Thailand’s largest island Phuket is a Mecca for the beach enthusiasts and scuba fans alike. Visitors rave about the white sandy beaches and deep blue lagoons that grace this almost dream-line surreal coastline. The centre of the island reaches towards the sky with picturesque mountains adorned with waterfalls, palm trees and Buddhist temples. You will also find world class Hotels, Golf courses, Muay Thai boxing gyms and modern shopping centres that offer everything under the sun. A visit to Phuket can be a simply magical experience for backpackers and tourists, but how does it measure up for the digital nomad?
1 – Internet – Phuket now has some of the fastest internet speeds available anywhere in Asia, with companies like True or AIS rolling out fibre connections countrywide. Speeds are available up to 10gb for businesses and 1gb for home users. Mobile broadband is now supported island wide offering 3G and 4G connections from all the providers. Simm cards are readily available from shops nationwide. Many of the providers give out free simm cards at the airport on arrival to capture the booming tourist market. Instructions on activation are provided and setting up a mobile broadband connection is very straightforward. If you have problems visit a mobile phone shop and as with everywhere in Thailand, they are always happy to help.
2 – Accommodation – There is something for everyone in Phuket, from a 5 star luxury suite in one of the many hotels to a simple beach hut with little or no amenities. You can spend as little or as much as you like on accommodation in Phuket. When I last visited you can pick up a 2 bed house in a gated community in Rawai for around 35,000 Thai Baht a month, or a detached pool villa for around 45,000. Prices increase by 20/30% in Patong due to its huge popularity as a party destination.
3 – Transport – Getting to Phuket is easy by land or air with buses running from Bangkok daily or by using the international airport that receives flights from direct destinations worldwide. Many visitors to Phuket decide on the cheapest transport option on the island, a moped. I can agree its the most cost efficient way to get around, but the majority of road accidents and fatalities involve mopeds. Anyone who has visited will know of, or know someone who has had a serious accident riding a bike on these treacherous roads. I would recommend using the efficient and relatively cheap taxi’s that are available island-wide. If you need your own transport you can often find some great deals on car rental from 15-20,000 Baht per month or just rent per day for individual activities.
4 – Cost of Living – Although Phuket is one of the more expensive locations in Thailand, in comparison to Europe or the USA its very cheap to live well. You can eat out like a king for less than $5 a head in traditional establishments. I am a big fan of Thai food so this suits me just fine!Western restaurants and bars carry a premium. Although its still much cheaper than Europe, its expensive in Thai terms. Food from the Thai supermarkets is priced very low, but with the quality and range of affordable food available from restaurants, why bother!
5 – Visas – All tourists travelling to Phuket and anywhere in Thailand must possess a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond their intended length of stay (Retirement visa requires at least 18 months validity). Thailand has over 30 International Immigration Check points, though most visitors to Phuket will clear immigration either at Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi International Airport) or Phuket International Airport. For many tourists it is not necessary to apply for a visa beforehand if you come from a country that is eligible for a Visa Exemption and are not going to be in the country for more than 30 days. Other tourists may be able to apply for a Visa on Arrival, which costs 1,000 Baht and is valid for 15 days. For everyone else, and for those wishing to stay longer in the country for purposes of tourism or leisure should apply for a 60-day Tourist Visa from the Royal Thai Embassy or consulate in the country where you reside.
6 – Language – Thailand has its own language and is spoken with slightly different dialects across the country. In Phuket you will find most bars, restaurants and shops will have someone who can speak English.
7 – Climate – Phuket has a tropical monsoon climate, and is warm all year long. The rainy, or monsoon season is from September until October. During this time it is wet and very hot. Unless rain is not a factor for enjoying a vacation, it is not advised to visit during these two months. The hottest time of the year is from the beginning of April through the end of May. The average high temperatures during these months are in the upper 80s and lower 90s. November until March is the most comfortable times to visit, when the average high temperatures are in the mid 70s, and there is little precipitation. Tourist season is from November until April, during which time hotel prices are at their highest. If crowds are an issue when planning a vacation, avoid these months. But realize that these months are the most crowded because the weather is the nicest.
8 – Currency – The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht with the current exchange rate of $1 USD to 35 Thai Baht. Anyone who has travelled around Thailand will know the exchange rate is highly volatile and can change dramatically from one day to the next. Its mostly still a cash based economy across Thailand. Many of the bars, restaurants and shops do not support credit or debit cards. I always like to travel with foreign currency due to the high exchange rates offered in tourist area’s. There are cash machines everywhere you find a 7-11 shop if you prefer just to travel with plastic.
9 – Food – Thai food is renowned worldwide for its variety and spices. Anyone who has observed food preparation in Thailand will also be surprised at the simplicity and speed its produced. Each region will have a different take on the Thai classics you already know and love, In Phuket there is no exception. People from all over Thailand have relocated to find work in Phuket’s booming hospitality industry and many of the restaurants cater for this workforce offering regional dishes. Making Phuket a world class food destination. If you are planning on a long stay you will eventually go looking for western food and you wont be disappointed, its not difficult to find exactly what you are looking for.
For local contacts in Phuket or for more information please get in touch.