Every overseas trip will inevitably come with its share of worries and concerns. When we're constantly bombarded with negative news stories about every corner of the globe, it can make even a peaceful paradise like Phuket seem like a dangerous place to visit. The reality, however, is that millions of people visit each year and leave with only good and happy memories of a delightful vacation. The truth is that there really isn’t that much to worry about.

    Our list of the things people worry too much about in Phuket addresses the most common concerns people raise when they’re thinking of visiting Thailand. We’re not going to say that the place is an absolute utopia, though, which is why we’ve added on a few things which you really should be worried about, but which are quite easily avoided.

    Between the rough state of many of Phuket’s roads and the even rougher state of the average driving ability, renting a motorbike can be a very hazardous decision. Yes, it's a cheap and convenient way to get around the island, but it comes with considerable risks. We would recommend sticking with public transportation or hiring a car with a local driver. If you do choose to rental a motorbike, be sure to wear a crash helmet at all times and drive with extreme care and caution.

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    Swimming in rough seas

    Idyllically calm during the high season, the seas off Phuket get very rough and dangerous from May to October. Between powerful waves rolling in from the Indian Ocean (which are good for surfers, but bad for other water-users) and surprising rip tides threatening to carry you far out to sea, you should be very careful if you are entering the water in the low season. Pay close attention to the warning flags flying and stick to designated swimming areas, close to lifeguard stations.

    Not everyone in Thailand is trying to scam you but, just like any other destination in the world, there are unfortunately those unscrupulous individuals out there who are. The jet ski scam is especially well documented and publicised, yet people continue to fall victim to it. Most Phuket scams are very easy to avoid, but forewarning is the best defense, so read up on what to expect before you travel. And remember that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.

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    Drinking ice cubes

    While it is true that the water from the taps in Thailand is not really safe to drink, no one here is silly enough to make ice cubes with tap water. Most ice comes from ice-making machines, which are connected to a clean and safe water supply. As a result, they're absolutely nothing to be concerned about and will unlikely make you ill.


    Changing currencies

    We are frequently asked about the local currency exchange rates and whether you should change your money here or in your home country. Thanks to a low tax rate, exchanges are generally better here, so we would recommend bringing enough money to get you from the airport into town, then either go to a money changer or withdraw lump sums from an ATM, both of which are widely available around the island. Just avoid the currency exchangers in or near the airport as they tend to give unfavourable rates.


    Not speaking the language

    Thai is undoubtedly a challenging language to learn and comprehend, but fear not! Having a very heavily tourist-oriented economy, the vast majority of people in Phuket can speak very good English, especially those who work in restaurants, shops, markets, hotels and around the major attractions. Even if you manage to find someone who isn’t that confident in their language skills, they'll usually know someone who is and will ask them to act as a translator. Of course, it’s still nice to try, and local people will be very happy to hear you try any Thai words or phrases you pick up during your trip.

    photo by Jeff Gunn (CC BY 2.0) modified

    For reasons we've never quite figured out, weather forecasts almost always show thunderstorms in Phuket, even during the driest part of the high season. It's very puzzling for us to see black clouds on the weather report, but blue skies out of the window. Generally speaking, you can rest assured that the weather is usually very good in Phuket, particularly between November and April. Even during the low season, the rain mostly only falls in the evenings in short, heavy downpours.

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    Thailand is known for its fantastic cuisine, with some of the best (and cheapest) offerings being served from small local restaurants and street vendors. Even so, the ever-present threat of stomach upsets will often put people off the idea. We won’t say there isn’t some risk here, but it's a very slight one as businesses routinely giving their customers food poisoning don’t stay in business very long. To be safe, look out for the busy, popular restaurants and vendors who cook the food right in front of you, especially where meat is involved.

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    Vacation healthcare

    Though your image of Thailand might be one of Bangkok’s grimy streets or Chiang Mai’s jungle-covered hills, much of the country is actually well developed. Tropical illnesses are very rare, to the extent that medical organizations recommend only the same basic vaccinations they suggest for anywhere in the tropics. If you do get ill or injured, the healthcare system here is so good that medical tourism is a major industry, so you're sure to receive international-standard treatment (though you'll definitely need travel insurance).

    Thailand’s nightlife has developed a bad reputation, with many considering the country as being a sex tourism capital and with every other girl you talk to actually being a ladyboy. While we won’t pretend that there isn’t some seediness around, it's really a very small proportion of the available entertainment, being generally limited to quite small and easily avoided areas. Also, the number of transsexuals in Thailand is nothing like as high as is popularly believed. If you're looking for less shocking nightlife, simply avoid Bangla Road and any bar lit with pink neon and you'll probably be fine.

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    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveler

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