Phuket
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Transport options

As with most Thai islands, the most common way to get around is to take your life in your hands and hire your own motorbike or to take an overpriced songtaew (a kind of open-backed van). Other options include a handful of taxis, motorbike taxis, local buses (which are cheap hop-on, hop-off songtaews), national buses for longer trips and longtail boats for water crossings.

Sightseeing

Putting aside the costs, sightseeing in Phuket is easy. Songtaews and motorbikes are readily available to hire, and will take you wherever you want to go. Otherwise, some minibuses will take you to the more far-flung tourist sights on and off the island. If in doubt, ask a local travel agent for the best travel option.

Cost

Phuket is expensive to get around, by Thai standards. Minibuses from the airport cost around THB200, while taxis cost about THB500 for the same journey. Songtaew's tend to charge an extortionate minimum of THB200 for short trips, but unfortunately, a lack of other options means you may have to bite the bullet and stump up the cash or opt for local buses and motorbikes.

Car and motorbike rental

All the major international car hire companies have outlets in Phuket, including Avis and Hertz, and motorbikes can be rented on almost every street corner. However, driving in Thailand can be a dangerous endeavour, and road traffic accidents occur alarmingly regularly. Think carefully before you hire a car or motorbike in Phuket, as there are plenty of other travel options available, too.

Festivals

Coinciding your trip to Phuket with one of the major Thai festivals is certainly worth the effort. Songkran, the water festival in mid-April, is celebrated with a countrywide water fight. Loy Krathong, held in late November is a beautiful festival when lanterns are let off into the night sky, and the vegetarian festival in October is when the island turns into one big, veggie feast.

Phang Nga Bay

There are no two ways about it; Phang Nga Bay is a must-visit. You've seen in the postcards the dramatic limestone cliffs emerging from bright blue waters; now see it for yourself. Book in for a day's snorkeling on a boat ride from the north of the island, and explore Thailand's natural wonders, including James Bond Island and Koh Panyee.

Big Buddha

Easy to reach and instantly recognisable; one of Phuket's most popular attractions is the Big Buddha, a huge statue sat on the hills between Chalong and Kata. At 45m tall, it's easy to spot from a fair distance across the island. As well as making for some great photo opportunities, the view from the Buddha itself offers some spectacular vistas too.

Old Phuket Town

Phuket Town is no buzzing city, but its lack of vibrancy is more than made up for with sleepy charm. Away from the seedy side of Phuket life, this small town is where colonial Portuguese architecture meets Chinese influence in the pretty heart of Phuket. Take the day to wander around cute boutiques and a selection of laidback cafes and high-end restaurants.

DAY 1

After a morning on the beach, explore Phuket's history with a wander around Old Phuket, the provincial capital that's been heavily influenced by its Sino-Portuguese history. If your feet aren't aching yet, take a trip to Chalong to snap photos of the island's proudest feature: the 45m high big Buddha, which surveys the island from its perch. An evening watching a Simon ladyboy cabaret show is not to be missed.

DAY 3

Feeling active? Enrol in a half-day Muay Thai class at one of Chalong's many Muay Thai schools. Pick up a few techniques of this traditional sport before treating yourself to a well deserved sundowner – and perhaps a spot of clubbing – at one of Chalong's numerous – and fairly classy - beach bars.

DAY 2

Take a whole day to explore Phuket's surrounding islands, by booking a boat trip from the north of Phuket. A reputable company will provide you with drinks and lunch as well as a decent snorkel to help you get closer to Thailand's underwater scene. After a long, active day, head to Kathu to enjoy the sea from a different angle; the table of one of Phuket's five star dining options.

DAY 4

Why not end your stay on a relaxed note? Start with a traditional Thai massage then hit the beach for some time in the sun. End with drinks and dinner at colourful Patong.

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