Travel with Children
While the seedier side of Thailand's sex industry is on show in Patong (we'd steer clear of it with our kids, though many families do visit), the rest of Phuket is fairly G-rated, and, with amusements galore, the island makes for a fantastic family trip.
Visits to Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Phuket Aquarium, Soi Dog and the Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project are terrific animal-themed activities for children. Older kids can tackle kitesurfing in Rawai and Hat Nai Yang, or surf at Hat Kata Yai.
Phuket's most-advertised 'family-friendly' feature is Kamala's Phuket Fantasea which, while popular, carries significant animal-welfare concerns. We don't recommend it, or any of the many elephant rides that are offered all over Phuket.
Amenities specially geared towards young children – such as child-safety seats for cars, high chairs in restaurants or nappy-changing facilities in public restrooms – are spotty in Thailand. Therefore parents will have to be resourceful in seeking out substitutes or just do without.
Baby formula and nappies (diapers) are available at mini-markets and 7-Elevens, but sizes are usually small, smaller and smallish. If your child wears size 3 or larger, head to Tesco Lotus or Big C. Nappy-rash cream is sold at pharmacies.
Phuket's footpaths often get too crowded to push a pram, especially full-size SUV versions. Instead opt for a compact umbrella stroller that can squeeze past the fire hydrants and mango carts and can be folded up and thrown in a túk-túk. A baby pack (sling) is also useful, but make sure your child's head doesn't sit higher than yours: there are lots of hanging obstacles at forehead level.
For the most part, parents needn't worry too much about health concerns in Phuket, apart from enforcing regular handwashing, ensuring children understand street-safety guidelines and taking care to prevent mosquito bites (dengue fever is an increasing concern in Thailand and cases have been reported on Phuket). In 2016 the Zika virus was confirmed in Thailand, and two cases of birth defects related to the virus were reported; check the International Association for Medical Assistance for Travellers (www.iamat.org) website for updates on the situation.
In terms of local cuisine, even Thai children are shielded from chillies and there are a handful of child-friendly dishes that every server can recommend. Because of the heat, remember to keep your little ones well hydrated, either with water or a variety of fruit juices, including fresh young coconuts or lime juice (a surprising hit with kids).
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.