I’ve just returned from a short trip to Phuket, and I can say it’s amazing. Amazing Thailand indeed. It’s my first ever time to Phuket, so everything is new to me.
We all know how beautiful Phuket and its fellow Thai islands can be. Their clear water beaches, much like in the swimming pool. We see all their pictures shared around in Facebook. Hence, it’s time for me to check it out myself.
Valerie and I then booked a 4D3N trip to Phuket. A short trip, but a fulfilling one. We maximized all the time we have there. We will definitely want to be there again, as we felt we’ve not completely explored all the fun there.
But if I were to visit Phuket again, there are some things which I will do differently. This is after learning the lessons I had from my first Phuket trip. They are also probably some Phuket traveling tips you can take note if you decide to visit there next time.
Things I share here are all my personal experience and my sharing may not be welcomed by all people. Some people may say I’m spoiling market for some businesses, but I feel it’s right to help you save money as a tourist.
1. Find a non-rainy season
We book our trip without checking the weather forecast. But I couldn’t care less as it was the only period I’m free for travel, so we just book it! But little did we know it rained 3 out of the 4 days we were there.
No thunderstorm, no rain, no tsunami. Just non-stop heavy rain from morning to night. Some roads had ‘ponding’, and cars couldn’t pass through easily. Strong winds at the sea forced us to change our island tour plans on the 2nd day to the final day.
Despite the rain, we still managed to entertain ourselves and be occupied for the 2 days with indoor activities – shopping, massage, walking, shopping, more massage. Just about 200m from where we stay, there is the biggest shopping mall in Phuket, Jungceylon. We also went to Phuket town, where there is another mega mall, and a variety market that is only opened during weekdays.
Hence, it’s not all that’s boring on a rainy day, but we could have done more things if not for the rainy weather. Hence, I’ll find a sunny period to visit Phuket next time!
2. Book the right hotel
Phuket is very much a tourist haven. I see more tourists from all over the world along the streets of Phuket at Patong than their local Thai residents. That’s also why you’ll find really many hotels in Phuket.
With so many hotels there, you can get a relatively good hotel at a low price. For this trip, we stayed at Patong Terrace Boutique Hotel. It’s not those kind of big hotels with huge lobby and swimming pool. It’s a simple B&B (Bed & Breakfast) accommodation. Price wise, very very reasonable, with excellent service.
We paid about $35 per night (via Agoda), and we were very happy about it. It’s very convenience too, as you are footsteps away from everything in Phuket. It’s just right at the central of where the buzz of Patong is – Bangla Road (where you have clubs and ‘Tiger’ shows are), the Patong Beach, Jungceylon, and all the shops along the road.
Why service is excellent? On our last day, we are supposed to have a one full day island tour, then depart for hotel at night. We have to check out early morning, and that means we won’t have a bathroom to bathe after our island tour. However, when we returned after the tour, the staff allowed us to do a wash-up in their lobby toilet, which is very much like 5 star toilet, and provide us with soap and towels.
I’ll never hesitate to book this hotel again. Valerie even left a positive comment on Tripadvisor for them!
Of course, there are many more hotels at Patong, but some are not located as convenient as they said they are. When booking online, they would describe themselves as ‘close to all the buzz’, but some are really FAR away. We saw it ourselves when we pass by a hotel we originally thought of booking. Fortunately, we give that a miss, as it was nowhere near any buzz.
If you were to book a hotel there, check out their price at Agoda or other booking services, and read tourist reviews at Tripadvisor or somewhere else before finally booking them. Do ask your friends also.
3. Book local tours at Phuket, not in Singapore
This is one of the important things I have learned from this trip. We know Phuket is famous for its island tours, where it will bring you to various island for sight-seeing or water activities. These 1 day island tours are very attractive too, and many tourists would love it.
Before our trip, we saw a Deal.com.sg deal for a 1 day island tour to 4 islands (Koh Phi Phi, Maya Island Bamboo Island & 1 more) via Speedboat and with lunch provided for $58/pax. This price is also after almost 50% discount from its original price. I did some research online to compare other island tour and their prices, and I conclude that this Deal.com.sg deal is a better deal.
So we bought it.
We went for the island tour and we were very happy with the whole tour, the fun, the tour guide etc. However, we also realized that we can go for this same trip at a much lower price! How we know? Just talk to the people (other tourists) on the speedboat. Everybody paid different price for the same tour. Of course, there are also people who will pay more than us.
So is that $58 deal a steal, or is it just a package with price jacked up by 200% then bring it down to call it a deal? Anyway, I’m thankful I learned something new! If I were to visit Phuket again, I won’t book any local tours online (online prices are jacked up too!) or in Singapore. You just have to go there(Phuket), and there are many local tour agencies for you to choose and you can pick the best tour at the best price you want.
4. You can bargain at items with price tag too
Singaporeans like to bargain, because we all know they will raise their prices up high so to earn our tourist dollars. Of course if you’re rich, you don’t mind paying more. But I’m not, so I will bargain price down to my reasonable level.
To my understanding, I only bargain at items where there are no price tags on. You ask how much, and the guy will quote you, and you bargain from there.
However, little did I know you can bargain at items with price tagged too! It’s like you go to a supermarket, when the price is tagged at the item, then you go to the counter and bargain. I’m not saying you do this at their supermarket, but you can do this at tour agencies which sell local tours.
Brochures there are tagged with the price. My past experience conditioned me to only bargain at items without price tags. Hence for a particular tour I book, I didn’t bargain, until the salesperson give me a little discount. I was quite happy as I thought I get something I didn’t ask for. However, my happiness last until I found out how much less others pay compared to us, on a same tour.
So now I know what to do if I’m there again. Costly lesson learnt!
I don’t know about you regarding bargaining, because some people don’t like to negotiate and haggle with the salesperson. But Phuket has very much become a tourist dominated place and item prices are inflated by 200-300%. Hence, if you have a lot of cash to throw, you can pay more, but the same person who can bargain, can get more at the same amount of money you pay.
5. Talk to people there
I wouldn’t have realized so many things if i didn’t talk to the people who are on the same local tour as us. So let me share with you what I learned from the conversation with this Canadian guy I met on a local tour.
He’s the one who told me that I paid to much for the same tour he bought. Thanks to him, or I’m still in the dark. He managed to buy the same tour package as me at half of what I pay. And as I said earlier, I was at first still happy when the salesperson gave me some discount which I thought I was not entitled for.
For that particular tour, we sat on a big boat, which is even cheaper. A tour with Speed boat will cost slightly more. So now you see, how much higher the salesperson there have jacked up the prices and paste them on the brochures. Imagine how many more more full body massage you can go with the money you save from bargaining.
And the funny thing is, this Canadian guy told me “You’re from Asia! You should have bargained more!”
I don’t know about you, but I always heard people say westerners (ang moh) don’t like to bargain because it’s their culture they don’t like to bargain. And here I have an ang moh who can bargain much much better than me. And he even teach me how to bargain next time. Funny thing? We talked so much, but didn’t know each other’s name!
Another person I talked to, is the Taxi driver who brought us around on a rainy 2nd day. Anyone can become a taxi driver over there if you have a car. Just take a cardboard, write ‘Taxi’, put inside your car and you have a taxi.
You may wonder why I wanna talk about him, when there are many other taxi drivers all around Phuket. It is about his Service. When we first met him near our hotel, we wanted a taxi to bring us to Phuket town. He quoted us his price, but I bargained with him till he rejected us. (His face is kinda black). Then I know the price is too low.
After a while, we went back to him and decide to take his taxi, as there’s no other taxi in sight, and on a rainy day, we don’t want to sit on a (door-less) tuk tuk. So after we went with him, he somehow forgot how I ferociously pressed down his price until he rejected me, but treated us like his new customers.
This is very different from bargaining in Singapore, where you get a black-face salesperson who will remember your face for LIFE for pressing her price very low. But in Thailand, they will still treat you like a king after you have won the bargain. Rare.
So during the journey, we chatted about many things in bits and pieces of English. And I learned that he studies business and marketing in college, but became a taxi driver here. But I told him it doesn’t matter, as Phuket is a hot tourist spot, he will have never-ending business. Later I found out that he is not just a one-man taxi driver. He has a few cars and taxi drivers under him too. Don’t play play…
We enjoyed a whole day tour with him, fetching us around places to shop, and at the end of day, I decided to pay him the original price he quoted me before all the bargain. Good service has to be rewarded. On last day, we find him again to fetch us to the airport. This time, he gave us a discounted price, but I tip him a bit more for his excellent service.
Put it simply, he’s not just selling a taxi service. He’s selling us a pleasurable ride. I know his name, and had his namecard. He’s call Eak. Will find him again when I’m at Phuket again!
So that’s some of the things I will do when I visit again, and also some tips for you if you were to visit Phuket any time. Hope it helps!
One last thing: Bamboo Island For You!