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An Expat's Guide to Living in Phuket

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When we first touched down in Phuket, I had absolutely no idea what to expect but living here full time 6 months later was not high up on the list. 

We had just left Vietnam after a long stint of living in Hanoi (10 and 6 years!!). And if you know Hanoi, you know that it is fast, busy, challenging and very unique. But after just two weeks of experiencing Phuket, we realized it was completely different to what we had become accustomed to… but we LOVED it. While most people moving to Thailand choose to live in Chiang Mai or Bangkok but, for us, Phuket was the winner.

It’s relaxed, outdoorsy, active lifestyle focused, has amazing food, and of course the friendliness of Thai culture still rings true here too. When you live here your experience will be totally different to when you just visit on a quick stop holiday. 

Living in Phuket vs. Holidaying Here

Most who think of Phuket, immediately think of Patong: an area which has been described by many as overcrowded and inauthentic. It's a popular destination with Thai tourists and international tourists alike so parts of it can feel that way. But many don’t actually know the island is HUGE and has many areas - each with their own personality and something unique to offer. 

My best advice if you are looking to live here, or even holiday here, explore all the other areas you can to get a feel of the place. Some are big, some are touristy, some are quiet, and some are historic. Whatever it is you want, you really will find it in Phuket. Plus, traveling around the other stunning Thai islands isn't too hard to do from here. If you get away from the tourist areas, it's easily one of the best places to live in Thailand.

Phuket not the island for you? You might prefer Koh Pha Ngan across the peninsula in the Gulf of Thailand instead of in the Andaman Sea like Phuket is.

Best Areas to Live in Phuket

Here’s some of my favorite areas and why I like them around the island:


This is the current area I live in, which is south of the island. It's close enough to Chalong for me (which is home to the very famous fitness street that I absolutely love training on) but very close to arguably one of the best beaches plus piers.

The area has everything you could possible want. Not only does it have many Thai restaurants where you can eat curry, rice dishes, and noodles but also many expat owned restaurants. 


This is a bit of a drive away for us, so when we go we like to get an affordable stay and enjoy the area to the fullest. It has a huge stretch of beach (and I really mean HUGE!) with a number of beach side bars and restaurants along the way.  It also has your bougie beach clubs should you want to splash out on a fancy dinner or sunset drinks. This is another really popular area for expats to live. 

Phuket Town

A little hidden gem that has the BEST coffee and cafes you can find on the island. All the buildings are historic, European style in a whole range of colors. There is a market every Sunday serving up fab street food and even better shopping stalls. This is an absolute must-go and has so much to offer, even if that’s just a walk around and taking everything in!

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Getting a Thai Visa

A tricky area for all of us looking to live abroad long term! There was word around that most people were staying here long term on education visas which were pretty easy to obtain and affordable too but I believe that may have changed. Although still achievable, I think it’s a little more difficult and a little more expensive: supply and demand I suppose.

From my experiences, I believe that visas can be a big headache. Many people try to come in and out on tourist visas but again I hear this is become more difficult. My main advice is to find someone trustworthy, who is recommended to you and they can help you figure out the best way for you to go!

It's possible to get a visa at certain volunteer organizations, as an English teacher, or, in my case, as a trainer at a local gym.

1-Year Business Visa

Personally for me, I am here legitimately on a work permit and business visa (for one year) as I work face to face in a local studio. I had to pay for the visa myself, which at the time cost me around $1500 for the visa agent and all visas, although I believe the cost may have increased since. 

The process to get this wasn’t too difficult:

  • I found a studio, I contacted them to say I wanted to work there, however I needed a visa.
  • For the process, I needed my certificates and documents (I’m an L2 group trainer, L3 Personal Trainer and a Pole Dance instructor) so I had more than enough.
  • I gave all my documents to the visa agent who organized everything.
  • I flew into Kuala Lumpur for the weekend, had an agent there that organized our business visas then when we flew back in we were granted 3 months.
  • During this time I went to the employment office to obtain my work permit.

All in all, there really wasn’t a huge deal of paperwork required on my end. 

For me, having a visa and security was really important for peace of mind. It then allowed me the breathing space to continue working on my online fitness business as a personal trainer who specializes in health and fitness coaching for expats who want to get or stay fit abroad. I don’t have to work an insane number of hours face to face so I can still commit most of my energy to my online business which is truly my biggest passion!

Friends & Networking

For me, making friends was pretty easy! I’m quite lucky in that I have a great hobby by going to the gym. The gym I go to attracts 20-50 people PER CLASS which means there’s a lot of opportunities to meet new people.

Of course Phuket is quite transient - people often come for seasons or a few months at a time so I would say this is the most difficult part of living here. You make new friends and before you know it, especially if they're digital nomads, they’re leaving for a few months and it can feel like you’re back at square one.

The other thing I found is that everything happens in huge Whatsapp groups here! There’s a Whatsapp group for everything: Women of Phuket, Wellness of Phuket… the list goes on! These groups are another great place to network so get yourself in these too!

What I Wish I Knew Before I Moved to Phuket

The Seasons

Rainy season really is as bad as everyone says! Don’t get me wrong - I’m from Manchester, I’m used to the rain. I’m used to the grey. But there are periods of time where it feels like there will never be a break in the weather and it’s like this forever. I guess that’s why so many people come for seasons! 

High season is a real thing! Over the months of November to March, the weather is unbelievably perfect. Slight breeze, not humid, and beautiful blue skies and sun. And with beautiful weather, beautiful people, and beautiful beaches comes tourists!

Generally you can always find quieter areas, but the influx in people means an increase in prices of hotels, rents (unless you secure an apartment in low season), bike rentals, tours, and more. And the increase is really huge (around 2 or 3 times low season price). Keep that in mind that the typical low cost of living here might not be so low in the high season!


Driving can be very dangerous! I drove in Hanoi for 5 years on a bike. I am a well-seasoned driver of both a bike and a car, however they drive very fast here and it feels like a different type of danger. In Hanoi, the traffic is so bad you can only go so fast. Not only that, since it's Thailand's largest island, the roads are big and long. If you are not experienced in driving a bike, Phuket is not the place to start in my opinion.

You'll Love Living in Phuket, Too

But with all of this in mind, we really do love it here. I’m a big foodie at heart, especially Asian food and there is so much to try. The people really are as kind and friendly as everyone says, it runs true everywhere you go and daily friendly interactions really make my heart smile!

This on top of the landscape variety, viewpoints, beaches, and culture you can explore makes it the perfect place for us for now!

All photos on this article are by depositphotos.com

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