Krabi vs Phuket: Which destination
Some of the main reasons people travel to Thailand is for warm weather and beautiful beaches. Unfortunately for tourists, both Phuket and Krabi offer these, making it a difficult decision as to which one should be your preferred destination.
Both destinations offer amazing beach opportunities, reputations for having some of the best nightlife in Thailand and are on everyone’s bucket list. Phuket is a veteran to the travel industry, a well-known beach destination that is the largest island in Thailand, while Krabi is a relative newcomer to the travel scene but has risen to popularity in the past decade.
To help travellers make the tough decision of which destination to visit on their holiday, we’ve created a guide to help you decide which one is right for you.
Where is it?
Island in the Andaman Sea, south of Thailand.
Best time to travel?
Between November and April when the weather is perfect for beach activities.
The number of tourists?
7.4 million tourists a year.
How to do you get there?
Either a connecting flight from Bangkok airport or straight to Phuket International Airport.
What’s the weather like?
The island has both a wet and dry season. The dry season is mostly cloudy with warm weather while during the wet season it tends to rain.
What’s the terrain like?
Phuket is rainforested and mountainous in its centre with stretches of gorgeous beaches along its coastline.
Where is it?
On southern Thailand’s west coast, between Phang Nga and Trang.
Best time to travel?
Between November and March which is peak tourist season.
The number of tourists?
3 million tourists a year.
How do you get there?
A connecting flight from Bangkok airport to Krabi’s international airport.
What’s the weather like?
The country has both a wet and dry season, but it is hot all year round. Krabi tends to get more rainfall than Phuket.
What’s the terrain like?
Krabi is characterised by its limestone cliffs, dense mangrove forests and over a hundred islands off its shores.
Phuket: busy & fun
One of the main things Phuket is known for is its beaches. The island has over 30 beaches to choose from and they’re all pristine, sandy and beautiful. With good infrastructure, they’re all easy to get to, but that means that they’re all pretty much busy.
The most popular beaches are the ones around Patong full of cafes, restaurants and a famously raucous nightlife. The beaches in Phuket are busy, but fun with bars overflowing onto the sand and lots of water activities taking place.
Krabi: secluded & natural
As Krabi is still not as busy as Phuket, the beaches here tend to be secluded and void of many tourists. This makes them the typical tropical paradise with miles of untouched sandy beaches and little to no nightlife intruding on the serene beauty.
The famous Ao Nang beach of Krabi is where you’ll find a lot of its resorts and has a generally laid-back atmosphere. If the beaches in Phuket are for singletons and groups of friends looking for a good time, then Krabi is the perfect hideaway for couples and families to get away.
Phuket: party extravaganza
Phuket is notoriously the home of partying in Thailand. In the Patong area, there are beach clubs great for day drinking, full moon parties on the beach and boat parties out at sea. Bangla Road especially comes alive at night with a whole host of colourful nightclubs and bars that line the street.
Once the sun sets the road is closed to vehicles creating a 400-metre festival environment of loud music, bright lights and cheap spirits. All the bars on this strip are outdoors allowing each of their music choices to blend into one loud chaos of confusion. The bars are occasionally separated by corner stores, restaurants and gift shops giving visitors no reason to leave for the night.
Krabi: laid back
Krabi has a much more laid-back lifestyle and the nightlife here is practically non-existent. You’ll find yourself more likely to be sipping cocktails at a beach bar and listening to live acoustic music than dancing on tables. In recent years Krabi has started to catch up to Phuket with a larger array of bars than ever before and some good karaoke bars on Maharat road but still nowhere near the amount of Phuket.
If your idea of a good holiday is avoiding drunk tourists and going out for a classy meal rather than drinking your weight in beer on the beach, then Krabi is for you.
Phuket: street food galore
The cuisine in Phuket has two distinctly separate flavours which reflect the two sides of the island. On one hand, you have fast and easy food with tons of bite. The main place to grab some food here is the street vendors, offering all kinds of late-night delicacies from chocolate pancakes to fresh fruit.
On the other hand, as Phuket has spent more time in the limelight of the tourism industry it offers a range of sophisticated options along with food from around the world to cater to anyone’s tastes. International chefs from all over the world came to establish themselves on the island. Some restaurants to try include Raya Restaurant which is frequented by celebrities and royals, Blue Elephant for the best fine dining in town and Mom Tri’s Kitchen for a romantic dinner overlooking the Andaman Sea.
Krabi: local cuisine
Based next to one of the best fishing ports in Thailand, it’s needless to say that the seafood in Krabi is some of the best you’ll ever taste. The area combines locally sourced ingredients with traditional Thai cuisine to give food lovers the ultimate gastronomical experience. The restaurants here tend to be more bohemian and rustic. Try Ban Lay Thai Kitchen, Laem Sak seafood and Thara Kitchen for some of the best food around. Expect to have wonderful meals while having your feet buried in the sand with incredible views.
Phuket: something for everyone
Due to Phuket’s popularity with tourists, you’re certain to find more choices of accommodation. The range of choice makes it a great area to visit whether you’re a couple, family or group of friends as you have the option between cheap hostels and luxurious hotels. Many of the hotels are high-end luxury although you can also find charming guesthouses and resorts on the island.
Krabi: budget-friendly options
Krabi houses some of the more budget-friendly options when it comes to accommodation. The area compromises of lots of islands and a less-developed mainland which makes Krabi the perfect place for a remote getaway. The options tend to be in secluded areas away from any form of crowd, and you’re likely to enjoy peace and quiet with whatever accommodation you choose.
Activities & adventures
Phuket: unusual adventures
Although both destinations offer very similar attractions including excellent snorkelling opportunities and extreme sports, Phuket has the luxury of already being an established tourist hotspot meaning it can offer more unusual activities than Krabi.
As an island, Phuket has a whole range of water sports to choose from. If you’re a confident swimmer you could scuba dive in search of the vibrant marine wildlife or try your hand at surfing the waves.
Those less confident can snorkel the shall depths of the beaches or go sea kayaking. The island also takes advantage of its tropical surroundings and has zip lines and wildlife experiences galore.
Krabi: adrenaline junkies paradise
Krabi has become popular for backpackers and thrill-seekers which is a direct result of its lack of infrastructure and choice of extreme activities. With its untamed natural surroundings, the area offers jungle-trekking, rock climbing, island-hopping and kayaking. It doesn’t have the same activity centres and infrastructure as Phuket but for some that increases the allure, with miles of wild jungle to explore.
Some of the top activities to do in Krabi include rock climbing at Railay beach that provides avid adventurers with towering limestone cliffs, stunning sea views and plenty of opportunities no matter your experience. The province also has several top-class diving destinations which are great places to explore marine fauna and tropical fish.
Value for money
Phuket: tourist trap
Both Phuket and Krabi are generally affordable places to visit, especially when you compare them to prices from Western countries. Neither will set you back much and it entirely depends on your own lifestyle rather than a huge difference between them both.
However, as one of the most popular areas in Thailand, Phuket is known to be more expensive than the rest of the country and everyone knows it. The small island has capitalised on the influx of tourists and therefore, especially in Patong, everything from transport to food costs can be pricier than anywhere else.
Krabi: low-key tropical getaway
Krabi is the no-fuss alternative. Here you won’t find taxi mafias or people trying to con you with fake souvenirs, and instead can enjoy a generally heightened sense of charm. Although Krabi is slowly rising in popularity it retains its competitive pricing to give you the best of a budget-friendly tropical paradise without the inflated tourism costs. Activities, transport, accommodation and food are all similar to what you’d find around the rest of Thailand rather than the tourist hotspot of Phuket.
Phuket: tuk tuk & buses
Phuket is incredibly easy to get around whether you’re travelling to the closest beach or venturing into its rainforested centre. Most beach resorts are small enough to wander around by foot and most hotels are located close to beaches, restaurants and shops. Tuk-tuks are a popular way to get around the island but are only appropriate for small periods of time due to their small size. Although the novelty of a tuk-tuk is attractive, ensure you’re still paying a fair price before hopping in one.
Local buses are also a fun way of travelling around Phuket. They’re known as songtaews and tend to be painted bright blue so that they’re easily recognised, with their destination in English written on the outside. These buses will stop anywhere you desire while on their route making them a great way of exploring the diverse island.
Krabi: speedboat friendly
The easiest way to travel around Krabi is by bus and minivan. This is the most popular transport when travelling to and from Krabi Airport, but they also run between Krabi Town and the popular beach of Ao Nang. Unlike most places in Thailand, Krabi doesn’t have an extensive network of buses, and so minivans tend to take tourists to the places local buses don’t. Tuk-tuks and taxis are both also great options for a tourist, although they both come with their own positives and negatives. The taxis are less likely to do shorter journeys and prefer to take their passengers on day trips.
As Krabi is made up of over a hundred small islands, another necessary form of transport is ferry or boat. From the province, you can take a ferry to Phuket, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi with ease from the pier in Krabi Town. Smaller boat taxis also connect the coast with services running along Ao Nang, Krabi Town, Ton Sai, Railay and Phra Nang.
Both Phuket and Krabi are wonderful places to travel, each with their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them great tropical destinations. However, depending on your holiday style, group and budget, one may be better suited than the other.
If you’re looking for an off the beaten path experience, backpacking through the jungle and snorkelling on the beaches then Krabi is the place for you. The island offers an experience rarely found in the tourism hotspot of Thailand, among wild mangroves and beautiful beaches.
However, if you like being in the middle of everything and love to have a night out drinking then Phuket is best. The island is popular with groups of friends, families and couples for its choice of fun activities and high-quality infrastructure.
Is the beach calling to you but Thailand doesn’t seem like the right place for you? Take a look at our list of unusual beach holidays to shake up your tropical getaways.