Located off the southwest coast of Thailand, the island of Phuket has long been popular with tourists and expats. Once a remote, tropical paradise, it is now a bustling community largely centred around the tourist industry. But, as it develops, a different breed of visitor is arriving on its sparkling white shores – the remote worker.
Ever since the rise of the digital nomad began, Thailand has been one of the hottest destinations. And why not? Few places on Earth are so blessed with natural bounties as this fabled land of beaches and mountains. With a cost of living much lower than its western counterparts, it has been popular among those lucky or smart enough to be earning money untethered from an office and away from the drudgery of the daily commute.
Phuket, a place that has been adapting to outsiders since the 1970s, is perhaps the ideal location for setting up (or settling down) as to work remotely. There is more than enough here to keep you interested in your free time, but it’s now very much the sort of place where you can get some serious work done. And, let’s face it, both of those are important.
In this article, I want to explore some of the things that make working remotely in Phuket so attractive. My aim isn’t to convince you to pick up shop and move here, but rather to let you know that it’s possible. Knowledge is the first and most important factor in making a good decision, and at wanderbbq we want to help you make the best decisions.
What a Remote Worker Needs
If you’re already working remotely, you obviously know what you need to do your job. If you haven’t yet made that leap, then he’s a summary:
- a functioning laptop
- an internet connection
Yeah, that’s about it, folks. Time to wrap up this section…
But seriously, there isn’t much that a remote worker really needs nowadays. It depends on your job, of course. Most of us get by with a laptop. Some people need a camera and microphone. A few have some specialist but portable equipment. Others can do it with just a smartphone. Seriously. I met a woman last summer who had three jobs and made a ton of money. She managed everything with an old iPhone with a cracked screen. As long as she had her phone and a charger, she was good to go.
With that in mind, most of us can work pretty easily anywhere in the world that can provide a good internet connection, and – praise the techno-gods – Phuket has that. The internet here is wonderfully quick. You can conduct online meetings without a hitch, and that goes for broadband and 4G. Even when you’re floating a mile offshore, you can still get a pretty good signal – trust me, I’ve tried.
Phuket isn’t a particularly big island. It’s only about 30 miles long from north to south, and much narrower than that. A lot of it is mountain, too, with the settlements crammed into little enclaves around the edges, or alongside the busy main roads that head up through the middle of north of the island.
Yet it is worth knowing that when you head to “Phuket,” you are not just going to some little place where you can stroll about. This isn’t Koh Phi Phi or even Koh Tao. If you’re staying in Phuket Town, it’s a 30 minute drive to Rawai, and if you’re heading from Kata to the airport, prepare for a 45 minute taxi ride at least.
In short, you need to prepare before you come to Phuket. It’s worth doing some research before you arrive… or at the very least, book a hotel for a few days while you find a place to stay. It won’t take long. There are far more properties here than there are people, and landlords are pretty desperate to offload their empty apartments.
See our full article on remote working in Thailand for more details.
Cafés for Remote Workers in Phuket
With so many foreign tourists coming to Phuket year after year, there are too many cafés, bars, and restaurants to count. The whole island is covered with them, and some streets have so many that you would be totally spoiled for choice. In the touristy areas, these places are even more numerous and you could probably pick a different café for each day of the month without moving onto a new street.
But what are the best cafés in Phuket for remote workers and digital nomads?
As I mentioned in the previous section, there are many different areas in Phuket, and so picking the right café for you to work in is going to depend to a great degree on where you actually live or where you visit that day. Here are wanderbbq, we firmly believe that no one should have to commute to work. If you live in Patong and drive to Chalong to do your work in a beautiful little café, you have violated our most sacred principle. (Just kidding; if you like that scenic drive, go for it.)
So here are a few of the best cafés in Phuket listed alongside the area you can find them.
The Gallery Café, Chalong
Chalong is located in the southern half of Phuket, about halfway between Phuket Town and Rawai. There are many decent cafés in this area (and even a Starbucks, which Charlie reckons is a traveller’s best friend), but my favourite is Gallery.
This is actually part of a small chain of cafés throughout Phuket. That business model helps it maintain a professional standard while at the same time it is small, cosy, and friendly. Here, you can get a fruit shake, a coffee, baked goods, a full brunch… or a wide range of other typical café fare. There is a substantial choice and – from what I’ve seen – all of it is pretty damn good.
Gallery is popular among people who work online, so you probably won’t be the only one hogging a table with your laptop. The café has a positive attitude towards these digital nomads and you will feel welcome there.
What else is there to say? Oh yeah, clean bathrooms and air conditioning. In other words, it’s got it all.
WeCafé, Various locations
Just like Gallery, WeCafé is another small, locally-owned chain. There are currently three locations in Phuket – Rawai, Samkong, and Chaofa. Each one offers a modern, ethical menu and environment. For fifteen years, they have been growing their own food under organic and hydroponic conditions. Much of what they sell is grown at their Chaofa facility, so you can be sure that it’s astoundingly fresh.
Each of these cafés has a fantastic menu and offers a great place to settle down and get some work done. They are also popular among young expats, tourists, and remote workers, so you might get to do a bit of networking, too. And if you stop off at the Rawai branch, you are located right on the seashore, in one of the nicest parts of the island for taking a walk when you’re finished working for the day.
Bookhemian Coffee Bar, Phuket Town
If you are in or around Phuket Town, you might like to head to Bookhemian Coffee Bar. As its name suggests, this is a bookstore-cum-coffeeshop. Lined floor to ceiling with books, it is a gorgeous and intriguing place to sit and sip coffee. As long as you aren’t overly distracted by the stacks of books, it’s also a pleasant place to do some remote working. Take your laptop upstairs and hit the keys…
Bookhemian doesn’t just sell books, of course (although they have plenty of new and used ones for sale). You can get a damn fine coffee, a fruit shake, or pick from a wide array of pastries and other snacks. They’ve got what it takes to fuel your afternoon of remote work.
Co-Working Spaces in Phuket
Cafés are great for getting a little bit of work done and also for meeting new people… but they have their drawbacks, too. Let’s face it, not everyone in a café is there to get work done. In fact, you might just be the only one who’s trying to write an article, edit a video, or piece together that killer bit of code. With a young family to your left and a group of teenagers to your right, it can be a bit hard to concentrate sometimes.
For that reason, co-working spaces are popping up all over the world, and Phuket is no different. There are various options around the island for people who want a quieter space to sit and get some hard work done. These vary in quality, and so I’ll pick out a couple of good ones for you.
Hatch, Phuket Town
One of the best known and most popular co-working spaces in Phuket is Hatch in the middle of Phuket Town. This hip location offers an affordable shared workspace as well as a regular café out front. It divided into the comparatively noisy café and a “quiet space” out back, for people who are serious about working and don’t want unnecessary distractions.
Hatch currently charges 250 baht per day for a pass to use their facilities. This includes free coffee and water (as well as popcorn, oddly enough). They also have special deals for people who intend to stay for a week or a month. It is air-conditioned, has great WiFi, and they also have printers and scanners you can use.
Garage Society, Patong
In the heart of seedy Patong, the bustling hub of drinking debauchery in Phuket, there is a chilled out place for people who want to put aside the buckets of vodka and do some important work. It’s called Garage Society and it’s a great place for remote workers. They have excellent internet, beanbag chairs designed to help you brainstorm better (I assume), and open-plan desks where you can hammer away at your laptop until your fingers ache.
When you need a break, you can head to their café for some great food and drinks. The staff here are friendly and speak fluent English, so you should have no problems getting your time booked and dealing with any issues that arise there. At 300 baht, it’s a bit more expensive Hatch, but then everything in Patong tends to be that way.
An added bonus: They have an on-site Muay Thai instructor to help you get fit and learn self-defence when you’re on a break.
Nairharn Space, Naiharn
In the quiet south of Phuket, Naiharn Beach stands out as a real gem. It is not exactly unknown, but it’s a lot more peaceful than Phuket Town or Patong. Things are chilled out down this way, where everything is nestled between the tall green mountains and the white sand beaches, with little islands dotted offshore. It’s mostly holidaymakers down this end of Phuket, along with a few locals going for a dip in the sea. But if you’re living around here (and you should; it’s pretty cheap) or you feel like taking a drive south, you might want to check out Naiharn Space.
Naiharn Space is a bit more expensive than the other two options if you pay per hour or per day, but they offer hefty discounts if you want to book a 1-month pass. In any case, this includes unlimited coffee, tea, and snacks. Oh yeah, and you can pay with Bitcoin. That’s a big plus for any tech-savvy remote workers.
The whole point of untethering from the office and starting to work remotely is being free to do what you do from (almost) anywhere in the world. I personally wouldn’t take my laptop to the beach and I can’t really concentrate in a noisy bar… but everyone is different and that’s the beauty of this business.
Phuket is a quite diverse place with a really impressive range of options. I’ve tried to list just a few of them above to help you get started if you choose to come here, but honestly you could just take a walk around your apartment, hostel, or hotel and I’m sure you’d find somewhere interesting. Or better year, get on Google Maps and see what other people say in the review sections.
Anyway, some people thrive on having strangers around to talk to, while others require a quiet corner all to themselves. I’m sure they’d all be pretty happy here in sunny Phuket, a burgeoning destination for digital nomads.