Figuring Out Where to Stay in Phuket
As far as islands go, Phuket is pretty small. It’s only 576 square kilometers, making it slightly smaller than Singapore. Out of Thailand’s 76 provinces, it ranks 75th for size and 65th for population. But despite its humble appearance, Phuket is one of the most diverse, exciting places to visit in Southeast Asia.
The province offers a wide variety of atmospheres. Where you choose to stay in Phuket has a major impact on your experience. It’s great for crazy parties and relaxed days on the beach. Shopping at name-brand stores and local markets. Immersing yourself in Thai culture and enjoying western food. You simply can’t go wrong!
Exploring Phuket’s Party Centers
Patong is Phuket’s backpacker capital. It’s where you’ll find the cheapest (and best) hostels, coolest bars, and biggest markets. Better yet, it’s home to Phuket’s Bangla Road. Most backpackers say it’s the only place that gives Bangkok’s Khao San Road a run for its money!
Staying in Patong, you’re sure to get your fill of clubs, cafes, and ladyboys. Vendors on every corner will sell everything from ice cream to massages and sunglasses. You’ll never feel alone in Phuket and can easily meet endless backpackers.
Patong is also known for its shopping. Many locals, from Phuket and beyond, flock to Patong to get their shop on. You’ll find an amazing balance of local vendors and proper shopping centers. Whether you’re looking for knock-off name brands or a quick trip to H&M, you’re sure to find what you need.
But don’t worry! We promise you aren’t missing out on the beach if you stay in Patong. In fact, it’s home to Patong Beach and offers easy access to the island’s other regions. You’ll also be happy to know most tours leave from Patong, meaning you won’t have to travel far to jet-ski, jungle trek, and island hop to your heart’s desire.
If we had to describe Patong in one word, we’d have to say chaotic! But we mean chaos in the best possible sense. The entire area is a feast for your senses. And when it becomes too much, escape is just a tuk tuk ride away.
Phuket Town, Phuket
Unlike our other “party” options, Phuket town is not on the island’s coast. Instead, it’s located in central phuket and lacks a tropical vibe. However, it provides an extremely unique mix of old Thailand and backpacker Thailand. Its old town (aka Thalang Road) has gorgeous Portuguese architecture from the early 1900s.
You’ll also find countless vendors at the night markets and can enjoy a bit of nightlife. However, you’ll be around many more locals, families, and older couples in town. Because it’s so much calmer than Patong, and further away from main attractions, it doesn’t attract nearly as many backpackers. But much like Karon (below), it’s a solid option for anyone who wants to escape the traditional backpacker route.
Karon Beach is Patong’s calmer little brother. It’s located on the same coast, and known for its massive white beach. You’ll find the occasional market, as well as Phuket’s famous “Big Buddha” statue. However, Karon is definitely more of a resort town. You’ll have a harder time finding backpackers and prices will be slightly raised. You’ll also be twenty minutes away from backpacker central, meaning a fair trek if you want to have a crazy night out.
However, Karon is a great option for someone looking to balance a calm stay with partying hard. You’re close enough to Patong to venture out, but far enough away to never leave the beach. And if you want just a few drinks, Karon is home to some great local bars and clubs. If being a bit removed from backpacker conveniences sounds ideal to you, this is a perfect fit!
Enjoying the Quieter, Relaxing Side of Phuket
Rawai is roughly forty-five minutes from Patong (and extremely close to Chalong Pier if you’re planning transportation). You won’t find many backpackers in the area. In fact, you won’t see many tourists at all. It’s a great place to relax. If you’re looking to avoid partying entirely, this is definitely the option for you.
This region is also a great starting point for boat tours to Bon Island, Coral Island, and many of Phuket’s other options. And because it’s rarely visited, you don’t have to worry about massive tour groups. More often than not, you’ll have a lot of space to yourself.
However, be aware that this is not the place to be if you like shopping or partying. Your options will be limited to pop-up markets, 7/11s, and drinks at your hotel. Given how far it is from Patong, it’s also not the best option for anyone who is looking to mix both partying and unwinding.
Unlike our other relaxing destinations, Kamala is only twenty minutes from Patong. However, that’s long enough away to escape the backpackers! And it’s also close enough to explore the craziness of Patong if you’re interested. Its gorgeous beach is definitely a hidden gem and provides amazing sunset views. It is a smaller area, though, and doesn’t offer many options for nearby shopping, dining, and drinking.
Nai Yang, Phuket
Nai Yang is an entire hour away from Patong. It’s located about five minutes from the Phuket Airport, and home to calmest beaches you’ll find on the island. The main street is littered with tiny shops, massage parlors, restaurants, and mom-and-pop-style hotels. The area is popular among kitesurfers, so you’ll find it a bit more busy than other relaxing options. However, Nai Yang isn’t home to the markets and vibrant tourist industry Patong is. In other words, you’re still off the tourist trail!
While in town, there are plenty of great spots to snorkel and swim. You can get great views of the coral reefs just off the coast. Once again, you won’t have many options to party. However, this is a much more populated region than Rawai. As a result, it provides a much better balance of relaxation and traditional traveling.