Where to stay in Thailand? bangkok vs phuket

bangkok vs phuket

Traveling to Thailand and not sure if you should stay in Bangkok or Phuket? We can help you figure it out with this in-depth comparison of two of the most popular spots in the country!

Both are exciting places with tons of fun things to do and see, but they cater to different types of tourists. While Bangkok is a bustling city with a large population, Phuket is much more tame and suitable for families. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so read on to learn more about Bangkok and Phuket and see which is ultimately the best destination for you!

Answer: It depends

bangkok city

Bangkok and Phuket are two very different places. Travel to Bangkok if you prefer fast-paced and crowded cities that offer a wide variety of things to do and see. Bangkok is also the best option for entertainment travelers as it offers the best nightlife in all of Thailand.

Phuket is an island with much fewer inhabitants than the capital of Thailand. The atmosphere there is completely different from that of Bangkok, and you should stay in Phuket if you want to have a relaxing vacation. There is much more to do and see in Phuket, but the nature of those attractions is very different.

Key differences

Aerial view of Phuket

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand with more than 5.5 million inhabitants, while Phuket has less than 80,000 inhabitants. Bangkok is also three times the size of Phuket and that should give you a good idea of ​​the big differences between the two places.

Phuket is known for its beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts and breathtaking nature. Bangkok, on the other hand, is fast-paced and has a wild nightlife. You will never be bored in the capital of Thailand because it always exists something to do in Bangkok at any time of the day or night. But it’s also a very crowded city – just walking down the street is enough to worry you if you’re not a fan of crowds, so keep that in mind when deciding where to travel.

Although Phuket is much more relaxed and slower, it is not boring at all. There’s plenty more to do and see on the island, so take a trip there if you want to see amazing beaches, temples, fantastic viewpoints and wildlife. On the other hand, travel to Bangkok if you prefer rooftop bars, spectacular nightclubs, shrines, museums and palaces.

Highlights and activities

temple in bangkok

Bangkok is the place to be if you want to visit museums, art galleries, shopping malls, rooftop bars and simply walk the city streets exploring. It boasts some of the best and largest shrines and temples in Thailand, as well as palaces, castles and amazing museums. The city is also known for excellent shopping, both in large shopping centers and street markets.

Phuket is known for its beautiful nature and is the best option for people who want to see beaches, go hiking and spend some time with animals. The island boasts too many beaches to count, and all of them have a beautiful view and turquoise sea. It is also known for its hilltop viewpoints, which are usually just a short walk from the city center.

It’s worth noting that both cities offer plenty of opportunities to interact with wildlife. However, I would not recommend visiting these places as most of them are known for unethical treatment of animals. Sure, it’s cool to have a photo with a tiger, but do you really want to support a place that drugs and beats up those feral cats just to have a cool photo for your Instagram?

Animal cruelty is a huge problem throughout Thailand, so skip the zoos, “sanctuaries”, animal kingdoms and theme parks with abused elephants. I’ve included one place in Phuket where you can go and hang out with retired elephants, and it’s pretty much the only place on the island where the animals are treated ethically.

Cost of travel

Phuket resort

Both Bangkok and Phuket are quite cheap compared to other similar destinations. But when it comes down to it, Bangkok is generally about 30% cheaper.

The capital of Thailand is synonymous with affordable luxury, and the average tourist can get by on about $65 a day. Phuket is known for its luxury resorts and posh hotels which tend to be more expensive than their counterparts in Bangkok, and you’ll need an average of around US$95 per day to have a good time.

As for the cost of going out, both cities are generally very affordable. If you’re trying to stick to a budget, simply skip the fancy restaurants and bars and go to less well-known establishments. There are plenty of affordable locations in both cities and they’re not hard to find.

What to do in Bangkok

View of the city of Bangkok

Bangkok is a big and bustling city full of fun and exciting things. With temples, museums, castles, rooftop lounges and some of Thailand’s best shopping, there’s no shortage of things to keep you busy day or night.

The big palace

The Grand Palace in Bangkok

The Grand Palace is the highest famous landmark in town. Originally built in 1782, the palace complex is located in the heart of Bangkok and is an absolute must for all visitors. The former royal residence boasts a museum that is open to visitors, as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is one of the best and most famous temples in the city.

Take a tour inside the palace for the full experience, but note that there are strict dress codes for men and women. Also, it’s important to be respectful – this is a place of worship, so visitors are not allowed to take photos or disturb the monks.

Bangkok Arts and Culture Center (BACC)

Bangkok Art and Culture Center is the perfect place to visit for all art lovers who come to Bangkok. The BACC boasts a vast collection of contemporary art, as well as a bookshop, library, café and performance venue. The center is located in one of the busiest parts of Bangkok, right next to the most popular shops in the city. If you’re in the area and get tired of walking around the malls, head over to BACC to take a break and see some stunning art.

Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak Market

Chatuchak Market is one of the best shopping destinations in all of Bangkok. It’s the perfect place for discount shopping, whether you’re looking to buy clothes, food, souvenirs, pets, or anything else you can think of. Bangkok’s largest and busiest market boasts thousands of different stalls where you can buy whatever you want.

Ride the Sky Train

Bangkok Sky Train

The best way to get around Bangkok is by sky train, especially on a hot summer day. The trains have air-conditioned carriages, so you can cool off while riding around Bangkok and experience the city from a different perspective.

Also, this is the fastest way to get around the city since the railway is above the city streets and bypasses the chaotic Bangkok traffic. There are train stations in every corner of Bangkok, so you can explore any part of the city you want with the BTS.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is a large temple known for its huge reclining Buddha statue. It’s an amazing place and one of the best temples to visit in Bangkok, so it should be at the top of your list if you’re more interested in this side of the city. The temple also boasts historic art, loads of statues and mesmerizing architecture, so there are plenty of different things to see while at Wat Pho.

National Museum in Bangkok

National Museum in Bangkok

The National Museum in Bangkok is one of the largest museums in Southeast Asia and the perfect place to visit for people who are truly interested in learning about Thai history and culture. The museum has exhibits on Thai history and art, and is located on the grounds of a former palace. The exhibits cover Thai history from Neolithic times to modern times, so you can really learn a lot in this museum.

Cocktails at the rooftop bar

Rooftop Bar Bangkok

A trip to Bangkok isn’t complete without a night out at a rooftop bar. The views of the city are incredible from any rooftop bar in Bangkok, but Sky Bar Bangkok remains the most popular rooftop lounge in the entire city. The movie The Hangover was filmed there and it attracts a diverse audience every night. The panoramic view is best experienced at night, with a delicious cocktail in hand!

What to do in Phuket

View of Phuket

Phuket is an island oasis with beautiful sandy beaches, hilltop viewpoints, beautiful temples and plenty of wildlife. Whether you want to spend days on the beach, stroll around the island or hang out with elephants, Phuket will not disappoint!

Temple of the Great Buddha

BigBuddha Temple

The temple of the Great Buddha is one of the the best temples and the most famous attractions on the whole island. and it is an absolute must if you decide to travel to Phuket. The 45-meter-high Buddha statue is located on top of the mountain and is truly a stunning sight. Plus, when you actually stand in front of the marble statue, you can experience some of the best panoramic views in all of Thailand.

There is also a cafe and gift shop at the top of the mountain, so you can enjoy those beautiful views with a cup of coffee and get yourself a souvenir so you can always remember this amazing experience.

Explore Phuket Town

Phuket town

Head to the southeast coast of the island to explore Phuket Town. Located on a picturesque bay, the city is the busiest place on the entire island, so you’ll get a glimpse of what your vacation could have been like if you’d traveled to Bangkok instead.

Walk through the streets of Phuket Old Town, see the beautiful shrines and temples and admire the architecture characteristic of this area. The buildings in Phuket Town are quite different from what you see on the rest of the island thanks to the influence of Chinese and Portuguese immigrants.

Tree Tops Elephant Reserve Phuket

Phuket elephants

Thailand is not exactly known for the ethical treatment of elephants, and the Tree Tops Elephant Reserve is a rare exception. It is a sanctuary for retired elephants where they can roam free and truly enjoy the rest of their days.

This is a place you should visit if you want to see elephants but don’t condone any of the unethical practices that are very common throughout the country. The elephants roam freely in the Tree Tops Reserve and you can really see that they are enjoying themselves.


Phuket Beach

Phuket’s coastline is mostly just vast stretches of beautiful sandy beaches. All boast spectacular turquoise water and endless horizon views, making this island the perfect destination for a classic beach vacation. You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a beach for the day, and you can travel to a different part of the island each day.

The beaches that are more accessible are usually full, but still won’t be as bad as in Bangkok. There are also many secluded beaches that are practically deserted all day, perfect for travelers who like privacy and away from the crowds.

Kathu waterfall

Kathu Waterfall is the perfect destination for avid hikers looking to scratch that itch while in Phuket. The path to the waterfall is about 4.5 kilometers long, with a total ascent of about 460 meters.

The trail is well marked, but the ascent and descent are very steep, so you’ll need proper gear mountaineering equipment. The trail to Kathu Falls is rated as difficult and not suitable for inexperienced hikers, so keep that in mind.


Viewpoint Phuket

Phuket is full of hilltop viewpoints that offer mesmerizing panoramic vistas. Avid hikers will love this side of the island – every day you can hike to a different viewpoint and discover a new part of the island. Some viewpoints are easier to reach with access directly from the main roads, while others require you to put on your best hiking gear and work up a sweat.

One of the most popular viewpoints in Phuket is Monkey Hill Viewpoint. Ironically, the views from here are not that spectacular, but the place is very popular because a bunch of monkeys roam the top of the hill. Be careful though – monkeys like to steal from visitors, so make sure all your valuables are safely pocketed!


Leave a Reply