So you have decided that Phuket is the perfect destination for your next trip. You’ve thought about the weather, the budget, the flights and how you want to spend your time there. Now you need to decide the accommodation for your stay.
There are an endless number of hotels in a tourism powerhouse like Phuket and it can make deciding extremely complicated. The first thing to, as always, is to decide where on the island you want to base yourself. The different locations Phuket has to offer each have a vastly different character and offer a different experience.
We will examine the most popular options, explaining the pros and cons and help you find the correct match for any trip.
- Positives: access to the whole island, always lively, endless options for eating out and shopping, great access to beach, affordable.
- Negatives: never quiet, overcrowded, not ideal for families, lacking in luxury.
Patong is the tourism capital of the island. Whilst ‘Phuket Town’ is the administrative and cultural capital of the province of Phuket, it is very clear that Patong is the epicentre of travel activity.
As the tourism capital it has almost everything you can think of when Phuket comes to mind: the beach, the markets, the nightlife, the spas, the endless list of places to go and things to try. It is not possible to know Patong inside out because it is simply so vast.
It is famed for its beach which is long, beautiful and can be accessed easily from any part of Patong. It features the famous Bangla road where the outrageous nightlife never really stops. There are large night markets for all kinds of street food in multiple places every night of the week. There is a huge shopping mall which has anything and everything.
The understandable downside of this is that clearly this is not going to be a relaxing holiday in solitude. Patong suffers from poor planning and over-development as a town unfortunately. Perfect for adventure seekers, but it does not make for a good family holiday. Whilst it has a great deal of affordable options, luxury and exclusivity is in slightly short supply in Patong.
- Positives: spacious and clean beach, perfect for families, relaxed and affordable experience
- Negatives: lacking in liveliness. Beach may be closed/red flagged during wet season.
Karon is a long stretch of beach south. It is a quieter and smaller option compared to Patong, but offers a reasonable number of options for local dining, spas and activities. It is notably cleaner and more aesthetic than Patong.
Karon is most distinctly characterised by its long, clean and spacious beach. It offers a laidback location to enjoy the beauty of Phuket. It is the perfect location for a family holiday. Notably, it is rather popular with Russian tourists. It is also much more affordable than Bangtao, with a range of options for accommodation and dining to suit a range of budgets.
It lacks the trendy liveliness of some of the other locations on offer. There are also few beachfront (directly on the beach) hotels in Karon – requiring a very short walk instead, unlike for example Bangtao. There is also a slight disconnect with Thai culture and will require travelling to visit the cultural sites or night markets.
It is important to note that if you plan to travel in wet season, Karon beach is exposed to rough sea conditions and can often be declared dangerous for swimming. This is fortunately not the case to the north in Patong and less pronounced to the south in Kata – and is due to the wide open geography of Karon beach.
- Positives: vibrant, compact village. Picturesque beach. Good selection of eating, drinking and activities.
- Negatives: can get crowded
Just down to the road from Karon, is the vibrant Kata beach. Kata is more concentrated and densely populated neighbour of Karon and is popular with a younger population of tourists. There is a range of options for eating and drinking, with a selection of hip and fashionable hotspots. It is ideal for couples or group holidays who want to avoid the crowds of Patong.
The beach is picturesque and the sand quality is great, with excellent swimming conditions year round. It is however a little more crowded when compared to the much more spacious Karon. Like, some of the other locations, it is a little distant for Thai culture. It makes up for it though with an eclectic mix of restaurants, nightlife and boutiques that cater to all tastes.
Bangtao or Bang Tao
- Positives: luxurious and exclusive, self-contained paradise experience, golfing, diving, horse riding.
- Negatives: price, limited options
Bangtao is a long, wide and beautiful beach which is best known for its high end beachfront resorts. It is home to a unique complex of 6 luxury hotels based named the ‘Laguna Complex’. It is a self-contained community with shops, restaurants, spas and activities. Outside of the complex there is a limited number of further hotels, restaurants and businesses, but compared to other locations can be considered essentially small and quiet. It is the most family friendly location on the island.
The beach is idyllic, relaxed and spacious. Next door there are fashionable beach clubs that offer high quality service. There are several golf courses in Bangtao which are extremely popular. There is also an exciting array of activities such as diving, horse riding on the beach and muy thai boxing that is easily accessible from the beach.
Interestingly, Bangtao is also home to a Muslim community and features the elegant Mukarrom mosque which is the largest on the island. Along with a selection of halal restaurants, it is particular popular with Muslim tourists. The popular beachfront resorts offer luxury and exclusivity at a cost. It does tend to be rather more expensive and this is one of the main drawbacks. Additionally it offers limited options for dining out and shopping as the resorts are designed to be self-contained. It is also a little further from the rest of the island and so it is not as easy to explore the whole island if this is a priority.
- Positives: history, culture, famous restaurants and street food, extravagant night markets. Best for a refined and relaxing experience.
- Negatives: no beach, limited nightlife
Phuket is the name of the island, and Phuket city (or town) is its capital. Phuket city is inland and does not have a beach. Instead, it is the historic cultural centre of Phuket. It is renowned for its ‘Sino-Portuguese’ architecture – a hybrid style of Chinese and Portuguese influenced colourful design that can be found in historic trading towns across southeast Asia.
A ‘walking tour’ in Phuket city is one of the most popular attractions for anyone on the island, which consists of walking around and exploring the old quarter of the city. The streets are adorned with interesting boutiques and art shops, with lively street markets setting up at different times across the town.
Aside from being a culture and arts centre, it is also renowned for its food. It is a UNESCO ‘city of gastronomy’ – with a rich selection of established restaurants serving traditional Thai food, fine dining for western tastes, street food and anything in between.
Phuket town itself however does not have a beach and is not renowned for its nightlife. This is the most important thing to note when deciding where to base your stay as it may be what means choose or avoid staying within Phuket town.
Where to stay in Phuket – conclusion
As with other touristic tropical islands, Phuket offers a variety of locations offering different experiences. One unique issue that Phuket presents is however that travel on the island is usually rather expensive when reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles. This means that where you choose to base yourself during your travels to Phuket is extra important. Conversely however, Phuket offers such diversity between tranquility, adventure and culture, rarely seen in such a single small island, that you are sure to find the perfect fit for your trip.