The island of Phuket is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations as many visitors flock to the southern province for sun, sand, and surf.
In fact, Phuket authorities estimate that 12 million tourists will visit Phuket in 2023. Most visitors to this picturesque destination flock to the beaches, and the island has plenty of beautiful places to swim, snorkel, and dive.
Some famous beaches include Rawai, Patong, and Karon. It’s also very popular on the backpacker circuit, and the nightlife is internationally famous.
Finally, Phuket is a gorgeous place to visit thanks to its multiculturalism. While here, be sure to explore the island to see the extensive Chinese influence on the architecture and food.
It’s easy to see why so many people visit the island every year. However, before booking a trip to join them, you may want to research more practical concerns, such as your personal safety during your vacation.
But don’t worry — our travel experts created this comprehensive guide to help you figure out if a visit to Phuket will be safe or not. Let us be your guide!
Is Phuket Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Phuket is a beautiful and safe destination, so it is perfectly safe to visit! However, as with any destination, it’s not without its own minor safety concerns.
The problems you might encounter in Phuket are the same you might encounter elsewhere in Thailand, such as petty theft and drink spiking. There is a slight risk of more violent incidents, such as tourism and civil unrest.
Common problems tourists might encounter in Phuket include:
- Bag snatching
- Drink spiking
- Sexual harassment and assault
- Civil unrest
Although these are all incidents that can happen in Phuket (and have happened in the past), the overall levels of crime are fairly low. Violent crime in particular is rare.
However, petty crimes directed at tourists do occur here because, as with any other place that lives off of tourism, people realize that tourists can be a lucrative target.
Although most incidents that occur in Phuket are more irritating than dangerous, it is worth mentioning two other potential sources of danger while you are in town. One is civil unrest.
In its travel advisory for all of Thailand, the United States mentions the possibility of civil unrest in Thailand. While the worst of this unrest is confined to regions of the far south, it can happen anywhere in Thailand.
All over Thailand, political tensions have increased following the Thai election of May 2023.
The Thai opposition to the military-backed government won in a landslide victory, but people are still nervous as to whether or not the opposition can form a coalition — or if the current government will hand over power.
Expect protests to occur in the country as political wrangling continues. While this is unlikely to affect sleepy, tourism-oriented Phuket, keep an eye on the news just in case. Another concern when traveling to Phuket is terrorism.
There have been terrorist incidents targeting tourist areas in Thailand in the past, including Phuket, which was the victim of an IED bombing in 2016 (the UK government mentions this in their travel advisory).
Nobody died in the bombs in Phuket, but people perished in other terrorist attacks carried out in Thailand on the same day. Most terrorist attacks in Thailand are carried out by separatists from the southern region of Thailand, where a years-long insurgency is still smoldering.
In the years since, Thai authorities have stepped up their anti-terrorism efforts, and Phuket has not been the victim of a terrorist attack since 2016. It is still a good idea to be alert in public places, especially around big events such as religious festivals, elections, and government holidays.
Crime in Phuket
One of the primary concerns for visitors to Phuket is petty crime. You don’t want to go on vacation and then have to go home without your wallet or deal with an even more traumatic incident far away from the comfort of home.
The crime rate in Phuket is moderate. Most crimes, especially most crimes that tourists experience, tend to be petty property crimes. Violent crime rates are low.
The site Numbeo, which gathers crime data based on respondents, collected all their information about Phuket into a crime index. According to their index, Phuket scores a 45.81 out of 100, which is a moderate value.
That means that although you might encounter or witness a crime while visiting, it’s necessarily a crime-ridden destination. Numbeo also offers a breakdown of the types of crime you might encounter in Phuket.
People are moderately concerned about property crimes such as break-ins, vehicle break-ins, and theft, as well as other petty crimes such as drug abuse.
People worry about some violent crime connected to property crime, such as muggings and armed robbery. There is some bad news regarding crime in Phuket. Reports indicate that crime is rising steadily since 2022.
High-profile violent crimes, such as the ordered murder of Jimi Sandhu, a Canadian gangster hiding out in a luxury villa adjoining a popular hotel, grabbed the headlines.
In 2021, a female Swiss tourist was sexually assaulted and murdered at a popular waterfall. These incidents grabbed headlines precisely because they are so rare.
Besides these high-profile incidents, violent crime against foreigners in Phuket occurs very rarely. The authorities are also invested in making sure that tourists visiting the island feel safe, with measures such as extensive police investigations in place.
Reports abound that petty crime also increased in 2022, especially scams targeting tourists. Phuket’s economy took a hit during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The island is dependent on tourism, and the bans on travel affected many people’s livelihoods. When tourists began to return, people turned to scams to supplement their income.
This is not an attempt to excuse their unethical actions, but to explain why the crime might be rising. Now that tourism arrivals have stabilized, the rate of scams should also stabilize.
The most common crime you should be aware of when you visit Phuket is petty theft. Petty theft such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is common throughout Thailand.
These crimes are particularly prevalent in tourist destinations such as Phuket. The Canadian government warns about the prevalence of petty theft throughout Thailand, including in Phuket.
Take precautions at all times to protect your valuables. Never leave your valuables unattended. When you go swimming, designate one person to stay with your things, or leave your phone and wallet in your hotel safe.
Keep a firm grasp on your bag as you walk through crowded areas. After all, the island is notorious for scams targeting tourists.
Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Phuket are some of the worst in Thailand and colloquially known as the taxi mafia — even the local government couldn’t stop them.
They routinely overcharge tourists for even short rides and may even react violently if challenged. Try to avoid taking taxis altogether and book transportation through your hotel desk. The “jet ski mafia” is another common scam affecting tourists.
On many of Phuket’s beaches, you will see stands advertising jet ski rentals.
However, when you bring your jet ski back, the vendor will point to damage on the jet ski (previously covered up with tape), accuse you of doing it, and demand an exorbitant payment.
Jet skis are illegal anyway, so don’t rent one of these. A good rule is to book all tours through your hotel or through a high-end neighboring hotel that allows non-guests to book tours.
These tours are more likely to be reliable. Phuket unfortunately has a lot of “tour operators” that scam guests or book them on unreliable transportation.
Unfortunately, female tourists have to be on their guard against violent crimes such as sexual assault in Phuket. Although the murder of a Swiss tourist in 2021 was rare, assault is common and often unreported.
In its travel advisory for Thailand, the Australian government warns about the prevalence of drink spiking in popular tourist destinations such as Phuket.
The island is famous for its nightlife, but that means many popular bars attract criminals looking to prey on travelers. Always keep an eye on your drinks. Never accept food, drinks, cigarettes, or gum from strangers or new acquaintances.
Local alcohol can be much stronger than what you’re used to and incapacitate you quicker. Avoid homemade drinks or local cocktails and stick to beer, wine, or liquor that you know.
Female travelers have been assaulted when traveling alone. If you are traveling alone, don’t go out at night, especially to remote areas. Try to meet up with a group of fellow travelers and stick together. Be wary if anyone seems eager to separate you from your group.
Thai police are not known for their sensitivity when it comes to sexual assault cases, and many survivors have complained of their harsh nature.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are no parts of Phuket that you need to avoid completely, but there are definitely areas where you should be on your guard. Be careful around Patong, the main party area.
Petty crime increases around here, as does drink spiking. You might also encounter go-go bars, sex shows, and prostitutes. Be careful around the beaches, especially Kamala, Karon, Lamsingh, and Patong.
These beaches have the strongest riptides and tourists have drowned before. Never walk on any beach at night. Criminals wait there to prey on tourists wandering into remote areas. Avoid Karon Viewpoint in particular at night.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for Phuket:
- Practice beach safety. Never swim at a beach that has a red flag posted; that is the local sign for marking an unsafe swimming area. The seas can get especially rough during monsoon season, with rough waves and riptides from May to October.
- Be careful of local wildlife. Box jellyfish have long tentacles and strong, sometimes deadly poison. If you see them in the sea, get away quickly. If someone you know is stung, get medical help immediately. You also need to watch out for mosquito-borne diseases, so protect yourself from stings.
- Don’t rent motorbikes. Motorcycles are a popular way to get around Phuket, but they are very dangerous. Road conditions are bad, and local drivers can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never driven one before. Unless you are an experienced driver, avoid this activity.
- Do not criticize the government or monarchy. Thailand has a strict lese majeste law that bans all criticisms of the royal family. You could be arrested and deported if the wrong person hears you or you say the wrong thing online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions that other travelers to Phuket have wanted to ask before:
What should I be careful about in Phuket?
In Phuket, be careful about keeping an eye on your valuables as petty theft is a common crime. Be careful about booking tours and taxis as tourist scams are unfortunately very common and scammers can turn aggressive if you figure out their ruse.
Is Phuket safe for solo females?
Many solo female travelers continue to come to Phuket, despite some discouraging high-profile incidents. Since there are so many other travelers there, it should be easy enough to find other people to spend your time with. You should take some precautions, such as not going out alone at night or to isolated areas.
Is Bangkok or Phuket safer?
Phuket is safer because it has a lower risk of violent crime. However, Bangkok has a lower rate of tourism scams, and it is much safer to take taxis in the capital.
Is it safe to walk in Phuket at night?
It is safe to walk in Phuket at night if you are with a group and you stick to well-trafficked, well-lit areas. Avoid remote, poorly lit areas such as beaches after dark, especially if you are a solo female.
Is Patong Beach safe?
Patong Beach is one of Phuket’s most popular beaches, so it is mostly safe if that many people visit each year. However, it does experience riptides, so follow posted swimming information. The large crowds often attract thieves, so keep a close eye on your things.
So, Is It Safe to Travel to Phuket?
You will need to take some precautions in Phuket, such as thinking twice before booking any tours and holding on to your wallet carefully.
As long as you follow those precautions, you can have a great time in Phuket. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to this idyllic island paradise today!