3 Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead)

There’s something exciting about going to a place and seeing it through fresh eyes. You get to make up your mind about things before being prejudiced by others. You figure things out for yourself and have an adventure. Unfortunately, Phuket is not one of those places.

One of Thailand’s biggest islands, Phuket is also its number one tourist destination. Millions of people from around the world flock to Phuket year round. Meaning one thing in particular: you are not going to discover it for yourself. Phuket is geared towards tourists. Even experiences sold as authentically Thai are actually put together for the purpose of foreign money.

Don’t get me wrong. You can have a truly Thai experience staying in villas in Phuket Thailand. However, you’re not going to get it by going wherever the road takes you. You’ll end up doing the following things which you’d much rather avoid.

Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead) Thailand
3 Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead) / Photo credit: Frankie

Avoid: Going on an elephant ride

Everyone from tour companies to independent guides you meet on the street will take you to an elephant sanctuary where they offer rides on the beautiful creatures. They will tell you that the elephants are treated well. That it’s other elephant sanctuaries that keep the animals captive and unhappy. But the truth is that any place offering you elephant rides should be avoided. Chances are, by the time you’re sitting atop the elephant, you’ll already have a bad taste in your mouth.

3 Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead)
3 Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead) / Photo credit: Wesley

Instead: See the Big Buddha

Rather spend your time at the massive “Big Buddha” statue. It is Thailand’s equivalent to Rio’s Jesus the Redeemer, in that it was built for tourists. However, it is still worth a visit, especially since you have the extra time.

Avoid: Live sex shows

I get it. You’ve walked up and down Bangla Road looking for the best place to party. You’ve been bombarded by hawkers trying to take you to sexy ping-pong shows or live sex shows. At some point, you want to satisfy your curiosity.

To save you the trouble: don’t bother. There’s very little that is sexy about these shows. They’re more likely to leave you with a bad feeling. Also, although they are technically free, they’ll make you buy a drink for 1,000 baht as cover.

Instead: See a “Ladyboy Cabaret”

3 Things Not To Do In Phuket (And What To Do Instead)
The Ladyboys Cabaret Show in Phuket (Thailand)

Thailand’s sensitivity to transgender people is hard to gauge as a foreigner. The term “ladyboy” can seem offensive to us. But a “Ladyboy Cabaret” is another name for a good old drag show. The performers are excellent, it is not exploitative, and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Avoid: Visiting “factories”

On certain tours – even those run by seemingly independent operators – you will be taken to places like a honey farm, cashew factory, and jewelry factory. If you can, tell your tour operator to skip these places. They won’t want to – essentially, they earn a commission from these places if you buy whatever they’re selling. They pretend it’s an “experience”. It’s not. You get to see people doing menial labor and then get pressured to buy something you don’t want.

Instead: Bargain in the markets

Every transaction in a Thai market is a negotiation. They give you an insanely big number, you give them an insanely small number, and you meet somewhere in the middle. It’s fun, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it. They will only sell you something if the transaction is worth it, after all.


A wanderer. A frustrated photographer. Hiker. Lover. Half extrovert, half introvert. Solo traveler.

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