Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. At 540 km sq, it’s about the same size as Singapore. Just over an hour’s fight from Bangkok or Singapore, and with daily connections to most major Asian airports, Phuket is ideally situated for a short break or a relaxing vacation.
Business Hours – generally 9am to 5pm, weekdays, and 9am to 12 noon on Saturdays, except Public Holidays when hours may vary. Shops and local stores open from 10 or 11am to 10pm, daily.
Banking hours – Monday to Friday 8.30am to 3.30pm. Some branches, including those located in shopping centres, are open as late as 7-8pm and on Saturdays. Currency exchange booths are usually open 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Twenty-four-hour ATMs are widely available, and most accept cards using international banking networks such as Cirrus or Plus
Currency is the Thai Baht. Check out our handy currency converter to find the value in your own currency.
Electricity – 220 Volts. Several different plugs and sockets are in use, but two pin flat (US type) or round (European type) are pretty universal. Adapters can bought at local stores.
Economy – Phuket has the second highest per capita income of any province in Thailand outside of Bangkok. Tourism has dominated the island’s economy for the past two decades. Each year, over 3 million visitors arrive to enjoy Phuket’s natural splendor and many amenities.
For much of its history, Phuket’s economy was based on tin mining. Since the fall in the demand for tin in the 1980s and restrictions placed upon tin dredging to protect the coastal waters, the industry’s importance has greatly declined.
Rubber became an important part of the local economy at the beginning of the twentieth century when large areas of rainforest were cut down to make way for rubber plantations, many of which can still be seen on the island.
Other contributors to the local economy include: Pearl farms; Agriculture and horticulture in the form of coconuts, cashews, tapioca, cacao, rice and pineapple; prawn farming, and the processing of marine products.
Population – The residents of Phuket comprise Thais who have migrated from the mainland, ethnic Chinese, Malays, and Chao Leh or ‘sea-gypsies’ who are the original inhabitants of Phuket.
According to the census, Thai-Buddhists account for 71% of the population, with Malays (24%) and Chao Leh (4%) making up the remainder. The figure for Thai-Buddhists also includes the Chinese who are almost completely assimilated. Some estimates put the percentage of ethnic Chinese at around 35%. The vast majority of the population resides in or around Phuket City and Patong Beach, creating a population distribution along an east-west axis.
In March 2007 the Phuket Provincial Administration office reported that there are 313,955 people registered as living in Phuket. However, this figure is likely to be quite a lot higher as this data does not take into account those who live and work in Phuket but are registered as being resident elsewhere, a fairly common occurrence. Together with this are the seasonal workers and visitors of which there are a significant number all year round. Taking this into account, some estimates have calculated a figure as high as 500,000 during peak periods.
Religion – The main religion on Phuket, as in the rest of Thailand, is Theravada Buddhism. Theravada, literally the “Doctrine of the Elders”, is the name of the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the Pali Canon, or Tipitaka, which scholars generally accept as the oldest record of the Buddha’s teachings.
Many people in Phuket also practice Daoism, usually together with Buddhism. This is due to the large number of Chinese immigrants who came to work in the tin mines during the 19th century. Several Chinese shrines can be found around Phuket City. During theVegetarian Festival these are a hive of activity.
Thai Muslims make up approximately 35% of Phuket’s population, and many are still concentrated in the area around Surin Beach where the migrant Malays originally settled. Despite the smaller number of Muslims, mosques actually outnumber Buddhist wats on the island.
The Chao Leh practice their own form of animism, the belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena.
Administration – Phuket is Thailand’s only island province and is also the country’s smallest province in terms of area. Phuket City is the administrative centre, though it is still commonly referred to as Phuket Town. It received city status in 2004.
The island is divided into three administrative districts or amphoe; Thalang, to the north, Kathu to the west and Muang in the south.
The provincial governor and district chiefs are appointed by the central government in Bangkok. Phuket and Patong city councils are elected as well as the city mayors. Provincial, district and sub-district councils are also elected.