Phuket, Thailand: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Phuket, Thailand is an island that’s rapidly developing and changing. It’s no secret paradise anymore, as tourists from all over the world come in droves to soak up the sun and play at the beaches.

We have lived in Phuket, Thailand for almost three months and have really enjoyed our time here. During our extended stay in Phuket, we have been able to observe what makes it such an attractive destination and also have been able to uncover some of the inconveniences and unattractive parts of life on the island.

Here is our guide to Phuket, Thailand: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly…

The Good

  • Beautiful beaches – Phuket is an island surrounded by beautiful beaches with soft white sand and clear blue waters. Tourists flock here for the beaches and warm waters, so you won’t be enjoying any stretch of sand alone in Phuket.
  • Warm weather with ocean breezes – Phuket has a tropical climate with a relatively short rainy season in September and October. The weather is gorgeous on most days in Phuket with abundant sunshine, clear blue skies, and nice ocean breezes. However, day time can be quite hot and humid for some people.
  • Friendly, gentle-natured people – Thai people are some of the most gentle mannered people on the planet. Friendliness and kindness are part of their culture, which makes for a hospitable environment for tourists and expats. Moreover, the local Phuket residents have an innate laid-back and relaxed islander nature to them.
  • Affordable living – Phuket isn’t as cheap as Bangkok or the towns in the north, but it’s still really cheap compared to American standards. We lived comfortably on $80 per day for our family of four, including our children’s schooling costs.


 The Bad

  • The pests – Flies, mosquitoes, ants, bugs, you name it and Phuket most likely has it. These pesky pests make enjoying meals outside annoying.
  • The dogs – There are dogs everywhere on main roads, side streets, and unleashed in front of people’s houses. It makes walking and running tough acts to do when you’re being barked at or followed by a dog.
  • Not walker friendly – Sidewalks and shoulder lanes barely exist in Phuket. And places are pretty spread out across the island, so walking isn’t really an option to get anywhere.
  • Crowded roads – The one or two lane roads have been taken over by throngs of tour buses, tour vans, cars, mopeds, and motorcycles. Excessive traffic, pollution, and noise are created with so many vehicles on the road.


The Ugly

  • Cheap labor – There are loads of Burmese or rural Thai workers who are trucked into work every morning, sometimes with over twenty people in the back of one truck. It looks like a tough life for people who live on the edges of society in Phuket.
  • The crime – Drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, theft, etc. It’s all here in Phuket. Be careful of where you are and who’s around you when you’re on the island.
  • The tourism industry – Most of the island is a tourist trap for all the tourists who get bused around on their vacations. There are shops for souvenirs, pearls, gems, leather, silk, latex, cashews, and honey to name some of the “must-see” attractions that tourists go to in Phuket. When everything is catered for tourists, things become more expensive and experiences become too manufactured.
  • Patong nightlife – The nightlife in Patong is notorious for its raunchiness and risqué. People from all over the world come to the heart of it all on Bangla Road to drink, dance, party, enjoy some shows, and much, much more. Enjoy the fun at your own risk.


Phuket has a little something for everyone in terms of sun, beaches, food, and nightlife. Just keep in mind that the more Phuket develops, the less it will feel like a tropical getaway for your vacation.

If you’re interested in traveling to Phuket, my advice is this: come sooner than later, because we’ll never know what this island will turn into after a few more years of rapid development.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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  • Angela Moy Young

    I had no idea Phuket wouldn’t be walker friendly. Crazy nightlife actually sounds interesting, though not with children, haha! Great insider tips on Phuket, Thailand is definitely on our “places to stay for a few months” list. My husband says there’s amazing rock climbing there. Not that I will be climbing the rocks…

    • Angela, If you ever do make it out to Phuket, let me know and I’d be happy to help you with tips to get settled in.

  • terrell phillips

    My wife and I were planning on coming to Phuket for our 10 year anniversary September 21-30th. I’m reading the weather is terrible at that time but also it’s not that bad.. I just want to know is Phuket the place to go even if it rains i’d like peace some good weather great food and great deals. Which other place would you recommend possibly Koh Chang?