Thailand is situated in the centre of SE Asia, bordered on the east by Cambodia and north-east by Laos (which at one time were part of the ancient kingdom of Siam) and on the north-west by Myanmar (Burma). On the east side are the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea and on the west are the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Besides Phuket and the diving here, highlights in Thailand are the North (Chiang Mai and surroundings) with its mountains and trekking possibilities and Bangkok, a real metropolis where east meets west. Of course the natural beauty of Thailand, reflected in its numerous amount of national parks, is also very much worth seeing.
The Pearl of the Andaman
Phuket Island is located off the south-west coast of Thailand, 885km south of Bangkok. It is 48 km long and covers 550 square km. On the west side it faces the Andaman Sea; on the east coast is Phang-Nga Bay which includes some spectacular, unusually shaped islands easily accessible by boat from Phuket. In the north the Sarasin Bridge connects the island to the mainland making it easy to reach Phuket by road.
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, about the same size as Singapore. Just over an hour's flight from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, and with daily connections to most major Asian airports, Phuket is ideally situated for a short break or a relaxing vacation.
Fondly referred to as the "Pearl of the Andaman", the island possesses remarkable beauty with tropical hillsides in the north and along the south and west.
Once renowned for its tin mines and rubber plantations, visitors now arrive looking for a place to relax and explore the scenery, above as well as below the watersurface!
You can still find rubber plantations but gone are the tin mines. The most popular beaches are Patong, Karon and Kata, situated on the western part of the island.
Phuket Island is easy explored by car or motorcycle, the roads are generally quite good. Detailed maps of the island and surrounding areas are available for free in our diving center.
Phuket is famous for its wonderful beaches and tropical sunsets, but there's more. As well as beautiful beaches, green tropical jungles, delicious local food and friendly people, there's also lots to do.
Phuket, neighbouring Phang Nga and the Phi Phi Islands have some of the most stunning scenery in South East Asia. Combine a sightseeing tour with snorkeling, canoeing or fishing. Take a boat to the islands, play a round of golf on world class courses or take a PADI diving course. For the kids there's mini golf, 10 pin bowling, elephant trekking or simply playing frisbee on the beach.
If you prefer the cool interior of the forest there are eco-adventures - trekking or kayaking in the national parks. For those who prefer to explore at night there's cabaret, discos, bars and lots of superb restaurants.
No matter your interest, mood or the prevailing weather conditions, there's something for everyone! You won't be disappointed.
Phuket is the natural base for diving and exploring the Andaman Sea. The waters here contain some excellent under water scenery and fringing coral reefs with a huge variety of reef and pelagic fish and hard and soft corals. Add to this tens of thousands of other marine organisms, including crustaceans, echinoderms, and worms, each with its own role in maintaining the coral reef ecosystem as a whole, and you have a fascinating diving environment.
Five species of sea turtle nest on islands in Thai waters, leatherbacks, green turtles, loggerheads, hawksbills, and ridleys. All of these are endangered species. Other marine life of note includes the mammals. At least two species of dolphin are commonly found in Thai waters: the Indian porpoise and the long-nosed dolphin. Ming whales are also occasional visitors.
Phuket rates among the top 10 scuba diving destinations in the world. Spectacular reefs, unusual underwater rock formations, and a huge variety of marine life provide great opportunities for divers of all levels.
Phuket Diving Highlights
- The visibility can be brilliant - often exceding 30 metres, and can extend to 40 metres.
- Warm water (average temperature 29° C), at the Similan Islands quite often 1-2 degrees cooler.
- Hundreds of varieties of hard and soft corals, reef fishes, including some of the larger species, and other reefcreatures.
- You may get an opportunity to swim with whale sharks and manta rays.
- Dozens of scenic island destinations are within range of daytrips and liveaboard cruises from Phuket.
- Diving is possible year round at many of the divesites in the Phuket area.
- Comfortable liveaboard boats with great food and expert supervision operate to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.
- Diving courses are offered in virtually all languages.
What better souvenir to take home than a PADI Open Water ticket as a scuba diver, or, if you've already qualified, accreditation from a speciality course such as underwater naturalist, navigator or wreckdiver?
Phuket has many beautiful beaches with the best located along the west coast. Each beach has its own character, from quiet coves to long stretches of white sand with lots of action and activities. Large beach resorts like Patong really come to life at night, while others offer quiet havens away from the crowds.
Just 15 minutes south of Patong, you'll find Kata Beach, a wide curving bay with rocky headlands where local fishermen can still be seen casting their lines.
Kata retains a cosy atmosphere with clusters of restaurants, bars, and small resorts. Nightlife is low key, but there are some good music bars and local shopping.
The beach has few resorts and has been spared from high rise development. There are also some good small guesthouses and boutique style hotels which provide gourmet food. The south end of Kata is a popular spot for Phuket's growing community of monsoon season surfers.
Practical Facts for the Visitor
- Getting to Phuket - You can get to Phuket by air, train or bus. There are direct flights from most major Asian cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and of course Bangkok (multiple flights every hour). Even from Chiang Mai and Koh Samui there are direct flights. Travel time will be more or less 1 hour. There are daily flights from the European airports to all these cities. Also some European airlines offer direct flights from Europe to Phuket.
There are trains going from Bangkok to the south of Thailand, and from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. To reach Phuket, you have to change in Surat Thani to the bus to Phuket.
By bus: from Bangkok daily buses leave from the southern busterminal. It takes about 12 hours to reach Phuket; depending on the quality of the bus you spend these 12 hours more or less comfortable. Also tourist buses leave Bangkok daily, bookable through all the travel agencies in Bangkok. We strongly advice to take one of the government regulated buses and not book a ticket through one of the many travel agents.
- Visa - A 30-day visa exempt entry is automatically granted to most foreign nationals with a valid passport and onward or return ticket. If you don't have an onward or return ticket, it is best to apply for a visa at one of the Thai embassies.
- Business Hours - Most offices open from 09.00 to 17.00 hours weekdays and from 09.00 to 12.00 hours on Saturdays, except Public Holidays when hours may vary. Most stores are open 12 hours a day or even more, 7 days a week.
- Banking Hours - Monday to Friday 08.30 to 15.30 hours. Currency exchange booths are usually open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. ATM's can be found everywhere, so there is basically no need to bring cash or travellers checks.
Currency is the Thai Baht. Check out this Currency Converter to find the value in your own currency.
- Postal Services - The post offices are usually open from 08.00 to 16.30 hours. The Thai post service is reliable, but it is a good idea to send important items by EMS. This is faster and safer. Private air couriers like DHL and UPS have representatives on Phuket.
- Telephone and Internet Services - International calls can be made from most hotels or using a VOIP program on your mobile phone with wifi. For local calls, and sometimes this can also workout quite cheap for international calls, you can buy a SIM with number at any of the convenience stores. Also in our shop we have wifi available by the way.
- Electricity - 220 Volts. Several different plugs and sockets are in use in Thailand, but two pin flat (US type) or round (European type) are pretty universal. Adapters can be bought cheap at local stores.
- Time - Thailand including Phuket is + 7 hours ahead of GMT/UTC, 1 hour behind Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
The easiest way to find your way around Phuket island is to rent a motorcycle/scooter. At around 250 Baht per day you have your own transportation. There are plenty of alternatives though. You can take a motorcycle service (sit on the back of a motorcycle with a professional driver), take a Song Taew (the local bus, very cheap), take an a bit more expensive normal bus, hire a Tuk Tuk (negotiate the price beforehand) or take a taxi, everywhere available as well.
Maps are accurate and roads are in farely good condition, which makes getting around easy, whichever means of transportation you choose!
Phuket has a tropical monsoon climate. It is warm all year around, but in May it is the hottest. The September-October period is the wettest.
The best time to visit Phuket is from November through April, when it isn't so humid, and the cool breezes keep things comfortable. The average temperature is around 32° C.
The hottest time is in May, with temperatures up to 36° C. There are short, heavy thundery showers, offering welcome relief from the temperature and humidity.
In June, July and August there tend to be brief showers, with plenty of sunshine in between. Temperatures are around 33° C, but it can feel warmer.
During September and early October the beaches, outdoor restaurants and streets are relatively uncluttered by visitors. Even at this time, we still get long intervals of sunshine between the showers. Anyway, plenty of low season activities, both water- and land-based, still offer themselves on Phuket during this wettest part of the summer season.
Some 8° north of the Equator and well below the latitudes of destructive tropical storms, Phuket's balmy tropical climate is tempered by cool north-easterly breezes from mid October to April, and by fresh on-shore winds in summer months.
Phuket, already well known for its fresh succulent seafood, is rapidly gaining a reputation as a great place to find excellent Thai and international food in some very picturesque venues.
You can find a range from Italian to Middle Eastern to Indian and Japanese. Places to eat vary from roadside noodle stalls, air-conditioned restaurants, open-air restaurants with great views, or fast food outlets.
You won't go hungry!
53 Katekwan Road, Kata Beach, 83100 Phuket, Thailand
Telephone +66(0)76 284580, fax. +66(0)76 284580, Hotline 24/7: +66(0)80 0408805
phuket-scuba.com, Your personal Dive Center on Phuket Thailand, TAT/OTD-no. 34/00245