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A top tourist destination on a backpacker’s budget—is that even possible? It sure is, especially by enjoying the free things to do in Phuket!
Phuket, Thailand, is one of the top destinations in the world. Its white sandy beaches, incredible (and spicy) cuisine, and exciting nightlife provide a vacation to remember for anyone that visits. And you shouldn’t hesitate in booking your ticket!
Even though most of the resorts you see showcase an expensive and luxurious lifestyle, there are plenty of things to do if you’re looking to visit on a budget. So whether you’re visiting Phuket and looking to splash some cash, or you’re counting every cent you have, the sights below won’t cost you a dime and shouldn’t be missed.
So, here are 11 free things to do in Phuket.
Where to Stay in Phuket Thailand
Have you booked your Phuket hotel yet? Here’s a map of some accommodations in the area so you can experience these free attractions!
See a bone of Buddha at Wat Chalong
If you’re looking for a heavy dose of culture, then Wat Chalong should be your first stop. Situated in Chalong and not far from Big Buddha, combining the two attractions is a great option and can save you some time.
The temple is the largest and most famous in Phuket; it is an important cultural and historical monument for its citizens. So, why not visit it, as one of the best free things to do in Phuket?
The temple played a crucial role in the fight against the Chinese rebellion in 1876 as it served as a meeting center and a place to help the wounded. Two monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, led the citizens of Chalong in the fighting. As a result, the temple was dedicated to these two revered monks.
Today, the temple Phra Mahathat Chedi, the tallest building at Wat Chalong, houses a bone splinter of Buddha. There are three floors in total, each decorated with statues of Buddha and Buddhist paintings. At the top lies the bone fragment, so be sure to make it to the very top and observe this significant piece of culture.
Catch some rays on Patong Beach
The beaches are the first thing that people think about when they think of Phuket. And for a good reason. Phuket has some top beaches globally, and they are frequently showcased in travel and lifestyle magazines.
Locals say Patong Beach is the most beautiful beach in Phuket, and you understand why once you see it. It stretches along Patong’s west side, forming a postcard-esque landscape that you can’t get enough of.
The waves are calm and the beaches pristine, so this beach is ideal for everyone. Whether you’re just looking to relax and rest, or you have a family to entertain—Patong Beach will have something for you.
Spending some time by the water is easily one of the best free things to do in Phuket Thailand.
Extra tip: If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, head north to Banana Beach. This lesser-known beach is nestled perfectly in a small cove and is excellent for some peace and quiet.
Visit Big Buddha
There are many Big Buddha statues scattered around Thailand. Still, none offer the incredible views that the Big Buddha in Phuket has. Sitting high above Chalong in the center of Phuket, Big Buddha has the best seat on the island.
When the conditions are right, around 1,000 people visit Big Buddha every day. Since its construction is still ongoing, you can even buy one of the white marble bricks that contribute to its construction, so you become an eternal part of the statue itself.
Or, if you care more about the culture and the Buddhist faith, you can visit the monks that stay nearby. You’re able to make an offering and receive a blessing from them, which is an unbelievable experience.
Luckily, the statue is easy to find and has a well-paved road all the way to the top. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a hike that you can do where you’ll get to experience the natural side of Phuket along the way.
Take in the views from the viewpoints
Phuket is full of viewpoints to discover that offer spectacular views of the island’s true beauty. Some are relatively easy to get to, and others will require a higher fitness level.
Karon Beach Viewpoint is easy to reach and offers a stunning view of three separate beaches: Kata Noi, Kata, and Karon. If you’re looking for a quick stop-off and some photos, this is the viewpoint for you. Seeing the view from here is one of the greatest free things to do in Phuket!
Black Rock Viewpoint can be reached easily, but it’s worth it to hike up from Nai Harn Beach. At the top, you’re greeted with views down over Nai Harn and Ya Nui, with Windmill Viewpoint sandwiched in between. Pack a lunch and enjoy a nice picnic at the top with a view.
If you’re closer to Phuket Town, then be sure to head to Khao Rang Viewpoint. Situated at the top of Khao Rang Hill, it offers an expansive view of Phuket Town, Cape Panwa, and even Chalong in the distance. Head there around sunset and enjoy a pleasant dinner at the restaurant nearby for one memorable night.
Hang out with pups and kittens at the Soi Dog Foundation
The Soi Dog Foundation is doing fantastic work. A non-profit organization that seeks to help the many stray and abused dogs and cats on the island. They also work to rescue dogs from the dog meat trade that exists in Thailand.
Most of the dogs and cats they take in are in bad condition. Soi Dog works to sterilize, vaccinate, provide medical treatment, and ultimately find them a loving home.
If you’re an animal lover or enjoy seeing good samaritans in action, then a visit to Soi Dog is a great choice to spend a morning or afternoon. They offer guided tours—free of charge—for visitors. During the tour, you have the chance to interact with some dogs and cats to give them love. If you’re feeling particularly generous, adoption is an option as well.
Stroll around Phuket’s Old Town
Visitors sometimes skip Phuket’s Old Town in favor of the stunning beaches. However, you shouldn’t miss this area of Phuket if you have the time.
The architecture remains relatively untouched from days gone by, and the Sino-Portuguese buildings that line the streets offer a look back in time that’s insta-worthy. You can spend hours simply perusing the streets and snapping pictures, or you can duck in and out of the many shops, cafés, and restaurants centered in the area.
The atmosphere comes alive at night as restaurants and bars open their doors, welcoming anyone looking to have a good time and experience an area unlike any other on the island.
Browse Naka Market
There’s no shortage of markets on the island, but each is worth visiting for its uniqueness.
One of the largest night markets in Phuket is Naka Market, also located in Phuket Town.
A gigantic maze of shops and stalls comprise this wonder. The best part? The market is broken into two parts, making it easy to navigate. You can browse and shop for clothes, souvenirs, and any other thing your heart may fancy in one half.
Once you’re done, head over to the other side and see the massive amounts of food on display. Keep in mind that the word food can be used a bit loosely to describe some things you’ll find in this market area.
Go on a hike
Even more overlooked than Phuket’s Old Town is the natural beauty that Phuket has to offer. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, then you’ll feel right at home on the trails that wind their way through Phuket’s hills.
Some are well-marked, but others exemplify the meaning of ‘off-the-beaten-track,’ and won’t be a good option if you don’t like the idea of overgrown paths.
The hills of Chalong will provide beautiful, wide trails with trees stretching over them, providing you with some much-needed shade. If you head further north toward the beaches of Bang Tao and Layan, you’ll find narrower trails that will wind their way through and around rubber tree and pineapple farms. Be sure to say hello to the farmers you’ll see tending to their crops.
If you’re looking for a break from the more crowded sections of Phuket, then hit the trails and get some fresh air.
Visit the Thai Hua Museum
You wouldn’t know it, but seven museums dot Phuket and display the history and culture of the island. If you’re a history fan, then these will be for you.
The Thai Hua Museum is the most well-known and the easiest to locate. Nestled in Phuket’s Old Town, the building served as the first Chinese-language school in Phuket. Seeing the opportunity to offer visitors a history lesson, it was transformed into a museum that details the history and connection between Phuket and China.
You may not want to waste a beautiful day spending time inside a museum. But, if you’re caught in one of Phuket’s rainstorms, then it’s not a bad option to head to a nearby museum.
Play with the monkeys at Monkey Hill
You can’t head to Phuket and not visit the monkeys. Not far from Phuket Old Town, Monkey Hill is a fantastic opportunity to get outside, stretch your legs, and watch the monkeys play.
As you walk up the hill, the number of monkeys will increase, and you’ll start to see a mixture of baby and adult monkeys. Take some bananas or other animal-friendly snacks with you to give them a nice treat.
Be wary, though. The monkeys can get a bit aggressive if you have food or drinks, so you will want to keep them concealed unless you’re passing it out to the monkeys.
At the top, there’s a delightful view of Phuket Town you can enjoy. As a bonus, the monkeys don’t usually go to the top, so you can get a break if they become too overwhelming.
Cool off at Kathu Waterfall
If you get tired of the saltwater and beautiful beaches, you can head inland to one of the waterfalls in Phuket.
Some waterfalls are in national parks—Tonsai and Bang Pae—which means there will be an entrance fee. However, you can easily skip these waterfalls and head to one of the free ones on the island.
Kathu Waterfall is the most well-known and can easily be found with a Google Search or just by following the road signs. This area is especially significant if you have kids. It allows them to splash and play in the water, and parents can relax and enjoy the serene beauty surrounding them.
Phuket may be seen as an expensive, resort-filled island to many. Still, you can quickly and easily get away from the tourist traps and save yourself some money. Just visit the free things to do in Phuket!
The island is easy to traverse, and the roads are well-paved in most areas. So rent a car or motorbike and head to these free and fun activities to ensure your time in Phuket is as memorable as possible.