground for adventure on land and sea.

The Serenity of Spa and Wellness

After the day’s excitement, unwind with a traditional Thai massage or a yoga session amidst nature, reconnecting with your inner peace.

Mad Monkey Hostels What's the deal with Thai Massage
A relaxing Thai massage, photo courtesy of Mad Monkey

Muay Thai: The Dance of Eight Limbs

Immerse yourself in the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand, Muay Thai. Witness the artistry of combat at local stadiums or take the leap and train at one of Phuket’s world-class facilities. It’s a unique blend of physical prowess and cultural immersion that’s quintessentially Thai.

Read all about everything you need to know about Muay Thai in Phuket!

A backpackers Guide to Phuket — who could forget a classic Muay Thai fight!
A Muay Thai Match in Thailand, photo courtesy of Jonathan Tomas

Backpacker Bars: Phuket’s Social Hotspots

When the night calls for socializing, Phuket’s array of backpacker bars is where tales are told, and friendships are forged. From the reggae rhythms of Ska Bar to the innovative concoctions of Zimplex Mixology Laboratory, each bar has a story to tell. Join in the camaraderie, enjoy the live music, and make every evening a celebration of your journey.

Looking for specifics? Here are our top recs for Nightlife Spots in Phuket!

Or maybe you want to meet your fellow monkey mates, here is our list of the best backpackers bars in Phuket!

A full house at Illuzion Phuket, photo courtesy of Illuzion Phuket

A Culinary Journey Through Phuket

An Island’s Feast: Phuket is not just a visual paradise but a haven for food lovers. The island’s culinary landscape is a blend of traditional Thai flavors, fresh seafood, and global cuisines, making it an irresistible destination for gastronomes.

We’ve done the hard work for you, check out our list of our best restaurants in Phuket.

Street Food Delights

Begin your gastronomic adventure at the local markets. Streets like Thalang Road in Old Phuket Town come alive at night, offering a banquet of street food delicacies. Here, you can indulge in authentic Pad Thai, succulent satay, spicy som tam (papaya salad), and sweet mango sticky rice, all without breaking the bank. The bustling markets are not just about food; they’re a sensory experience, with vibrant colors, tantalizing aromas, and the buzz of activity.

A true experience! A must do for our Backpacker Guide to Phuket

Seafood Extravaganza

Phuket’s surrounding seas gift us an abundance of seafood, which you can enjoy at beachside establishments like Rawai Beach’s Sea Gypsy Village. Select your preferred catch of the day, and have it cooked to perfection in front of you. 

Vegan and Vegetarian Options

The island is also friendly to vegan and vegetarian visitors, with many restaurants offering plant-based versions of Thai classics. You’ll find dedicated vegetarian restaurants that do not compromise on taste, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the flavors of Thailand.

Find out our favourite vegan restaurants in Phuket here!

Fresh Hawaiian pizzas at Vegan Phuket, photo courtesy of Vegan Phuket

Local Brews and Beverages

No culinary journey is complete without the right drink in hand. Phuket’s local craft beer scene is growing, with breweries like Full Moon Brewworks offering a selection of artisanal beers. For non-alcoholic options, fresh coconut water, Thai iced tea, and fruit shakes made from locally-grown produce are refreshing ways to cool down in the tropical heat.

A selection of Thai craft beers!
A selection of local Thai craft beers, photo courtesy of Gotta Be Worth It

Cooking Classes

If you wish to take a piece of Phuket’s culinary magic home with you, enrol in a cooking class. Many establishments, from restaurant kitchens to local homes, offer the opportunity to learn how to prepare Thai dishes, ensuring you can recreate the tastes of your travels in your kitchen.

Experience a true Thai cooking class , photo by Mad Monkey

Embrace the Phuket Experience with our Backpackers Guide to Phuket

As you navigate through the island’s offerings, from serene sunsets to bustling night markets, you’ll find that Phuket is not just a destination; it’s an experience. Each moment here is a step into a world where every backpacker finds their beat, their adventure, their story. So pack your bags, bring your spirit of wanderlust, and dive headfirst into the vibrant embrace of Phuket.

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About the Author

Mad Monkey is Southeast Asia’s leading hostel operator — born in Cambodia with more properties in Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Laos, and the Philippines. We pride ourselves in creating meaningful and sustainable travel experiences for our guests, whilst promoting socially responsible tourism.