First time traveling to Patong in Phuket? At first glance, this big, bold and bustling beach town can be somewhat intimidating and it can be challenging to know where to start planning your visit. Patong is predominantly known for two things: its beautiful beach and famed nightlife scene. Beyond that, there is a lot more to explore.
Hence, we are going to discuss everything – transport, dining, partying, entertainment and shopping – first-time travellers need to know before visiting this famous part of Thailand. From how to get around, where to eat and party, what to do, and even, which souvenirs to buy, we're going to discuss in detail what all visitors to the area need to know. So, without further ado, let's here is your complete travel guide.
Getting Around in Patong is easy. It's small enough that you can get almost everything within walking distance as the beach, restaurants, shops and bars are all within range. If you'd rather not walk, you can arrange for a taxi or tuk-tuk. If you want to get out of Patong to explore more of the island, there are many places around town where you can hire motorbikes and cars, or you can take the local bus for as low as THB 10. There are two types of buses: songtaew (THB 20) which are blue open-air buses that run between all the main beaches and air-conditioned 'micro' buses (THB 30) that service the main tourist areas. From the airport, comfortable buses run regularly throughout the day and outside the main terminal is a metered taxi stand, with the fair to Patong costing approximately THB 550.
Tip: Avoid getting overcharged when opting for a taxi or tuk-tuk; state your destination and agree on the price before setting off. Also, your driver might try to strongarm you into visiting his 'friends' shop. Remember, you're under no obligation and a polite ‘no’ should suffice.
Like most things in Patong, when it comes to dining, you're spoilt for choice. You'll easily find everything from Japanese to Russian cuisine available. In particular, there are also various choices along Beach Road, ranging from fast food to budget beachfront dining and affordable food courts. For something a little more memorable, adventure out to the road heading out of Patong towards Kamala, where you will find tasty and affordable restaurants on the rocks overlooking the sea.
If you're after local Thai food, head to the small streets running off the beach, these little ramshackle places sell some decent dishes. Nevertheless, Patong also the usual chain outlets of Burger King, Subway, McDonald's, Coffee Club, Dairy Queen, Hard Rock Café and even, Hooters nearby!
The beating heart of the Patong nightlife is the 600-meter-long Bangla Road which offers a wide range of choices along the main thoroughfare and the sub-streets that branch off. There is something for everyone here from first-class nightclubs with international DJs to live music venues, go-go dancing clubs, beer bars and snooker halls.
Some people might say that no trip to Patong, or even Thailand for that matter, is complete without witnessing a 'ladyboy' show - we recommend Simon Cabaret, arguably the best of the big shows in Phuket. The show extravaganza has been delighting a thousand eager fans a night for over two decades with flamboyant actors, amazing costumes and outstanding sets. A single show runs the entire gauntlet of musical theatre from cultures around the world, it also includes a Tina Turner and Diana Ross number!
The star attraction of Patong is, undoubtedly, its three-kilometre-long azure beach, which has been attracting travellers for decades. The lovely sandy shore is easily accessible and well-equipped with sun lounges and umbrellas, not to mention a great selection of activities including volleyball, paragliding, windsurfing, jet-skiing and more.
It's a busy and popular place but there are smaller, quieter beaches to either side of it where you can find a bit more peace. Nature lovers can check out the less-touristy Paradise and Freedom beaches, while the lovely Kathu Waterfall is great for a picnic and swim. For the adrenaline junkies, there are a couple of great options; you can learn to surf at Surf House Patong Beach, while the Flying Hanuman allows you to soar through the jungle canopy like Tarzan on a zipline.
Meanwhile, other activities include witnessing a live martial arts fight at the Patong Boxing Stadium, wake-boarding on the freshwater lake at Phuket Wake Park and whizzing down the 750-meter-long race track at Patong Go-Kart Speedway. And for those seeking some rest and relaxation, Patong offers a plethora of top-notch massages parlours and spas, along with a 16-lane bowling alley and modern 5-room cinema.
There's a great variety of shopping to be found in Patong if you know where to look. Let's start with the biggest – Jungceylon Shopping Complex, Phuket's largest shopping mall. It houses the Robinson Department Store and Big C supermarket, along with 200 other brand-name stores, retailing everything from clothes, sunglasses, cosmetics, shoes, computer games and mobile phones.
If you're not already shopped out, head behind the mall to Banzaan Market, a modern-looking Thai Fresh market selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to cooked food and cheap T-shirts. For souvenirs, we suggest you head to Otop Market, located just 750 meters from Jungceylon on the second road. Here you will discover an abundance of souvenir items including traditional handicrafts, silk garments, cotton products, pottery, fashion accessories, household item and more. It also has decent street food and a lively bar scene at night.
Meanwhile, Patong Beach also transforms into a large night bazaar every evening when all the main roads close and the roads are filled with stalls selling everything from handicrafts, beachwear and leather goods, to silk scarves, luggage, electronic gadgets, kid's toys and souvenirs.
Tip: Remember that bargaining at markets yields the best results when done light-heartedly and with a smile. Don't take yourself or the situation too seriously and remember that the THB 10 you're ferociously haggling over is only USD 30¢.