It was a normal Monday morning late in January when my inbox was humming with the usual weekend emails busy downloading when the subject line “Red Hot Phuket” caught my eye. At the time, Phuket was a popular up & coming destination for South Africans. Popular due to the sheer value for money, I secretly thought that if the price was right, I was inquisitive enough to see what the fuss was about (and there was quite a bit of fuss).
When I opened the promotional mail, I was surprised to see the price on offer and immediately knew that with my connections in the travel industry, a substantial discount on this offer would make the deal too good to pass up. I proceeded to browse through my calendar to see if there was an ideal date to go and within seconds, I found it – next, I needed to check with my contact if there was any availability and low & behold, the flights were available.
All the while, some friends and family who are on the same mailing list also received the offer and a few whatsapp messages later, I had a group tour ready to depart.
Low season is May to October (rainy season). It’s referred to the “Pay For Stay For” season in the travel industry, where the hotels offer you some free nights with your booking – for example, pay for 4 nights stay for 8. It’s what made the phrase “It’s so cheap you’ll say Phuket.. I’ll go” famous, and exactly the reason we decided to book.
Herewith a review of our trip as well as some handy tips for first time travellers to Phuket.
We flew with Qatar Airways via Doha. On our outbound flights, the transfer time between flights in Doha was just 2-hours. It proved to be ideal, which meant the slick airport processing got us the next departure gate with enough time to spare so that we could connect to the airport’s free wifi and notify loved ones back home of our flight status.
The flight from Doha to Phuket was not without incident. About an hour or two after take off, a medical emergency with one of the passengers forced the pilot to re-route and make a stop in Chennai, India. Another couple of hours later and we were finally back in the air and en-route to paradise.
Fortunately, we had a reliable transfer operator in Phuket, who were well aware of our new, delayed arrival time and met us at the airport.
The return flight from Phuket all the way back home was perfect, with the exception of the transfer time in Doha. Due to the flight times, we had a whopping 8-hours in to kill at the airport.
Doha’s Hamad International Airport might be one of the most advanced airports in the world, but also one of the most boring (at least it was at the time). With the temperatures in the middle east at this time of year at it’s peak, the air conditioners were set to an obscene 16 degrees celsius. When you’ve just arrived from a very tropical Phuket, it may as well have been Antarctica.
Luckily, we helped ourselves the the airline blankets on the flight from Phuket. The airport did have some quiet rest-zones which would have been great to get some much needed zzzzzz’s, but the cold kept us awake and didn’t impress us much (to quote Shania).
Fantastic service, great product (aircraft), inflight entertainment was great, easy to use and up to date. Food was delicious, especially the yoghurt (I had three on one flight). Oh yeah, the price was super low too. Only downside was the layover on the return leg. Nothing that a warmer, more vibey airport cannot fix.