We did not have an overseas vacation for a very long time. Really really long time. Or maybe.. To be exact, we never had an overseas family vacation before, other than Malaysia, which is just across Singapore.
It was an unplanned journey for me. Mum wanted to have a family vacation overseas. So, does my brother. Naturally, I tagged a long as well as I knew, I would be very busy for the next few months.. Or perhaps.. a few years.
Because I was not so interested in it, I left the planning to both my mum and brother. My job was just to.. make payment.. 😕
If you have never been to Phuket before, and you are freaking lazy to do your research, you should continue reading!
In this post, I will talk about, but not limited to the followings:
- The summary of this journey
- Expenses breakdown
- Cost comparison between Phuket and Singapore
- Some local culture
Are youh ready? Here we go!
We flew from Singapore to Phuket on 28th November, early in the morning. We took JetStar as it is the cheapest flight ticket that we could get. The world is really such a small place. In that particular flight, I met an ex-classmate. We were like.. “ehh!!…. ehhh!.. hey!… heyy!…. Long time no see bro!”.. And I was just telling myself the day before that somehow, whenever I go, I would stumble onto someone I know. Talk of the devil huh? haha.
We reached Phuket at about 10am++.
Phuket International Airport is pretty small. After your passport check, there are lots of tour pamphlets & maps that you can take. I’d recommend that you take them all! Some of the packages are much cheaper than the packages that you’d stumble across later on!
Still in the same area, after your passport check, if you are a Wi-Fi addict, you may collect a FREE SIM card with some value inside (As of 28th November 2015)! Did we take it up? Well… We didn’t take up the SIM card anyway as the queue is long, and we thought of being more adventurous by relying on local maps, our navigation skills, and homing instincts.
After all, Phuket is not that big. Why not just get lost, and communicate with locals right? 🙂 If you are such a sissy, and die die want to have a Wi-Fi all the time, you can do so at your home country. Don’t be a sissy! You’d get a WIFI in your hotel anyway!
The moment we stepped out after the passport / baggage check, we were greeted with lots of transport services personnel. They were asking, where are you going? Where do you want to go? Come here, come here! I am not sure about you, but my typical reaction when I am being approached by any aggressive sales man, would always be a “NO THANKS”!
After I’ve calmed down a little bit, I looked around and I saw that travel agencies are all around the corner near the airport exit. Maybe I exaggerated a little bit. But anyway, we decided to approach one of the personnel who was stationed in a squarish like booth who greeted us in our language. He then referred us to someone else, whom we initially said, “NO”! It seems that the transport agencies may have been working together, or perhaps distribute works by area.. or so I thought at first. Towards the end of our stay over here, I realized that the person whom we approached, was actually some sort of a transport hotline if you were to put it in a simple term.
Here’s how it works. From the Airport to whatever hotel you want to go, they charge you based on:
- Number of passengers.
- Your destination / area / city / town. Not so sure what you call it.
There are 2 modes of transport from the Airport to your hotel, and vice versa:
- Mini Bus / Mini Van.
I do not have to explain much about taxi as it self-explanatory. However, for mini bus, it is a mode of transport for carrying more than 4 passengers. One mini bus from the airport, can fit in about 10 passengers with their luggages.
Taxi goes to one destination. Mini bus, goes to multiple destination in one area / city. All passengers carried by the mini bus, goes to different hotels located in the same area / city.
Our hotel is located in Patong.
The charges are as follows from the Airport to Patong:
- Taxi: 800 Baht.
- Mini bus: 180 Baht per person.
We have 5 person in total. A Taxi can only take up to 4 passenger. So, if we were to take 2 taxis, that would cost 1600 Baht, or approximately $64 SGD. If we were to take mini bus, that would cost 900 Baht, or approximately $36 SGD. $36 SGD is more or less the cost of taking a cab from home to Changi Airport.
So, we took a mini bus in the end..
I was quite delighted that there was no hard selling of tour packages when we were buying the mini bus tickets.
We thought that we will go to our hotel straight away. However, that was not the case. The mini bus brought us to some place, and asked all of us to get down from the mini bus to “confirm” our destination (hotel). In Malay, they say, “banyaklah diorang punye confirm”. It means, something like, “yeah right!”.
When we got down from the mini bus, we were led to an office, which contain a few tables, with an officer / agent stationed on each table. We approached one table, and the officer asked our destination (hotel), which we responded that we wanted to go to Garden Phuket Hotel.
The officer then asked whether do we want to book the mini bus when we on our return date? I would recommend that you say “YES” if you can confirm your return date. It is cheaper to book the mini bus now as it cost 180 Baht. If you book a mini bus later on from your hotel, or from a “taxi/mini bus” booth nearby your hotel, they would charge 200 Baht. After confirming the return booking, the officer then started selling of their tour packages.. which we rejected because we felt that it is expensive. I think, if you book your tour packages online is cheaper.
We then proceeded to our hotel which is about 42 km from the airport.
GARDEN PHUKET HOTEL
Located at Patong, we booked this hotel from Agoda. They do not have website at the point of this writing. I wanted to offer them my web development service. But for some reason, this idiot was lazy to voice out when he was talking to the owner of the hotel.
Anyway, according to TripAdvisor, Garden Phuket Hotel is rated 4/5. Whereby according to Agoda, it is rated 3/5. Does it matter whether it is rated 4 or 3 out of 5?? Not really. It does not really matter as different people have different kind of expectations.
- Garden Phuket Hotel is outside noisy area. So, you can sleep well.
- Wi-Fi force is strong if you go outside of your room.
- Its a good place to rest. There is a swimming pool, but its only 0.7M. Patong beach is about 10-15 minutes walk if you want to swim.
- The staff are top-notch. They speak good English. They are very friendly, including the owner. The ladies are pretty petite. If you need to book a taxi, tour, the hotel staff are happy to help you.
- It is convenient because you can rent bike from the hotel. You need to give them your passport though. But I think it is safer to give your passport to your hotel as compared to other Bike Rental company out there.
- Our return flight was at 10pm. But we checked out at 12pm. We booked a taxi at 7pm. We wanted to book one more night so that we can stay till 7pm. But the hotel owner, recommended that we checkout at 12pm, walk around, come back to take shower and rest at the pool area, at NO COST, which I think, it was pretty a decent offer! 🙂
- By the way, book taxi from outside your hotel. It is slightly cheaper, by at least 100 Baht!
- The rooms are big, and the toilets are clean.
- If you need a kettle to boil water, you can just ask the reception.
- They have a laundry service too. I think its about 50 Baht per KG if I am not wrong. But you can DIY yourself if you want to.
- Overall, Garden Phuket Hotel is a good place to stay, especially, if you are having a family vacation. You wouldn’t want to go to a crowded or noisy place.
The first thing we did when we reached the hotel was to find food! We were starving. We dropped off our belongings at the hotel reception as we was not able to check-in yet since we reached quite early.
You don’t have to worry about Halal food here. There are tons of Halal restaurants around. However.. even though it is a Halal restaurant, they freaking serve beer! It is very difficult to find a Halal restaurant which does not serve beer. You can still find, but it is quite far away from our hotel. Usually, it is at the local eateries. Not really at tourist area. You have to walk / drive a bit.
We had our brunch at an Indian restaurant.
The total cost incurred for 5 persons in that Indian restaurant was about 1800 Baht. That’s approximately $72 SGD!! Its feaking expensive and not worth it at all! I can’ t remember the name of the restaurant unfortunately. However, it is the nearest Halal Indian restaurant to Garden Phuket Hotel.
We also tried eating at an Iranian restaurant nearby. I didn’t take note of the total cost. But I can tell you that if you were to compare it with having a meal in Singapore, it is more expensive for sure!!
Below are some food / meal that we tried:
- Panini Nutella With Banana + Coffee
On the menu, it looked like a delicious pancake. It turned out to be just a bread toast with Nutella! And there’s no freaking banana at all! When we asked about the banana, they said that we did not tell them to include banana inside! The hell is that?!! How do we know that we are supposed to tell you to put banana? On the menu, it is already stated, WITH BANANA!
Cost: 180 Baht ($7.20 SGD)!
2. Chocolate Croissant + Coffee
Cost: 120 Baht ($4.80)
As you can see above, it is freaking expensive if you eat at the tourist area or near hotels. So, where to find good & cheap foods in Patong?
- Some people suggests that you should go to Nanai road. Its a walking distance from Garden Phuket Hotel. But the road is quite long. You either get a tuk-tuk taxi or use a bike to explore this stretch! I do not recommend driving here by car as the road is very narrow, and there are lots of hills. Over here, very few halal food for your information. We personally did not eat here. Though, we explored the road twice. One in the evening on the bike. Then, the following morning, on feet.
- There is some sort of market that opens at about 12pm near Garden Phuket Hotel. Although it is not very cheap, it is still cheaper than Singapore. You’ve got to try these (I use SGD currency for easy calculation):
- Kebab: $2.50 SGD. Not exactly like the Kebab you see in Singapore, which is very small, and cost $3.50. This one, is a wrap, and its big.
- Banana Nutella Pancake – Die die you have to try this. If you buy from the wrong seller, the taste may not be good. So, I’d recommend that you try from different sellers as they have different ways of doing this.
- Takoyaki: $2 SGD! – Die die have to try! For $2, you get 6 pieces!!
- Tom Yum: I am not a fan of Tom Yum. But my family said, its good and very different from Singapore.
- Grilled seafood: You pick something that you like, and they will grill it for you on the spot. I’d recommend that perhaps you get some rice or fried rice as well.
- Around mosque. There are 2 mosques in Patong. The one we went to, was around Nurun Islamia Mosque if I remember correctly. You have to use a transport to get there. Walking from Garden Phuket Hotel is about 45 minutes to 1 hour walk. I have not tried all restaurants around that area. But I’d recommend you to at least go to Hashim Restaurant, and get a Nasi Goreng Kerabu!
It is not in the menu! You have to ask! As for beverage, get a Cocoa Frappe!
- Somewhere after Surin Beach – You need to drive out of Patong to a town after Surin Beach. Its about slightly more than 12 km drive. Those places serve local food for locals! Its cheap, and its good! If you go in the morning (Go before 8am to avoid traffic jams), there are lots of food that are being sold in front of mosques!
If you are lucky enough, you may come across a road side “kampung” like stall selling chicken rice in the afternoon. Their rice is a sticky rice. And the chickens are grilled like satay style! That one is heaven!!
- Kamala Beach – Not exactly at Kamala beach. But somewhere before or after, people sell food on one side of the street. You’ve get to got to try Pisang Goreng (Fried Banana)! It is so different from Singapore / Malaysia!
- Tuk-Tuk Taxi
- Its a local kind of “taxi”.
- Red / Yellow in colour.
- Charges based on area, not a destination. For example, you can go to any hotel in Patong for a fix price of 200 Baht. Oh, please make sure you have small notes / changes at any point of time!
- The reason it is called “Tuk-Tuk” is because, when passengers sits at the back, and they need to change direction, they need to knock on the driver’s window to tell the drive to turn or change direction.
- You can rent a car from your hotel, or you can walk around, and find a car to rent.
- I would recommend renting from SIXT! Why? Because I stumbled across SIXT after my hotel told us that they don’t have any more cars to rent out. Its a 24 hour rent. Meaning, if you just want to rent for 1 day, and you took your car at 8am, you just need to return the car, the following day, at 8am.
- Make sure you return the car in full-tank. The car uses Benzene 91.
- Usually, rental cars are covered under insurance.
- If you are a newbie car licence holder, I would highly recommend that you drive in Phuket. This will give you a significant confidence boost! The drivers here are very considerate as compared to Singapore!
- Rental bikes are NOT COVERED by insurance usually!
- If your bike is stolen, you pay for a new bike.
- If your bike is damaged, you pay for the damage.
- Rental companies need you to deposit your passport. So, I’d recommend that you rent out from your hotel.
- You don’t have to return the bike in full-tank.
- The bike uses gasoline 91.
- Rental rate: 200 – 350 Baht a day!
- Duration: 24 hours usually. Though some agencies may ask you to return before they close if your rental period is just one day.
- I do not recommend you to rent a bike unless if you have a bike licence!
- If you are a newbie bike lience holder, this is a good confidence boost too! Rent a bike!
- There are tons of currency exchange over here.
- DO NOT change your currency at the airport! Its ridiculous!
- Currency exchange outlets over here offers different rate. So, you’ve got to be smart. I’d say that if you move deeper into Patong, instead of your hotel area, you’d be able to find currency exchange with attractive rates! Though, your exchange rate around your hotel, is so much better than the one at the airport!
There are many things that you can do in Phuket. I’d recommend that you book your activities online, unless if you know where to get it cheaper!
You can book your activities online at Phuket Towers. We did:
- 5 KM rafting – There are only 2 sessions. One in the morning. Another one at about 2 or 3 pm. Can’t remember. At these 2 sessions, all companies will hold their rafting sessions because the water is released from the dam. As such, they have to make full use of it fast. But don’t worry about it. Its pretty fun to see many people rafting together.
- 30 Mins ATV.
- Flying Hanuman – I do not recommend this as it is not high. So, the feeling is not there.
- Elephant Trekking – I do not recommend this either. The trip was not booked by me. If you watch documentaries, elephants are being tortured here in Thailand. I do not know whether the one I took was being tortured or not, but according to Expert Vagabond, wild elephants won’t let humans ride on top of them. So in order to tame a wild elephant, it is tortured as a baby to completely break its spirit.
Of course, you can decide later on after you reach Phuket, either by booking online, or offline booking based on the pamphlets that you collected earlier in the airport. 😉
However, don’t go for snorkelling! If you want, you might as well go for a diving package or something like that. I am in view that snorkelling activity is not worth it.
We subscribed to a half-day snorkelling package from the pamphlet that we picked up at the airport. We thought that we are only going to ONE island. It turned out, we went to 3 islands (I was not the one who did the booking). DO NOT rent flippers! Its not worth it! Read on more to find out why..
On our first island, we are only allowed to snorkel at the shore. The depth, is less than 1 metre. Its really hard to snorkel at that depth. Duration: 1.5 hr.
Then, we went to a middle of 2 or 3 islands, and snorkelled in the middle of the ocean. The depth is about 2 metres. You need to wear a life jacket when snorkel. I don’t know about you. But I get motion sickness when the boat is stationary, and when I wear the life jacket! Duration: 30 mins.
The last island, is the same as the 1st island, except that there is not much stones at the shores. So, your feet feels much better. But the depth wise is the same as the 1st island, less than 1 metre. Duration: 1 hr.
From my understanding, you give a TIP when you feel like it, and/or if you feel you have something extra to give out. Its an act of goodwill when one feels like it.
However, over here, its like whenever you go for a tour package, the service staff or activity staff (definitely not tour guide) expect a tip from you. And if you don’t give a tip, its like you are offending them. At least, that’s how I felt. This only applies to tourism activities.
I am not trying to be a dick here, but I feel that if you are travelling on a shoe string budget (that’s me), it hurts a lot to give a tip for every outdoor activity that you do.
Restaurant, hotels, drivers, do not usually ask for a tip.
TAX / VAT CLAIM
- Keep Your hotel receipt.
- Keep your activity booking receipt.
- Keep your car rental receipt.
- If you are calculative, keep whatever receipt of your purchases.
- On your return date, you may claim your VAT refund at the airport. Obviously, I didn’t do this, as didn’t know that you can claim your VAT refund! Now, you know!
So.. That’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed my post, and I hope that it educates you and give you a good / rough overview if you are going to Phuket. Feel free to leave me a comment.
If you are a travel agency / hotel representative, and you liked my writing, feel free to sponsor me / invite me to a destination of your choice. You can contact me via a contact form on my homepage! 🙂