Backpackers in Phuket
Jaded backpackers will tell you that “Phuket has changed, man”. The island just ain’t what it used to be. How anyone could expect a modern island to stay the same for 20 years is beyond us, but there are still pockets of people who visit the island and hold Phuket backpacker ideals close to their hearts.
The backpacker scene in Phuket is fairly bland, but it does exist. The main difference between now and 20 years ago is that today’s backpackers have a lot more disposable income behind them. Most of them aren’t really living on shoestring budgets, so guesthouses are being passed over in favor of small hotels and resorts.
The good news for backpackers hoping to visit Phuket is that the island has a bus station on Phang-nga Road. The only way to get to Phuket if you’re a true backpacker is by bus. Phuket bus station has buses heading to and from most of Thailand’s provinces. Tickets are relatively cheap and you can book in advance.
Most backpackers arrive by bus and then spend some time wondering around Phuket Town, guidebooks in hand, trying to figure out what to do with themselves. Backpackers are a common sight in Phuket. The first thing they usually try and find is somewhere to sleep.
If you have a backpack on your back and a guidebook in your hand, you make yourself a prime target for tuk-tuk drivers who will hound you like there’s no tomorrow. They will have plenty of ideas about hotels and guesthouses to take you to. Wherever they take you, they will earn a commission if you stay there. Tuk-tuks are also very expensive and if the drivers smell fresh meat, they will charge a ridiculous amount for going not very far at all.
With a bit of research, there’s no reason why you can’t have a guesthouse in mind before you arrive in Phuket. There are plenty in Phuket Town and around the rest of the island.
With accommodation sorted, you’ll want to get some transport. Traveling around by tuk-tuk is expensive and won’t appeal to most backpackers. A better option is to hire a motorcycle for about 200 baht a day. There are places all over Phuket Town where bikes can be hired.
With your own set of wheels, there’s really no excuse for not zipping around and seeing the sights, most of which you don’t have to pay for. Check out the beaches, Wat Chalong, the Chinese temples or the Big Buddha statue for starters.
For eating there are plenty of street vendors selling food that should please most backpackers. Meanwhile, try the bars in Phuket Town for cheap beer – or else go to 7-Eleven and stock up.
The backpacker vibe in Phuket may be as romantic as it once was, but it’s still there, going strong. Patong also attracts its fair of backpackers, but it doesn’t have the same kind of ambience as Phuket Town. If you’re backpacking in Phuket, we recommend using Phuket Town as your base. It’s just such a beautiful, sleepy area and you’ll appreciate it much more than Patong or even Kata-Karon. Check out our listings of backpacker accommodation in Phuket.