Last year December, my friend Witty and I took a trip to Thailand. We went to Patong, which is a beach resort town on the west coast of Phuket Island. We spent 7 days there and we had the time of our lives. When we planned the trip, we made sure that we spend new year’s eve & my birthday there: BEST DECISION EVER! I am going to tell you about my trip and give you some tips in case Phuket is on your travel wishlist.
We booked our trip through STA Travel, they have packages that include flights, airport transfers, accommodation & breakfast. We paid a deposit of R1000 each to secure the package, and then the rest we paid monthly. The full amount was meant to be paid a month before the departure date. It is important to note that the price of your package is dependent on the dates you pick, if you want to travel during the peak season, you will pay more than someone travelling during off peak season.
Phuket has three seasons. The cool season (actually very hot), the hot season (scorching hot), and the rainy season (hot and wet). We chose to go during the cool season, which is from November to February and is the peak season, so prices are bit higher than other seasons.
Check out this link explaining the different seasons.
When we booked our trip, STA Travel had a special for R12k per person for 7 days, however, that was dependent on us travelling earlier than we wanted. So, in order to get the dates we wanted, we had to pay an additional R4.5k, so we ended up paying R16.5k each, which was really not bad, considering we booked this trip in January 2019, and we were travelling on the 28th of December, we had until the 28th of November to ensure that the trip was paid up, which was more than enough time for us.
We also got travel insurance, which was very important, should anything happen, we didn’t wanna get caught unprepared so far from home, in a country with people who barely understand English. We paid R510 each for travel insurance for 10 days. As with any insurance, there’s different packages, depending on how much you wanna cover, for which amount, etc. This you can get more information on, from your travel agent.
The great thing about using a travel agency is that they book everything for you, everything that is included in the package you choose that is. They booked the flights (including connecting flights), and booked the hotel for us. They also scheduled when we should be picked up from the Thailand airport to the hotel, based on our landing time, and when to be picked up from the hotel to the airport, when it was time to go home.
The only thing I’d say I didn’t quite like about using an agency, is that we had little to no control over the quality of accommodation we got. This is because we booked the special in quite a hurry (on the day it was ending), so we didn’t really get the option to check out the hotel before we settled on it. Thankfully it was not terrible. It was not great, but it was not terrible either. (If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I didn’t post any pictures of the hotel itself because there really was nothing special about it.) We weren’t planning on ever being at the hotel anyway, we really just needed a place to put our bags, get in a quick nap and a shower, so it worked out.
I’d recommend giving yourself enough time to go through the quote for your package, research the accommodation, read the reviews (very important), check out the pictures (even though they can be very doctored and misleading) before you commit to it. Especially if you’re going on a baecation or you just want a relaxed, not activity intense holiday, then you’d probably wanna stay at a nicer place, that has a lot of amenities like a pool, gym, etc. We didn’t have any of those, and the way the heat in Thailand is setup, trust me, you want accommodation with a pool.
Our hotel was a kilometre away from the Patong beach & Bangla Road (the famous night life street), which isn’t too bad, so we did a lot of walking (you’d think we came back a few kgs lighter, but nah ). This gave us an opportunity to see Patong, and we came across different night markets, one more cheaper than the last, it was great! The restaurants by the beach were very expensive, we only went to one just for the experience, then the duration of our stay, we ate mostly at the markets & other restaurants a bit further from the beach.
Let’s get into the tips I picked up on my trip, use them, don’t use them, it’s up to you.
Do not book your activities online, the prices are highly inflated and you’ll end up paying 3 to 4 times more than you should.
Walk around, there’s literally a tour guide stand almost every 100m you walk, even inside restaurants and shops, they sell these packages. The fancier the tour guide stand, the more expensive the tour will be. So again, walk around, go to the markets, you’ll get amazing deals! Also, negotiate! Everything is a negotiation in Thailand, from tours to the price of items at markets, it’s all negotiable.
Just to give you some perspective, we booked a City Tour which included going to Karon View Point, Feeding Baby Elephants, The Big Buddha, Chalong Temple, The Big Bee Farm, Cashew Nut Factory and The Tiger Kingdom. We paid 1150 Baht each (you’ll do the conversion), and then the night before our city tour, while at a food night market, we saw a stand, selling the same tour we had booked, for 450 baht each. So when I say, dedicate your first day/night to walking around and you’ll find amazing deals, I mean it!
These are the activities we did, and I recommend all of them:
James Bond Island Tour
This included multiple stops at places like the Monkey Island, Phang Na Bay, etc. Lunch & pick up from our hotel were included. Definitely a must see. I did not enjoy this one, only because I was hungover AF. It was a terrible idea to go to Bangla Road and party the night before a morning tour, for which we were getting picked up at 7AM at the hotel. (We don’t judge each other here.) I am pretty sure if I didn’t feel like death, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I did.
Phi Phi Island 4 Island Tour
This included Phi Phi Islands, Bamboo Island and Krabi’s popular 4 islands, all in 1 day. Lunch & pick up were included here too. This was my favourite tour, except for the speedboat. It was so bumpy and very fast, I had the worst case of motion sickness, I suggest you get motion sickness medication beforehand. It also didn’t help that some people were throwing up.
This included going to Karon View Point, Feeding Baby Elephants, The Big Buddha, Chalong Temple, The Big Bee Farm, Cashew Nut Factory & The Tiger Kingdom, there was no lunch here, since we chose the half day package, but the full day package had lunch included. They still picked us up from our hotel though.
Tip: Wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees. Avoid beachwear, short skirts, shorts & T-shirts with offensive images. This tour didn’t include any islands or beach, so there was no need for swimwear.
Go party on Bangla Road next to Patong beach, and I suggest you don’t plan anything for the following day because you will regret it, that is if you partake in bevs. They have crazy cheap alcohol deals, so you will get so wasted. You will probably get back to your hotel at 6 or 7AM the next morning. We paid 500 baht for unlimited drinks all night till 6AM, and damn, they’re very generous with the alcohol. We got back to the hotel around 4AM, only because we knew we had the tour and the pick up time was 7AM, otherwise, we probably would’ve left at 6AM. (I did say we don’t judge here, right?)
We had the James bond island tour the next day and wow, I was not okay. Yoh, we almost didn’t make it. I have never had such a terrible hangover in my entire life. Learn from my mistakes, do not book an early tour the day after a night of partying beloved. If you insist on doing something after a night out, then book for the afternoon (which I still don’t recommend, unless you’re not much of a drinker, or you know you don’t get hangovers from hell like I do), if you’re like me and get terrible hangovers, then after a crazy night on Bangla Road, I suggest you go be a beach bum. You can rent a beach chair and umbrella for 100 baht, they’re available for rent from 8h30am to 5pm.
Ping Pong Sex Show
As soon you set foot on Bangla Road, you will be solicited by people trying to get you to go see a ping pong sex show. Literally every second person we bumped into was a “promoter” for this, eventually we gave in and went to see one and I just-
A ping pong show is a form of stage entertainment that takes place in strip clubs. It is a type of sex show in which women use their pelvic muscles to either hold, eject, or blow objects from their vaginal cavity. Ping pong balls are the most iconic objects used.
Woooow! I really cannot explain this one, it’s just something you’d have to see for yourself. They claim the entrance is free, but you have to buy a drink at a ridiculous price like 1200 baht (so really you’re paying for entrance), DO NOT agree! Negotiate it down to about 250 baht (which is still crazy for 1 drink, but hey, you wanna see the show, right?). I wouldn’t stay for more than 1 drink, the price of their drinks was ridiculous, granted it decreased after our first “entrance” drink, but it was still super expensive compared to the clubs right next to it. So get 1 drink, be thoroughly disturbed and scarred for life (or enjoy the show – no judgement), and then leave, go to another club with much much less drinks prices!
We didn’t need to exchange any money. What we did was contact our banks prior to our departure, to inform them that we will be travelling internationally on specified dates. This is to ensure that your bank doesn’t block your account due to international activity, and then you’re left stranded with no money in a foreign country.
Tip: Remember to also include any countries you have layovers in when you notify the bank, you never know whether you’ll need/want to spend or not, better safe than sorry.
We realised that withdrawing money using the ATMs in Thailand was way cheaper than withdrawing rands in SA & exchanging to baht. The exchange rates were ridiculous. For every withdrawal, there was a fee of about R100, and we made the mistake of not withdrawing enough money, we found ourselves having to withdraw a lot of times, which meant we spent more on the withdrawal fee than we needed to, so I suggest you withdraw a lot of money once off, because you will need cash. Places like the Night Markets do not have speedpoint machines, so trust me, cash is essential.
In terms of spending money, we each had a budget of R10k, this was for food, activities, items we bought, cab fare (which we hardly used because we mostly walked), club entrances & bevs. R10k was more than enough, we even came back home with some change. This is obviously based on the time we went to Thailand, so before you travel, check the conversion rate and budget accordingly.
Additional Do’s and Don’ts
Do buy Imodium before your flight. Traveller’s diarrhoea is a real thing, and it is the last thing you want on a vacation, trust me on this one. I experienced this and had to buy it when we landed in China. It was very expensive at the airport, so buy it beforehand.
Ladies, be sure to pack enough period care supplies for the flight. This is a good tip even if you aren’t actually on your period. When we left, Witty was already on her period, however, it was way heavier than normal, and lasted 2 weeks longer than normal. Yup, you read that right, moghel was on her period the entire trip, and 2 more weeks after we came back home, luckily for her, she uses the menstrual cup, which is great, and I am a huge advocate for. She also mentioned that during the flight, her period was heavier than usual and the cramps were way worse, so maybe pack some painkillers too in your carry on bag. Apparently the long flights can cause your cycle to behave in a very strange way, don’t quote me on this, I am not a doctor.
Disclaimer: I asked her if I can disclose this information & she said “I don’t mind, we should really normalise period talk.” Yasss queen!
Do check the weather for your layover. We had a 9 hour layover in Hong Kong, and wow, we were freezing. We were dressed for Thailand and not China, which was terrible idea! We also couldn’t leave the airport due to the bad weather, it was raining and cold, so we ended up staying at the airport until our connecting flight to Phuket.
Do pack some gum for the take off and landing in your carry on bag. It helps keep your ears unblocked. You might also wanna take motion sickness medication beforehand.
Don’t over pack. You will find literally everything you will need on the streets of Thailand. If you’re very particular about your swimwear, then pack that, but cover ups, hats, beach towels, beach dresses, you’ll definitely find on the streets of Thailand, and at a good price too (especially at the night markets). We over packed and couldn’t buy much because our luggage was almost full. Don’t be like us, learn from our mistakes.
Do take a Tuk-Tuk, it’s a fun way to get around, but NEVER take the 1st price. Always negotiate it down. They like inflating prices for tourists so if you don’t negotiate, you’ll pay more than twice the normal rate. If you find yourself needing a metered cab, insist that they turn on the meter, otherwise you’ll pay a sh*tload.
Don’t drink the water from the taps. There’s a 7 eleven on every corner, you can buy drinking water there. Remember that diarrhoea I mentioned earlier? You don’t want that.
Do check out Bangla Road “The Walking Street”. It is hella fun. Ladies, if you like clubbing in heels, I’d advise against it on this one. You walk quite a lot and you’ll probably also be one of the few people wearing heels, it’s crowded and I can’t imagine it’ll be nice walking in heels; sneakers and sandals were my go to. But hey, if you wanna get down in heels, then go forth and conquer babes, don’t let me stop you.
You do not need to activate international roaming, it is way cheaper to buy the tourist sim card with unlimited internet and free social media for 30 days. You’ll need your passport to buy the sim card, you can find it at a 7 eleven for about 299 baht.
Do go to the different Night Markets, my favourite was the Dragon Night Market. The food is amazing and fresh. This might explain why we didn’t come back a few kgs lighter even though we walked an average of 5km daily.
Wear sunscreen DAILY, heck, reapply as many times as you can. I cannot stress this enough. The sun is really vicious and wow, you will burn! Make sure your sunscreen has a high Sun Protection Factor (SPF). You want to come back tan, not fried and crispy.
Check out the Full Moon Party. The Full Moon Party is an all-night beach party, and apparently it’s daily, well at least it was daily for the period we were there. We unfortunately didn’t get a chance to check it out, but apparently it’s a vibe!
When crossing the roads, don’t think cars will wait for you, even at a pedestrian crossing, they won’t. You have to force your way through (Joburg style), otherwise you’ll never cross. Also, it’s interesting how polite people were there. No passive aggressive hooting, they were so patient with pedestrians, it was refreshing. Also, I am not sure how their robots work, they seemed more like suggestions than the law , but I could be wrong.
Get a Fish Massage. It was quite an experience, and it was very very affordable. We paid 180 baht for 2. We really really enjoyed that.
Get a Thai massage. Massages were so cheap there, we could literally get 1 everyday. It was really an interesting experience , at some point, I thought my massage therapist was going to climb on me and walk all over my back, the way it was so intense, I enjoyed it though, I just wasn’t expecting that. We did this for my birthday, spent the whole day getting pampered.
Last but definitely not least, if you do go to Thailand once everything settles & ‘outside’ is open again ENJOY YOUR VACATION! It is one incredible place, I had the time of my life and I absolutely cannot wait go to back.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience. If there’s anything I left out, feel free to ask me questions & I will try my best to answer them.
Also, follow me on Instagram (@refiloe_chaka) if you are interested in more pictures from my trip.