Thailand has truly grown to be one of the top travel destinations for millennials and once you visit, you’ll understand why. There is so much beauty in the country, delicious native food and history in the culture. For my 30th birthday celebration, I wanted a vacation that encompasses all of those things as well as true adventure. I didn’t just want to go somewhere to take great pictures for the “gram,” I wanted to explore and be immersed in a totally different experience from my norm. That is what I found in Phuket, Thailand. I’m going to share with you my personal experience and give you a few great tips. If Phuket, Thailand is on your bucket list, this is what you need to know.
I booked my roundtrip flight with Emirates for about $1000 and it was absolutely worth it. From what I read they’re the number one airline in the world so I had to go big. This trip is a twelve hour flight from NYC to Dubai and then six hours from Dubai to Phuket. As a first time long distance flyer, I wanted to have good food, wifi and to be comfortable. Emirates had all three. For entertainment, they have hundreds of things to watch and read up on. Plus you’ll also be getting a lot of sleep. My suggestion is if you have a hard time sleeping for long on a plane, take a sleep aid. Also, if you’re not a big movie watcher, bring some books or write a book, bring whatever will keep you entertained because you’re not going anywhere for a while.
What to Bring and Wear
I’m going to tell you upfront, if you’re looking for a Gucci glamorous and Chanel classy vacation, this trip is not for you. In Phuket, the most important thing you want to do is stay cool and comfortable. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking on slightly unpaved roads and this area of Thailand is not impressed by labels. Pack shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, sunglasses, sunblock, swimsuits and most importantly, bring comfortable walking shoes. I purchased two sandals from Crocs for my trip and they were absolutely perfect. (Isabella Tstrap Sandal and Kadee II Graphic Flip)You want to be able to slip on and off your shoes because it is tradition to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home. In most places you can keep your shoes on but in some more traditional stores, it is custom to remove your shoes.
How to Get Around
Use the Grab App. Grab App is just like Uber where you can use your phone to instantly call a cab. It’s convenient, its trustworthy and you know you won’t get jipped. My hotel was a distance from the hot spots so I spent a lot of money on cabs.
If you’re brave enough, rent a scooter. They’re very cheap in Thailand. If you have a good sense of direction and your hotel isn’t too far from your daily destinations, it’s a decent option. Just be aware that they drive on the left side of the road.
Where to Eat
The Basil Restaurant
Choeng Thale, Thalang District, Phuket 83110, Thailand
On my actual birthday, I stumbled upon a restaurant called The Basil Restaurant. It’s an Italian and Thai Restaurant and the food is absolutely incredible (and pretty cheap.) As an appetizer, I had the grilled prawns and as an entree I had Pad See Ew with chicken. It was the best meal I had in Thailand, period. I also tried their Thai Chili Fish and it was probably one of the best fish meals I’ve ever had and that says a lot. The entire meal including two beverages cost roughly 600 THB (less than $20.)
Strolling down the beach, I came across Beach Restaurant. They were offering happy hour and of course Thai food. I had the chicken pad thai and also tasted the pineapple chicken. If I were to order again, I’d go with the pineapple chicken.
Two restaurants that I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to try is Black Cat located at Bandon-Cherngtalay Rd, Tambon Choeng Thale, Amphoe Thalang, Chang Wat Phuket 83110, Thailand and Tawai located at 15/1, Lagoon Rd, Choeng Thale, Thalang District, Phuket 83110, Thailand. Please go and check it out and let me know what you think.
You pretty much have to go to Phuket and visit Tiger Kingdom. This was number one on my Phuket bucket list. Once I got into the Tiger Kingdom, I was not only really excited, I was so scared! I mean, who pets tigers? That’s not normal. But this trip was all about doing things that are not normal. So even though my heart was thumping out of my chest the entire time, I was so excited to hang out with these big cats. I chose the Medium Tigers for 900 THB (about $28.) For about 15 minutes, the handlers play with the tigers while you pet their backs and tails only and they will take as many photos as you want (with your phone.) The experience was a lot of fun.
Phi Phi Islands
I just want to start off by saying the Phi Phi Islands is the most incredible experience ever. The Phi Phi Islands are a string of islands that you can take a tour to. How it works is, you sign up with a tour company and they take you to Maya Island, Khai Island, Monkey Beach, Viking Island and Pileh Lagoon. Each tour company has it’s own style of the tour and may or may not stop at each of these islands. I utilized the company SeaStar. You can find any tour company at a stand or shop almost anywhere you go. The most important tip I can give is make sure they offer pick up and drop off from your hotel, that they include lunch in your package and they are an actual travel company. Not some random person with a boat. Last but not least, always negotiate your package price. That is a must. (Everything in Thailand is about negotiating price. My package started at 3200 THB and I got it down to 2600 THB (about $83,) I probably could’ve gotten it for even less.)
SeaStar company picked us up from our hotel at 7:30 am, the shuttle bus ride was about 25 minutes to Royal Phuket Marina. There you have a light breakfast, you connect with your group and your tour guide. Your group of about 20 people will get on your (life jacket and snorkel mask equipped) speedboat and travel to the many islands. You will return to the Marina at about 5:00pm and the shuttle will take you back to your hotel.
I thought about including all the details of the actual experience, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. The tour does include snorkeling, swimming, a lot of sightseeing, exploring, lunch, shopping and laying on the beach. And what I will say is the islands are breathtaking, and my favorite part was jumping off the speedboat into the lagoon and just really being adventurous.
While I didn’t experience Elephant Sanctuary on this trip. I wanted to add it in as a top place to visit in Phuket. If you’ve been to the Elephant Sanctuary, I would love to hear about your experience!
I missed the Weekend Night Market because I stayed in Phuket during the week and not the weekend. I heard the weekend night market (locally known as Naka Market), located along Chao Fa West Road is definitely something to check out.
Where to Party
Bangla Road in Central Patong. On this strip that is closed off from cars, you’ll find everything from bars, to games to nightclubs and everything in between. I went on a Wednesday and it was live, like it was a Friday night. I partied at 4 clubs which were all free to get in. The clubs were Illuzion, Tiger Disco, White Room,and my favorite, Vibez because it plays hip hop. There is no dress code, wear what you want.
- How do you get wifi? Wifi is free and available at most shops, hotels, restaurants and main locations.
- How did you get around? I used the Grab App for everything or scheduled a shuttle with my hotel.
- What form of currency is used in Thailand? Thai Baht, $1.00 US Dollar is equal to 31.32 THB.
- Where did you exchange your money? Exchanged it at the airport and hotel.
- What currency converter app did you use?Currency (It’s a green icon with different money symbols)
- How long does it take to get from place to place? This all depends on where in Phuket you stay but I would say no longer than max 30 minutes by cab on average.
- Where can I purchase necessities such as snacks, toiletries and basic needs? There is a 7Eleven and Pharmacy on almost every corner. You will find everything you need there.
- Do people speak english? Yes, surprisingly there was a decent amount of people who spoke english pretty well. This includes cab drivers, restaurant staff, store attendees and even some locals.
- Did you have to have the converter piece for your charger? No, I only charged my phone in the hotel and they had several types of chargers connecters but it doesn’t hurt to have one just in case.
- How is the weather? Sunny for the most part, 80s but it does rain from time to time so be ready for that
Cost of Trip Breakdown
Hotel $375 (Dream Phuket, 3nights for 3 days split two ways)
Food $60 (Breakfast was included at Dream Phuket, did not spend money on Breakfast)
Taxis $100 (Keep in mind, My hotel was a distance from a lot of places)
Total Spend: $1646