Guesthouses and Hostels - Phuket for Backpackers
It's fair to say that Phuket is more of an "upmarket" destination compared to backpackers hangouts like Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Tao. I am sorry to say you can't find little bamboo bungalows on the beach for 150 Baht a night in Phuket, and you don't have much in the way of backpacker oriented bars and nightlife. Over the years, Phuket has moved more into the luxury market, with many 4 - 5 star resorts around the island, and I have seen huge changes in infrastructure in the 9 years that I have been here. Not just hotels, but marinas, luxury condos, many housing developments, shopping centers such as Jungceylon and Central Festival... The list goes on and on...
Not all of this is for tourists of course, in fact most of it benefits the local people and foreign residents more than tourists. Many foreigners have decided that Phuket is a great place to live (see Buying a House in Phuket for more information), and the money coming into Phuket has made plenty of local people wealthy - a look at the roads full of new cars will confirm that... But I don't want to get sidetracked into a discussion on the economy of Phuket!
Phuket is for Everyone!
With all these resorts, fancy cars, luxury villas and so on, is there room for backpackers in Phuket any more? Well, please remember that Phuket is a big island, so naturally the answer is a resounding YES. It may not be No.1 on the list of backpacker must-sees, indeed many young travelers will just pass through on the way to Phi Phi or Ao Nang, but I would hope after reading a bit of this blog, you might realise that Phuket is a rich, diverse island with many beautiful areas. Well worth a few days of your time!
Backpackers Hostels in Phuket
There is a bit of a misconception that Phuket Town is the only place to stay if you want low budget, and indeed you do have hostels there for around 200 Baht/night, and I do like Phuket Town, so won't try to put you off - see more here: A Walk Around Old Phuket Town. But surely you want to come to Phuket and stay near the beach, right? This is where the rumour mill starts... the beaches are full of 5 star resorts, there's no cheap places to stay, no local restaurants... Not true at all! I wrote a blog article about the cheap places to stay some time ago:
• Cheap Places to stay in Phuket
And now, especially in low season, things have gotten even cheaper. The Pineapple Guesthouse at Karon Beach has a backpackers dorm, low season price just 180 Baht per night. There are also aircon twin or double rooms from 1000 Baht. Distance to the beach: less than 5 minutes walk. In the same area there are a few more which have similarly priced rooms such as Robin House, Bazoom Haus and Kangaroo Guesthouse. I know these places well as they're a stones throw from Sunrise Divers Phuket dive center. Oh, Pineapple has free wifi for guests too.
• Pineapple Guesthouse Review on Jamie's Phuket
• Pineapple Guesthouse Web Site
• Pineapple Guesthouse - Online Booking
There are low budget places in Kata and Patong too. One of these days, I will try to do something comprehensive, although this kind of accommodation is always changing - I suggest looking at agoda.com for hotel info - they also do low budget.
What about eating? Well, Phuket is not just a tourist island, as I hope I have made clear, so long as you get off the beach, and onto the back roads where the locals live and eat, you'll find endless noodle stalls, street food stalls and small restaurants. I rarely spend more than about 70 Baht on my lunch unless I go for a big English Breakfast at the Pineapple Cafe (attached to the guesthouse). Here's a few blog posts on the food close to where I work and close to the aforementioned guesthouses:
• Mama Noi
• Phad Thai
• A working lunch
• Fruit Stalls
What about getting around Phuket? Well, this is the tricky one for a low budget traveler. There are cheap local buses, only 30 Baht to Phuket Town from Karon Beach for example, BUT no buses between the beaches. So you are kind of at the mercy of the tuk tuks. Normal fare from Karon to Patong (next beach, about 8km) is 300 Baht. Take a few of those per day and your budget is screwed. Uber has recently started in Phuket too and you can get a discount using the code uberjamiesphuket.
Best option is to rent a moped, normal price around 200 - 300 Baht per day. Riding mopeds is another issue to discuss properly at a later date. I'll say this - if you have never ridden a motorbike before, Phuket is not the place to try. I used to ride almost every day, I have had a couple of minor scrapes and a few stitches. Keep your eyes open, keep left, don't drive fast, don't ride around quiet roads late at night, and always wear a helmet. If you have your own transport you can explore Phuket at your leisure without spending a fortune. Car rental is a decent price too - renting a car for a day can be cheaper than a couple of medium distance tuk tuk rides!
Phuket Hostels - Online Booking
In summary... Phuket is a great place to visit. Being a low budget traveler is not a problem. You have dorms, cheap rooms, good local food, it's just that Phuket is not a trendy backpacker hangout, so if you want to party with thousands of young folks, Koh Pha Ngan is the place, but if you are a bit more independent and don't feel the need to have the safety of the main herd, give Phuket a go, at least for a few days!