Thailand's largest island is like an emerald in the Andaman Sea. For many years Phuket was on a major trading route between India and China, used by ships from Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands. Today Patong, its busiest town, again attracts an international crowd, tourists this time, the island's greatest source of wealth. Tolerant sexual attitudes, fine weather, many beaches and plenty of nightlife bring high proportions of gay travellers among visitors arriving here.
Outside the nightclubs the secret hideaways such as Kalim Beach beckon too. There you might share with locals a feast of seafood and barbecued meats. For more tranquility, try the even more secluded Karon and Kata beaches.
Plenty of festivals keep things busy. Song Kran, Thailand's traditional New Year, is a three-day celebration in April. The whole country observes religious and family rituals, but dousing people, especially foreigners, with water is the best-known tradition.
The Phuket Vegetarian Festival, a nine-day festival in September/ October, marks the beginning of "Taoist Lent" with hot coal walking, skin piercings, and religious processions.
The annual Phuket Pride takes place in April, with six days of celebrations, including parade, festival, stage entertainment, games, pool and beach parties, drag shows, and dances.
You’ll most likely fly into Phuket International Airport, the second-busiest airport in Thailand. It’s about 20 miles outside the center of the main city. There are buses into Phuket Town, but not to Patong on the west coast. Meter taxis cost a bit under $20 for a 40 minute ride - per trip not per person, so divided several ways it's not expensive. If you plan to rent a car have a valid international license, and remember Thais drive on the left-hand side of the road, like Brits and Ozzies.
Most places are walkable, and local buses are cheap and cheerful. Taxis should be inexpensive, although travelers report being overcharged at times. Your hotel can generally help you get around, one way or another. Rent a car if you want to explore the island's sights, including cave temples, forest pools, hot springs, waterfalls, and out-of-the-way beaches.
Much of Patong becomes one big nightclub after dark, buzzing with the energy of the bars and dancing in the streets, as well as atop the bars. Most gay action is to be found around Paradise Complex, with a score of gay bars and clubs, several gay guesthouses, cafes, coffeehouses and other services. From the beach take Sainamyen (or Sai Nam Yen) Road to the intersection with Rai-U-Thit Road. From there the streets of Paradise Complex are wall-to-wall gay establishments all the way to the Royal Paradise Hotel. The girl bar district is mostly around Bangla Road, off Rai-U-Thit to the south, running back towards the beach.
Currency and Money
The local currency in the Thai baht. Each baht is divided into 100 satang - however with exchange rates of about 3 cents to 1 baht you're unlikely to give satangs much thought. You’ll find ATMs mostly in urban and tourist areas. Notify your local bank of travel plans to be sure your credit card transactions work smoothly, and see if your bank has Thai partner banks to save on ATM withdrawal fees. In case of a lost wallet, keep 24-hour international phone numbers for your bank handy, and account information in a safe place. Make a report at the tourist police office as soon as possible - you may need the paper for your bank. If a passport has gone missing, you'll need the paperwork for sure.
Sex work is technically illegal, but widely tolerated so long as both people are 18 or older. Most Thai men in the tourist clubs are working. Just as you tip masseurs, or servers in bars or restaurants, compensation is given not only for bedtime frolics, but also for time spent over drinks, or doing the sights. It doesn't mean you can't make friends, but find out what is expected early, to avoid difficulties later. A new friend can show you around, introduce you to wider circles, find good restaurants, help with language and cabbies, and pamper you in many physical ways. For you it's a vacation, for him this is an honest living. There are "hassle-free zones" where you won't be approached - local expats can advise on those. Many hotels, expecially those around Paradise Complex, don't mind or charge extra for overnight visitors of guests - but may check your friend's ID to be sure he's 18. The age of consent is officially 15, but various legal caveats make 18 the practical age of consent, and tourist police are vigilent. Check out Squirt.org for more on cruising areas here, and around the world.
See our maps & listings tab for businesses listed below and more, with their locations and website links.
Adonis Guesthouse (Paradise Complex, Patong; 66 76-345-800), well-equipped rooms, quiet location, just off the main strip.
Aquarius Guesthouse & Sauna (127/10-17 Rat-U-Thit Road, Patong; 66 76-341-668), gay men's lodgings at heart of Paradise Complex, all-day bar and Thai restaurant; rooftop hot tub, gym, pool and sauna free to guests, fee for day-visitors, massage services.
Backstage (246/5 Pang Muang Sai Kor Rd; 66 76 346 960), gay, straight-friendly boutique hotel, Saturday men-only BBQ and pool parties, rooftop cafe/bar, after-beach cocktails, Wi-Fi access, friendly but not pushy come-as-you-are atmosphere. Former Pandora Hotel.
Blue Dolphin (135/12-13 Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Rd, Patong; 66 76 341-611), primarily massage services in Paradise Complex, also guest rooms, full or short-term rentals, French management.
CC Hideaway Hotel (84/21 Patak Rd soi 10, Karon; 66 76-333- 222), 42-room hideaway in hills above Karon Beach, sea views, all amenites, cafe with Thai and western food.
Club One Seven B&B (9/9-10 Prachanukroh, 66 76-341-917), clean and comfortable gay guesthouse rooms near the sea, quiet non-hassle area, pool, Jacuzzi, garden, gym/fitness center, cafe, bar, WiFi throughout.
Ibis Phuket (10 Chalermphrakiat Rd, Patong; 66 26-592-888), large modern hotel, bar and restaurant, near beach, in-room wi-fi and safe.
La Flora Patong (39 Thaweewong Rd, Patong; 66 76 344 241), beachside boutique resort, 67 rooms, suites and pool villas, private balconies, WiFi, two large pools, business and fitness centers; seafood restaurant with 130-label wine list.
Le Tanjong House B&B (143/6 Paradise Complex, Patong; 66 76-293-071), six rooms by Royal Paradise Hotel, modern, inexpensive, full amenities, no joiner fee for overnight visitors.
Millennium Resort Patong Phuket (199 Rat-Uthit 200 Pee Rd, Patong Beach; 66 76-601-999), 418 rooms and suites luxury resort, gym/spa, two pools, restaurants.
Newspaper Inn (125/4-5 Paradise Complex, Patong; 66 76-346-276), seven luxurious rooms and suite, convenient to beach and gay nightlfe; all-region Thai restaurant, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, indoor/outdoor seating.
Palm Beach (79 81 Sainamyen Rd, Patong; 66 76-345-655), 15-room gay Patong Beach guesthouse, Spanish and Thai Ibiza Restaurant, water Tatami solarium, garden bar, Wi-Fi, gay info and tours.
Phuket Gay Homestay (135/6 Neramit Hill Moo 7, Kathu), 5 rooms, not far from Patong Beach nightlife, Swedish management; Saturday men-only pool parties and barbeque tie-in with Backstage Bar.
Puerta del Sol (105/9 Rachauthid Rd, Patong; 87-888-1158), five minutes from Paradise Complex, shopping and beaches, sister to gay guesthouse in Madrid, Spain.
Rendez Vous Hotel (Paradise Complex, Patong; 76 342-433), gay guesthouse with rooms and suites, breakfast buffets, cable TV, WiFi, area tours.
Royal Paradise (Paradise Complex, Patong; 76-341-562), gay-friendly high-rise hotel, pool, spa/sauna, fitness, massage, bakery cafe, guiet tea or coffee chill-out.
Siam Hotel (74/18 Nanai Rd, soi Banzaan, Patong; 76 297-080), 16 luxury-room gay-friendly hotel at Patong Beach; balconies, cable TV, WiFi, bar.
Sundowners (Paradise Complex, Patong; 76-344-215), gay guesthouse, terrace, restaurant and sports bars, near nightlife, five-minute walk to gay beach. English breakfast and roasts served, as well as burgers, Thai and Japanese meals.
The Yorkshire Hotel (169/16 soi Sansabai, Rat-U-Thit Rd, Patong; 66 76 340 904), 63 rooms, suites and luxury apartment near gay scene and beach; swimming pool, gym, sauna, steam room, full English breakfasts, diving trip arrangements.
All of Patong becomes one big nightclub after dark, buzzing with the energy of the bars and dancing in the streets, as well as tabletops. Paradise Complex is the neon-lit gay zone in Patong where most of the gay nightlife is to be found, with men, women, and ladyboys lining the sidewalks signaling their availability to international visitors, young and old. You'll find more bars than we list - they often change. Local sources or a walk-about in the neighborhood will fill in the gaps. A few more clubs are in Phuket Town, across the island. Most of the guesthouses have restaurants and bars (see above), busy during the day, and the early evenings. For locations and website links to businesses we list, see our map & listings tab.
Boat Bar (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), popular gay cabaret dance club and show bar, modern sound and laser system, mixed crowd, nightly until late. Afternoon terrace tables.
Club One Seven/ Home Dining Café & Lounge (9/9-10 Prachanukroh, 76-341-917), popular restaurant and bar at gay guesthouse; breakfast from 8am, lunch and dinner, inexpensive Thai and Western food, coffee/tea, ice cream, cocktails.
Kiss Disco (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), popular late-night dance club, no cover, DJ music, cabaret shows twice each night.
Mama San (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), cabaret and show bar may be closed - check ahead with local media.
My Way (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), gay go-go dancer bar, nightly ladyboy cabaret shows, bevy of hosts on offer.
Seahag Restaurant (78/5 Permpong Soi 3), Patong Beach seafood and traditional Thai restaurant. Open daily, lunch from noon, dinner until midnight; wines, full bar, espresso beverages even later.
Spartacus (123/5 Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), small gay bar, hassle-free chill-out zone, upstairs massage services with showers.
Sundowners (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), guesthouse ground-level bar and restaurant, Thai and European menu, cocktails, free WiFi, pool table, prime people-watching location.
Tangmo Club (123/6-7 Rath-U-Thit Rd, Phuket Town), large gay cabaret club, nightly ladyboy shows and go-go dancers.
Yes! Bar (125/3 Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), lively go-go boys, erotic shows, loud music.
Zag Club (Rath-U-Thit Rd, Paradise Complex), men's dance club, go-go shower shows, upstairs darkroom, bingo nights.
Beyond Paradise Complex & Patong
Aphrodite Cabaret (Phuket Town), big and elaborate show bar/ cabaret club; glamour, glitter and star performances, restaurant.
Phuket FantaSea (120 Rat-U- Thit Rd, Kamala Beach), new 140 acre Thai cultural theme park 10km north of Patong, carnival village games, handicrafts and shopping; huge buffet restaurant, Thai and international cuisines; Las Vegas-style theatrical shows.
Simon Cabaret (8 Sirirat Rd, Patong southside), spectacular shows, local drag stars and beautiful ladyboys, draws general-public tourists. Flashy Vegas-type shows, colorful costumes, dance revues; music and the magic of performances bridge the gay/straight divide.
Aquarius Guesthouse & Sauna (127/10-17 Rat-U-Thit Rd, Patong; 76-341-668), rooftop hot tub, gym, pool and sauna free to guests of gay men's guesthouse/restaurant, in heart of Paradise Complex. Massage services and day-visitors for moderate fees.
Hiranyikara Spa (Kathu), men's luxury spa near Bang Wad reservoir between Phuket Town Patong Beach, massage services, sauna, Jacuzzi, herbal therapy, swimming pool.
Tara Sauna (inside the Phuket Modern Life project, Phuket Town), modern new sauna and steam rooms, massage, karaoke bar and outdoor cafe, cruisng area. Open until midnight 7 days/week.
Two more establishments, both in Paradise Complex, offer massage services: Blue Dolphin, and Two Hands.