Is Phuket overrated and to be avoided or a great family holiday destination? Despite its blemishes, Thailand’s largest island remains one of the most visited destinations for families. It was time we took a Phuket family holiday to see for ourselves and answer the curious question: why Phuket with kids?
Here’s our Complete Guide to Phuket with kids; uncovering the very best things to do in Phuket and those to be avoided; answering the all important question of where to stay in Phuket; featuring the best Phuket attractions; discovering where to eat in Phuket with the family, and providing Phuket travel tips to help you plan a phenomenal family holiday in Phuket.
Main MenuExpand menu below
- PROS: Reasons to holiday in Phuket with kids
- CONS: Reasons why Phuket might not be for you
- Why go to Phuket with kids?
- Getting to Phuket with kids
- Getting to and from Phuket International Airport (HKT)
- Taxis to and from Phuket International Airport
- Private transfers to and from Phuket International Airport
- Flights to Phuket from Australia
- Non-direct flights from Australia - one stopover
- Best time to go to Phuket with kids
- Passport validity for Phuket with kids
- Phuket Visas – 30 day Visa Exemption
- Phuket Travel Vaccinations
- Travel Insurance for Phuket with kids
- Safety and Travel Advisory for Phuket with kids
- Is Phuket safe with kids?
- Safety concerns in Phuket
- Phuket Scams
- Time in Phuket
- Money in Phuket
- Tipping in Phuket with kids
- Drinking water in Phuket with kids
- Language in Phuket with kids
- Religion and Thai Culture in Phuket with kids
- The Thai Royal Family
- Tips for Thai Culture and Religion in Thailand
- Electricity and power adapters in Phuket, Thailand
- About Patong
- Places to stay in Patong with kids
- Holiday Inn Resort Phuket
- Grand Mercure Phuket Patong
- Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort
- Amari Phuket
- We prefer to stay in Karon
- Where to stay in Karon with kids
- Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa
- Kata – less crowded beach side location
- Where to stay in Kata with kids
- Katathani Phuket Beach Resort
- Walk with elephants at Phuket’s only ethical Elephant Sanctuary
- Snorkel the sapphire seas of Phi Phi Islands
- Check out Phuket Weekend Markets
- Shop till you drop in Phuket
- Stroll Old Phuket Town
- Phuket Trick-eye Museum
- Seafood at Rawai Sea Gypsy Fishing Village
- Spa-it-up on the cheap
- Get blessed at the Big Buddha with kids
- Pop into the Phuket Aquarium
- Zip through the jungle at Flying Hanuman Phuket
- The Pad Thai Shop
- Bai Toey
- Elephant Café by Tan
- EAT. Bar & Grill
- Karon Bazaar - P’Yai Restaurant
- Karon Bazaar Seafood Vendors and Mini Mart
- Karon Temple Markets
- Two Chefs Bar & Grill
- Dino Park Bar & Restaurant (and Mini-golf)
- Phong Phang Seafood
- Kata night markets
- Istanbul Restaurant
- Red Chair Plus
- +39 Italian Street Food
- Nami Ice Cream
- New York Burger Co
- Put Phuket on the family holiday list
PROS: Reasons to holiday in Phuket with kids
There’s a lot to love about Phuket, it’s easy to get to and around, there’s great family accommodation and it offers exceptional value for money. There are beautiful beaches and extraordinary experiences on offer – and when in Thailand anything goes. Here are the reasons to love a Phuket holiday:
- 1. Cheap Flights
- 2. Value for Money
- 3. For all Budgets
- 4. Beautiful Beaches
- 5. Lots to do
- 6. Delicous Thai Food
- 7. Wonderful Culture
Cheap flights direct to Phuket: A destination that offers heavily discounted flights (we’ve seen recent flights as low as $362 return per person from Sydney).
Superb value for money family holiday with extras: There are some enticing holiday packages for Phuket and your dollar goes a little further.
Food, drink and transportation is cheaper in Phuket although attractions and accommodation are on par to Aussie attractions. Families get more value for money and a taste of the exotic.
Caters to all budgets from five stars to backpackers: There is a huge selection of hotels, villas and resorts to choose from. There are loads of family friendly places to stay, all competing for your dollar, where there are kids clubs, playgrounds and resort facilities all aimed at families. Great bargains can be found as the competition keeps prices low.
Beautiful Phuket Beaches: One of the main draw-cards are the glorious white sandy beaches, along the popular Western Coast families can witness magical sunsets on the ocean.
Wonderful places to visit in Phuket and things to do: See lofty limestone mountains tumbling into the shimmering Andaman Sea, visit colourful Thai temples where robe draped monks offer their blessings, or have a close encounter with rescued elephants! There are many wonderful experiences on offer for families.
Delectable Thai food in Phuket: food elevates the experience in Phuket and Thai food is super convenient, affordable, varied and absolutely delicious. There are also loads of non-traditional options and a variety of restaurants on offer from sophisticated sit down dinners to casual street stalls and everything in between.
Beautiful Thai Culture: the warm and friendly Thai hospitality can sometimes be lost in Phuket, overshadowed by brash Tuk Tuk drivers and lukewarm service from shop owners and tour operators. Explore Phuket and find that the friendly local smiles and openness has always been there. The majority of Thai’s in Phuket are kind and warm hearted, don’t let a few rotten eggs spoil the fun.
CONS: Reasons why Phuket might not be for you
Phuket can be touristy and overcrowded: There is no escaping the popularity of Phuket and the crowds that come with it. Pick the right tourist operator, choose the right place to stay and avoid the heavily trodden tourist trails and you can carve out your own slice of Phuket.
Phuket scams, crime and the dark side: The beauty of Phuket comes with opportunistic and supremely savvy criminals out to fleece unsuspecting tourists of all they have. The scams and crime tends to be getting worse, know the dangers and don’t fall prey, common scams and tricks, and how to combat them, are revealed in this guide. Read more about Phuket Scams here.
Phuket is not as affordable as it once was: Phuket can be downright expensive, once you factor flights and accommodation you may as well spend more on food and entertainment at home. There are no longer 50 cent beers on the beach, cheap Tuk Tuks to zip around in or bargain shopping. On Phuket, the prices for everything are just that little bit more overinflated than the rest of Thailand.
Some mediocre Phuket attractions: Overcrowded boats to Phi Phi, unethical animal attractions, and temples that could use new tiles and a lick of paint, there are some attractions that are best avoided. Luckily we’ve found only the very best to list here
Crazy Phuket traffic: Cars, mopeds, trucks and busses all converge on the roads, at peak hours on weekday mornings and early evenings can often lead to huge congestion on the roads and everything comes to a grinding halt.
Why go to Phuket with kids?
The key to conquering Phuket with kids is to look beyond the crowds, tacky shops, traffic congestion and touts out for a quick buck and are minor irritations at best which can be avoided. Phuket offers all the conveniences for an ideal beach getaway. Besides these imperfections make for a unique holiday experience with the benefits of good food, great family accommodation options, and beautiful beaches with superb sunset views.
Phuket can be as timid or as intense as you allow it to be. Explore Old Phuket Town’s history and architecture, barter over knock-off merchandise at markets, walk with rehabilitated elephants, jet boat to the sapphire blue waters of Phi Phi, set off personal fireworks beachside, or stay in the safe confines of a family friendly resort – all this without breaking the bank.
Still Interested in Phuket with Kids?Read more here
Still interested? Read more about the things families need to know before visiting Phuket:
Things to Know Before You Go To Phuket
All the details your family needs to get around Phuket with children:
Getting to Phuket with kids
Most flights operate via Bangkok to Thailand’s second largest airport. A number of international airlines fly direct to Phuket International Airport, some from Australia cities.
Getting to and from Phuket International Airport (HKT)
Phuket International Airport was extended in September 2016, however rather than adding more gates, most planes taxi to tarmac, where passengers disembark onto awaiting buses.
For families, consider the extra time needed to navigate through the airport. Although the ride is only 10-15 minutes, the buses that transport passengers to the terminal can become crowded. There are also mobile stairs to get up and down from, which can cause a slight inconvenience, particularly if travelling with multiple young kids and carrying the extra carry-on items for a long-haul flight.
Check which terminal you are departing from – International or Domestic?
When departing from Phuket International Terminal take note of the terminal of departure; the international and domestic terminals sit in separate buildings, side by side. We noticed there were many passengers with international flights via Bangkok mistakenly queuing up for quite a length of time at the domestic counters only to be notified they were at the wrong terminal. Luckily some (not all) were able to check in at the counters with their luggage before heading to the international terminal. The unlucky had to queue again elsewhere.
Taxis to and from Phuket International Airport
Taxi’s are conveniently available and signs direct families easily out of the terminal and to the taxi rank. From Karon although it can be 30 minute drive, allow an hour in case of traffic and costs aproximately 500 baht. Make sure you insist on the meter. From Phuket Airport, there is an offical taxi rank that has the latest price list to popular resort areas via taxi.
Private transfers to and from Phuket International Airport
Transfers are the best way to get to and from Phuket International Airport for families. The driver will meet you at a pre-arranged spot or hold up a sign with your family name on arrival. They can also assist with your luggage and the car or van is ready as soon as you arrive and are are relatively inexpensive.
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Flights to Phuket from Australia
Phuket is a huge hot spot for most Australians because of the cheap flights from most major Australian cities. Depending on the airline, most flights have one stop via Bangkok, or somewhere in Asia, with some East Coast Aussies able to fly direct.
Direct flights from Australia with Jetstar
Budget airline Jetstar is the only carrier that offers direct flights to Phuket from Australia:
Jetstar From Melbourne (MEL) to Phuket (HKT)
Jetstar operates direct flights from Melbourne (MEL) to Phuket (HKT) with an approximate duration of 8 hours and 55 minutes.
Jetstar Via Sydney (SYD) to Phuket (HKT)
Jetstar operates direct flights from Sydney (SYD) to Phuket (HKT) with an approximate duration of 9 hours and 10 minutes.
Non-direct flights from Australia – one stopover
For all the other Aussie families not living in Melbourne or Sydney a minimum of one stopover is required. Fortunately there are many flights and airlines to choose from and therefore more competitive prices.
Depending on the airline a stopover will be either typically be Bangkok or via the airlines hub airport i.e. Singapore Airlines stops at airline hub Changi Airport, Singapore. The opportunity is available to spend a day or two exploring the stopover city before arriving in Phuket.
The biggest disadvantage of a non-direct flight is the extra time spent at the stopover location, where families will need to allow, at a minimum, 1 hour 30 minutes or a more comfortable 2 hours to transfer through the airport. The latter is recommended to allow for a buffer; kids can slow everything down with toilet stops, obstacles like shops that are magnets for kids, loads of luggage to weigh parents down, and little tired feet.
Average flight time to Phuket with a stopover
Most flights take 8-9 hours to get to the hub airport and between 1 hours 45 minutes and 2 hours 30 minutes depending on hub location to fly to Phuket. With most stopovers ranging from 1.5 hours – 3 hours (although some can be more). The shortest one-stop non-direct flight to Phuket is 11 hours from Brisbane, with most averaging between 13-15 hours.
Please note the below flights are a guide to the most direct one-stop flights to Phuket. Airlines add or withdraw routes regularly and timetables do change. Please consult the airline website directly for the most up to date information.
A little over 13 hours is the shortest possible flight available from Brisbane with one stop, here are the available flights and their times from Brisbane to Phuket. Airlines with routes to Phuket from Brisbane include:
Airlines from Singapore (SIN) to Phuket
Singapore is an important hub for travellers to Phuket. Scoot Airlines, Tigerair and AirAsia operate via Singapore’s Changi Airport. When looking for flights, there is a choice of opting for a combination of airlines to get to Phuket faster and for a cheaper fare.
Via Singapore (SIN)
The following airlines fly from Brisbane to Phuket via Singapore include:
Singapore Airlines (Codeshare with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir)
Singapore Airlines flies direct to Singapore and depending on the stopover duration, offers one of the shortest journey times with a total of 11 hours (includes a very tight 1 hour and 15 minute stopover at Changi Airport, Singapore). This flight is code shared with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir.
If considering a connecting flight from Singapore to Phuket, allow for more transit time as some flights, like Scoot, are treated as separate flights and not code shared between inbound flights from Australia to Singapore. This means airlines will not recognise your onward journey. Therefore, allow more time to transit through Singapore including collecting baggage, transferring between terminals and processing through customs, before the onward journey to and from Singapore.
Emirates flies direct to Singapore in just under 8 hours. However, the Jetstar code share from Changi Airport requires an extended wait of over 5 hours to fly Jetstar to Phuket, making the flight an unfeasible total of 16 hour and 40 minutes. Worthwhile, however, if intending to break up the trip with a short visit to Singapore.
Via Bangkok (BKK)
Thai Airways flies from Brisbane to Phuket from Brisbane via Bangkok:
We flew Thailand’s national airline: Thai Airways, from Brisbane with an extended stopover in Bangkok. The total journey time, including a 3-hour transit, was 14 hours. There are shorter flights available with a total journey time of 12 hours 30 minutes, with a more manageable 1 hour 55 minute stopover in Bangkok.
Via Hong Kong
Cathay Airways flies from Brisbane to Phuket via Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific Airways
Cathay Pacific flies direct to Hong Kong in 8 hours and 40 minutes. The flight does have a tight 1 hour and 15 minute connection, before boarding a Cathay Dragon flight to Phuket which takes 3.5 hours. The total journey time is 13 hours 25 minutes.
Via Melbourne (MEL)
Jetstar flies from Brisbane to Phuket via Melbourne:
Brisbane travellers can fly directly to Melbourne in 2.5 hours, with a short 2 hour stop over before a 9 hour flight to Phuket, making the total journey time 13 hours and 25 minutes.
As well as the direct Jetstar flights there are many airlines offering flights to Phuket with one stop over from Sydney. The shortest flight found with a stop over is 10.5 hours.
A large number of airlines offer a route from Sydney to Phuket including Cathay Pacific, Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, China Eastern and China Southern. However, the long journey time, connections or high costs make them unfeasible. They are still to be considered if wanting a different stop-over destination like Beijing, Seoul or Hong Kong. Ruling these flights out, here are the most common and affordable airlines that fly to Phuket from Sydney with one stop over:
Via Singapore (SIN)
Airlines who fly from Sydney to Phuket via Singapore include:
Singapore Airlines (Codeshare with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir)
Singapore Airlines flies direct to Singapore and depending on the stopover duration, offers one of the shortest journey times of 10.5 hours. This includes a very tight 1 hour stopover at Changi Airport, Singapore, before a 1 hour 30 minutes SilkAir flight to Phuket. This flight is code shared with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir.
Via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL)
Airlines who fly from Sydney to Phuket via Kuala Lumpur include:
A direct flight to Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur takes 8 hours 50 minutes. The journey involves a rather long 3 hour and 10 minute transit (some are longer), before the connecting 1 hour and 25 minute flight to Phuket. The total journey time is 13 hours and 25 minutes.
Qantas (code share with Emirates and Jetstar)
Qantas / Emirates flies direct to Singapore in 8 hours and 25 minutes, with flight code shared with Jetstar. There is a long stopover at Changi Airport of 3 hours 40 minutes before an onward 1 hour 50 minute Jetstar flight to Phuket. The total journey time is 13 hours 55 minutes.
This could be a good option if intending to stay over in Singapore for a few days.
Via Bangkok (BKK)
Thai Airways flies from Sydney to Phuket via Bangkok:
Thailand’s national airline offers a flight from Sydney to Bangkok with a flight time of 9 hours 20 minutes, a brief 1 hour and 55 minute stopover before a 1 hour and 20 minute domestic flight to Phuket. The total journey time is 12 hours and 35 minutes.
Like Sydney, Jetstar offers direct flights to Phuket from Melbourne. There are also many competitively priced flights with one stop from Melbourne. The shortest flight found with a stop over is 10.5 hours.
A large number of airlines offer a route from Melbourne to Phuket including, Korean Air, Bangkok Airways, Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, however the long journey time, connections or high costs make them unfeasible. They are still a consideration if intending to stopover in places like Seoul, Bangkok or Beijing. Ruling them out, here are the most common and affordable airlines that fly to Phuket from Melbourne with one stop over:
Via Singapore (SIN)
Airlines who fly from Melbourne to Phuket via Singapore include:
Singapore Airlines (Codeshare with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir)
Singapore Airlines has the shortest flight available, which flies to Phuket via Singapore in 10 hours and 30 minutes. From Melbourne to Singapore the flight time is 7 hours and 55 minutes, with a brief 55 minute transit at Changi Airport before a Silk Air Code Share flight that takes 1 hour and 40 minute to Phuket. I would strongly advise to choose at least a 1.5 hour – 2 hour transfer time with kids.
Qantas (Codeshare with Emirates Airlines and Jetstar Asia)
Qantas and Emirates flies direct from Melbourne to Singapore in 8 hours and 10 minutes, with a connecting Jetstar Asia flight from Singapore to Phuket. Including a 2 hour 35 minute stopover in Changi Airport, the total journey time is 12 hours and 35 minutes.
Although most of Scoot’s Melbourne routes require an extensive stopover in Singapore, the prices are very competitive and worth it if intending to stay over in Singapore for a few days before arriving in Phuket. The return flights from Phuket via Singapore are considerably shorter (around 12 hours).
If stopping over in Singapore, Scoot flies direct to Singapore from Melbourne in 8 hours and 15 minutes before an onward flight to Phuket which takes 1 hour 45 minutes, though the flight to Phuket requires an extended stay in Singapore.
Via Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Airlines who fly from Melbourne to Phuket via Kuala Lumpur include:
Air Asia flies from Melbourne to Phuket via Kuala Lumpur in 8 hours and 20 minutes, from KL to Phuket takes a short 1 hour and 20 minutes. Including the 2 hours and 35 minutes Malaysian stopover, the total journey time from Melbourne is 12 hours and 15 minutes.
A direct flight from Melbourne to Phuket via Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur takes 8 hours and 35 minutes. The journey involves a rather long 3 hour and 25 minute transit (some are longer), before the connecting 1 hour and 20 minute flight to Phuket. The total journey time is 13 hours and 20 minutes.
Via Bangkok (BKK)
Thai Airways flies direct from Melbourne to Bangkok in 9 hours and 30 minutes. From Bangkok’s BKK terminal there are plenty of domestic flights connecting through to Phuket, where travellers can spend some time exploring Bangkok or take a short 55 minute transit through to Phuket. Total journey time can be as short as 11 hours and 44 minutes.
Via Hong Kong (HKG)
For families wishing to stopover in Hong Kong, Cathay offers a flight from Melbourne to Hong Kong in 9 hours and 25 minutes, followed by a 1 hour 30 minute transit at Hong Kong International Airport, before an onward flight to Phuket which takes 3 hours and 35 minutes. A total journey time of 14 hours and 20 minutes.
Our West Coast neighbours can fly to Phuket with one stopover. Although not as convenient or affordable as Bali – see Complete Guide to Bali with kids, there are opportunities to fly to Asian cities including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok on route to Phuket, for a nice sea change from Indonesia.
Whilst Garuda, China Eastern and Qatar Airlines do fly from Perth to Phuket, the journey time and costs make it unfeasible. Ruling these airlines out, here are the most economical and shortest flights from Perth to Phuket.
Via Singapore (SIN)
Airlines who fly from Perth to Phuket via Singapore include:
Jetstar (Codeshare with Qantas and Emirates Airlines)
Jetstar, which operates for Qantas and Emirates airlines, flies to Phuket via Singapore with cost effective flights, the only downside to these routes being the longer stopover required at Changi Airport. Whilst it only takes 5 hours 25 minutes to fly to Singapore, there is a considerable wait of 3 hours 10 minutes before a flight to Phuket which takes a further 1 hour 50 minutes. The total journey time is 10 hours 25 minutes.
Singapore Airlines (Codeshare with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir)
Singapore Airlines, codeshared with Virgin and SilkAir, fly from Perth to Phuket via Singapore in 5 hours and 25 minutes, with a 2 hour stopover at Changi Airport. A further 2 hour flight to Phuket makes the total journey time 9 hours and 25 minutes. Return flights can be as short as 8 hours with a shorter stopover homeward bound.
Whilst flying from Perth to Singapore on Scoot takes just over 5 hours, there is an extended stay in Changi Airport of 8 hours before an onwards 1 hour and 45 minute flight to Phuket, taking the total journey time to 15 hours. Worth the long flight if it is heavily discounted, which at times they are, or if you’re intending to stay overnight in Singapore before flying to Phuket.
Via Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Airlines who fly from Perth to Phuket via Kuala Lumpur include:
Malaysia Air flies from Perth direct to Kuala Lumpur in 5 hours and 40 minutes, with a short 1 hour 25 minute stopover at KL International before a 1 hour 20 minute flight to Phuket. The total journey time is 8 hours and 25 minutes.
Air Asia flies from Perth direct to Kuala Lumpur in 5 hours and 20 minutes, with a short 1 hour 35 minute stopover at KL International and an onward flight from KL to Phuket that takes 1 hour 50 minutes, the total journey time is 8 hours and 45 minutes.
Malindo Air flies to Kuala Lumpur in 5 hours and 55 minutes, although the KL to Phuket leg of the journey takes 1 hour and 25 minutes, the transit at KL International is 4 hours 50 minutes, bringing in the total journey time to just over 12 hours.
Via Bangkok (BKK)
Airlines who fly from Perth to Phuket via Bangkok include:
Thai Airways flies from Perth to Phuket via Bangkok in 7 hours, with a short 1 hour 25 minute transit and a further 1 hour 20 minute domestic flight to Phuket, the total journey time is 9 hours and 45 minutes.
Adelaide (ADL) to Phuket (HKT)
South Australians can fly to Phuket in 10.5 hours with a one-stop connection. There are airlines, including China Southern and Bangkok Airways, that fly to Phuket, but the journey time and costs make them unfeasible (although they could be a consideration if intending to stopover in Beijing). Ruling these flights out, the common routes from Adelaide to Phuket from Brisbane include:
Via Singapore (SIN)
Airlines who fly from Adelaide to Phuket via Singapore include:
Singapore Airlines (Codeshare with Virgin Airlines and SilkAir)
The shortest flight from Adelaide to Phuket is available through Singapore Airlines with a 7.5 hour direct flight to Singapore, a short 1 hour 15 minute transit at Changi and a 1 hour 45 minute flight to Phuket. Total journey time is 10.5 hours.
Via Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Airlines who fly from Adelaide to Phuket via Kuala Lumpur include:
A Malaysia Airlines flight takes 7 hours and 45 minutes to fly to KL with a 2 hour 40 minute stopover at Kuala Lumpur International, before a 1 hour 15 minute flight from KL to Phuket. The total journey time is 11 hours and 40 minutes.
Via Sydney (SYD)
A domestic flight from Adelaide to Sydney takes 1.5 hours, unfortunately the Sydney connections means a stopover of more than 5 hours is needed before the direct flight to Phuket from Sydney, making the total journey time a little over 15 hours. There are other domestic flights to Sydney on different carriers, consider a combination flight if prices are right.
Via Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific flies from Adelaide to Phuket via Hong Kong, with a duration of just under 9 hours. With a 1 hour stopover and 3.5 hour flight from HK to Phuket, the total journey would be 13 hours and 25 minutes. A good flight option if considering stopping over in Hong Kong before Phuket.
Best time to go to Phuket with kids
Phuket has tropical weather, divided into a dry season (high season) from November to April and wet season (low season) May – October.
The Phuket dry season is best
The dry season is considered the best time to visit Phuket with kids as temperatures are usually more pleasant with less rain and humidity. Keep in mind that with great weather comes large crowds, Phuket is typically at its busiest between November and February, as a popular place to spend Christmas or New Year’s. Accommodation prices are therefore at their peak.
Travelling during peak season does not necessarily guarantee great weather, we travelled during Christmas at the height of the dry season and there were overcast and wet days as well as sunny and dry days, even though the locals called in ‘unusual’ to experience rain in the dry season.
Shoulder season for good weather and better bargain
For fewer crowds and a chance of scoring a bargain, travel to Phuket in the shoulder season. The end of October, towards the tail end of the wet season, or April, before the peak dry season, offers good weather (thought not a guarantee), less crowds and better rates. Try to avoid the school holiday and seasonal peaks, like Christmas, for further savings.
When to avoid Phuket
With a large Russian, and recently Chinese, contingent holidaying in Phuket, avoid the Russian and Chinese School Holiday calendars if possible and you’ll avoid the crowds. As a popular family destination, any school holiday period can hike up prices and draw in masses.
With a tropical monsoon climate, Phuket is warm all year round. April-May are traditionally the hottest months, and September-October, the height of the ‘wet season’, is the time to avoid Phuket.
Advantages of travelling the Phuket wet season
Travelling during the wet season has its advantages with traditionally fewer crowds, off-peak accommodation rates and plenty of families reporting back that it usually rains in the evening with clear skies and sunshine during the day. Take this advice with a grain of salt, the weather is unpredictable and it is the low season for a reason, you’re taking a gamble, but it can pay off.
Family travel tip: If you intend for your holiday to include lots of beach time, soaking up the sunshine, it may be best to avoid the peak rainy season. Whilst there are indoor activities to keep kids occupied, Phuket in the rain is not nearly as fun as in the sunshine with glorious hot days.
Passport validity for Phuket with kids
As with most international travel, passports for all travellers to Phuket, including kids, should be valid for at least six months at the time of travel. You could be refused entry into Thailand, or not allowed to board your Thailand-bound flight, if your passport has less than six months’ validity.
For more information, check details from the Australian Passport’s office.
Phuket Visas – 30 day Visa Exemption
All Australians, including children holding a valid Australian passport, have a 30 day Visa Exemption when travelling to Thailand, providing that they enter through one of the international airports. There is no need to obtain a visa prior to arrival or at the airport. Simply go straight through to immigration. Click here for more information at Smart Traveller.
Australians can enter the country for up to 30 days without needing to obtain a visa in advance. There are strict penalties for overstaying.
Visas are to be obtained prior to departure for stays over 30 days. Check with Thai Embassy in Australia or your consular for more visa information. Some countries require visas prior to arrival and others allow visas to be paid for on arrival.
Phuket Travel Vaccinations
When travelling to Thailand, especially with kids, it is important to have all recommended travel vaccinations to prevent against diseases found overseas.
Ensure children are up to date with their regular immunisations; this will protect against diseases such as Hep B, a recommended travel vaccination for Thailand and part of the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register – which means it is free.
Make sure vaccines are given at least 6 weeks prior to departure as it can take time for the body to build an immunity against the disease.
Please note, apart from Hep B which is part of the immunisation register, travel vaccinations are not supplemented by Medicare and cost extra.
If you have private health insurance, depending on your level of cover, you can get a small amount back for travel vaccinations, although most do not cover for the Influenza vaccine (flue shot).
Vaccinations for Phuket Recommended
Based on recommendations from our family GP, here are the vaccinations we had for our kids prior to travelling to Phuket.
- Ensure your child’s immunisation schedule is up to date. These vaccines include the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Whooping Cough),Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine (MMR), and Chicken Pox vaccine, are recommended for protection against these diseases when travelling to Thailand.
- Hepatitis A is a separate vaccine for children, not part of the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register. In Australia the common vaccine is called Havrix and is recommended for children aged 2 and over.A booster shot is recommended to provide protection for up to 10 years. This is to be followed up 6 months after the initial injection. This means one needle at least 6 weeks prior to departure, that’s another needle 6 months after the first injection. Failing to provide the booster shot, means that the child will have to have the complete vaccine dose again (two needles) or forfeit the 10 year immunity, so the next time they travel they will need the vaccine again.Children aged newborn to 23 months (under 2) are not able to have the Hep A vaccine – please check with your GP for any updates to this.
There is a risk with travelling with toddlers to Thailand, as there is no vaccine for infants and toddlers, exercise caution when handling food and water; avoid uncooked foods such as unpeeled fruit, drink only bottled water, avoid ice in drinks, and remember to constantly sanitise hands.Stay close to central tourist hubs and avoid remote areas as an added safety measure.In the USA it seems 2 x Hep A shots given 6 months apart is allowed for children aged between 12-24 months. Which is not the case in Australia, unless you are Aboriginal and Torres Island who are eligible for free Hep A shots for children between the ages of 12 month to 5 years.
- Thyphoid is recommended for protection against Thyphoid Fever in Phuket. The disease is contracted via food or water. Vaccination can be either a 3 coarse oral vaccine, which tastes slightly bitter, or a two course injection (I know which one most kids would opt for).A booster dose is recommended every three years.
Vaccinations for Phuket Optional
- Influenza is an optional vaccine highly recommended and becoming a standard vaccination for travel. Travelling on planes and in public places through various international terminals proves higher risk of contracting the Flu.It is not for the faint hearted, for a child the initial flu vaccine requires 2 shots spaced 4 weeks apart for it to be fully effective. That’s two needles for bubs. The good news is subsequent annual flu shots only require the one needle.
- Malaria vaccine is another optional vaccination. Phuket and most tourist and urban areas are free of malaria, although there is a small risk, because of this we did not take the daily anti- malarial tablets, the most commonly prescribed is Doxycycline or Malarone.They are expensive and not required if staying away from forested, rural and hilly areas, or border areas between Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Exercise caution by using insect repellent that is high in the active ingredient diethyltoluamide DEET and picaridin e.g. Jungle Strength Aerogard or Bushmans Insect Repellant with 40% DEET.
- Rabies vaccine is an optional travel vaccination. Though the likelihood of being bitten, scratched or licked by a rabid animal is very small, there is no cure for rabies and it can be fatal. The risk is high and worth considering if you think you don’t want to take a chance, or intend to be near animals, particularly dogs in Phuket.Unfortunately stray dogs in Phuket are a common sighting and a report published by the US National Institute of Health states that 1 in 10 are infected and most stray dogs are not vaccinated against the rabies virus.The rabies vaccine is a course of 3 injections over a month. Medicare does not cover the rabies vaccine and it is a rather expensive vaccine. When in Phuket, exercise caution with animals, keep kids away from petting or going near stray dogs, monkeys or wildlife and cover up any wounds or scratches.
- Japanese Encephalitis vaccine is optional if intending to stay over 30 days and visiting rural areas, or intending to do extended outdoor activities i.e. camping.The virus is countrywide and seasonal in the North where it is more prevalent with peak season during May – October. It’s a mosquito born virus and the vaccine involves a two-course injection two weeks apart. If, like us, we didn’t see it as a risk, exercise extra precaution with super strength insect repellant containing a high dosage of DEET.
- Cholera vaccine is an optional vaccination. Cholera is an extremely rare disease where travellers are more at risk in rural areas in the high cholera regions away from the typical resort areas for tourists, and vaccination is recommended for people working and in close contact with the local population.
TIPPhuket Immunisation for Kids
Don’t leave it to chance, especially when travelling with kids – speak to your doctor about what travel vaccinations you should consider before heading to Phuket.
Travel Insurance for Phuket with kids
Travel insurance is essential when travelling to Phuket, ensure your family is covered. From serious injuries to smaller ones, they all cause stress and anxiety which exacerbates when in a foreign country. Have adequate travel insurance that covers medical bills, offer assistance to locate a qualified doctor or hospital in Phuket, and provides 24/7 phone support helps in these situations.
From serious illness requiring hospitalisation, theft or loss of valuables, or a travel delay caused by a broke down Tuk Tuk, make sure your family has the right level of travel insurance.
Before taking your Phuket holiday, scrutinise the policy to make sure the travel insurance specifically covers Thailand in the South East Asian country list and carefully read the Product Disclosure Document (PDS) for what it does and does not cover. Don’t get caught out, like we have been before, and read about the Best Family Travel Insurance Polices here.
While policies and levels of cover vary, look for a minimum cover of:
- Medical, in case of sickness, illness, death or injury,
- Lost or damaged luggage and personal effects, including passports,
- Travel delays that can affect accommodation bookings and activities/tours.
It is becoming more common for travel insurance to be included when you pay for flights and accommodation using major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex) from various financial institutions. Check with your bank for details and levels of cover, but read the PDS carefully to see if it’s adequate for your family’s needs, normally they only cover the basics e.g. small benefits for lost effects, bare essentials in case of emergencies, and loads of exclusions i.e. pregnancy and pre existing conditions or the cover for only the primary card holder.
Cover-more Family Travel Insurance
I recommend Cover-more Travel Insurance* as a well-rounded and affordable insurance family policy. We are current annual policy holders, for more information see our guide on the Best Family Travel Insurance Policies.
*I receive a small commission which you are not out of pocked for if you book via the link above, however there is no obligation to purchase.
Safety and Travel Advisory for Phuket with kids
Check your countries travel advisory for travel to Thailand. For Australians, you should consult the Smart Traveller site.
The current “Official Advice” on the Smart Traveller site http://smartraveller.gov.au/Countries/asia/south-east/Pages/thailand.aspx (as at Feburary 2016) for Australians travelling to Thailand (including Phuket), is “High degree of caution”.
The Embassy has stipulated to stay clear of demonstrations, political events, rallies, processions and large-scale public gatherings – which should not be difficult for holidaymakers.
Is Phuket safe with kids?
Providing you’re not walking alone in dark alleys late in the evening or venturing too far from the popular Phuket attractions, it’s a safe place to visit and something that comes naturally for families who are typically tucked under covers by that time.
Phuket is heavily dependent on tourism and most locals work within the many hotels and resorts, or in businesses serving tourists. Around the streets of Phuket, carefree tourists of every nationality mixing in with locals going about their day is a common scene.
Of the times we did venture out in Phuket after dark: to the night markets, strolling the well-lit streets or dining out at restaurants in Karon, Kata and Patong, we were never in fear for our personal safety.
This not to say Phuket is not without it’s issues.
Be alert but not alarmed in Phuket
Generally, families are safe exploring Phuket, however it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded public spaces.
In Phuket, try to avoid drawing unnecessary attention, keep expensive jewellery and personal items at home, have your wallet and valuables concealed, avoid flashing cash around and carry personal items close to your body.
Petty crime, including pick pocketing and theft from unattended or easily accessible bags is prevalent in Phuket; do not give thieves an opportunity.
Phuket Travel TipReport items stolen ASAP
If you have had something stolen, report it to police and get a written report for insurance purposes. Failing to do so in the first 24-48 hours will void your claim for some travel insurance policies.
Phuket safety with children – exercise stranger danger
As with any unfamiliar place, exercise stranger danger when travelling to Phuket with children. Although safe for tourists, there are unfortunately dangerous people in the world and Phuket is not excluded.
There have been reported child abductions in Thailand (not just Phuket), and whilst most cases concerned child custody disagreements between divorced parents, there have been alleged attempted or actual child abduction of tourists in Phuket. Read the 2013 Phuket child abduction incident here.
Guidelines for keeping kids safe in Phuket
- Keep children close, hold kids by the hand and never leave them unsupervised
- Take care with passing motorbikes and when crossing the road
- Always go with kids to toilets, regardless of how old they are
- Remind children of stranger danger, reiterate that they should not follow strangers anywhere, and to not talk or accept anything from strangers without the OK from mum or dad
- Communicate and reiterate what to do if separated from an adult in public, at the very least have a hotel card with contact details in their pocket
Safety concerns in Phuket
Whilst kidnapping is something us parents fret over, the real worry are the dangers resulting in injuries and deaths in Phuket:
Poor swimmers underestimating their abilities in deep water, snorkelling in seas with big undertows while not wearing life vests, and swimming in beaches with deadly rips have resulted in drownings in Phuket.
Drowning is the number one cause of foreigner deaths in Phuket, following safety precautions can reduce the risk.
Make sure kids wear life vests or floatation devices and are accompanied by an adult in the water.
Swim only on patrolled beaches and between the flags, if there are no life guards, it’s safer to swim in the pool. Also be aware that some resort pools some varying depths; be sure children use a flotation device and are supervised in the pool.
Unfortunately there are unscrupulous operators that fill boats beyond capacity, speed, provide unsafe boats, lack enough life jackets, are untrained, or offer minimal supervision or blatant malpractice.
There was a case where a jet boat operator started the motor propellers whilst a Chinese tourist was still in the water, subsequently, the man was badly cut and died of his injuries.
Phuket is the worst province for road accidents with a shocking number of deaths per year. Tourists get into trouble on self-drive car or motorbike trips. Tour buses have been involved in fatal accidents, however most of the traffic fatality statistics are alcohol inflicted and involve locals.
Tailgating, speeding and failure to adhere to to western road rules runs rampant on the roads, some drivers are just cowboys. If you feel unsafe, ask the driver to slow down and don’t be afraid to speak up.
Theft & Scams
From petty theft, tour operator fraud, to scams involving police collusion (sometimes involving violence or jail time to scare the tourist into submission) is rampant in Phuket.
Drink Spiking and Violence
There are instances where tourists have been robbed after their drinks are spiked. The indifference some Thai nationals feel towards ‘rich’ westerners makes it an excuse for them to take advantage.There have been reported cases of women travellers being assaulted after drink spiking.
The bouncers at bars and clubs are also notorious for being heavy handed with drunken tourists. This is not to say tourists are behaving well, there are those that are binge drinking and situations escalate into violence easily.All can be avoided for families by choosing to stay and have a drink at the hotel resort’s own bars and lounges.
Familiarise yourself with the common scams that occur in Phuket and avoid becoming another victim. Phuket does have its fair share of dodgy bar owners who spike beers only to slash your pockets and take personal belongings, and lady-boys that trick tourists into paying for photos taken with them. Families are less likely to be exposed to these situations which occur mainly at night time in the seedy parts of Phuket.
Here are scams that families should be aware of:
The Great Jet Ski Scam
Jet Ski operators have been known to threaten victims with violence to demand compensation, which can amount to thousands of Australian dollars. The scam involves an operator hiring out a jet ski to a tourist and upon return, claiming ridiculous damages for the jet ski. The local police are in on the deal and are sometimes called to detain victims or pretend to help the victim negotiate a lower price.
It’s best to completely avoid any use of jet ski’s in Phuket, it’s not worth the hassle. If you end up in this situation contact the Tourist Police, a group of English speaking locals and ex-pat volunteers, not to be mistaken for the civil police, who can offer assistance. Be aware that the Tourist Police have limited authority, at the minimum they may be able to negotiate a reasonable deal or help with translation.
There are similar scams involving motorcycles, where bike accidents can be intentionally set up, or where the motorbike is ‘stolen’ from the tourist whilst it’s parked, to demand compensation.
Before engaging in water sport activities or hiring a motorbike, check whether your insurance cover includes motorised water sports and riding motorcycles. Most insurance polices do not permit use of jet skis and motorbikes or require an additional fee to cover these specific activities, it’s best to check your policy before you go.
Tuk Tuk and Taxi Scam
It’s quite a shock coming from Bangkok and Chiang Mai to see how inflated the Tuk Tuk and Taxi Prices are in Phuket. The Phuket Taxi Mafia operates all Tuk Tuk’s and Taxi’s, resulting in sky-high fixed prices with little room for negotiation.
Whilst it’s still relatively cheap compared to back home, the prices make taking short trips in Phuket less attractive, as it all adds up to costing more than expected and makes getting around with kids harder.
Card skimming and short changing
Beware of card skimming devices set on external ATMs at stores like 7 Eleven or Circle K, where the shop is in on the scam, or automatically skimmed by passing a machine near your body. Credit card theft and fraud is on the rise in Phuket.
Another scam involving money is the short changing scam, which can happen when exchanging foreign currency or after a store transaction. In this scenario, always count your cash before you walk away.
Time in Phuket
Phuket’s time zone is GMT + 7 hours, which is 3 hours behind Brisbane or 4 hours behind Sydney in Daylight Savings time.
Adjusting to the time zone meant that the family was waking early (Thai 3-4am) for the first few days. Even at the end of two weeks in Thailand, we were still getting up at 6-7am in the morning in Phuket.
There’s a benefit of the time zone change, early morning tours are indeed very early in Phuket. Day trips to places like Phi Phil and Phang Nga Bay require an early start. Consider booking a tour at the start of your holiday before the whole family adjusts to the timezone and starts getting up later.
Money in Phuket
The local currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht.
Coins come in denominations of: 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht. There are smaller denominations, called satang (equivalent of Australian cents to the dollar), but they are not commonly used.
Banknotes come in denominations of: 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht.
You will most commonly see the 10 baht coin and 100 baht note in use.
Exchange rate Thai Baht to Australian Dollar
As with all currencies, exchange rates vary on a regular basis and depend on the rates offered at the time you exchange your money.
As a general guide, calculate 25 baht to $1 Australian. For example, if 25bht = $1, 100bht = $4, 1,000bht = $40, and 2,500bht = $100.
Phuket Travel Tip – Lèse majestéRespect the Thai Royal Family (and currency)
All currency in Thailand has a portrait of the King (or a relative), and Thailand’s Lèse majesté law prohibit any act that is disrespectful towards the royal family. When it comes to the local currency, offence could be taken if you step on a coin or banknote (even to stop them rolling or blowing away), if you throw money at someone, or any form of defacing of the currency such as tearing, burning, drawing on notes.
Notify your bank to avoid card suspension
As with most international travel, you should inform your bank that you are travelling to Phuket if you intend to use your debit and/or credit cards while in Thailand. Banks monitor activity on your accounts and could suspend or cancel your cards if they notice international usage and are unable to contact you to confirm you have authorised the activity.
While there is a departure tax of 700 Baht per traveller, the tax has been included in the cost of most flight tickets since 2007.
It may be worth checking this detail with your travel agent or flight provider to ensure there are no surprises before you leave.
Most hotels and resorts, as well as large shopping malls and international retailers, accept credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, Diners and American Express are welcomed.
There are plenty of Automatic Teller Machines in Phuket. You can get money out from ATMs at the airport, at the hotel or resort, or along the many main streets around popular tourist areas like Patong, Karon and Kata.
To avoid carrying lots of cash with you to Phuket, pull out enough money at a Phuket ATM instead. However, bear in mind that the local ATM will charge a fee for use, the bank may charge a fee to withdraw baht from your debit or credit card and the conversion may not be very favourable. Different banks vary with their exchange rates.
Is it better to exchange money from home or in Thailand?
Wondering whether to exchange Thai Baht at home or in Phuket? How much cash to bring to Phuket or whether to use credit cards in Thailand? Here’s our suggestion of spending money in Phuket:
Use a travel credit card
Use a travel credit card that offers favourable exchange rates and low conversion fees when overseas. We use 28 Degrees Mastercard to pay for everything that we can on the credit card i.e. hotel accommodation, meals at restaurants where credit cards are accepted, at the airport and in major retailers. When the option comes up to pay for the bill in local currency Thai Baht or AUD, always pay with local currency as the conversion is unfavourable.
Exchange some Thai Baht at home
Cash is still king in Phuket, before we leave take out a small sum (a few hundred dollars) in Thai baht, bought with a favourable exchange rate from Australia Post. Some banks also offer good exchange rates, check with your local banks and ask if there are any fees. Australia Post does not have any excess fees.
Larger amounts in Baht may require a few days to order. Contact your local Australia Post Office for assistance. ID is required to pick up the Thai Baht.
Debit card to withdraw extra Thai Baht minimally
We don’t carry a lot of cash on us, we use ATMs to withdraw Baht as we need, and we try to minimise the amount of times we need to use the ATM to avoid the bad conversion and the ATM charges. Sometimes it can be $5 AUD to use the Thai ATM as well as a fee charged by the bank.
Our ING Direct Debit Card is used to withdraw cash, never as a credit card as the exchange rate is poor, however the exchange rate for withdrawing Thai Baht it very good with the added convenience of withdrawing only what we need.
Sell Thai Bath before the airport
Finally, the last tip is always sell any excess Thai Baht at a currency exchange in town prior to heading to the airport, allowing for enough money for the taxi and if you plan to spend cash at the shops in the airport – we use the credit card if necessary. It’s not worth holding onto excess cash for years down the track if at all. However, if you do plan to return shortly then there’s no problem to bring it back to use later.
I am not affiliated with the credit card or currency exchange, this is just a suggestion of how we spend money when travelling to Phuket.
Tipping in Phuket with kids
It is not mandatory to tip in Thailand, however a small gratuity for good service is appreciated, particularly given the low wages.
Bell staff can be tipped twenty baht per suitcase to deliver to the hotel room. Although not expected, hotel lobby staff and porters can be given 10 or 20 Baht for assisting with taxis. Some money can be left for housekeeping from 200 baht at the end of the stay to show your appreciation but it isn’t expected.
Drinking water in Phuket with kids
Tap water in Thailand is not safe to drink. Don’t risk it, especially with kids.
Drink only bottled water, brush your teeth with bottled water and don’t accidentally drink the shower water or allow the kids to swallow the bath (or pool) water.
Most hotels and resorts will supply some bottled water, but buying from local supermarkets or convenience stores is inexpensive.
Restaurants and cafes will supply drinking water that may or may not be safe to drink, it’s less risky to purchase a bottle of water or bring your own bottle of water, unlike Australia bottled water at a restaurant is around 30 – 50 baht ($1-$2).
From street vendors and street-side restaurants always buy only sealed bottled water. Similarly with ice, it is best avoided unless you’re comfortable that it’s been made from drinking water.
Phuket Travel TipStock up on water for the hotel room
We stock up on big bottles of water or the 5 liter dispensers, so there is always fresh water available in the hotel room. We would fill them up before we took a day trip or visit outside the resort.
Language in Phuket with kids
English is commonly used throughout Phuket in most tourist areas making it easy to converse and get around. Most Thai nationals are able to speak and understand the English language. Thai nationals in Phuket also speak Russian and English and these are usually seen printed on brochures, menus and signs.
It is polite to try and learn a few basic phrases of the Thai language as a mark of respect and a great learning experience for kids (who will probably pick it up easier than you will). Thai nationals really appreciate the effort and it brings a heartfelt smile when the kids make an attempt.
Essential Thai greetings and phrases to use in Phuket
- Hello/Goodbye: Sa-Wat Dee
- Thankyou: Khob Khun
- Yes: Chai
- No: Mai Chai
- How much: Gee Baht
- Water: Naam
- Small (little bit): Nit Noi
Thai language uses ‘krup’ and ‘ka’ to add politeness in a sentence. Males usually end statements and questions with ‘krup’ pronounced ‘cup’, while female speakers use ‘ka’. For example, hello (and goodbye) is spoken as ‘sa-wat dee’, so a male speaker will say ‘sa-wa dee krup,’ while a female speaker will say ‘sa-wat dee ka’.
Religion and Thai Culture in Phuket with kids
Thai people are predominately Theravada Buddhists: the national religion of Thailand. Buddhism is entwined in the every day activities of Thais and Phuket is no different.
Throughout Phuket a temple is never too far and monks are commonly seen in full robe walking the streets. Hop in a taxi and you’ll find traditional Sak Yant, painted on the car’s visor: a Buddhist prayer in the form of a geometric design, used to grant drivers and passengers protection on the roads.
Hinduism influences are also seen within resorts, restaurants and shops, where spirit houses are erected to provide shelter for spirits, with daily offerings of fruit, incense and flower garlands to keep spirits happy.
Religious beliefs have created a deeply respectful Thai culture, evident in the warmth towards visitors as well as the calm and dignified way they carry themselves. The simple ‘wai’ is a polite and respectful gesture, where two hands pressed together with a slight bow, combined with a greeting of ‘saw-wat-dee ka,’ demonstrates the respect towards others. It’s polite to return the gesture and much appreciated when kids make an attempt.
The Thai Royal Family
Thai people also have a deep admiration for the Thai Royal family. I distinctly recall a trip to the local Thai cinemas years ago: after the preview and before the movie an image of the beloved King Bhumibol the Great appeared, every patron in the cinema was out of their seats, standing resolutely and singing the Thai National Anthem.
King Bhumibol reigned for 70 years and past away in October 2016. Thailand is currently in a one- year state of mourning. For visitors travelling in 2017, be respectful of images and shrines of the former king. You’ll find most Thai are wearing black or white, or a dressing respectfully with a black ribbon pinned to them.
Phuket appears more casual than places like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, locals are sporting a black ribbon but otherwise in normal clothing.
There are no specific dress codes for tourists in Thailand, although visitors are free to wear a ribbon or dress in black or white to show respect, it seems a different rule has been applied to foreigners.
Tips for Thai Culture and Religion in Thailand
- Buddhism is a peaceful religion where yelling and aggressive behaviour is considered ungraceful. Try to remain calm in heated situations and show the same respect as given.
- When visiting temples it’s considered disrespectful to wear a hat or sunglasses, dress in tops revealing shoulders and skirts or shorts revealing knees. Sarongs tied around shoulders are technically not appropriate and tops covering shoulders are preferred. You can, however, wrap a sarong around your waist to cover your knees. Finally, when entering a temple always remove your shoes.
- Thai nationals are very respectful of the King and any sign of disrespect (verbal, physical or written) is usually an offence that could get you into trouble: anywhere between 3 and 15 years jail time. Be careful around the king’s shrines, do not deface the local currency, or speak ill of the Royal Family. The same laws and penalties apply to foreigners.
- Showing the soles of your feet (except when getting a foot massage!), or touching the top of someone’s head is considered offensive and should be avoided.
- Purchasing images or souvenirs of Buddha or getting traditional Buddha or Sak Yant tattoos is a sign of disrespect and is strongly discouraged, also these items can be confiscated at customs.
- Being aware of the sensitivity to the local religion and culture will go a long way to ensuring you and your kids have a fun and enjoyable stay.
Electricity and power adapters in Phuket, Thailand
Thailand operates on 220volts / 50Hz power supply, which is compatible with devices used in Australia and New Zealand even though we’re at a slightly higher voltage of 240 volt / 50 Hz.
There was no noticeable difference when plugging Australian devices into Thai power sockets and no concerns doing so. Thailand’s power supply is also compatible with most European and Asian countries.
Power sockets Phuket, Thailand
Power outlets in Thailand are either two vertical pins or two round prongs. Most power sockets can accommodate both types of plugs. Whilst some outlets accommodate a third hole for the earth, most Thai appliances do not use the earth prong.
Power adapter needed for Phuket, Thailand
A power adapter to plug in your electrical devices is needed in Phuket, Thailand. Most ‘universal’ sockets will accommodate the two vertical or two round prongs.
It’s advisable to purchase one before arriving in Phuket, however Australian to Phuket adapters and Russian to Phuket adapters are widely available, check in the major supermarkets, convenience stores like Seven Eleven, street stalls and markets. Some hotels will also have adapters for sale or to borrow.
Rather than multiple Thai power adapters for each electrical item, buy one to plug into a local power board, which is plugged into the Thailand socket using a two vertical pin or two round prong adapter.
To be safe, make sure the power board has surge protection to avoid your plugged in devices being damaged from a power surge. Also, some power boards come with USB outlets which will minimise the space needed to charge USB devices like a phone.
Step Up Converters for USA devices
American electronic devices will require a converter to use devices plugged into Thailand’s power supply. Plugging a US electronic device directly into a Thai power outlet could ruin your device, possibly short circuit the electricity supply and may cause a dangerous situation – don’t do it! A step-up transformer is needed to safely use American electrics in Thailand.
A step-up transformer coverts the 110 V / 60 Hz to Thailand’s 220 volts / 50 Hz for safe use.
The right step-up transformer for you depends on the total watts you intend on using at any one time. Calculate the total watts of all your devices that you will plug in at the same time e.g. charging multiple iphones, camera batteries and electric shaver.
As an example my electric toothbrush uses 40 watts, iPhone 10 watts and battery charger 108 watts, therefore a 500 watt step-up transformer can accommodate all. These electrical items will be plugged into a native power board, which is plugged into a step-up converter using a Thailand adapter, either the two vertical pins or two round prongs.
The watts used on the device are often printed on the charger or the back of the device. You can work out the watts by multiplying the voltage x amps.
Purchase step up converters for US electrical items used in Phuket
Please be advised the following links are affiliated with Amazon US. By clicking on and purchasing through the links below I receive a tiny commission from Amazon and not out of your own pocket.
500 Watt Step Up Transformer for peace of mind loading several devices
This 500 watt travel step-up converter is able to accommodate several small electronic devices, plugged in simultaneously to a power board.
100 watt Step Up Transformer for a couple of devices
If you’ll only be using a couple of devices plugged in at any one time, this 100 watt travel adapter is less expensive:
Where to stay in Phuket with kids
We’ve combed Phuket’s extensive family holiday accommodation listings in the most popular places to stay to find the the best hotels and resorts in Phuket for families. Here are our picks of the top Phuket places to stay with kids in terms of value for money, family friendly features, location and facilities.
Please note we receive a small commission if you book using the below TripAdvisor links which is not out of your own pocket.
Please feel free to book and compare hotels with your preferred hotel provider.
Phuket gets it’s bad wrap from Patong. The cesspool of Phuket is found on Bangla Road where the wretched pray on vulnerable women who due to hopeless situations sell their bodies for money. Here’s where you will find: sex shows, questionable massage parlours, and dimly lit bars with Go-Go girls gyrating to Jimmy Barnes playing on broken speakers.
With so many good alternatives, we wouldn’t recommend families stay in Patong. Bangla road and central Patong attracts the type of people you try to avoid on holiday: uninhibited durnks behaving at their worst, seedy farangs, indifferent locals and a general miserable atmosphere.
Away from Bangla Road and during the day Patong is a typical Thai tourist hub where the masses congregate. The main benefit of choosing to stay in Patong is it’s affordable. With more competition the tours, drivers, and markets offer bigger discounts. Even shops do not mark up their products as high as nearby Karon.
Although we poo poo Patong, there are some very good resorts in the area and they entice with their affordability. Patong does offer a better selection of places to stay ranging from budget to luxury. Families are hard pressed to turn down a heavily discounted holiday packages that offer serious value for money, most often throwing in transfers, upgrades, and late check-outs in modern surroundings. Resorts that anchor either side of Patong Beach, or located further up the hill, offer a decent buffer from the bustle of Patong.
Patong does have a striking stretch of golden beach, the sand is soft and water clear. This together with the conveniences of the abundant restaurants and shops gives visitors everything they want. If you do choose Patong, try and explore the natural attractions of greater Phuket, or spend the majority of your time within the safe confines of your resort, and it can work. Patong can be accepted if you look past the jet ski hustlers, rubbish lining the boulevard, heavy traffic and hoards of visitors, including cruise-ship passengers who tender just off Patong Beach.
If you’re curious to see Patong, combine a quick diversion on the way to other Phuket tourist attractions like Phuket Old Town or the Phuket Weekend Market, try to avoid Bangla Road at night or altogether – you’re not missing much.
Places to stay in Patong with kids
Find the right Patong hotel or resort and you’ll have a safe haven away from the chaotic and sometimes intense tourist areas, where you can still venture out to the heart of the action. Families will find it hard to look past a good deal in the Patong area with a large selection of great family friendly Phuket accommodation at competitive prices.
Here are our best picks for places to stay in Patong with kids, we’ve included some right in the heart of bustling Patong and others on the outskirts but within a short walk or shorter Tuk Tuk ride away.
Holiday Inn Resort Phuket
Address: 52 Thawewong Rd, Tambon Patong, Phuket.
Holiday Inn Resort Pro
In the heart of Phuket with direct access to Patong Beach the affordable Holiday Inn Resort caters to kids in spades. With a variety of pools, a wonderful kids club program, and the themed kids rooms in the Family Suites it makes this resort one of the best in Phuket.
Holiday Inn Resort Con
The Holiday Inn Resort is positioned in Patong, a good or bad thing depending on your travel style. There are the minor irritations that include traffic congestion, overcrowded streets, a busy beach and annoying touts to consider when choosing this resort.
Holiday Inn Resort Bottom line
Offers great value for money in the heart of Patong with consistently excellent reviews, it’s hard to look past the award winning Holiday Inn Resort Phuket, with everything a family needs for a perfect Phuket holiday with kids.
Fantastic family accommodation
The Family Suites make the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket the most family friendly place to stay in Phuket’s Patong area and a contender for possibly the best in Phuket. The clean, modern and sophisticated parents’ room with comfy king bed in each Family Suite is connected to a separate kids’ room with either a Pirate or Sea-world theme.
Kids can sleep in either turtle shells under a mural of brightly coloured marine animals or in mini pirate ships with treasure maps and pirate boat cartoon art on the walls. There are colourful themed bed linens and fluffy toys to make kids feel right at home. Perhaps the most exciting thing for kids is the play corner complete with a toy-box, TV, DVD player and XBOX console.
There are also more affordable Kid-suites, an oversized room with a separate brightly coloured pirate themed kids area with a bunk bed, their own TV and video games and a toy box. All rooms have kid friendly touches like tap protectors, mini robes and slippers.
Wonderful kids club program
The resort offers an underwater themed complimentary kids’ club where kids aged 5 – 10 years can join in on a diverse program of activities. What’s great about the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket’s Kids’ Club program is the opportunities to play outdoors with fully supervised activities in the kids’ pools that have a wading area, fountains and a water slide. There are also arts and crafts, sports and events, video games and toys in the multi-room indoor area.
Whilst most kids’ clubs run throughout the day, several times a week, the kids’ club extends into the evenings so parents can enjoy fine dining at the several restaurants and bars on the resort or explore Patong at night. Dinner and lunch during the day can be arranged at an additional fee.
There are pools galore scattered around the resort including a toddlers’ pool, kids’ pool which backs onto the Kids’ Club, a secluded Jacuzzi Pool, suites and rooms fronting the Busakorn Wing are complete with swim-up bar, and just back from Patong Beach is the Main Beach Pool lagoon complete with fountains, spa and shaded wading areas.
All images courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Phuket
Holiday Inn Phuket Reviews and book with Tripadvisor
Read more reviews on the Holiday Inn Phuket Tripadvisor Reviews and book Holiday Inn Resort Phuket here.
Grand Mercure Phuket Patong
Grand Mercure Phuket Patong Pro
The room amenities, modern facilities, great pool and location away from the busy part of Patong and the value for money, make this resort an excellent family choice.
Grand Mercure Phuket Patong Con
The way the rooms centre around the long and narrow lagoon pools make this resort feel a little small. The small kids corner is only suitable for infants for a small amount of time. Lacking direct beach access could be a deal breaker for families.
Grand Mercure Phuket Patong Bottom line
A moderately priced, high quality resort with all the modern bells and whistles that make for a comfortable and enjoyable Phuket family holiday.
Good position set back from the beach
The Grand Mecure Phuket Patong set back 500m back from Patong Beach, is perfectly positioned just that little bit away from the Patong Beach and street crowds but close enough for a visit – roughly 10 minutes walk, or there are daily shuttles from the resort to Patong Beach and Jungceylon Shopping Mall nearby. What’s great about this resort is that the surrounding streets have their own shops and restaurants away from bustling Patong.
Great room configurations from deluxe to pool villas
The contemporary Thai décor appeals to modern Australian families that are looking for home comforts in the heart of exotic Phuket. There are 314 light and bright rooms and a variety of room configurations to suit different family groups. All accommodations enjoy amenities including complimentary WIFI, 40 inch flat screen TV with satellite channels, pool views, and nice touches including mini robes and slippers for the kids.
Superior rooms can sleep two adults and one child with interconnecting available.
Deluxe Rooms can have two twin beds to sleep up to four with interconnecting available for more space or to accommodate larger family groups. For a little extra the Deluxe Pool Access offers doors that open directly out on a lagoon pool, so kids can swim in and out.
For a little extra there are different suites available. The Superior Suite offers 62 square metres for families of three to roll around in. On the top level are the Deluxe Suites, 90 square metre one-bedroom apartments with separate bedroom, bathroom, dining and living areas.
Private one and two-bed Pool Villas are available with 115 square metres of luxury including a king sized bedroom, bathroom, separate living room and dining area, a private garden, plunge pool and sun deck.
Beautiful lagoon pools
Three staggered lagoon pools run through the centre of the resort offering pool views to all hotel rooms and for some along the bottom direct pool access. A special toddler pool with mini-slide is available for the little ones, or enjoy the main pool with swim-up bar.
A small supervised kids’ room is also available suitable for infants and toddlers for a small amount of time. Designed so parents can have a quick kid-free meal or take in a short spa treatment whilst the staff entertain their young kids. The small room is filled with pre-school toys and some arts and crafts.
Family friendly dining
The fresh and brightly coloured Bubbles restaurant serves Thai, European and Asian cuisine a-la-carte for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s also a Craft Beer Lounge where parents can have a hit of pool and enjoy the 30 craft brews on offer.
All images courtesy of Grand Mercure Phuket Patong
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Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort
Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort Pro
With loads of positive reviews, this family friendly resort is within walking distance to Patong’s shopping centres, restaurants, bars and clubs. Families get a lot for their money with a sprawling lagoon pool, clean and comfortable family rooms and the Novotel & Family promise where kids stay and eat free.
Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort Con
Compared to the Novotel Karon Beach, the older style property is due for a refurbishment. The lack of direct beach access can also deter some guests.
Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort Bottom line
Ideal for families who want an affordable resort style holiday in the heart of Patong.
The Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort is a sprawling property moments from Patong’s shops, restaurants, massage parlours and nightlife. Patong Beach is a short 10 minute stroll (700 metres) and Jungceylon Shopping Mall is a short Tuk Tuk ride away, unfortunately the resort does not offers a shuttle service.
Gorgeous Lagoon Pool
Apart from the value for money, the main draw of this resort is the sprawling absinthe hued lagoon pool with little island nooks, a basketball hoop, water volleyball area, shallow wading pools, spas, fountains and bridges to swim under, as well as many points of entry including rooms with a private mini plunge pool and direct pool access. Families can hire “Water Walkers”: giant inflatable balls that kids can walk on water with.
Perfect Novotel Family Room
The Novotel offers a Family Room, where parents and kids can spread out in a spacious 48 square metre room with separate kids room, complete with a bunk bed, private bathroom and an additional TV with satellite channels. All accommodations enjoy complimentary WIFI, satellite channels on flat screen TV, mini bar and coffee or tea making facilities.
There are also interconnecting Superior and Deluxe Rooms which are designed for larger families. Each room can sleep two adults and two kids in twin beds. Or spread out over two bedrooms with a capacity of eight. For a little extra, families can upgrade to a Deluxe Room with Pool Access, these rooms sleep up to four in two twin beds. A rear door leads to the lagoon pool with private jacuzzi.
Families can splurge on a Suite, these light and bright one-bedroom apartments have a large floor to ceiling window overlooking the pool. Suites can sleep two adults and two children with a main bedroom with king bed, separate living area come kids’ sleeping area, bathroom and kitchenette.
Small Kids Club
There’s a small complimentary kids’ club where parents can drop their kids in with trained staff to play with toys or participate in organised games, arts and crafts. Best suited for toddlers and pre-school children for an hour or two during the day. This allows parents to enjoy a couples’ massage at the resort spa or a quick shop sans kids.
For quick and easy family dining, The Square restaurant offers buffet breakfasts and dinners as well as Thai, Asian and International cuisine a-la-carte. Kids under 16 years of age dine free when accompanied by adults.
Images courtesy of AccorHotels for Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort
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Address: 2 Meun Ngern Road Patong Beach
Amari Phuket Pro
Stylish beach front resort with a superb Kids’ Club, three spectacular swimming pools and new apartment style suites with perfect ocean views.
Amari Phuket Con
It’s not a five star resort but carries a five star price tag. Positioned close to the headland separating Patong and Karon, although the beach is good for snorkelling, it’s rocky and high tides leave a very narrow stretch of sand to enjoy.
Amari Phuket Bottom line
A luxurious family friendly resort that provides a tranquil private island feel, but remains close to all the attractions of central Patong.
Private Beach Setting
Positioned at the most Southern point of Patong Beach, the 4 star Amari Phuket sits pretty on its own small stretch of private beach. The petite resort’s secluded location together with the exceptional service and contemporary design keeps families returning, with many repeat guests singing its praises with outstanding reviews.
Amari keeps an arms length from the busy and energetic Patong centre, but close enough for guests to pop into the shops, markets, restaurants and bars.
Family Friendly Suites
There are two wings at Amari, the Superior and Deluxe offer well appointed rooms with a private balcony to enjoy the views of Patong, these rooms have a maximum occupancy of three people.
On the hill is the newly appointed Ocean Wing, which is a collection of one and two-bedroom suites each with a kitchen, dining area and luxurious separate bedroom with bathroom: a perfect set up for families. Two-Bedroom Suites accommodate up to four people and One-Bedroom Suites allow for a family of three. The elevated Ocean Wing Suites provide panoramic views out to sea and exclusive access to the resort Clubhouse.
Contemporary Kids Club and Clubhouse
The chic Clubhouse perched on top of the hill has an infinity pool overlooking the bay for the exclusive use of Ocean Wing guests. There’s also a fitness centre loaded with the latest equipment, complimentary buffet breakfast, coffee and tea facilities and a cocktails-and-canapés happy hour each evening. Parents can make the most of this facility whilst kids are in the Kids’ Club.
One of those Kids’ Clubs that you feel happy to drop the kids off at, the Amari Phuket Kids’ Club is modern, contemporary and welcoming with a large indoor open space. Kids aged four years to 12 years old can be dropped off for a fee during the day. A team of supervised carers organise fun activities including competitions, games, arts, crafts and free play with toys and video games. Babysitting services are also available and meals provided for a fee. Keep an eye out for the Amari Phuket Family Package which includes a complimentary Kid Club pass, transfers, a dinner at Rim Talay Restaurant and late check out.
Great Resort Facilities
Amari Phuket also has an onsite Breeze Spa and several restaurants and bars. They even have a private jetty which mum and dad can have a romantic dinner on.
There’s a resort dive centre that runs snorkel tours off the jetty, or learn to dive with a house reef close to shore. There are also three spectacular swimming pools to splash around in.
Images courtesy of Amari Phuket
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We prefer to stay in Karon
Karon is positioned on the west coast of Phuket and offers a 3 kilometre stretch of soft golden beach. Some of the popular Phuket resorts occupy the beach including Movenpick Resort and Spa Karon, Centara Resort and Hilton Resort Phuket Arcadia.
Resorts are laid out with the back of the property fronting the beach, although not all resorts are facing the ocean, places like the Novotel and Best Western situated further north of central Karon do not own a stretch of Karon beach, but offer access to the public beach areas.
In Central Karon, along Karon Road is the boulevard running along the beach with local shops and restaurants, popular for casual lunches and seafood dinners. Additional shops, restaurants and markets line Patak Street: Karon’s main street. These provide a variety of places to eat and drink in the area, within easy walking distance or a short tuk-tuk ride from most Karon hotels and resorts.
Where to stay in Karon with kids
Working out where to stay in Karon with the family is overwhelming, there is a large selection of family friendly accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets.
Narrowing it down to affordability, location and facilities here are our top picks of the best places to stay in Karon with kids:
Movenpick Resort and Spa, Karon Beach
Movenpick Resort and Spa Pro: The sprawling resort is positioned in the heart of Karon within walking distance of local shops, market, restaurants and bars, with direct access to a beautiful slice of Karon Beach and a wide variety of kid-friendly accommodation for all family sizes.
Movenpick Resort and Spa Con: As an older style resort it could do with a refurbishment, although the traditional Thai furnishings have a certain timelessness to them.
Movenpick Resort and Spa Bottom line: A relaxing all-inclusive family resort holiday in a sprawling resort that offers everything but the kitchen sink.
Direct Beach Access
With rave reviews and countless accolades, The Movenpick Resort and Spa Karon Beach is the first pick for families holidaying in Phuket. Located in the heart of Karon, the spacious 20 acre property has direct access to Karon beach, which is less crowded than other sections as there are no public beach lounges for hire.
Enjoy paragliding or taking a banana boat out on the water, have a hit of beach volleyball (which seemed popular with the Russians), or enjoy a daily ritual of watching the sublime sunsets beachside.
Great Location in the Heart of Karon
The front of the resort faces Patak Street, Karon’s main street, and is within walking distance to Karon’s family friendly restaurants and amenities, including affordable laundry services, ATMs, a money exchange, pharmacy and a 7-Eleven on the corner for emergency supplies.
There are also several themed restaurants, including El Goucho by the beach for a carnivorous all-you-can-eat fest of Brazilian churasco. There’s also a café and three resort bars to enjoy.
Excellent Family Accommodation
There are a variety of accommodation configurations from interconnecting Deluxe Suites, Family Rooms with private plunge pool or palatial Two-Bedroom Family Suites that can accommodate eight, perfect for large families.
With four swimming pools around the resort there are plenty of options for families, the firm favourite was the mammoth main lagoon pool. Encircled by shady sun lounges, the pool offers a swim-up bar, trickling fountains and waterfalls, a spa, a sectioned of wading area and a wonderful waterslide.
Wonderful Kids Club
The Movenpick Resort and Spa offers a kids’ club: the Play Zone welcomes kids aged 4-12 where they can join in on a host of daily activities from painting and candle making to Thai dancing and kids’ yoga. Fully supervised and open throughout the day, drop the kids off with English-speaking staff and indulge in a traditional thai massage in the private spa villas.
Phuket Travel TipDaily resort activities - check boards
Check the boards for fun activities around the resort, which includes: traditional Thai performances in the hotel lobby, a chocolate fondue afternoon tea, and complimentary yoga sessions.
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Centara Grand Beach Resort, Karon Beach
Address: 683 Patak Road, Karon Beach, Phuket
Centara Grand Beach Resort Pro
Gorgeous resort with the lot including loads of pools, beach activities and a great kids club for families. Positioned perfectly Karon and with recently refurbished rooms.
Centara Grand Beach Resort Con
Might be way out of budget for families.
Centara Grand Beach Resort Bottom line
For families looking to splurge a little this is a top pick for family friendly resorts in Karon.
The Centara Grand Beach Resort in Karon also comes highly recommended. While not the newest or cheapest resort available, recent upgrades to rooms and furnishings, along with its central location and on-site facilities, make it a family-friendly haven.
Located on at the north end of Karon Beach (and not to be confused with the Centara Karon Resort a little closer to town), the Centara Grand is only a short walk or tuk-tuk ride to the main shopping and restaurant strip, approximately 10 minutes ride from Patong, and 45-60 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic).
The rooms at Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket
The Centara Grand Beach Resort offers over 250 rooms and a variety of options, from standard hotel rooms to private pool suites and villas, all set in a private estate with five inviting pools to choose from. Note that children aged 12+ are classed as adults for room rates, and family rooms will comfortably fit two adults and two children.
Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket resort facilities
There is a shallow children’s pool, a jacuzzi/spa pool and a waterpark-style pool, which includes two waterslides, a jumping rock and a ‘lazy river’ which you float down on inflatable rings. The large main pool includes a swim-up bar, and there is also a separate adults-only pool and bar. There are water sports options including kayaking, windsurfing, sailing and a netted swimming area available on the beach.
The resort also offers numerous dining options and late-night bars including the beachside Beachcomber Restaurant/Bar and Luna Night Bar. Although there are fewer local restaurants around the resort, the many options within Centara Grand Beach Resort means families can easily spend a week here and not need to eat anywhere else, though this convenience comes at inflated resort prices.
Fantastic Kids Club
For the kids, there is also a supervised Camp Safari & Club Lounge (one for younger kids and the other for teens) where they can enjoy a range of daily activities (from shirt tie-dying and board games to an electronic fix!). A babysitting service is also available on request.
Phuket Travel TipPoolside Happy Hour
Parents can take advantage of the daily ‘happy hour’ at the main pool’s swim-up bar for the best value cocktails and drinks.
Images courtesy Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket
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Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa
Address: 333 Patak Rd, Tambon, Karon
Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa Pro: An expansive resort situated on a quiet part of Karon Beach with excellent facilities including picturesque pools, a modern kids’ club and chic apartment style rooms.
Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa Con: Maximum occupancy for rooms and Suites is two adults and one child, which makes it more expensive for larger families. Although a short walk or Tuk Tuk ride away from the main shops and restaurants of Karon, the quiet location may deter families from exploring and dining out in Karon.
Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa Bottom line: Positioned on a beautiful and tranquil part of Karon Beach, the refurbished resort could possibly be the best kept secret in Phuket.
This sprawling 75-acre resort has been recently refurbished, with bright stylish modern rooms and fresh new décor throughout. The Hilton Phuket Arcadia is a top choice for families but somehow slips under the radar, perhaps because of its quieter location further south of the main shops and markets of Karon Beach.
Loads of Resort Facilities
The Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa has five outdoor swimming pools to choose from, featuring slides, jets, fountains and a private grotto with a tumbling waterfall. The most attractive swimming pool sits overlooking the peaceful Karon Beach. At this huge circular pool guests can order snacks, sweets and refreshing beverages from the adjacent Ocean Beach Club, and enjoy them on a sun lounger underneath a black and white striped umbrella or from the deck.
There are 10 restaurants and bars to keep families entertained throughout their stay, which is handy as there are only a handful of shops and restaurants at the front of the resort, the others are short Tuk Tuk ride away in the heart of Karon.
Around the resort are squash courts, tennis courts, a putting green and an outdoor playground perfect for young kids. Parents can enjoy the 24 hour gym, steam room, spa or sauna whilst kids are placed in the fully complimentary, supervised Kidz Paradise kids’ club.
As well as a brightly coloured room filled with toys, and arts and crafts, the kids’ club program offers indoor and outdoor organised games and activities. Babysitting services are also available for an extra fee.
Family Friendly Rooms
Elegantly styled Twin Deluxe can sleep a family of four in two double beds. If you’re like us and wish to spread out, connecting rooms are available and can sleep up to eight for larger family groups.
Families can upgrade to a Deluxe Suite with sweeping ocean views enjoyed from a private balcony, a huge separate bedroom, a living room which can be converted to the kids’ sleeping area, a large bath tub and separate shower in the bathroom, and all the modern amenities, including WIFI (at a fee) and a 40 inch flatscreen TV with premium cable channels.
Images courtesy Hilton Phuket Acardia Resort and Spa
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Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort
Address: 29 Soi Karon Nui, Tambon Karon
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort Pro
Set on a secluded curve of powder white sand on one of Phuket’s most beautiful beaches, families never need to leave the expansive resort.
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort Con
Maximum occupancy for rooms is set at two adults and one child, larger families will need to budget for two connecting rooms. The secluded location is away from Karon’s main restaurants and shops.
Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort Bottom line
Ideal for families wanting a relaxing family resort holiday, away from it all yet close enough by Tuk Tuk.
As our local driver pulls up to the entrance of Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort he whispers: “This is one of the best ones”. The grand sprawling resort may be showing signs of its age, but it still sits majestically on a spectacular and secluded cove – one of the best beaches in Phuket. Lucky guests get a slice of paradise more or less to themselves. The out-of-the-way beach is free of local vendors and perfectly manicured, not a leaf out of place on the powder white shore.
Almost 30 years old, although regularly maintained the exterior shows its age, the blockish design and emerald green Thai style gabled roof attempts to marry the traditional Thai architecture with a once modern main building. The hotel buildings encircle a huge square aqua pool complete with large smiling tiled fish motifs on its floor. Whilst it does not scream sophistication, it’s not offensive and there’s a nice charm to it. Most importantly the chic interiors with dark woods, white linens and modern Thai accents leaves a clean, comfortable and contemporary impression.
Exciting times ahead for Le Meridien with an announcement to update the Free Form Pool with new sand wash, swimming pool tiles, and lush tropical garden landscape. Other new features include an interactive fountain for children, purposely-built multiple sunken pool loungers, Jacuzzi, and a bridge offering guests convenient access to both ends of the Free-form Pool area. The main pool will still be open as well as all other facilities. Renovations to commence April 22nd and completed by end of July. Guests who stay during this period score a few bargains, check The Le Meridien Website for benefits. information.
Spacious Family Rooms
Families have a choice of Deluxe or Deluxe Pool View rooms furnished in dark tea woods and modern Thai décor. Rooms have a large king bed and separate rollaway. The maximum occupancy is two adults and one child, however connecting rooms are available on request. Otherwise, families can splurge on a whopping 186 square metre Oceanfront 2 Bedroom Grande Suite, with an oversized balcony to enjoy the sweeping ocean views.
Suites have a living and dining room, master bedroom with ensuite and second bedroom for the kids and are kitted out with flat screen cable TV, DVD, coffee machine, media hub and complimentary WIFI.
Wonderful LM Family Kids’ Club
Kids can participate in the complimentary LM Family Kids’ Club, housed in a large and colourful air-conditioned room that backs onto the playground. Qualified English-speaking staff facilitate a varied program of activities which include indoor and outdoor sports, games, craft sessions including Batik Painting, Thai Dance, Paper Crafting and Thai Cooking lessons. Kids ages 4 to 12 years are welcomed.
Everything the Family Needs without Leaving the Resort
The tucked-away resort has eleven different restaurants and bars with full board meal packages available, together with squash courts, tennis courts, a driving range, nine-hole mini golf course, kids’ club, sauna, spa, oversized pool, gym, archery range, free non-motorised sports and nightly entertainment, there’s no need for families to ever leave.
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Kata – less crowded beach side location
Kata beach is a 10-minute Tuk Tuk ride south of Karon with a smaller curve of soft sand and shimmering turquoise seas. Kata Beach stretches 1.3 kilometre before it’s halted by a headland from which marks the start of the smaller Kata Noi beach. The two beaches together form the Kata region.
Families make a beeline for picturesque Kata and its less populated shores, made more pretty by Koh Pu a small island offshore.
Kata is a much more relaxed beach, but still has a collection of shops, massage parlours, mini-marts and local restaurants that line the main street.
Nestled at the foothills of the mountain, blanketed in tropical green foliage, there are pretty vantage points where locals have set up shops for guests to have a beverage and take in the views.
Where to stay in Kata with kids
The hotel and resort choices are again immense, here’s our list of the very best places to stay in Kata with kids:
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort
Address: 333 Patak Rd, Tambon, Karon
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort Pro
A grand and stylish resort with a great kids up, fabulous pools, beachfront access and great value for money.
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort Con
White accents and furnishings is harder to maintain and wear and tear is more noticeable. In this day in age where WIFI is standard, the surcharge for in-room internet access is dissapointing.
Katathani Phuket Beach Resort Bottom line
Beautiful beachfront resort packed with family friendly facilities in the quieter Kata Region.
The best on Kata Noi Beach
Situated on spectacular Kata Noi beach, where on a clear summer’s day the water is as blue as the sky, the superb location of five-star Katahani Phuket Beach Resort, together with its appealingly accommodation, bright and modern amenities and affordable luxury prices, makes this an excellent choice for families in Phuket.
Great family room configurations
Kathani Phuket Beach Resort has over 470 rooms and villas spread across the length of the Kata Noi Beach. There are family rooms in both main wings, the Bhuri Wing and Thani Wing, you can choose from deluxe family rooms featuring two queen beds all the way up to a two or three-bedroom villa. The Bhuri Wing is set back a little from the beach, but is closer to the Chang Noi kids’ club.
Complimentary Kids Club
Kids can spend the day in Chang Noi, a dedicated building offering a complimentary kids’ club. Kids participate in activities which include: plaster painting, kite making and cooking classes. The brightly themed area offers ball pits, a myriad of toys and video games as well as a shaded outdoor play area with sand pit. For toddlers and infants under 4 years old, child care and in-room babysitting are also available at an extra cost.
Pools and facilities galore
On-site there are six pools: four of them have an adjacent kid’s pool complete with slides and fountains. Other family amenities, include tennis courts, a putting green, or snorkelling and water sports, are available on the beach at your doorstep.
Plenty of places in Kata or at the resort
Of the six restaurants, we would recommend Fisherman’s Wharf for great seafood meals and a few relaxing drinks overlooking the beach. Katathani is another place where you could eat in a different venue every day of the week and never need to leave the resort.
The restaurant, market and shopping areas of Kata are within walking distance and Karon is a short tuk tuk or taxi ride away.
Images courtesy Katathani Phuket Beach Resort.
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Getting around Phuket with kids
Loads of cars, buses, trucks, bikes and tuk tuks share congested roads in Phuket, it’s particularly busy during peak hours in the morning from 7-10am and 5-7pm weekdays, (although traffic can be bad in the early evenings and throughout the day).
Walking around Phuket
Be mindful of the uneven and busy, narrow streets of Phuket. Visitors not only have to navigate cracks, muddy puddles, and dust roads, but also the odd sleeping stray dog.
Stay alert around motorbikes and cars that zoom past in the streets, hold your child’s hand and have them walk on the side furthest away from the road.
Exercise caution when crossing streets with kids, the trick is to be confident, wait for a break in the traffic, and walk confidently (don’t run) across the road. Most resorts have security staff that also act as traffic police and can assist families crossing the road.
The humble Tuk Tuk conveniently whisks families around Phuket and is the primary form of transportation to get to nearby attractions, or when little legs can’t go any further. For exploring greater Phuket and longer trips, a taxi or hired van with a driver is more comfortable and works out to be more economical.
The signature red Tuk Tuks in Phuket are a small four-wheeled vehicle rather than the three-wheeled motorbike cart found elsewhere in Thailand. A Phuket Tuk Tuk will fit four to six adults, or two small families at a squeeze in the back trailer. As they do not usually have seat belts or windows, it is advisable to have kids sit between adults and away from the entry points.
Tuk Tuks are extortionate in Phuket
Be prepared to pay more in Phuket then anywhere else for a ride on a Tuk Tuk. The notorious Tuk-Tuk mafia have set fixed prices on rides based on distance, although, a little wriggle room is available for return trips as a Tuk Tuk driver cannot pick up from the drop off location and has to return to his station empty – so they will wait for you.
General Tuk Tuk prices in Phuket
Tuk Tuks are not metered, and fixed fares should be agreed on before taking off. If in doubt, ask your hotel concierge what the standard fee should be to your destination, there are signposts at popular resort areas.
Phuket Tuk Tuk prices as of January 2017
Prices are per trip based on distance, carrying 4 people. It’s important to confirm with the driver that the rate is not per person, and if there are larger groups agree on a price before getting in (it shouldn’t be more than the below prices for more people, however some drivers are unscrupulous).
The below prices are from Karon beach, and acts as a guide to getting in and around Phuket via Tuk Tuk. Prices are based on distance for 4 people.
- Karon to Kata beach, 5km, 10 minute journey = 200 baht ($7.50 AUD)
- Karon to Patong beach, 9km, 15 minute journey = 400 baht ($15 AUD)
- Karon to Old Phuket Town, 21km, 50 minute journey = 550 ($15 AUD)
- Karon to Airport, 50 km, aprox 1 hour = 1000 baht ($37 AUD)
- Karon to Port of Phuket, 30km, aprox 55 minute journey = 750 baht ($28 AUD)
- Karon to Surin Beach, 21km, aprox 40 minute journey = 700 baht ($26 AUD)
Travel Tip PhuketDisco Tuk Tuks
Make use of the disco tuk-tuks at night for the same price, experience a neon filled ride around Phuket with music pumping.
It’s a shock that taxi’s charge similar prices to Tuk Tuks, Taxis are less common in Phuket for getting around, but are used for longer journeys i.e. to and from the airport.
If you choose to use a taxi, insist that the meter is used, it is best to check with your hotel concierge or tourist information regarding a fair price for your trip.
Phuket mini vans with driver
Hiring a driver with a car or van is one of the most common ways to get around Phuket for longer trips i.e 20 minutes plus for a day trip around Phuket, or getting to and from tourist attractions like Phi Phi island which requires a transfer to the marina and is a distance away from the major hotels and resorts on the west coast of Phuket.
Vans are incredibly spacious and can sit 8-15 seat people in air-conditioned comfort. Our family of four were surprised to cruise around in a giant mini van where the kids could take a nap and we could spread out. It’s much more affordable than one way trips using a Tuk Tuk or taxi.
Fares are based on distance, as an example: travelling along the west coast for the day is cheaper than driving around the island, even though you’re hiring the driver for 8 hours or more.
If you want to visit some local sights around Phuket, especially for groups of four or more, you can negotiate to have a van driver act as your ‘private chauffeur’ and tour guide for a few hours or a full day, they will stop where you want, wait and pick you up at agreed times.
To negotiate a price, simply list the places you want to visit and estimate the amount of time you think you will need, and negotiate from there. The benefits include travelling in air-conditioned comfort at your own pace, and someone with local knowledge of the top tourist spots (and hidden gems – if you’re lucky).
Hiring a driver in Phuket
Reputable private drivers can be arranged through the concierge at your resort, however, they usually charge more for the convenience, we were given a price of 3000 baht (aprox $112 AUD) for 6 hours.
We took a chance with a recommended driver on Tripadvisor and it was cheaper negotiating directly.
Phuket Travel TipTry out a driver first with a short driver first
Full day hire with our driver Manop
We hired Manop from www.showmephuket to take us on a tour around Southern Phuket for a solid day (10am – 7pm) and it cost 2000 baht ($75 AUD).
I’m not affiliated with Manop, he’s just a friendly trustworthy guy. He’s also very busy (have him rattle off his schedule for you, it’s intense). Try to make his life less hectic by booking in advance for airport transfers and day tours, although he squeezed us in at short notice.
If it’s not Manop driving, he has a team of drivers he rotates around. The driver we had on one of our trips was also safe, though not as chatty as Manop.
He prefers email as he is always on the road, and when quoting times be clear on dates and use 24 hour time, e.g. Monday 23rd January arriving Jetstar 18:00. The poor guy has rocked up at 7am for a 7pm (19:00) flight before.
Motorbikes and Scooters
Motorbikes and scooters are everywhere around Phuket. They are the primary mode of transportation in Phuket with loads of tourists hiring them. They come with significant risks, especially if you’re travelling with kids.
It’s the mixture of cars, buses and vans with motorbikes that make traffic chaotic and dangerous. Tourists have often been involved in fatal motorbike accidents and they are not recommended for families.
If choosing to hire a motorbike, ensure everyone has a helmet, including your children, and make sure your travel insurance policy covers motorbike incidents, most do not.
Hire cars – self drive
While it is possible to hire cars (including from the major chains like Budget and Avis) and drive around Phuket independently, it’s just as cost effective to hire an experienced driver. With unfamiliar traffic conditions, congested traffic, parking limitations and sketchy car insurance coverage, it’s a less desirable option for getting around in Phuket.
You will need a valid licence and comprehensive insurance if you decide to self-drive. Read the car company’s policy for accidents and check if your travel insurance policy covers excess vehicle waiver, as excesses can be a substantial amount.
Phuket’s glorious beaches
It’s the beaches that make Phuket such an attractive family holiday destination, on a clear glassed-out day they are spectacular vistas of bright white sand against hues of blue. The prettiest in Phuket offer palm fringed shores of soft fluffy sand and captivating turquoise waters with temperatures ideal for all day swimming. Dotted along the west coast are secluded coves perfect to watch the sunset.
Phuket Travel TipBeware swimming in monsoon currents
Outside of monsoon season, the beaches are calm and gentle. However, strong waves and dangerous currents occur in April to May and September to October.
Splashing along the shore is fine, but swim only on patrolled beaches and always between the flags. If red flags are up, the monsoon currents are too strong to swim. Have a pool day instead.
The best beaches to visit in Phuket with kids
Karon Beach is a long and wide soft sandy beach stretching 5 kilometres in central Karon, it attracts loads of tourists, predominately families without feeling overcrowded. At numerous points along the beach there are water sports on offer; take a ride on a banana boat, go paragliding or paddle a kayak.
Phuket water sports prices:
- Banana Boat ride = 700 baht ($26 AUD)
- 30 minute parasailing = 1500 baht ($55 AUD)
- Inflatable raft = 700 baht ($26 AUD)
A number of resorts face Karon beach with bars and cafes available to enjoy sundowners, take note of happy hour, at the Movenpick Beach Resort Square, the bar offers a two for one happy hour from 4-5pm.
There are various restaurants across the road from the beach that sell food, particularly seafood, and offer tables, some by breezy fans.
Unlike Patong, vendors leave visitors more or less alone on Karon. They do come over to offer enticing treats like kites to fly or pretty lanterns to release into the night sky.
Stay a little after the sunset and see the stars come out and maybe set off a few cheeky fireworks (approx. 300 baht includes a lantern, or maybe less depending on your bartering skills).
There’s a house reef just off the Southern end of Karon beach, before the headland by Beyond Resort Karon. A calm easy dive spot used for scuba diving lessons. Get advice and hire snorkel gear from Phuket Scuba Club on the beach.
Phuket Travel TipTake away beverages bought at mini marts
Further south of Karon beach, lies the smaller Kata beach. While the 1.5 kilometre stretch of beach offers the same relaxed vibe as Karon, the concentration of resorts and vendors hiring umbrellas and sun lounges to the public gives it a slightly busier feel.
It was only in 2014 that on-beach vendors that supplied everything from massages, food, souvenirs and beer were kicked off the beach by Thai authorities. Operators renting sections of the beach were seen harassing and chasing non-paying visitors off their section of the public beach. Although much less crowded than it was with the vendors, it’s not a secluded beach by any stretch.
The reason for Kata’s popularity is the sheltered beach is picture perfect, particularly at sunset with the silhouette of Koh Pu, also known as Crab Island, a perfect oval domed island that sits pretty offshore and offers great snorkelling.
Kata Beach, fringed with Causarina Trees and Palms, was once a sleepy fishing village and you’ll find remnants of this on the Northern and Southern ends of the beach, where long-tail boats can take you out for a snorkel. For guided tours, snorkel hire, or advice on where to snorkel off Kata Beach, Oceanic Dive Center and Nautilus by the beach can help you out.
Travel TipBest Time to Snorkel
The best time to snorkel in Phuket is in the high season from November – April. Beware the strong currents and monsoon waves from May – October.
Busy or not, there’s no denying Kata beach’s beauty. It’s accessibility combined with conveniences of the shops, restaurants and bars running alongside the beach make it a must visit for families.
Kata Noi Beach
Over the hill and a little further south of Kata beach is a pretty little bay known as Kata Noi. The Katathani Phuket Beach Resort, whose staff keep it impeccably manicured, primarily occupies the 850-metre curve of beach.
Most patrons are guests of Katathani, although there are families from nearby Kata and Karon that want a slower pace and less crowds.
Typical water sports, including paragliding, jet skis and banana boats, are available for hire along with sun lounges and shady umbrellas.
Across the road you’ll find a few local restaurants, or enjoy the establishments at the Katathani Resort. On the beach, umbrella vendors can supply anything from a fresh coconut to a gentle massage.
Head 10 kilometres north of packed Patong to find Kamala beach. Pronounced ‘Ga Mar Lar’ the 2 kilometre stretch of soft sand offers a quiet change of scenery from its heavily populated neighbour. The tranquil inlet is protected by a large protruding headland making it ideal for kids to swim.
Hills blanketed with tropical jungle provide a dramatic backdrop to the beautiful strip of white sand.
Several noteworthy resorts face Kamala beach, including Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach, positioned on the southern tip of the beach. Unlike most Phuket resorts, the hotel has rooms with direct access to the beach. To be part of the action, the Kamala Beach Resort is positioned in the middle of the beach and surrounded by shops, restaurants, bars and mini-marts.
A unique feature of Kamala beach is the narrow footpath that follows the beach, where massage huts and makeshift stalls sell everything a family needs from tasty local eats, ice cold drinks, cheap massages and inflatable beach toys with a very cool market feel.
It gets a little more upmarket in Surin Beach, located 4 kilometres from Kamala beach, elevated by a host of luxury resorts, including Ayara Hilltops, The Surin Phuket and Chava Resorts as well as the ultra luxurious villas: Villa Rak Taran and Vilal Yang Som often frequented by celebrities.
Rather than plastic marquees, beach stalls and wooden shacks, the restaurants, bars and shops that run along the beach are purpose built cement and glass buildings facing the soft white sandy beach, although pockets of the more familiar food carts and tented umbrella vendors can be found in and around the main street.
Surin beach gently slopes down into the shimmering Andaman Sea from the narrow stretch of tropical trees separating the beach from the shops.
At the northern and southern ends of the beach are rocky bluffs where kids can explore at low tide or snorkel during high tide.
Whilst in Surin, pop into Wat Surin a modest temple right on Surin Beach. There’s also a golf course and surf school nearby.
Laem Singh Beach
Tucked away between Surin and Kamala is a 150 metre curve of soft sandy beach. Have the Tuk Tuk driver drop the family off at Laem Sing Beach car park.
Families will need to navigate a narrow 200 metre series of stairs to the beach, but not before paying a 200 baht per person entry fee which goes straight into the pockets of an opportunistic but organised local. Kid’s fees should be waived, but this depends on your negotiation skills.
Whilst Laem Sing Beach is no longer a secluded and secret beach, it’s not overcrowded either and the lush tropical jungle that spreads over jagged cliffs and creeps onto the beach gives an air of exotic isolation. That’s until you look back up the beach and see the rubbish and debris lining the hill.
Sun loungers and umbrellas take up the best spots along the beach from the centre to the southern end and cost 120 – 200 baht per day. Shade under the plentiful trees can be found on the southern end, where the best snorkelling can be found, between the rocks and crags.
Umbrella vendors are ready and willing to sell food, drinks, and massages, and set back from the beach are a series of restaurants with a heavy Italian influence catering for the Italian visitors that flock to Laem Singh’s shores. There are also water sports for hire including kayaks and jet skis.
Phuket Travel TipFar North Coast for Seclude Beaches
Most of the secluded beaches are on the far north coast of Phuket.
Bang Tao Beach
Stretching 6 kilometres, Bang Tao Beach is one of the longest in Phuket, but also one of the quietest year round as it’s located in the North West coast where fewer people frequent.
During low tide, you can walk most of the 6 kilometres to the secluded harbour that fronts the Anantara Layan Phuket resort. Bear in mind that the walk is not for the faint hearted and would take over an hour with kids.
At the very northern tip of Bang Tao Beach lies a deserted rocky cove abundant with marine life. Find crabs climbing craggy rocks or snorkel the secluded atoll with large schools of Sargent Major Fish.
As Bang Tao is long, there are plenty of untouched spots where only trees line the sandy foreshore. Occasionally there will be a beach vendor canvassing the typical tourist souvenirs, local snacks and drinks, as well as directing you to the nearest lounge and umbrella for hire.
A concentration of restaurants and shops run along the boulevard and front pockets of central Bang Tao Beach, the most famous is Tony’s near Banyan Tree Resort. Tony’s has had a few reincarnations, continuing to rebuild on the beach despite Government authorities bulldozing its illegal occupation. It’s now set back from the beach, still offering tables and chairs on the sand. The seafood prices are high, but it’s the price to pay to for premium position.
Freedom Beach is an arc of powder white sand and pristine blue water sheltered between two headlands, and is one of the best beaches in Phuket.
Unfortunately Freedom Beach is difficult and expensive to reach, which doesn’t deter the crowds during peak season where it become overcrowded.
The cheapest way to get to Freedom Beach is on land via Tuk Tuk, although not recommended for families. A Tuk Tuk can deliver you to Freedom Beach Parking Lot (approx. 500 – 700 baht from Karon, cheaper from Patong). A further 200 baht entrance fee per person grants access to a makeshift path of steps and narrow landings, 400 metres to the beach. Infants and young kids may find it difficult to navigate the pathway and be mindful of the steep and exhausting return trip up the mountain.
The best way to get to Freedom Beach is via Longtail Boat, which will cost a family of four 1200 Baht from Patong and 2000 baht from the Northern corner of Karon Beach or Southern end of Kata Beach. Longtail Boats are always more expensive departing from the tourist spots along the west coast, you can make a day out of it and beach-hop along the west coast from Rawai Fishing Village, where Longtails can be hired for 1500 baht all day.
Nai Han Beach
Travel 9 kilometers south of Karon along a windy mountain road and discover Nai Han Beach a serene bay where luxury yachts drop anchor. Located just before the southern tip of Phuket’s Promthep Cape, it’s far enough that only the local resort guests patron this beach, and offers a relaxed setting perfect for families to spend the day.
Many high end resorts claim premium position on the hill overlooking the tranquil bay. Most striking is The Nai Harn resort nestled on a cliff on the Northern tip of the beach, which offers several beachfront restaurants and bars for families to enjoy a drink or a meal at five star prices.
For those on a budget, a little further from the beach are some casual restaurants and food carts near by the beach car park.
The Southern end of Nai Han is simply tropical trees and soft blonde sand, there’s a rocky alcove great for snorkelling and a small clear backwater ideal for toddlers to splash in.
What sets this beach apart from the rest is the noticeable lack of beachside touts and vendors on the beach. There were no crowded umbrellas and vendors selling their wares, just relaxed vibes and content guests.
Nearby Yanui and Ao Sane Beach secret coves
Secret rocky coves, recognised by the luxe private vessels that anchor off the beach, are located less than a kilometre on either side of Nai Han Beach. Yanui Beach is a beautiful secluded bay ideal for snorkelling and one of Phuket’s best kept secrets, which is hard to come by on the tourist island.
The larger Ao Sane Beach north of Nai Han Beach is more well known, as is evident with the beach side vendors and restaurants dotted along several small curves of sandy and rocky inlets.
The rocks and boulders are great for kids to explore, or bring the mask and fins for a chance to chase fish underwater.
Best things to do in Phuket with kids
The best things to do in Phuket with kids
Aside from beach hopping, Phuket offers a variety of excellent family friendly activities. We’ve sifted through Phuket’s best attractions to include only the very best things to do in Phuket with kids, as well as highlighting the Phuket tourist traps to avoid. Some slightly cheesy places have made the cut because kids simply love them. Here are the best things to see and do in Phuket for families:
Walk with elephants at Phuket’s only ethical Elephant Sanctuary
Phuket Elephant Sanctuary recently opened in December 2016 and pioneers ethical elephant tourism in Phuket. It’s the only elephant sanctuary to rescue and re-home elephants in the Phuket region and without a doubt the best thing to do in Phuket with kids.
In partnership with Lek Chaliert, founder of Chiang Mai’s world-renowned Elephant Nature Park, a celebrated elephant rescue center and reserve, Phuket now has a home for sick, elderly, injured and mistreated elephants.
Families get to take a stroll with these gentle giants around the expansive property, feed the elephants a snack of tropical fruit, have a gentle pat and watch them play in the water. It was a thrill to interact with and see the joy return to these beautiful creatures; it was the opportunity be part of an inspirational story. Through the passionate elephant advocates Joanne and Russell, managers of Phuket Elephant Sanctuary they have championed a better way to see elephants free from torture, pain and horrendous conditions. A valuable lesson for our kids that elephants do not need to be ridden and all animals are to be respected.
Tips on Phuket Elephant SanctuaryEthical Elephant Sanctuary in Phuket
Tips for a morning tour at Phuket Elephant Sanctuary with kids:
- Currently there are no transfers offered by the sanctuary. Families must find their own way by Tuk Tuk or Taxi to the local Monkey Pod Café as a meeting point. They are in the process of setting this service up, please phone or email to see if a transfer is available.
- It can be muddy, hot and sunny. Pack a hat, sunscreen and dress appropriately. We wore t-shirts and shorts. Gumboots are provided including smaller sizes for the kids.
- Swimwear is not required. There is no opportunity to swim with the elephants.
- A delicious lunch is provided on the half-day morning tour.
- Groups are small, our group totalled nine people including our two kids.
- There is a bit of a gentle walk through narrow mud and dirt pathways. Strollers are not recommended, and it can get hot towards midday. I would recommend a baby carrier for infants and toddlers. Our four-year-old was carried at times.
Snorkel the sapphire seas of Phi Phi Islands
Google Maps: Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phil Island, and most notably Maya Bay made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The Beach,’ has been tainted by tourists. The stunning group of islands 46 kilometres off the coast of Phuket has been sullied by uncontrolled numbers of tours to the islands, where masses of tourists have spoilt the once pristine shores and damaged the delicate coral reefs.
On any given day over a thousand jet boats and ferries which can carry 50 – 500 people descend upon the loosely controlled National Marine Park. Knowing all of this, we still list Phi Phi Islands as one of the best things to do in Phuket because of it is breathtakingly beautiful.
There are many other fun summer resort alternatives for families, and indeed the beaches are beautiful, but the islands are magnificent and a must visit at least once when in Phuket.
It’s a choice for families to accept the hoards and go with the flow, or consider somewhere other than Phuket.
Consider Similan Islands instead?
Approximately 100 kilometres North of Phuket, are the Similan Islands, an exquisite and relatively untouched collection of islands off the Khao Lak coast of Thailand. It’s becoming increasingly popular with jet boat tours offered from Phuket.
We recommend Phuket Sail Tours
After extensive research and trawling though Internet reviews, we decided on Phuket Sail Tours for our Phi Phi Island day trip. It’s challenging to navigate through the noise when it comes to choosing the right Phuket Phi Phi tour. Unfortunately there are unscrupulous Jet Boat tours, nightmarish situations where the itinerary was cut short, violence, getting charged extra for life vests and snorkels, untrained staff, unsafe and overcrowded boats.
Reasons to book with Phuket Sail Tours
Though it cost more to tour with Phuket Sail Tours here are the main reasons we spent that little bit extra:
- A genuine Sunrise Tour where you depart the mariner at 7am to get to Phi Phi island first. Most tour operators that claim to be early-bird only depart from the mariner at 8 or 9am. Although we weren’t the only people on Phi Phi, we arrived at most of the hot spots an hour or two earlier than the rest, waving goodbye to the ferries coming in with hundreds of tourists.
- Highly rated on Tripadvisor, the tour operator Captain Mark and his professional and well organised team have rave reviews. Our guides ran the tour like a well-oiled machine, and were trustworthy, honest, warm and incredibly charismatic.
- There are no sneaky extra charges, some tours have been reported to charge extra for everything from snorkel equipment, bottles of water, and the dodgiest ones charge for a life vest. Others cut corners in terms of number of stops on tour or cutting back on the quality of supplied lunch.
- Limits each tour to 10 adults or 20 people including children, even though jet boats have a capacity of up to 25 people. This gave us more space to spread out and enjoy the exhilarating jet boat ride.
- An itinerary that included all the hot spots of Phi Phi island where they dropped anchor at safe and dreamy snorkelling spots.
- Plenty of food, snacks, water and soft drinks throughout the tour including a lovely and, more importantly, clean lunch at Phi Phi Don.
- Safety and security is perhaps the primary reason why we chose Phuket Sail Tours, there have been horror stories where jet boats have sunk, crashed injuring tourist and caused fatalities. We couldn’t fault the staff on our tour, as well as the captain, there were three other staff including the main guide onboard. Staff were always looking on with a watchful eye over our kids in the water, checking the current before we went in for a snorkel, served us food and snacks, and we felt safe throughout our journey on the open sea.
Private Speedboat tour
Whilst you cannot escape the crowds, if you have a large group or wish to splurge just a little. Book a private speedboat tour so that you can leave when you want, skip the less important parts and control your families day itinerary around Phi Phil. It’s not cheap, but if you split it between two or three families, it’s worth the cost. Expect to pay around $500 – 650 AUD for a private speedboat depending on how good your bartering skills are.
Book a private speedboat tour to Phi Phi Islands
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What to expect on a Phi Phi Island tour
Depending on the location of the resort, early bird tours pick up between 5 and 6 am for a 7am departure. Look for tours that depart early from the port and not the pick up time.
Despite leaving early, there is no escape from the relentless crowds of tourists to popular Phi Phi. Choose a tour that offers the least amount of people and an itinerary that gets you in to the iconic landmarks and attractions of Phi Phi ahead of the pack.
Lush green foliage drapes over the top of striking limestone cliffs which protrude from the glassy surface of the sapphire coloured sea. Traditional long tail-boats, casually berth on the powder white sand, acting like props for a picture-perfect postcard. On a clear blue summer’s day, Phi Phi Islands are absolute paradise.
Families can spend the day diving right off the boat into crystal clear waters, swimming in sheltered turquoise lagoons, snorkelling with schools of tropical fish and playing on picturesque beaches. It’s an early start and a long day (8 hours) but we arrived perfectly content although a little on the exhausted side.
If family members are not fond of beaches, swimming or snorkelling, a Phi Phi Island tour is not the best tour option. Phi Phi is all about jetting over waves and arriving at picturesque islands to swim in the crystal clear sea or snorkel the reefs surrounding the island. Apart from snacking and lunch there is not a lot more to do than swimming and snorkelling.
Popular stops on a Phi Phi island tour
Phi Phi Leh
- A swim at Maya Bay – the crowds did not detract from the beauty of this iconic bay.
- Loh Samah Bay – for snorkelling in crystal clear water.
- Pileh Lagoon – protected from the open sea it provides amazing snorkelling and photo opportunities.
- Viking Cave – viewed from the boat, the cave is populated by swallow or swiftlet birds, their nests are commercially harvested for soups, allegedly great for health and vitality.
Phi Phi Don
- Lunch at a restaurant overlooking the main beach.
- After lunch, snorkelling near Wang Long
- Monkey Bay – a small stretch of beach frequented by a troop of macaque monkeys, we didn’t stop as the wild monkeys can be aggressive. It was most amusing watching them chase down a banana from the boat.
- Another snorkel near Loh Lana Bay
- A play and swim at Bamboo Island before heading back to Phuket arriving back at 4pm. Including transfers, we arrived at 5:30pm in Karon.
Check out Phuket Weekend Markets
Address: Thanon Chao Fa, Tambon Talat Yai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket (just ask driver for Phuket Weekend Markets).
Explore the vibrant Phuket Weekend Markets, open from 4pm to 10pm every Saturday and Sunday. Located on Chao Fa Road near Old Phuket Town, Tuk Tuk’s and taxis are readily available to transport families to and from the largest markets in Phuket from popular tourist resort areas.
Known as Naka Markets by the locals, this night market has everything you think you need from tacky Thai souvenirs, replica designer handbags, DVD copies of recent movies (sometimes not yet released) and the trusty old Chang Singlets.
There are sections of stalls undercover and others line the streets in an open set up offering a dizzying array of merchandise: including backpacks, watches, suitcases, art, handicrafts, sunglasses, clothing, jewellery, books, shoes, sarongs, soaps, and stubbie holders.
Phuket Travel TipSome prices for common market items
Here are some prices we haggled our way down to (general guide as we may possibly be the worst of all time):
- Chang Singlet (because we’re in Phuket Thailand) = 150 Baht
- Shorts = 250 Baht
- Havianna thongs with a jewel, because apparently this is pricier than without = 180 baht
- Small North Face backpack = 550 baht
- Sticky toy splat mouse from a vendor on side street that broke almost straight away = 60 baht
- My Little Pony toy egg = 100 baht (very fake pony)
- Beautiful paper mobile in the shape of birds and butterflies x 2 = 500 baht
- Tropical fruit shaped soap, five for 200 baht
- DVD copy (test each DVD out before buying) we purchased some that were dubbed over in Thai = 80 baht each or buy 5 get one free.
Difference between Phuket Weekend Markets and shops in Phuket town
It can be overwhelming with stores often selling similar products. The goods on sale also appear similar to those found in the shops of the main street in town i.e. Karon and Patong. The key differences are:
- Products are cheaper at Phuket Weekend Markets.
- There is a bigger range on offer i.e. more colours, sizes and styles.
- It’s best to buy at the markets than wait to buy it back in town.
Bartering at Phuket Weekend Markets
Bartering is a fine art here and there is room for negotiation depending on how well your skills stack up to the experienced masters. As a general rule, from the opening price offer a third of the amount and slowly work your way up to half. If you manage to get 50% off consider yourself a winner, however 30-40% off and you’re doing very well.
Quality of knock off products at Phuket Weekend Markets
If you look closely at any item sold at the markets e.g. Havianna thongs, branded T-shirts or knock-off wallets, they are not the best quality. The logo could be coming off, the wallet poorly stitched, or the arms to the ‘Rayban’ sunglasses feel flimsy.
Turn your shopping efforts towards the unique handicrafts and local designers rather than the replica merchandise. There can be some cool finds like handwoven baskets in modern styles, Thai hand-crafted wooden animals, pretty paintings, handmade paper mobiles and I even liked the kitschy handmade soap made into tropical fruit shapes, minus the penis and boob cast soaps though they smelt lovely.
Fabulous food at Phuket Weekend Markets
Worth the trip alone for the Phuket Weekend Markets food section, make sure you arrive on an empty stomach. Stroll through the huge undercover food stalls selling cheap and delicious single servings of sweet and savoury goodness.
The food area is hot, noisy and crowded. Where locals and tourists gather around a common interest of delicious food. It’s the way we like our food markets – lots of demand and a great turnover.
There are freshly squeezed fruit juices, parcels of tropical fruit sliced to perfection, dainty cakes, delicate marzipan fruits, pretty macrons, sweet thai pancakes, banana roti, coconut cakes and colourful jellies.
Stand-out savoury items include freshly skewered seafood grilled over hot coals, Thailand’s version of Kentucky Fried Chicken, big vats of hot oil frying up fish balls and Thai fish cakes, fresh roasted duck, steaming vats of dumplings, delicate quail eggs over-easy and, if you search for it, silver plates topped with deep fried crickets and other creepy crawlies.
Grab the food to go, walk and eat seemed perfectly acceptable, or dine on the chairs and tables provided.
Shop till you drop in Phuket
Shopping in Phuket is fun and worth spending some time picking up things you may never wear or use when you get home. Whilst you may not come home with the latest fashion and most of the merchandise are cheap knock offs, the dollar goes a long way and bartering for things to buy in Phuket is an experience in its own right.
With nanny’s for hire, in-room baby sitters and resort kids’ clubs, there’s a good opportunity for the grown ups to go for a shop. Taking kids to markets and street stores is not as hard as shopping back home, somehow the unfamiliar sights, sounds and enticing things to buy makes it a worthwhile experience for kids as well.
Where to shop in Phuket with kids (or without)
Apart from Phukets largest weekend market. Here are places to shop with or without kids, as well as where to pick up baby supplies.
Junceylon Mall Patong
The shiny mall with over 200 boutique shops, a six screen cinemaplex, food stalls, shiny food court, restaurants and a large department store make this a very popular place to shop in the heart of Patong.
Located on the block back from Patong Beach and a short Tuk Tuk ride away it’s a convenient location to spend a few hours, particularly on wet weather days. Teens will love to hang out here with a bowling alley, Karoke Stalls and 4D indoor amusement. For the younger kids Molly Play Centre offers an indoor playground with ball pits, slides and lots of toys for imaginary play.
The multi-level Robinson Department store sells children’s clothes, toys, swimwear and supplies that might have been left at home.
There’s a huge supermarket chain called Big C attached to Jungceylon shopping mall for children and baby supplies.
Nappies and Supplies
Nappies are inexpensive and it’s worth saving the luggage space and buying some in Phuket. They sell Pampers and other Asian brands like Mammy Poko in Phuket, both are reliable, cheap and easy to use. There are also pull ups and swim nappies available.
You can also pick up formula and baby supplies like bibs, dummy’s, feeding utensils and wipes at Big C in the Jungceylon Shopping Mall or at local mini-marts.
Mini-Mart for last minute supplies
Almost anywhere you go, a 7-Eleven, Circle K or generic Mini Mart is not far away and they stock most supplies including baby shampoo, soap, nappies, food and formula.
It’s worthwhile picking up inexpensive bottles of water, we tended to buy the large 5 litre ones to use in the hotel rooms.
Stroll Old Phuket Town
Address: Thanon Talang, Amphoe Mueang Phuket (Just ask driver for Thalang Road, Old Phuket Town).
Phuket’s manicured resort areas often lack a sense of history and cultural identity, however Old Phuket Town offers it in spades. Easily the most photogenic place in Phuket, take a wander through historic Old Phuket Town with its retro cool vibe and fascinating history.
The early to mid 1900’s were Phuket’s golden years, as a result of soaring demand for tin, this mining town was flushed with cash. The once poor migrant Chinese Coolies working in back breaking tin mines, became wealthy Tin Barons. Championed by Siamese High Commissioner Phraya Rassada and backed by influential mining businesses and wealthy Chinese families, the lawless pioneer mining town was transformed into the most advanced and respected region outside of Bangkok.
The Chinese influence can still be seen in Old Phuket Town with charming Chinese Row Houses in multi-coloured hues lining iconic Thalang Road and surrounding sino-Portuguese style mansions, historic Chinese temples and shrines. As Old Phuket Town became wealthier and had business dealings with nearby Penang, this brought along the Malay-Muslims who operate businesses in town.
Whilst Old Phuket Town is a tourist draw, between arty cafes, hipster restaurants and souvenir shops, are real local businesses most still operated by Baba families, descendants of Chinese.
What adds to the authentic appeal of Old Phuket Town is that it remains a thriving commercial hub where locals come to have their motorbikes fixed, buy fabric by the yard and patron the printing press, just as they would have done last century.
Old Phuket Town Walking Tour
This is one of those places that is best seen with a guide. Take a Old Phuket Heritage Tour which includes transfers to and from your hotel resort and a guide to show you the boundless history in Old Phuket.
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Book a Old Phuket Walking Tour here
Must Visit Places in Old Phuket Town
The best way to see Old Phuket Town is by walking, here are some of the must-visit places in Old Phuket Town:
Thalang Road – Chinese Row Houses
The iconic street where pastel coloured Chinese Row Houses sit side by side along Thalang Road. Note the unique ‘five-footway’ design, where each of the front terraces had curved archways which formed a footpath. This was once a covered pedestrian footpath for locals to walk from store to store without treading on the mud and dust covered main road, and used for horse and buggy.
Today the five-footway has mostly been sectioned off, although there are some that still connect and allow a stroll under.
On Thalang Road next to China Inn is Shiu Wei Sheng Niang Shrine, worshipping the Chinese water Goddess Shiu originating in the seaside province of Hainan in China. During the early 20th century there were many Hainan Chinese who worked in the tin mines.
Most Chinese Row Houses that line Thalang Road have been refurbished into fashionable cafés, retaining their vintage look. Choose one that catches your eye, have a refreshing drink and indulge in some free WIFI in air-conditioned comfort under the tall ceilings.
There are also great restaurants ranging from the traditional, owned by the same family for generations, and refurbished modern day eateries.
Best Old Phuket Town places to eat and drink
Some Café’s we recommended on Thalang Road include:
- Old China Inn
- Abdul Roti’s Shop
- Eleven Two & Co
- Mac Chiato House
Street Art – Downtown Inn
If you walk west along Thalang Road which turns into Krabi Road, there’s a laneway with a discreet sign that says: “Downtown Inn”. This laneway between Krabi and Ranong Road takes you to Downtown Plaza. Though the little street market selling fresh produce is nothing special, there are some awesome street art painted along the walls.
More street art can be found walking along the five main streets that make up Old Phuket Town which are Thalang Road, Krabi, Rasada Road, Phang Nga Road and, Dibuk Road. Look for boarded up lots and empty shops and the little laneways (Soi’s).
Soi Rommanni – Opium Dens and Brothels
Brothels and opium dens littered Soi Rommanni, the small laneway off Thalang Road. It was not uncommon for the wealthy Chinese locals, or visiting businessman, to hook up with a Chinese or Japanese prostitute at their favourite whorehouse. Venereal diseases ran rampant, at one time 80% of Phuket men were infected.
No longer the towns red-light district, the rather innocent looking Soi Rommanni is home to colourful guest houses, private homes and cafes.
Shrine of the Serene Light
The Tan family were hugely influential in shaping Old Phuket Town and the family line remains influential in modern day Phuket permeating businesses, right up to the upper echelons of government.
One of the Tan legacies in Old Phuket Town is the vibrant Shrine of the Serene Light, a Chinese temple that is secreted off Phang Nga Road. Once a private family shrine to worship the Hokkien Gods and Goddesses, adorned in dieties and impressive murals, it’s now opened to the public free of charge, though a donation is welcomed.
The entrance is a couple of doors down from South Wind Books, who incidentally stock great second-hand reads and cheap preloved Thailand guidebooks.
Book a Heriatge Tour of Old Phuket Town
Phuket Trick-eye Museum
Address: 130/1 Phang Nga Road, Soi Phang Nga 1, Talad Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket. Website: http://www.phukettrickeyemuseum.com. Open: 10am – 7pm daily.
If the kids have had enough of history, quaint sino-European architecture and arty cafes, it’s worth popping into the Phuket Trick-eye Museum nearby (a short Tuk Tuk ride away).
Although it’s not a place to go out of your way to visit, if you’re in the neighbourhood this photo attraction is a good way to combine both history and a bit of fun.
With over 100 painted 3D galleries, the museum encourages families to interact with the painted optical illusions and capture photos immersed in its galleries – remember the camera.
Kids can pretend they are guzzling a giant bottle of coke, clinging onto a dark and gloomy rock crevice, escaping from the jaws of a hungry fish, or traversing a rickety bridge over a roaring waterfall.
A great way to get out of the heat or rain, it costs 450 baht per adult or 270 baht per child, under 130cm.
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Seafood at Rawai Sea Gypsy Fishing Village
Address: 22/9 4233 Tambon Rawai, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: 9am – 9pm daily.
The Rawai Sea Gypsy Village is the largest gypsy fishing community in Phuket and claim to be the first inhabitants of the island. The group of people were originally nomadic fisherman living off their boats before calling the South East Coast home.
Along Rawai Beach, by the pier, lies Rawai Seafood Market, a stretch of seafood stalls where tub upon tub of freshly caught seafood lines the street. Our kids were mesmerised by prawns jumping out of shallow plastic tubs, buckets of colourful rock lobsters, a huge coral trout in barely enough water, wiggling bags of octopus and bright blue crabs neatly lined up on shallow trays. The shop owners are so keen for your business they let the kids hold the lobsters by their antenna.
On the other side of the street are restaurants ready to cook up your seafood purchase from 50 baht per kilo. Prices are a little high, however, there is a huge demand with busloads of Chinese tourists emptying out onto the street and buying everything they can see.
Bartering is a necessity as the prices advertised are high and as a general guide, expect to negotiate at least 50% off by offering 25% of the price and working your way up. The seafood vendors are switched on and even as we approached, the prawns were already immediately half the advertised price.
Prices of fresh seafood
The general feeling is that we felt like we paid too much, even for ‘tourist prices’.
- Half kilo of fresh prawns = 400 ($15 AUD)
- Whole large coral (aprox 1 kilo) = 500 ($19)
- Baby octopus 250 grams = 200 ($7.50)
Cooking the fresh seafood at a Rawai restaurant
Once you have purchased your seafood, choose any one of the restaurants along the street to have it cooked up. Once again the price to cook your seafood is also up for negotiation and range from 50 baht to 150 baht per kilo.
The cooks can prepare the seafood to your liking i.e. steamed, stir fried with garlic, with butter or chilli. There are also pictures on the menu just to be clear. Non-seafood lovers have a wide selection on the menu with traditional thai dishes and a limited western menu which includes hot chips and pizzas
There’s a restaurant, on the opposite side of Chalay Seafood restaurant, which fronts the beach that we ended up choosing to cook our seafood, simply because of the unobstructed views to Rawai beach.
Spa-it-up on the cheap
There are a multitude of day spas and massage parlours near every main tourist area lining popular beaches, main streets, markets and at every hotel and resort.
Services include massages, manicure and pedicures, facials, hair braiding, and fish spa therapies where even the kids can participate.
Particularly appealing are the street side massage parlours offering fish foot spas, where tanks of Garra Rufa otherwise known as ‘Doctor Fish’ nibble dead skin from weary feet. For those that are not squeamish, a 15-minute session will set you back around 150 baht ($5.50 AUD) – and if nothing else, with give you a great photo opportunity and a story to share back home.
Hair-braiding is another popular spa service, depending on hair length the process does take up 1-2 hours, so choose to have this done in air-conditioned comfort rather than out on the beach.
With Phuket street-side massage parlours, you get what you pay for. Rather than a private spa treatment room, you’re lying on table sectioned off by fabric curtains where the linen may or may not have been laundered.
It can be potluck as to the experience and training of the masseuse, although they appear to know what they are doing and do knead and target problem areas and sore spots. For a 60 minute massage costing 200 baht ($7.50 AUD) there aren’t any big complaints.
The prices make it an affordable family affair, dad and the boys can enjoy a foot spa and massage whilst mum and the girls get their hair braided and nails done, all without breaking the bank.
Get blessed at the Big Buddha with kids
The Big Buddha sits and reflects from the peak of Khao Nakkerd, a lofty hill 400 meters above sea level. A visit to Big Buddha involves a taxi or tuk tuk ride up the mountain. The journey passes scenic lookouts, outdoor adventure attractions and a few sad elephant parks. It’s hard to know what to expect from the Big Buddha, as everything leading up to it seems extremely touristy, particularly the option to ride ATVs up to the entrance.
Free to enter with a suggested donation of 100 baht per person (aprox $4 AUD), the 50 metre high Big Buddha felt surprising authentic with volunteers assisting with sarongs and selling souvenirs. To fund the redevelopment, possible purely from donations, white marble tiles that will eventually adorn the walls of the Big Buddha can be purchased with your own personal message written in blue permanent marker.
We visited whilst they were resurfacing the road and at times nauseating fumes wafted past. The Big Buddha has been under construction since 2004. Still proposed is a huge podium, a lotus base, another golden Buddha and several temples. Despite ongoing construction, there are tranquil spots where the wind blows and the wind chimes twinkle as we admired the elevated ocean views.
Before leaving, we had the opportunity to get a holy water blessing from a monk who gifts a scared string (Sai Sin) bracelet in return for a small donation, although there is no obligation. You’ll find the cats around the temple wearing the same string. As the highlight of the kids’ trip, the Big Buddha came a close second to patting the blessed temple cats.
The Big Buddha is open from 6am-7pm daily, and a taxi from Karon costs 400 baht ($15 AUD) one way.
Phuket Travel TipDress code for Phuket Big Buddha
Visitors are expected to be respectful of the culture and wear clothing that covers the shoulders and the knees. Singlets and shorts are not appropriate, however volunteers are on hand to provide sarongs to cover exposed skin. They are more lenient with kids, with shorts on boys and skirts on girls acceptable, however they are welcome to use the sarongs available to loan.
Pop into the Phuket Aquarium
Address: Wichit, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket.
Images of Phuket Aquarium courtesy of TripAdvisor
Phuket Aquarium is not a huge place or an absolute ‘must-see’, but if you’re looking for somewhere interesting to take the kids for 1-2 hours, it is well worth a visit. Located on the south-eastern side of Phuket and approximately 40-50 mins from Karon, Phuket Aquarium offers some interactive experiences not usually found in Australian aquariums, and is focused more on education and conservation than entertainment.
Exhibits include large tanks and an underwater tunnel zone with sharks, rays, tropical fish and coral, as well as a walking track that leads to a turtle enclosure.
Phuket Aquarium is open daily from 8.30am-4.00pm and is relatively cheap at 180 baht per adult and 100 baht per child. Find the entrance on google maps here.
Zip through the jungle at Flying Hanuman Phuket
Address: 89/16 Moo 6, Soi Namtok Kathu, Wichitsongkram Road, Kathu, Tambon Kathu, Amphoe Kathu, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: Daily 8am – 5pm. Website: Flying Hanuman
It’s Asia’s number 1 rainforest adventure with 15 ziplines, abseiling and 2 sky bridges to explore, families can spend half a day or a day in Phuket’s tree tops.
The Flying Hanuman Phuket offers three adventure packages to choose from, there a multiple ‘routes’ to choose from including the full 28 zipline course or a 16 course route that is easier for younger children. All courses are guided and staff assist adventure seekers with safety and equipment as well as guide groups through the course.
Journey A & B with or without transfers is a full course where kids can navigate the full 28 course adventure playground and takes 2-3 hours. Journey A also includes a lunch.
Journey C with or without transfers is a smaller and shorter zipline course, available at 8am and 3pm and takes 1-2 hours to complete.
Closed toe shoes are recommended and minimum age is 4 years old to participate.
Book discounted Flying Hanuman Phuket tickets online
I found the cheapest tickets offered pre-booked online with Klook the with Journey C with transfer at AUD $79 or $69 without transfer.
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Attractions to avoid in Phuket with kids
Thailand is a successful developing nation and has come along in leaps and bounds, yet there is still a tremendous divide between the rich and poor, with a Gross National Income of $5210 USD per annum.
With Phuket heavily dependent on the tourist dollar, animal attractions become a means to financially support families and communities, and humane treatment takes a side step to making money.
Elephant Safaris and elephant riding
There are a large selection of elephant camps, elephant safaris and elephant riding attractions in Phuket. Tourists are unaware that any elephant attraction that advertises riding in any shape or form is unfortunately unethical.
The act of riding an elephant may not appear to cause harm, however before making the decision to ride an elephant, consider how the continents largest mammal, which can weigh up to 5 tonnes (5000 kgs) and has the immense strength to rip down trees and charge at 40 kilometers per hour, can willingly accept humans on their backs.
The damage had been done when the elephant was a baby, taken away from their mothers and put in the crush, long before the actual elephant ride.
Elephant Phajaan or The Crush
The crush is essentially a way to break the spirit of an infant elephant and to forget about their mother. They are tied in a wooden cage or strung up between trees and beaten, starved, cut, burned, whipped and speared. When they are at the brink of death, with fear in their minds, they are able to be retrained through negative reinforcements using sharp objects, chains and a sharp metal object called a bull hook, which is used to dig into their sensitive ears.
These elephants are forced to perform tricks, like performances at the popular elephant entertainment complex – Elephant Fantasea. Elephants seen forming a congo line, painting, riding a bike or showering tourists with their trunks have most likely gone through Phajaan.
Watch the crush process here
Watch a video about the crush here – warning: disturbing footage.
Be wary of elephant tour operators that claim they are ‘sanctuaries’ or even with the word sanctuary in their title. These alleged sanctuaries may mean well, but beneath the surface and you may find the attraction is driven for profits and does not have the well being of the elephants in mind.
Unethical elephant tourism signs
The only ethical elephant sanctuary in Phuket is the newly opened Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, here are some ways to spot unethical elephant tourism in Thailand,
- Do they use bull hooks? Look out for mahouts who discreetly carry bull hooks or weapons in their bag or on their body. Ring and ask, see what their stand on bull hooks are. Some argue this is a form of protection to gently guide elephants if, for example, they were charging at a visitor. This is a form of negative reinforcement, part of the traditional crush technique. At Phuket Elephant Sanctuary they do not use or any weapons. They use positive reinforcement and carry only bananas.
- Do guests ride elephants? Do mahouts ride elephants? If the park do let guests or mahouts ride elephants, this is a sure-fire sign that it is not an ethical sanctuary. There should be no riding, even if it’s not on their backs but on their necks, it should be ruled out. The only way elephants allow people to ride them is through fear. If they say they only let guests ride on their heads and only in the water, this is a no as well.
- Do the elephants have any form of chains or tether on their foot? This is a sign that elephants are kept chained up somewhere before they ‘walk’ with the visitors. Elephants should roam freely.
- Do they offer a bathing experience where the elephant sprays water at the visitors? Look carefully at the photos and see if a mahout is not pulling or poking the ears to prompt the elephant to spray water. Being showered by an elephant is not a natural occurrence.
- Do they let visitors swim with the elephants in a muddy pond or lagoon? This is another sketchy activity, usually involving elephants showering guests with their trunks. Swimming with elephants is not a natural thing to do and something to entertain the guests.
- Do they let visitors bath the elephants? Whilst Phuket Elephant Sanctuary does not offer a bathing activity other ethical organisations in Thailand do, however guests only throw water on the elephants backs and do not touch the elephant or get in and swim with them.
The alleged elephant sanctuaries are on the right path, however they are not to be mistaken as places that rehabilitate abused elephants but another way to out to make a profit. These animals have been bought or born into the camp and used to make money.
Not all elephants are submitted to the elephant crush, baby elephants born at the camps and domesticated are easier to train, though bull hooks and negative reinforcement may still be used. All elephants are put to use until they are no longer useful, their well being disregarded for the entertainment of tourists who may not know any better.
Phuket Tiger Kingdom
Phuket Tiger Kingdom is an off-shoot of its Thai predecessors in Chiang Mai and original Tiger Kingdom in Ratchaburi. It is not to be mistaken for Tiger Temple where tigers are hand-reared by monks and recently raided by the Thai government for breaking copious animal rights laws, including selling tigers in the black market to China. Tiger Kingdom is a privately owned licensed zoo, although it is not part of the global tiger-breeding program.
This attraction may seem like visitors are contributing towards tiger conservation. Make no mistake that this is a private for profit zoo. It perpetuates the tourists desire for instant gratification over the needs of the tigers. In this day of social media, who doesn’t want to post a selfie with an adorable bunch of hand-reared baby tiger cubs? I’m not going to lie I would and its only natural for animal lovers to want to feel that intimate connection, but if you love them, leave them be.
The ethical question is whether tourists should get up and personal with tigers. Wouldn’t the tigers preferred to be observed in their natural enclosures away from the fawning visitors rather than be treated like big domesticated cats. If this was acceptable, then leading zoo’s and sanctuaries around the world would offer a similar option. Of course, this is Thailand and the lines grey between exploitation and conservation.
Although profits have not been disclosed, you could assume that over 1000 captive tigers and three franchises with plans to expand is a cash cow.
Some signs of animal conservation at Phuket Tiger Kingdom
Phuket Tiger Kingdom aims to set up a not-for-profit foundation, to retire adult tigers into a sanctuary where they can roam in a natural environment. For now, adult tigers are kept isolated in sterile and somewhat confined conditions. Cubs continued to be hand reared and taken away from their mothers, and tigers continue to be petted and posed with like props.Th
Tiger Temple safety concerns
Tigers are carnivores with killer hunting instincts. No matter how ‘tame’ a tiger is they are armed with a jaw full of canines that are designed to slice through flesh. However little the risk is of being mauled by a tiger, the risk is still there. In October 2014, at Phuket Tiger Temple, 49 year old Australian Paul Goudie was seriously mauled by a tiger when he entered its cage.
Tiger Temple Bottom line: It’s safer to avoid Tiger Temple Phuket.
It is not the issue of captive breeding or whether staff are unintentionally mistreating tigers, rather, the mentality of offering animals as tourist entertainment. Though the risk is small of being mauled, there is still a risk and it is safer to avoid visiting the tigers with kids.
Dolphin Bay Nemo World
Captive dolphins directly linked to the kill cove in Taijii have been violently caught in the wild and forced to spend the rest of their shortened lives in a small-enclosed pool. The saddest part of this story is this attraction isn’t a legacy dolphinarium, Dolphin Bay Nemo World was opened in 2015. Read more from Sea Shepherd here.
Five dolphins share the same small tank, and in between performing three daily shows entertaining guests with stunts and tricks. The same dolphins are forced to pose with guests as well as swimming and diving with guests, all at an extra fee and in the name of entertainment.
Operated by a Ukraine company Nemo, avoid this attraction at all cost. This is appalling exploitation, completely unethical and must be shut down. Purchasing a ticket to this attraction is supporting Taijii, captive dolphins, and perpetuating a horrible cycle where dolphins will be bred and made to do tricks for future generations.
The argument against this attraction becomes muddled as countries, including Australia, operate sketchy dolphin attractions i.e. Dolphin Marine Magic in Coffs Harbour with varying degrees of standards. This does not give Dolphin Bay Nemo World an excuse to keep exploiting dolphins, unfortunately western countries do not have their hands entirely clean when it comes to dolphins in captivity.
Bottom Line Dolphin Bay Nemo World
If you love dolphins do not go!
Places to eat & drink in Phuket with kids
There are food choices galore in Phuket where restaurants line the streets in and around the main resort areas. Markets have a dedicated section of food vendors, there are fine-dining options and each hotel or resort has their selection of specialty restaurants. Phuket is well known for its seafood with speciality markets, beachside seafood restaurants and quaint fishing villages serving up fresh seafood at relatively cheap prices.
Part of the Phuket experience is taking a stroll and flicking through some menus to see if you like what they offer. The frustration with finding a family friendly place to dine in Phuket is in order to find a good one, you have to weed through some sketchy restaurants. We’ve sifted out some of best family friendly places to eat in Phuket.
Phuket Travel TipTips for eating out in Phuket with kids
- If you stick to Thai cuisine, food is fresh, tasty and hard to muck up. Western food however, can be hit and miss.
- Menus are usually written in Thai, English and Russian, but are also numbered and come with pictures – making it easy to order.
- Tipping is appreciated, but not compulsory in Phuket. Rounding up a bill at local cafes and restaurants is welcomed but not necessary. A 10-15% tip at some of the larger chains or resorts is common.
- Menus at most cafes and restaurants is extensive with many variations of local Thai and Asian dishes, including seafood’s and most meat varieties. They also usually include a ‘Western’ menu including steaks, burgers, pastas and salads.
- Menus will generally also have a selection of food for kids, including ‘plain’ options for fussy eaters like fried rice, omelettes and hot chips.
- If a restaurant, café or street vendor does not look clean – find one that is. It’s all about the turn around in Thailand and safety in numbers. There are plenty of other options available without needing falling sick on your limited holiday days in Phuket.
- Eating from street vendors may increase the risk of food poisoning, go for deep-fried and wok fried food rather than warm sauces and soups. Stay away from salads, seafood and meats that have been sitting out. My husband became very sick from a street side lukewarm soup, despite being loaded with chilli’s.
- For the grown-ups, drinks are relatively cheap, especially the local beers of Tiger, Singha and Chang. The cocktail menus are extensive and delicious, alcohol servings can be poured generously .
- Avoid milk and ice. Thai locals hardly drink fresh milk, and ice may not be clean. My son became very ill drinking an iced milkshake.
Where to eat in Karon & Kata with kids
Here are some of the best family friendly restaurants in Karon and Kata area:
The Pad Thai Shop
Address: Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket. Open: Sat – Thurs 7am – 6pm. Closed Fridays.
Images of The Pad Thai Shop courtesy of TripAdvisor
Made famous for being listed in Phuket’s Lonely Planet Guide, The Pad Thai Shop is still located at the back of the owner’s home on the outskirts of Karon. Originally a street side vendor selling Phuket’s best Pad Thai cheaply to locals, since its famous guide book inclusion it has expanded to a tin shack with a small covered dining area, complete with simple tables and plastic chairs.
Along with the best pad thai, it’s also famous for it’s humble chicken-feet noodle soup with a boiled egg and beef bone soup. Kids will love the Chicken Pad See Ew or the generous fried rice, best of all mains are 50 Baht each or $1.90 AUD.
Address: 192/36, Patak Rd, Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket. Open: 11am-11pm daily. Website: Bai Toey Karon
Bai Toey is a charming restaurant with a sino-Portuguese Old Phuket Town feel in the heart of Karon. Situated along Soi Withet, the small road that leads to The Old Phuket Karon Resort, families can easily miss the understated restaurant. Cosy and intimate with hanging ferns, lush green pot plants and dangling Spanish moss: dine alfresco on the black pebbly courtyard or inside with a retro Asian feel. Windows and doors are adorned with white shutters where diners are welcome to make their little mark on with permanent markers supplied.
Images of Bai Toey courtesy of TripAdvisor
Food is as simple as the décor; their speciality, Thai cuisine cooked perfectly, beautifully presented, served quickly and delicious. Signature dishes include Pad Thai, delicate deep fried prawns wrapped in noodles, green curry, and salt and pepper pork ribs. There’s also a Western Menu, nice little touches for kids include mini milk-shakes, rice in bear moulds and an affordable three-course set menu perfect for kids at 200 Baht.
Elephant Café by Tan
Address: 485 Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: 10am – Midnight daily.
We frequented Elephant Café as it was conveniently located a short walk from Movenpick Resort and Spa, on the Main Street. We were drawn to it as it was packed with Russian families, and we later found it had rave TripAdvisor Reviews.
A casual family restaurant, with courtyard tables under rotating fans, the menu is Thai, Western and European, and generous portions are served up quickly and without fuss by friendly English and Russian speaking staff. We kept going back because it was tasty, clean and offered great value for money. The same style of food beach-side off Patak Road was double the price.
Try their pineapple fried rice, pad thai, whole steamed fish and Thai beef salad. There’s also a kids’ menu that offers Thai Food as well as pizza, pasta, steak and chips.
EAT. Bar & Grill
Address: 250 1, Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: Mon – Sat 11am – 10:30pm. Sun: 6pm – 10:30pm. Website: EAT. Bar & Grill
EAT. Bar and Grill is cosy modern restaurant with minimalistic Scandi décor serving up modern Western cuisine, and specialising in steak imported from Australia. The use of internationally sourced quality produce means the prices are a little high for Phuket, but still reasonable compared to back home and a refreshing break from Thai food.
Open for lunch and dinner with tempting Black Angust Double Beef Burger, Wagyu Ribeye and a soft and tender Chateubriand on the menu. Kids can enjoy juicy mini burgers, chips, corn cob and a scoop of Kids’ Ice cream.
Address: 485 Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: 10am – 2am daily. Website: Subparod Facebook Page
You can easily spot this casual family eatery from the Main Patak Road with two giant smiling characters holding welcome sign, it’s also right next to Elephant Café and a good alternative to mix it up a little, although Elephant Café is that little bit better.
Dine alfresco on the front deck, or on inside tables closer to whirling fans near a small kids area where a few toys keep kids occupied whilst waiting for your order.
Catering to a large Russian family clientele, as well as Thai and Western, there’s also an extensive European menu. The Kids’ Menu includes pizza, fried rice, pasta and noodles. Western food can be a bit bland, but stick to the Thai cuisine and everything is tasty including the seafood.
Even though our son became sick from the iced chocolate milkshake here, I’d still recommend this place as it was our rookie mistake – who orders milk with ice in Thailand?
Karon Bazaar – P’Yai Restaurant
Address: Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket. Open: 10am – 11pm daily.
On the beachside off Patak Road there is an undercover market place most active at night. It’s small but has everything you need. At the front of the Night Bazaar are a series of tin-shack street-side Thai and seafood restaurants, one of which is Chinese style P’Yai Restaurant open for lunch and dinner.
P’Yai’s menu offers traditional Thai cuisine along with a Chinese menu, most notable is the BBQ meats with BBQ Pork Noodles, Duck and Rice and BBQ ribs on offer.
Pull up a seat at a table underneath plastic awnings and dine by the ambient glow of floodlights and the sounds of woks clanking in open air kitchens.
Karon Bazaar Seafood Vendors and Mini Mart
Address: Karon, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket. Open: 10am – 11pm daily.
Nearby are seafood street vendors that have tasty take-away parcels of seafood on sticks complete with handy carry bags of condiments to enjoy by the beach. Wash it down with an icy cold inexpensive beer purchased at the Karon Bazaar mini mart, located at the back of the pharmacy.
Karon Temple Markets
Address: Patak Rd, Tambon Karon, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuke. Open: Tuesdays and Fridays 4pm – 9pm.
In the heart of Karon, off Patak Road, and a short walk from most of the main resorts in Karon lies the pretty golden gilded red and white Karon Temple, flanked by emerald green dragons. On Tuesdays and Saturdays evenings from 4pm – 10pm, the temple becomes a night market selling local handicrafts as well as the typical tourist merchandise, including fake sunglasses and cheap t-shirts.
There’s also a sizable food market where you’ll find snacks like grasshoppers, dried cuttlefish, banana roti, mango and sticky rice as well as skewers of grilled seafood and meat. An easy dinner with kids without needing to travel far.
Two Chefs Bar & Grill
A small local chain of five restaurants around Karon and Kata, Two Chefs offers international and local cuisine in a clean and modern setting, suitable for families. With a menu that boasts seafood, pasta, steak, Mexican and Thai dishes, plus a kids’ menu – there is something for everyone. It’s reasonably priced, with a good range of drinks and there is live music most nights.
Dino Park Bar & Restaurant (and Mini-golf)
A somewhat strange combination, the décor of Dino Park appears to be inspired by the Flintstones, with wooden stumps for chairs and cave-like atmosphere. Situated in front of the Marina Phuket Resort on Karon Road, Karon Beach, there is also an 18-hole mini-golf course on-site for the kids to enjoy. When combined with a full meal and drinks, Dino Park is still a reasonably priced outing for families for a couple of house. It’s absolutely tacky but kids think it’s the coolest thing.
The mini golf course features wild creatures and replica dinosaurs, it’s a simple course enjoyable by young kids.
The cocktail and drinks’ menu is extensive for the grown-ups, and the food menu is also very comprehensive with seafood, steak, Italian and Thai dishes included.
Another Dino Park Bar and Restaurant franchise is located in Kata.
Phong Phang Seafood
Located near Phuket Fish Market and Phuket Zoo, Phong Phang is well worth a visit for lunch if you are driving around the southern and/or eastern side of Phuket from Karon. You have the opportunity to select your own fresh lobster, crab or fish from tanks which is then cooked to your preference. A very cheap alternative to similar restaurants in the busier parts of Karon and Kata, especially for premium seafood – and is a unique dining experience for the kids.
Kata night markets
Address: Patak Rd, Mueang Phuket, Amphoe Mueang Phuket, Chang Wat Phuket. Open: Mondays & Thursdays 2pm – 9pm.
Kata night markets are open every Monday and Thursday nights from 4pm – 10pm, a sizeable market and a mixture of traditional Thai and tourist. A working local market, it’s a nice one to walk around and get a feel for everyday local life. There are loads of fresh produce on offer, with fish laid out over ice that looked like it was alive moments ago, mountains of rambutans, lychees and dragonfruit and piles of chilli’s, thai herbs and vegetables.
There’s also plenty of street food on offer, try deep fried chicken wings, BBQ ribs, grilled fish and octopus, cooked marinated chicken wings and feet, prawn skewers, spring rolls and sweet gelatinous desserts and banana pancakes.
Address: Thanon Kata, Kata, Muang, Phuket. Open: Tues-Sun 8am – 10pm. Closed Mondays.
The number one restaurant in Kata is the hugely popular, simply furnished Istanbul Restaurant, inconspicuously located on Soi Khoktanod, heading west inland.
The husband and wife owners serve traditional Turkish cuisine, with fresh-made bread and dips along with tasty stewed beef, sis kebab, burghul dumplings, homemade pides (Turkish pizzas) and baklava.
Families can dine on the small patio facing the street, or inside with the casual tables, couches and signature jade-green walls.
Red Chair Plus
Address: Thanon Kata, Kata, Muang, Phuket. Open: 9:30am – 10pm daily.
Another hidden away restaurant in Kata, located next door to Phuket’s best Turkish cuisine, is one of Kata’s best Thai cuisine. Red Chair Plus restaurant is highly regarded for it’s cheap and tasty eats. Friendly and efficient staff serve up tasty local Thai cuisine at affordable prices.
Known for its beef noodle soup, people also rave about the tom yum goong, crispy pork stir fry, beef Penang curry and thick French toast with a large scoop of ice cream. There’s also a Western, Mexican and European menu.
+39 Italian Street Food
Address: 48/25 Kata Road Karon Provincia di Phuket Tailandia, kata, karon. Open: 11am – 11pm daily. Website: 39italianstreetfood.com
Run by two passionate young Italians, the stylish modern +39 Italian Street Food restaurant offers traditional pizzas by the block, a thick pan rectangular slice where you’re encouraged to pick and choose an entire pizza from a variety of toppings. A quick and perfect Thai food alternative where kids can have a Hawaii block, and adults a block of Diavola with spicy salami or Napoli with white anchovies and capers.
Also on the menu is Parma Ham in Focaccina bread, Panizza’s which are thin crispy breads melted with salad and deli meats or choose a sweet nutella or jam centre. Other delicious sweets include homemade tiramisu and panna cotta.
Nami Ice Cream
Clean modern light and bright, Nami are the purveyors of homemade ice cream in a variety of flavours including mango, strawberry and peanut butter brittle. Other sweet treats to try in air conditioned comfort include banana waffles drizzled with chocolate syrup and topped with ice cream scoops of your choice, seven layer rainbow crepe and Crème Brule.
Nami also offers a good variety of family friendly meals including pineapple fried rice, noodle soups, chicken wings and satay skewers all around the 150-200 baht range ($5 to $10 AUD).
New York Burger Co
Address: 98 Moo 4 Kata New Road, Kata Beach, Karon, . Open: 12noon – 10pm daily.
Casual tasty burgers, mac-and-cheese balls, and fresh hot chips are staples at the family friendly New York Burger Co. Positioned on New Kata Road, one of the main thoroughfares in Kata, a nice and tasty break from Thai food.
The takeaway style restaurant has a few indoor and outdoor tables to sample their menu, including the hot item: the Mac and Cheese Burger.
Put Phuket on the family holiday list
We finally get why families flock to Phuket, if I close my eyes I can still picture the pretty blue of Phi Phi Islands, that in itself is more than enough reason to go. Combined with the many phenomenal Phuket attractions, the superb value for money, delicious food, ease and conveniences of getting to and around Phuket, make’s it a hot family destination and a must-see with the family.
Yes, there are bogans, loads of them transcending every nationality as well as scammers and tour guides out to squeeze your dollar. Stay at the right place, set the right expectations and there’s nothing to worry about.
If you stumble upon an extremely cheap flight or bargain holiday package, embrace a little inner-bogan (or plan it right and avoid the bogans altogether) and do not hesitate in visiting Phuket with kids.
Have you been to Phuket with kids? I’d love to hear about your hot tips on Phuket, where to go, what to see and what to avoid? If there are any questions or if there is something that has been left out of this Complete Guide to Phuket with Kids, please reply below: