Be extremely careful when using credit cards in Phuket. Five weeks after we returned home my sister had a call from her bank saying her credit card was used in Malaysia on the weekend.
She only used her card twice in Phuket, once at the duty free shop at Phuket airport and also on checking out of Andaman Beach Suites. She also used it once at duty free shop in Kuala Lumpur airport.
The card never left her sight each time. I would recommend not using credit cards at all. Credit card fraud seems to be on the rise in Phuket.
A little update on this tip, a friends who was also with us on this holiday has just found out their credit card has also been used. They also only used their credit card at the same places listed above.
Don't drink the tap water.
Bottles of water are very cheap and you can buy them everywhere.
The crushed or chipped ice is not safe, (so if you buy fresh oysters, say NO ice on them as it will be the crushed ice and we know of people who have been very sick from this).) The ice in your hotel or in your drinks at bars (big cylinder cubes with a hole through it) are fine.
Clean your teeth with bottled water as well.
In the morning of 26 Dec 2004, an earthquake near Sumatra triggered a series of Tsunami, causing huge tidal waves of up to 3 storeys high crashing into the beach resorts on Phuket and surrounding islands, damaging & destroying everything in it's path. More than a thousand people lost their lives in Thailand, many thousands more injured.
Fortunately for me, I have already left Phuket the day before.
Went back for a short holiday to Phuket recently. I've to say that everything seems back to normal. The familiar shops, restaurants and hotels are still there. Maybe not all. Did not see the KFC at Baan Lamai around anymore. Anyway, u can still get KFC at Bangla Rd.
There are a myriad of travel/tour booths set up around Patong/Phuket. The girl expressed an interest in doing the Koh Phi Phi tour, a speedboat daytrip run by a pretty large company running many boats.
We paid for it, had the agency set it up, and looked forward to doing the tour the next day.
Imagine our surprise when, the next morning, nobody showed up to pick us up?!
We had to spend half the day running around and making calls to try and get a refund. The agency didn't want to give us money back, and arranged for somebody at the tour group to come to our hotel. They don't show up, so back to the agency we went. Waited untill there was a lineup of customers, and complained about the crapiness of there service very loudly.
Management gave us a refund ASAP, to get us out of there.
We did the tour the next day, with another company. We actually got picked up...
Going under the cave using a canoe is one scary thing to do and is not advisable for claustrophobic. You will be squeezed inside a cave with about 2 meters in height...very dark and with a malfunctioning flashlight..what do u expect?
Beware of the stones in the cave..its so dangerous that anytime it might hit your face or scratch your body...with less air and being nervous at the same time , you will definitely catch your breath.
So for those who are not fond of doing activity like this make sure you inform your guide ahead of time.
Driving yourself in Phuket - be it in a car or on a motorbike is a dangerous thing.
I want to describe the way they are driving around here as "scooter driving - but trying NOT to hit the other cars".
I have never seen so many almost accidents and nearby hits as here.
And I have also seen several traffic accidents, too.
So you have two possibilities: leave the driving to others: eg, hire a car with driver or use the Tuk Tuks (like taxis).
Or.... try it. with the necessary caution. Special tip: always have an eye in your mirror - look out for the big busses, they tend to have problems with stopping.
The picture shows the road sign. I suppose it does not have to be translated...
O.k. so this is neither a real danger nor a serious warning. ...
the most that can come out of it is, that you are going to be very embarassed....
Take a look at the two ladies on the picture.
Take a good look, because they are not ladies but so called lady-men.
They were men, but had an operation (quite cheap too, here in thailand, but not for them). Because they need the money for the operation, they have to go out and "sell" their bodies aftreward. Either only in the form of you paying for the pictures you take of and with them, or...
They are not dangerous, but if you are drunk enough and happen to pick up one of them, well ... mostly the other ones around you will know :-)
UPDATE: Phuket is encountering a resurgence of Dengue Fever. Be sure to take precautions.
It is vital to carry mosquito repellent with you to any areas of Thailand, as with much of Asia, particularly if you have an allergy to mosquito bites. Although Malaria is not a problem in Phuket, it is wise to take precautions. The mosquitos that carry Malaria are the brown coloured Anopheles and Dengue is borne by the Aedes Aegypti, which is most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They tend to dwell in domesticated areas, around houses and in shade, as opposed to the Anopheles which tends to live in the jungle areas. Mosquito spray is cheap and effective, also travel sized and widely available, so be sure to carry some with you, particularly in wet areas.
Over a million people die every year from Malaria, which can be a problem near Cambodia or Myanmar. You can take anti-Malaria medication such as Malarone as a preventative, but not getting bitten is best. Symptoms can take up to one year to manifest, so if you're worried, it is advisable to be tested when you get home just to be sure. Dengue Fever can be contracted through mosquitos in Thailand and recent years have seen an upsurge in the number of infections, resulting in severe pain and even death. Check the link below for details about Dengue.
The Thai people believe that black clothing attracts mosquitos, and I guess they'd know. I do wear a bit of black, but I must admit I haven't had that much of a problem with them. I believe they are also attracted to body temperature, pheremones and carbon dioxide which is heavy and hangs low, so be sure to spray your feet and exposed legs.
Once you hear the cicadas start their song at sundown, it's like a wake-up call for the mosquitos, so be prepared.
Phuket Zoo has left a horrible impact on my family and I. First of all, animals like tigers, are undoubetdly drugged, and chained down to pose for photos all day - repeatedly hit with sticks so they look at the camera. The areas the animals live in are dry, with no food or water, and tourists are asked to donate for the food.
The main warning I have for tourists is to avoid the zoo at all costs, after we witnessed a young boy (a tourist) attacked by three elephants.
There was an elephant show, forcing elephants to perform, which is disgusting in its own right, and after the show everyone went down to get photos and meet the elephants. We went over to pat the elephants, and all of a sudden a young boy, who was about 9, was thrown down by a baby elephant. The boy was thrown across the ground, with the elephants screaming out loudly, and three charged over and began trampling him. We all ran, everyone was screaming and crying..it was awful! The boy was badly hurt, and I am not even sure if he would have survived..it was just a really really bad afternoon.
But to make the matters even worse, the elephant show was held a little later that afternoon!!!!!
Please, stay away from the zoo, I had no idea that my day would end like that.
beware of the insect bites esp if you're staying in a place wherein its too green and lush:-) meaning you're sorrounded by trees and plants. My kids had their fair share when we stayed at Club Andaman. So, a piece of advise - always put insect repellant esp before going to bed.
In Thailand there are only real legal taxis in the big cities and Phuket is not one of them. Phuket do have taxis, who operate openly without taxi signs on the roof. These drivers pay a monthly "fee" to the local police in the provinces they have to drive through, and in return they are allowed to operate as taxis.
The police have occational checkpoints where they check if the driver has paid the fee. If he hasn't you might end up like us, waiting in the taxi outside a police station for hours.
Note that it's apparently rare for tourists to get involved in situations like this. I think there is no reason for you to avoid taxis. I'm just writing this so you know what it's all about if it happens to you. It took 1,5 hours before we could get the situation explained to us in understandable English.
In Patong and Karon, there are numerous clusters of bars and restaurants with no individual bathroom facilities. Instead, you go to a central location and pay 5 or 10 baht per visit. The conversation goes something like this:
Tourist: How much is it?
Attendant: 5 baht sir.
Tourist: Is it clean?
Attendant: Yes sir.
Tourist: Western toilet?
Attendant: Yes sir, toilet.
The result is often a squatter. Not the comfortable sit-down variety that many visitors are used to. Ah, the horror! I should have been used to them coming from Japan but after half a dozen beers or so, it's a bit inconvenient. So be warned if this might be a problem for you! :-)
Safety aside......most times riding the scooter in the small villages, towns and inlets we did not wear a helmet....nobody does!.....also, we were taking it easy, slow and steady and not making long distance rides....so that was fine...maybe not the smartest decision but it was what it was......however....on our journey up the cost to Karon, Kata and Patong beach...the traffice got substantially busier and we finally decided we should put on our lids (which we brought with us and kept under the seat of the bike).....literally a couple minutes before we planned to pull over....there it is.....a checkpoint, right in the middle of the road.....the checkpoint was there simply to stop farangs with not helmets....and we were stopped.
They took my driveres license and wrote me a ticket WHICH I then had to drive 30 minutes away - to some police station - pay the fine, and return to the checkpoint for my license.....of course this is a total scam BUT, a Thai legitimate scam!! When we returned to the checkpoint I retrieved my license and realized the guards (probably jr guys) were almost apologizing for giving me the ticket.....they started offering us cigarettes and made us take two bottles of water with us in the basket.....oK??....then, the guard tells me to keep the ticket and if we get pulled over again, simply show the ticket (as we have already paid the fine) and continue on our way.......they did not insist or care if we left with our helmets on or not....however we did keep them on for the crazy driving at Patong Beach.......A bit of a crappy delay in the day, but a great story and the ticket is a very cool souvenier....oh, the ticket??? 300baht.
At some beaches low tide can be a problem. If the sea is shallow at the beach, at low tide it can just disappear! You'll have to walk a long way over the sharp stones to get to the water.
The tide period takes 6 hours, the tidal range can be as much as 4 meters.
However, I didn't see it as a problem, you get used to it and use the pool while waiting for the sea to come back.
Phuket island is also a land of hills. There are many hills in Phuket. Every routes to Patong beach has to pass hilly roads. These roads can be dangerous for those who are not used to driving hilly roads. Some curves can be very acute and steep. So remember to be alert when you are driving. Always use low gear.