Is Phuket Expensive? We Break Down the Costs of your Thailand Vacation

is phuket expensive
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Are you thinking of a trip to Phuket? Great! It’s an absolutely beautiful place to visit and we love it! But is Phuket expensive, when you compare it to the rest of Thailand?

Well, the short answer is yes — Phuket is a little more expensive than other places in Thailand. But it’s still a cheap destination, especially if you’re on a backpacker budget.

Over the next few sections, we’ll go through the costs of an average vacation to Phuket. We’ll take a close look at the cost of food and drink, the price of accommodation, and how to save some money on travelling around the island.

So read on for our guide to the costs and prices in Phuket, and hopefully we’ll answer your question: “is Phuket expensive?” 

But first, a little bit of background.

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Where is Phuket?

Google Earth view of Phuket
Google Earth view of Phuket | Image Credit: Google Earth

Phuket (pronounced “poo-keh”) is the largest island in Thailand, lying off the country’s west coast. Along with 32 smaller islands, it forms one of the 77 provinces of Thailand and connects to the mainland via the famous Sarasin Bridge (which has a sad tale to tell).

The whole of Phuket province covers an area of 220 square miles (570 km2), which is roughly equivalent to the size of Chicago in the US, or the size of the Isle of Man (a self-governing territory of England).

(Fun fact: Phuket is twinned with quite a few cities around the world, including four in China alone. But the strangest twinned city is in the US — it’s Las Vegas!)  

Why is Phuket So Popular?

Vacations to Phuket nearly always include Patong Beach, which is surely one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches. But Phuket is so much more than Patong Beach! 

Want to know the top beaches in Phuket? Read our full detailed guide. 

As Thailand’s biggest island, there’s just so much to see on Phuket! For a start, it’s famously one of the most naturally beautiful islands in Thailand, with hidden beaches, stunning natural scenery and an architectural history that dates back to the first century AD.

Then there are the temples, each one with its own personality and unique features. If you’re a nature lover, Phuket offers a crocodile farm, a butterfly garden and even an attraction called ‘Insect World’. And, for watersport fans, the island has a great reputation for scuba diving and snorkelling, but also some lesser-known activities such as sea kayaking and kite surfing.

How Expensive is Phuket for a Vacation?

Man holding Baht banknotes
Counting out some Thai baht | Image Credit: prerslavl at Pixabay

This is the big question! To answer it, we’re lucky to have a relationship with budgetyourtrip.com, who collect data from tens of thousands of real travellers to work out some average costs. 

The first group shows the average budget you’ll need for a one-week or two-week vacation in Phuket, minus the cost of airfare. Bear in mind that these are average figures, so if you’re planning to backpack then your totals will be less, whereas if you’re going to be ‘flashing the cash’, then your figure will, of course, be higher.

(Although the currency in Thailand is the baht, we’ve converted these figures to US dollars for ease of comparison.)

Average Cost of Vacations in Phuket

Graphic showing average vacation costs for Phuket
Average cost of a vacation in Phuket (without airfare) | Data Source: budgetyourtrip.com

The next set of figures are a bit more specific, with a break down of costs per day by category. 

Graphic showing average vacation costs for Phuket
Breakdown of average costs per day in Phuket | Data Source: budgetyourtrip.com

We’re not too happy about the ‘Scams, Robberies and Mishaps’ section, but Thailand can be a dangerous place, so it’s just as well that we can bring this to your attention. So, either be vigilant, or budget $3.21 a day — the choice is yours! 

Whilst we’re being picky, we’re not too convinced by the ‘Alcohol’ figure either: it’s far too low! And, talking of alcohol…

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How Much Does a Beer Cost in Phuket?

Beers available in Phuket
Some of Thailand’s local beers (not the Heineken, obviously!) | Image Credit: au.hotels.com

Local beers are the cheapest (no surprise there!), which include Singha, Leo and Chang. But even though they’re local, the price can vary depending on where you buy them from. 

In a local grocery store, such as Family Mart or 7-Eleven, a can of the local brew will set you back 40 baht, which is about $1.30. Imported famous-brand beer, such as Heineken, Carlsberg or Asahi, will be slightly more at 50 to 60 baht, which is about $1.60 to $1.90.

In a bar or mid-range restaurant you can expect these prices to double, whereas in a nightclub one beer could end up costing you 300 baht (about $9.60).

Please note: Whereas it’s not illegal to drink in the street — as long as you’re over 20 years old — it is frowned on by locals as a sign of disrespect. There’s even a slang term which is used to describe lager touting louts:  ‘farang ki nok’, which literally translates as ‘bird shit westerner’.

 Now that we’ve covered the essentials (!), let’s look at some other costs.

How Much is Accommodation in Phuket?

A suite at the Sala Pool Villa
The Sala Presidential villa with private pool | Image Credit: Edge Retreats

Unlike some vacation hotspots elsewhere, Phuket is a year-round destination. However it still has its high and low seasons, and accommodation prices reflect the demand. 

The high season runs from mid-October to mid-February, with sunny and rain-free days drawing the crowds. The absolute peak is from mid-December to mid-January, and prices are noticeably higher. 

The low season is during the monsoon months of mid-May to mid-October. Prices are usually much lower, but a lot of the beaches and attractions are either inaccessible because of the rain or closed due to strong rip currents.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how much you can expect to pay per night for accommodation:

Budget Hotels

It’s quite easy to find a basic but serviceable hotel for $10 per night, with most of the cheaper rooms being located in Phuket Town. However, the actual cheapest place we could find is a ‘capsule bed’ hostel very near Kata beach, with dorm beds from an incredible $4 per night. It’s called ‘Sleepy Station’ and you can view details at Hostelworld.com, which is the website we recommend for all hostel bookings (we’re not affiliated with them in any way, we just like their website and their prices!)

Mid-Range Hotels

For the next level up, expect to pay between $40 and $80 per night. We checked the price of one of the more established 3-star hotels right in the heart of Phuket Town, called the On On Hotel (don’t you just love those crazy names!). For a four-day stay, in the middle of the peak season, we got a rate of $45 per night from booking.com for a double room and $68 for a suite. So there are definitely bargains to be found, especially if you book well in advance.

Luxury Hotels

If you decide to splash the cash – and why not, when food and drink are so cheap? — then there are VIP suites, remote jungle villas and every other sort of accommodation you can think of (treehouse, anyone?). We like the Sala Pool villa complex, which starts from about $400 per night in September. But the same room jumps to $1,500 per night over the Christmas/New Year period, which gives you an idea of just how seasonal the prices can be. In fact, outside of the high season, Phuket has some of the cheapest 5-star rooms in the world.

So, now that we’ve looked at the accommodation options, let’s move straight on to one of Thailand’s greatest delights — the food.

Is it Cheap to Eat in Phuket?

pad krapow gai is a national dish
Pad krapow gai (spicy Thai basil chicken) | Image Credit: eatingthaifood.com 

If you like food, you’ll love Phuket! From the simple but filling street food to the 5-star deluxe restaurants, Phuket has it all.

Because Phuket is an island there’s plenty of fresh seafood available, which combines well with the Thai tradition of wonderful flavours and fresh ingredients. And whilst the all-inclusive hotels offer meals at your resort, you’d be missing out on the genuine Phuket experience if you didn’t sample at least some of the local dishes. 

But exactly how expensive is the food in Phuket?

Well, we’re going to illustrate this by looking at the prices charged for the same dish in different areas of Phuket.

Same Dish, Different Price

One of the staples of local Thai food is the delicious pad krapow gai, which is a spicy fried chicken dish served with Thai basil, rice and usually a fried egg. (You can see it in our picture above.)

In Phuket Town, from one of the street vendors, this dish will cost you about 60 baht, which is roughly $2. The same dish in Patong Beach — particularly in the more popular tourist areas  — will cost up to 180 baht, or $6. And in a boutique restaurant, a well-presented version with silver service and napkin rings could cost as much as $25. The food is the same, it’s just the location that decides the price. 

Now that we’ve given you an idea of the price differences, let’s look at some of the Phuket restaurants menu prices.

How Much Does a Meal Cost in Phuket?

Black Squid Ink Pizza
The squid ink pizza is fired in a real wood oven | Image Credit:  Kindee Bistro

Budget Restaurant: Kindee Bistro in Thalang.

Proving that creative food doesn’t need to be expensive, the Kindee Bistro mixes traditional Thai tastes with European food. It has a great reputation for inventive pizzas, which are fired in a genuine wood oven.

Seafood and vegetables are sourced locally, beef and lamb are imported from New Zealand, and many products come directly from Italy. The restaurant recently took on new owners, and the reviews have been great. 

Their squid ink pizza is served with shrimp, parsley and chilis (see picture above) and will only set you back 249 baht, which is less than $8.  Add a bruschetta starter, some freshly squeezed juice and a coffee to finish, and you’ve got a great meal for two for less than $30.

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Mid-Range Restaurant: Surf and Turf by Soul Kitchen, Phuket Old Town

This is a minimalist fusion restaurant which sits in the heart of Phuket Town, surrounded by art-filled streets. The small but select menu has been created by a young Michelin-trained chef (Tom, from Germany), and has been described in a review as “innovative and cooked with love”.

Everyone raves about Tom’s Thai Basil Risotto with edamame and lime zest, and it works particularly well with the Australian beef taco starter. Add a decent bottle of wine and you can make it a meal for two to remember, for between $45 and $60.  

If you want something different and innovative, the ‘boho-chic’ Surf and Turf is definitely worth a visit. There are only eight tables, so we suggest you book well in advance.

Fine Dining: The Blue Elephant, Phuket Old Town

Blue Elephant restaurant, in Phuket Town
The Blue Elephant restaurant was once a Governor’s Mansion | Image Credit: Blue Elephant, Phuket

This unique restaurant won a 2020 Michelin Plate award for good cooking, and is praised as “comfortable, one of most delightful places” by the Michelin Guide.

The Blue Elephant is sister to the original restaurant in Bangkok, and recreates the same exquisite experience. Set in a colonial palace that was once the Governer’s mansion (see the photo above), this award-winning restaurant is totally dedicated to Southern Thai cuisine food, offering both new and old Phuketian flavours overseen by the celebrated Chef Nooror.

A dinner meal might include the following: spicy steamed sea bass dumplings to start, followed by ‘Sing Hon’ Beef Cheek stewed in coconut milk. Served with a carafe of local wine, and then a caramelized coconut flan with almond flakes for dessert. 

Sounds amazing, right? A meal for two here, with a medium-priced wine, starts at about $120 but can easily run to the high hundreds. This is an expensive place to eat, but there’s no denying it’s a unique culinary experience. 

Now, it just so happens that we’ve chosen two restaurants in the Old Town. But most of the restaurants you’ll read in the reviews are strewn around the entire island. So, what’s the best way to travel around in Phuket?  

How do you Get Around in Phuket?

Driver asleep in tuk-tuk
A tuk-tuk driver takes a quick break | Image Credit: pixabay.com

Travelling in Phuket has a problem — it’s far more expensive than it should be. This is mainly due to the inflated fares charged by the tuk-tuk drivers.

At least along the west coast, tuk-tuks are the only real form of public transport. But, unlike the Phuket taxis, fitting a meter to a tuk-tuk is not required. This leaves the drivers free to charge you as much as they think they’ll get away with.

So  — and we can’t stress this enough — it’s really important to agree on a price before you set off. For instance, a tuk-tuk ride from Patong to Karon should cost around 400 to 450 baht ($14). So you should offer that price, and if the driver refuses you should just walk away. He’ll soon call you back if he needs the work!

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For the sake of completion, we should probably add that there is a songtheaw (public bus) system in Phuket, but it’s unreliable and slow. And, as it’s basically just a pickup truck with some seats welded in, the going can get pretty bumpy.

To make the same journey as before, you’d have to get one bus from Patong to Phuket Town, then a second from Phuket Town to Karon. The upside is that it will only cost you 120 baht ($4);  the downside is that it takes over 3 hours. By the time you get to the beach, it will be time to go back!

Vehicle Rental in Phuket

A couple riding a motorbike
This is the best way to get around Phuket! | Image Credit:  VnExpress

By far the cheapest and quickest way to get around Phuket is to rent a  motorbike. Not only that — it’s fun!

Well, we say ‘fun’, but it can be dangerous. Most local drivers seem to have decided that the ‘rules of the road’ are for wimps. There are no real lanes, nobody signals, and everyone seems to be weaving around everyone else at the same time.  It could take a very brave

But if you’re a confident (and patient!) rider, then you should definitely consider hiring a motorbike. You should be able to get one from a reputable company for around 300 baht ($10) per day. If you prefer a car, then these start from 600 baht ($20) for a small runaround, which is probably all you’ll need.

Most importantly: make sure you get as much insurance coverage as possible, ideally a fully-comprehensive policy.

A Final Word

Phuket is definitely the most expensive part of Thailand, especially if you choose to stay at a resort close to the beach. But the fact that almost everything else is so cheap means your trip to Phuket can still be very affordable.

We hope we’ve shown you the sorts of prices you can expect to pay in Phuket, but if you have any further questions for us then please feel free to ask. We’re all mad keen on travelling around Thailand and the rest of Asia, and we’d love to help if we can!

Here are a few of our other guides about Phuket — why not check one out for some more travel ideas?

Have fun!

Bali vs Phuket (Where Is Better To Visit In 2020?)

Phuket Vs Koh Samui (Where Is Better To Visit?)

Which Phuket Beach Is Best? (2020, Full Detailed Guide)

 

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