Patong Beach has the liveliest street shopping, with vendors packed along the beach road, Bangla street and several small lanes off the beach. At Phuket markets, ready-to-wear clothing, beachwear, souvenirs and handicrafts are the main buys. Prices tend to start high, so be prepared to bargain. Remember that bargaining is a dialogue, an art, not an argument. Do it politely, and always with a smile, and you may get 30-50 per cent (or more) off the starting price.
Markets in Phuket are scattered about the island. The Paradise Complex on Rat-U-Thit Road has a night market with similar goods for sale three nights a week. The streets of Kata and Karon beaches are also lined with vendors, and these areas tend to be less hectic than Patong.
In Phuket Town there are no large markets catering to tourists, but the recently rebuilt Central Market on Ranong Road is definitely worth a visit, if only to experience the colours and scents of the exotic foods and spices on offer. There are also some stalls offering souvenirs.
A good spot to pick up those last-minute souvenirs, sarongs, t-shirts and fishermen’s pants is around the Robinson’s department store – lots of little shops along the road here, though the sales people tend to be a bit pushy. Robinson’s itself, as well as the Ocean shopping centre beside it, also has a good selection of items to take home, including locally produced food, such as cashew nuts and dried bananas.
Just about every village on the island has an open piece of ground that hosts a local market (known as talaad nat in Thai) once or twice a week. These open-air Phuket markets are lively places, offering the chance to see a real Asian bazaar in action. Tropical fruits and vegetables and freshly-caught seafood and snacks are the usual fare. It’s also common to see racks of clothing, accessories, flip-flops, handicrafts, spectacles and CDs for sale, too. These markets are located well away from hotels, so ask around to find out when and where to find one.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market (not to be confused with that of the same name in Bangkok) on the east end of Phang Nga Road, Phuket Town, is probably the best place on the island to find clothes, accessories, shoes and other items at rock-bottom prices. It’s quite crowded in the evenings, but this is the best time to go to avoid the heat of the day.