If you read my previous post where I shared my 5-day walking tour itinerary in Singapore, then you already know that this past September, we went on a 16-day Asia trip that spanned 4 countries and 6 cities! As mentioned, we had started and ended our trip in Singapore because it was the cheapest way to travel to Asia from Canada (Toronto specifically). We had decided to spend 7 days in Thailand in 3 cities, and since it was so jammed packed with activities, I decided to create a post for each city we visited to really highlight everything we did and loved. We flew to Phuket, Thailand from Singapore via Scoot airlines. There are lots of cheap options to fly within Asia but I specifically liked how Scoot showed the CO2 savings when taking a flight with them.
Here is some general information of our time in Phuket, Thailand:
Transportation from the Airport to our Hotel: We had arrived to Phuket Airport (HKT) at around 8PM. There is a bus that you can take, however we ended up just taking a shuttle to our hotel which cost about 700 THB (about $30 CAD) for the both of us. We had to wait for about an hour for the shuttle as they were trying to fill it with other passengers before taking off. On our way to our hotel, we did stop halfway at a tour company (we were not forced to book any tours but were welcomed to look around) before making our way to our hotel. On our way from the hotel to the airport however, we did use a Grab which cost about $26 CAD. I do recommend Grab as an alternative to the shuttle bus and city bus, especially if you are multiple people, since this is the cheapest and fastest option.
Transportation in and around Phuket: We stayed in Karon and tried to walk as much as we could, however to visit the tourist attractions you will need to either hire a private driver or book a grab to take you from place to place. I recommend grab since it tends to be cheaper than the private drivers.
WIFI Access: I will leave the same comments as my Singapore post as it is still relevant here. Connection was only available in our hotel room and some public establishments. To get around this, what I have done in the past, and also implemented on this trip, was to load our itinerary on Google maps and download the map for offline navigation. This method works most of the time, however sometimes the GPS gets confused and doesn’t know where you and ends up restarting. You end up having to use the map the old way (aka without a GPS and finding your own directions like a traditional map). However, I do recommend just purchasing an international SIM card that you can use and be connected to at all times (if you need to). Personally, for me, I preferred to be connected the entire time since the offline google maps kept restarting and was unable to locate us. It is also useful if you plan on using Grab while in the city. This was the first time travelling internationally where we had purchased an international SIM to be able to be connect to internet and I must say that now I am a converted. The international SIMs are very affordable and offer a lot of data (we would also turn it off if we were going to be in a given location for an extended amount of time to preserve data and batter power) and we were able to use the same SIM for the remainder of our entire trip in all of the other countries. We did end up using 3 different types of connection, but I recommend the last option so that you can be connected the entire time:
- International SIM (purchased at the airport) – Once we left Singapore and arrived to Phuket Airport, there were lots of boots that were selling international SIMs. We ended up purchasing one of these at a booth called Smile and they connected it for me – it was super easy to use however kind of confusing because I couldn’t understand how much data I had left so we used it sparingly during our visit in Phuket and Chiang Mai. Because we paid in cash, I unfortunately do not recall how much we spent, but it was definitely less than $10 CAD.
- Rented WIFI Device – I had actually rented a device when we were in Singapore for our visit in Bangkok since we were going to be here for 3 days without any excursions. We rented a pocket WIFI which we picked up at the BBK airport via Klook. In total it cost $26 for the 3 days (which at the time we thought was a bargain) – they do have to hold a deposit which is refundable once you return the device, so make sure you have enough cash to avoid the change in exchange rates on your credit card. It was also not clear how much data we had but I think it was unlimited. I didn’t mind the hand held device since we had used one when we visited Tokyo, however I definitely would recommend an international SIM when possible.
- International SIM (purchased online and picked up at airport) – After doing more research while in Bangkok and realizing that the convenience of being connected to data became a growing need, which was already 6 days into our trip, I did more research on Klook. I found SIMs available for 15 countries in South East Asia, which meant that for the remainder of our trip (still 7 days), we could be connected in all of the countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) and not have to worry about finding WIFI. We found a great deal with the SIM only costing $8.90 for 4GB of data from Klook. This option ended up being the best because not only is it a one-time purchase (no need to return anything like we had for the rented WIFI device), but you can actually download an app that came in English that tracked how much data you had. If you did go over the allotted data, you had to option of adding more data if necessary. I really liked the convenience and visibility of this option the best and felt in full control.
Hotel in Phuket:
We stayed at the Sugar Marina Resort – ART hotel in Karon Beach. We initially chose to stay in Karon because of the beach, but we didn’t actually get a chance to check it out since our 2 days was actually 1 and a half and didn’t get a chance. I am happy though that we chose this hotel in Karon beach. If you like art, like my husband does, then you will love this hotel. All of the hallways are filled with art exhibits. Our room was also filled with art pieces which really added to the ambiance of the room. The room itself was very large and spacious and had lots of storage, so it’s great for long term visits. They also have a lovely breakfast buffet included, and I looked forward to it both mornings. You can find traditional Thai dishes like noodle soups and desserts wrapped in banana leaves as well as western items.
Budget: We had budgeted $70 CAD cash per day, which was meant to be used for food, transportation and shopping. We knew credit card wouldn’t be readily available in most establishments so we carried more cash than Singapore, but less than the other countries we visited. Again, I also used Budget your Trip to gauge how much expenses to expect per day. See below for the breakdown of our actual expenses (keep in mind this is for 2 people):
- Airfare from Singapore to Phuket for 2 people: $347 (the flight itself was only $190, but because our carry ons were on the heavy side, we had to get them checked in which cost $155, so make sure to keep the weight low to avoid the extra charge)
- Hotel: $118 (for 2 nights)
- Cash (mostly for meals): $160 CAD
- Meals (on credit card and not in cash): $52
- Shopping and other expenses (on credit card, which includes our excursion): $308
- Transportation (credit card): $71 (Grab)
- Total cost of trip for 2 days: $1056
Excluding airfare, we actually spent $354 per day, or $177 a person. If we exclude the cost of the excursion, we actually only spent $100 per day per person, which is much lower than the $133 per day approximation found on Budget your Trip, so I highly recommend this website as a great resource in budget planning.
See below for the full details. Don’t forget to also check out some highlights from our trip (video above).
Now set forth and be savvy!
This was the first (and only) full day of our visit to Phuket. We knew that when visiting Phuket, we definitely wanted to take a trip to Phi Phi Islands. You can always find other ways to get to Phi Phi Islands, however I found it easiest and most convenient to book a pre-planned excursion while having it fit within our budget. Our tour was with V. Marine Tour and we booked it through viator tours. The tour was called Phi Phi Islands Adventure Day Trip with Seaview Lunch and I highly recommend this if you are the type to enjoy pre-planned excursions. The shuttle bus picks you up from your hotel and drops you off after the excursion. It is considered a full day excursion, about 8 hours including transportation. You are taken to Royal Phuket Marina where you are given an orientation of the day ahead. They also provide you with snacks and drinks and also photo deals for the day, which I also recommend. For $60 CAD, you get over 200 photos which includes photos from snorkeling, photoshoot style photos at the various locations as well as more scenic photos that are sent to all the customers who purchase the packages. It’s a great way to not have to worry about missing photos, but if you are a skilled photographer with an underwater camera, you can probably just take your own photos.
After setting sail via speedboat, our first destination was Maya Beach. Known for the famous beach of “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio, this visit was a quick visit. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of the beach (mainly made from the movie), the beach itself is closed to the public since it is still recovering from pollution and environmental damage, but it is open only for sight seeing.
The next stop was Pileh Bay, where we were given about 30 minutest to walk around the beach and to swim. This was also a great opportunity for photo ops with your photographer if you opted for the photography package. There were lots of other tourists here and you can see lots of the other tour speedboats, but the beach is vast and you can easily walk around and find seclusion.
After swimming, we headed back to the boat where we hit up the next sight seeing location, which was Viking cave, where you get to learn about the various species of birds that habitat this island.
The next stop was Ko Phi Phi Le, where we had lunch at Phi Phi Natural Resort. The lunch buffet featured something for everyone – we were able to eat primarily plant based here since there were lots of options. I do recommend eating light since right after lunch we went snorkeling. I enjoyed how you can eat by the ocean and take in the views and the breeze. We only had about an hour to spend here, so right after lunch we walked around and had a chance for another photo op.
After lunch, we headed over to Bamboo Island where we had an hour to snorkel, swim and relax on the boat. Even though there were lots of tourists, the water was still surprisingly very clear and it was amazing to see all of the fish in the sea. It was a great way to end the day since all of our reserved energy we had was used up for the last part of this trip. This was also a great place to get lots of underwater photos, so make sure your camera is ready.
The final stop on this excursion was Monkey Beach. The beach was more of a cove and very small. There were lots of other tourists boats there and it did get quite crowded but the monkeys didn’t seem to mind. We only spent about 10 minutes here but it was enough to take some videos and photos before ending the trip.
After getting dropped off at our hotel, we had every intention of checking out the Karon Temple Night Market and even walked by it but we were so exhausted from the day that we didn’t actually go in. We did however have a lovely dinner at Mama Jin where we enjoyed a tom yum soup, pad Thai and green curry.
This was our last day in Phuket and it was only a half day, however I did pack it full of sight seeing activities since our flight was only at 8PM. We had booked our entire drive through Grab, where the driver ended up taking us to all of the destinations that we wanted to go to which was great. This is also a great option if you are traveling with a larger group since vans are readily available. Our trip from our hotel to Old Phuket Town cost about $30 CAD which was cheaper than the options that the hotel was offering.
After breakfast at our hotel, we headed out at 10AM to the Big Buddha View Point. The drive from Karon up to the view point in itself was very pleasant. There are lots of Elephant tourist attractions, and I’m glad our driver actually discouraged us from visiting since they weren’t the most humane. We unfortunately saw lots of baby elephants fenced in small areas. Once we arrived to the Big Buddha View Point, our driver let us walk around as he waited to take us to our next destination. As mentioned in my Singapore post, I recommend packing your own kimono with you so that you can put it on when visiting the temples. The Big Buddha itself is very large and you can enter and see all of the architecture inside. On the outside, there is also lots of areas where you can just take a view of the city, which is great of taking photos as well.
Our next stop was Wat Chalong, which is very grand and has lots of temples to see. Again, you will need to wear a kimono here if you are wearing a tank top or shorts. The temples all have lots of stairs so I recommend wearing running shoes for optimal comfort. There are lots of areas for great photos as well so make sure to give yourself at least an hour to walk the sights and take photos at your own leisurely pace.
Our final stop was Old Phuket town, which was perfect because it was just about lunch time. For lunch, our driver recommended Michelin star awarded Tu Kab Khao. The décor in this place is very elegant and has European influences. I was surprised to see that it was actually quite large, with lots of different rooms for seating. We ordered pad Thai, sautéed greens and a chicken curry dish. I also ordered a Thai milk tea, which was the first of many. Everything was delicious and cost about $50 CAD. I highly recommend a visit here.
Afterwards, we walked over to Chim Jae Walking Street, which is a great place to buy souvenirs. They also had a section with cafes which is great to take a break and get away from the heat. There are 2 entrances, and luckily one of the exits lead us straight to Soi Romanee Street, where you can see some beautiful architecture (again with influence from Europe) and take a break at the various coffee or ice cream shops. We ended up taking a break at Dou Brew Coffee and Craft where we ordered a matcha tea as well as Thai ice tea. It was a great way to end our visit to Phuket, but in the future, I do recommend at least 3 days here to fully take advantage of all this great city has to offer.
Access the map of our day here:
Check out my other itineraries from this trip: