Phuket can be a bizarre experience, at best it's a good laugh. It's a pretty safe place to visit for travelers, but here are some things to look out for to ensure your stay is an enjoyable one.

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Majority of the time, Phuket is a pretty safe place to visit but most of the really harmful situations arise out of the heavy-handed nature of some of the scams and ripped off tourists all ignited under the duress of Thailand heat, a few drinks and a deal gone bad.

Then there's the naked Europeans flaunting it on the beach, gnarly jet ski operators, drugged iguana handlers and possibly the strangest beasts of all, the tourists that flock to Phuket in swarms. Beware these intoxicated creatures.

At it's worst, Phuket can turn from a colorful travel experience to your worst overseas nightmare. A drunken walk down the wrong lane, blowing your top at a taxi driver over a fare, getting scammed on a motorbike rental, or getting caught in a rip in the ocean. Harm can definitely have its way with you but if you use some common sense, the memories you leave with can be good ones.

How to Stay Safe in Phuket

A simple guideline to stay safe in Phuket is to remember the old travel mantra: "Would I do this at home?" For example would you:

  • Walk alone down a back alley after midnight?
  • Argue with drunk locals?
  • Rent equipment such as jet skis or motorbikes from known dodgy operators?
  • Swim at a beach where I don't know the currents and lifeguards are off duty?
  • Get aggressive with the clientele or bouncer at a Go-Go bar?

Phuket probably isn't like your hometown at all, but we hope you get the sentiment.

It won't keep you out of all trouble but just stop, have a think and you'll probably steer clear of violent or life-threatening situations during your stay in Phuket.

Tourist Police in Phuket

The really great thing about Phuket, however, is the Tourist Police. A mixture of Thai and foreign nationals, these guys can be called in an emergency or even good people to speak with if you have any questions about your safety or how to go about things whilst in Phuket.

Phuket Scams

Dodgy Tuk Tuk Drivers

Cheap, easy-to-maintain and miserly on fuel, tuk-tuks were once the only mass transport option for an impoverished nation. As tourism boomed they became the quirky iconic symbol of the nation, and drivers soon realized there was more to be made out of carting foreigners than produce.

You’ll still see some being used in the traditional manner, but generally, they’re a part of the tourism trade these days and the drivers are out to make as much money as possible. There are ways you can avoid getting scammed by tuk-tuk drivers and if you have conflict over the fare, get in touch with the Tourist Police. 

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes disputes over a taxi fare have ended in violence. Call the Tourist Police on 1155 or go here for more information.

Jet Ski and Motorbike Scams

Mafia controlled jet ski operators or motorcycle hire companies in Patong will stand over unsuspecting travelers for "damage" to the rented equipment. Jet skis were banned by the Governor of Phuket in 2014, however, enforcing the law rarely happens.

It's probably best to give both of these a wide berth, but if you do decide to rent one, take photos of the existing damage before you head out. And if you are planning to hire a motorbike, always wear a helmet.

Time Share Scam

There are multiple versions of this old chestnut, but generally, travelers are asked to complete a tourist survey or offered a scratch-card, which results in the tourist winning a prize like a quick tour or day trip.

Upon collection of the trip, punters are then subjected to a hard sell about a property time-share type deal. Not quite what you had in mind for your afternoon sightseeing trip.

We know you've already loaded the following into your travel lexicon as phrases that should automatically trigger your Spidey-Senses:

  • "Opportunity of a lifetime…"
  • "I'm not a hooker"
  • "Best Quality!"
  • "You've won..."
  • "Make some money"
  • "Free...."

Not saying occasionally you can't get lucky, but most of the time, face it - it's probably just another scam.

Phuket Airport Drivers & Accommodation Scam

Arriving in Phuket is a lot like arriving at any other Asian destination: You will be greeted by a teaming hoard of dodgy looking operators trying to strong arm you into a taxi. Chain-smoking guys in flip-flops, eye patches wearing stained trousers.

Everybody has to make a living, but some of these guys are far more innovative in their attempt to extract a commission by taking you to a hotel or guesthouse you haven’t booked or extracted a fare from you that will make your eyes water once you do the conversion.

Ignore the driver's advice about your booked hotel being closed, and that he can take you to a hotel owned by one of his mates that can do you a far better deal.

Book your accommodation in advance, and ask the hotel to arrange for a driver to meet you at the airport.

Safety for Women in Phuket

Phuket is pretty safe for the girls. The usual rules for solo female safety apply:

  • Don't get too drunk, especially late at night.
  • Watch out for drink spiking.
  • Don't walk home alone, take late night shortcuts or take a friendly offer from a stranger to walk you home.
  • Watch out for motorbike riders who have been known to target lone women at night for bag snatching and sexual assault, in Patong, Kata, and Karon.

Women also need to observe some cultural factors that may seem contradictory in a country where skimpily dressed bar girls are commonplace. 

  • Topless bathing is considered a no-no. Although you see many visitors doing it, it's best to respect the local culture.
  • When in a temple, you should always cover your shoulders, wear long pants or a long skirt. Alternatively, it's always handy to keep a couple of sarongs in your bag that you can throw on if your clothing isn't appropriate.

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6 Comments

  • Bigfoot said

    As a 6 year American expat, I think you've given good advice, but, a little dated.

  • [email protected] said

    It's June 22 2016 and writing this from Phuket: it's a shithole full of dirty bastard scoundrels. Some lowlife cab driver just mollested my wife and yelled at him and pulled myself short from punching him. They will cut your arm off if you're not careful. Don't come here - low
    Life 3rd world country scums of the world

  • jimmy said

    Jet-ski operators still rule the roost at Patong beach making it impossible to swim even in the so called Swim Here zones. Just laughing at the complaints to the Life guards as they are a part of the business. Last time in Patong! Good luck to all the businesses trying to attract tourists)

  • Mani Ramanaidu said

    Got robbed by a motor-bike tuk-tuk. Hailed him at 10.00pm to take us from Wyndam Resort to Patong beach. Half-way he stopped and brandished a knife demanding money. Out of fright we paid him extra but he insisted we hand over all that we have. He became aggressive when we argued with him. He snatched our wallet, grabbed all the money in it and warned us not to report or follow him and rode off. Without any money with us we walked back to Wyndam from Patong... a long 1 hour walk.

    This Phuket isn't as safe we have thought.

  • adan said

    A guide to travel safety in Phuket I will make my travel guides as long as I was in Phuket later, this is very interesting and important to you already, thank you kindly Hanginggardensspa.com

  • Jennifer said

    Been to Phuket years ago and loved the beaches there. I wrote a blog on what to do and where to stay in Phuket, but never thought that I should have written a safety guide for tourists there. Thanks for the article www.exoticvoyages.com/travel-blog/phuket-guide/

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