Navigating around Phuket by car is manageable with the help of a decent map. Roads can be treacherous so don't scrimp on insurance. Take the Thep Kasatri Road from the airport and follow the signs to Phuket town. Motorbike rental is a possibility - if you can stomach the 10,000 accidents a year statistic.
Phuket International Airport is Thailand's second busiest (www.phuketairportonline.com). Charter flights connect to dozens of long-haul destinations but fewer scheduled airlines make it here. However, connecting flights from Bangkok and plenty of other domestic (Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai Air Asia, OneTwoGo) and regional (Malaysian Airlines, Korean Air, Air Asia, SilkAir, Tiger Airways) carriers arrive and depart with relentless regularity.
There's no rail service to Phuket. Buses travel from the Southern Bus Terminal in Thonburi, Bangkok, but the journey is a back-straining 14 hours. There are more costly and comfortable VIP buses, but it makes far more sense to hop on a one-hour no-frills flight.
Country code for Thailand: 66; area code for Phuket: 076. Remove the '0' when calling from overseas.
Thai Vignettes: Phuket and Beyond by Steve Rosse; The Travels of Mendes Pinto by Rebecca D Catz.
Do go / Don't Go
Phuket is most alive from November to March. The endless sunshine sees crowds everywhere. Be prepared to pay significantly higher prices for rooms in this period, and make that dinner reservation early. When the lull hits during the monsoon season, expect slower service and more irregular opening hours at shops and eateries.
Succulent seafood from the Andaman Sea characterises food in Southern Thailand. Dishes are likely to be barbecued, marinated, and garnished with numerous herbs and spices. Southern Thais like their food spicier and they add fresh turmeric to curries to give them a distinctive yellow hue. Khanom cheen - rice noodles topped with fish-flake soup and served with a plate of fresh vegetables and fruits - is a popular breakfast dish.
Flagging down cabs in Phuket is relatively hassle-free. Fares start at THB50 Three-wheeled tuk tuks are everywhere in Patong and Phuket Town, but are becoming ever more expensive. Feel free to negotiate for a round-trip rate if you'd like the tuk tuk to wait for you while you do some quick shopping/visiting tourist sites. Be prepared to pay upwards of THB150 an hour.
A 10 per cent service charge may be added to your bill, but don't assume this will get as far as the staff. A tip, where appropriate, is always welcome. For cabs, simply round it up to the nearest 10 or 20 baht.
Thai baht. £1 is approximately THB65.
Your best shades. Spray-on tan and showy jewellery should help you get the footballers' wives look before you get here. Beach yoga-wear for seaside stretchers. Men should bring Speedos, a six-pack - and consider some serious waxing.
Phuket Town's Sino-Portuguese architecture is the island's cultural claim to fame, a charming legacy left behind by wealthy Chinese tin miners in the 19th Century. Phuket's Town Hall, Provincial Court and Nakorn Luang Bank are among the most magnificent, must-see examples. Along Thalang Road, find Thalang National Museum, Phuket's most important centre for history and culture. Several galleries are also in the vicinity, including the Loft (+66 (0)76 258 160), which is well worth a peek.
Central Festival Phuket (+66 (0)76 291 111) and the Surin Plaza (+66 (0)76 271 241) are the only two mega-malls worth a trawl. For more selective shopping, Lola (+66 (0)76 271 618) stocks the choicest beachwear, while Mandalay (+66 (0)76 270 954) turns out a nice range of hats, lacquer and ceramics. Eclectic shops abound in Phuket Town. When shopping for the nest, look no further than Bypass Road (Chalermprakiat 9 Road). Many furniture and home interior shops have opened along this stretch.
Phuket's cinematic environs have the honour of being part of film history. Phang Nga Bay's Koh Ping Gan, dubbed James Bond Island, made a splash with 007 in The Man with the Golden Gun. Phi Phi Ley, as idolised in The Beach, is a snorkellers' wet dream.
The southernmost point of Phuket, Cape Promthep, is where to go for an uninterrupted view of the heavenly Andaman Sea sunset. There's always a crowd waiting with their Nikons; get there in a timely fashion to commandeer a good spot.
February Spine-tingling rhythm and blues at Phuket International Blues Festival (www.phuketbluesfestival.com). The Old Phuket Town Festival brings traditional music, dance and food to the streets, which are closed to traffic. March Phuket Pride (www.phuketpride.org). April Phuket Bike Week welcomes Hondas, Harleys and more roar for charity (www.phuketbikeweek.com). June Phuket International Marathon is followed by a hearty pasta party (www.phuketmarathon.com). July Yachting on the high seas at Phuket Race Week (www.phuketraceweek.com). October Local Chinese go vegetarian amid the bustle of processions at Phuket Vegetarian Festival (www.phuketvegetarian.com) November Phuket Carnival offers plenty of kitschy fun and floats to welcome the start of high season (www.phuketcarnival.com). December Phuket's King Cup Regatta is Asia's biggest regatta race held in honour of the King (www.kingscup.com).