Which is better: Pattaya or Phuket? These are the two most popular Thai resorts annually attract millions of tourists from all over the world, and among them a significant part of Russians. And we ourselves, over and over again, fly to Tai, so much we loved him. We feel almost at home here :)
First, a bit of geographic information:
Pattaya is located 150 km southeast of Bangkok on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand, and Phuket - much south - off the shores of the Andaman Sea. Getting there and there is not a problem. From many cities of Russia both charters and regular flights fly. But keep in mind that if your plane arrives in Bangkok, it will take two and a half to three hours to transfer to Pattaya. The city airport takes less flights and travel from there closer - around an hour. From Phuket Airport in an hour and a half you can get to almost anywhere in the island.
I remind you that Russians do not need a visa to visit Thailand if the travel period does not exceed 30 days.
Holidays in Thailand : a great guide
Thailand or Vietnam : compare and choose which is better
As always, I will compare by sections and individual categories: beaches, infrastructure, ease of transport, ease of entry, prices and so on.
Pattaya or Phuket?
In this post, I will try to assess the pros and cons of each resort as objectively as possible, but there will still be a certain raid of subjectivity - some conclusions will be based solely on our feeling and not supported by facts and evidence.
In fact, it would be more correct to compare, for example, Pattaya and Patong - the most popular beach and area in Phuket. After all, Phuket is an island-province with completely different areas and many beaches, and Pattaya is a city.
Different geographical locations also cause small differences in the weather. In Pattaya, seasonal fluctuations are less pronounced - the best time to travel is from November to March, when there is very little rain and warm, it gets very hot in April and May, and there is more rainfall in the summer months and early autumn. Nevertheless, you can relax in Pattaya all year round, there is no distinct low season here.
Phuket is also from November to March - the most comfortable time with the most tourists, in March and April the amount of precipitation and air temperature increase, during the summer months there can be storms and showers, and only by October is the weather stable. In the summer months, choosing Phuket for a beach holiday is not worth it. But if you are fond of surfing, then on the beaches of Karon or Kata you can catch a wave at this time.
But with the beaches, in our opinion, Phuket is doing much better! And in this category, the island significantly outperforms Pattaya. Yes, in the Patong area it is not the cleanest water, but the beach itself is quite clean, plus there is everything nearby that you can imagine. But you can go to small beaches near Three Tran g, Paradise beach, Freedom beach or to the larger Karon to the south or Kamala to the north.
There are dozens of beaches in Phuket, from almost wild without infrastructure to large tourist centers. For example, if you are looking for privacy, then choose Mai Khao , Nai Yang , Knighton in the north of the island. For lovers of active nightlife, Patong or Karon are suitable. For families with children I advise Kamalu, Bang Tao , Kata .
Almost all Phuket beaches are chic (in the right season) - clear water, sand, palm trees on the shore, although the most popular can be crowded.
In Pattaya, we did not like any beach - everywhere there is dirty water, which completely discourages the desire to swim. And it doesn’t matter whether it is the central beach or the Jomtien area. In the north of the city, the Naklua region is a bit more pleasant, but also does not go to any comparison with Phuket. The only good beaches nearby are on the island of Koh Lan, where you can sail by ship. One or two times you can still go, but every day just tires.
The tourist infrastructure is well developed there, and even excellent. Everything you can imagine on vacation, you will find in these resorts: hundreds of hotels, cafes and restaurants, banks, exchangers, massage parlors, spa centers, bars, souvenir shops and supermarkets (both small and large), markets , as well as travel agencies, where you can pick up an interesting tour.
Moreover, if you wish, you can even find Russian kindergartens and school classes, as well as all sorts of clubs for children with Russian teachers, because wintering people, with the onset of the crisis, have lessened, but they still are :) Getting buckwheat or sour cream is also not a problem, especially in Pattaya.
Medicine is also very well developed. There are both huge hospitals and small clinics, including dentistry, beauty salons and all kinds of cosmetology. For example, we met an Australian who was treating his teeth in Phuket, and at the same time was resting. He said that in his home country, medical services are many times more expensive. But for our average Russian salaries, medicine in Tai is still expensive, so do not forget to take out insurance, and there is where to provide you qualified assistance.
If you take transport, then this is excellent. Phuket has a rather busy international airport, several marinas from where you can go to the islands of Phi Phi, Krabi and other places, as well as bus stations with buses to Bangkok and many other cities and regions of Thailand.
Pattaya also has an airport, although there are not so many flights there (mostly charters), from several bus stations you can leave for Bangkok and other cities of Tai, as well as Cambodia. There is a railway station in Pattaya, although it is located far from the center, and it is mainly used by locals.
Of course, the resorts have a huge selection of the most varied excursions. And if in Pattaya there are few sea tours (more than land), then in Phuket you can easily arrange a sea trip. And the landscapes in the surroundings are really impressive and will not leave you indifferent!
For example, a tour to 11 islands (Phi Phi, James Bond, Krabi Islands) is very popular for two days with an overnight stay - it costs about 3,000 baht per person. There are one-day tours to Phi Phi with a visit to the islands of Bambu and Maiton - 1700 baht. In general, there are a lot of different combinations of sea excursions.
From overland tours to Khao Sok Park are very popular with visits to Lake Cheo Lan, caves, rafting, elephant trekking and other activities. Such tours for a day cost about 1900 baht, with an overnight stay for two days - in the region of 3500 baht. You can go to Khao Lak park for a day, see the jungle and rafting on bamboo rafts, it costs about 1000 baht.
You will also find diving, fishing, quad biking, excursions to the dolphinarium, zoo, evening shows for adults, many sightseeing tours ...
In Pattaya, tours to the Kwai River for two days are in demand, where you will spend the night in a bungalow on the river, and along the way you will visit many interesting places (floating markets, hot springs, Erawan Falls). The cost is about 2000 baht.
From sea excursions there are programs on nearby islands with swimming on classy beaches and the open sea, snorkeling, all sorts of entertainment on board. I recommend to go to Koh Samet (1 day) or Koh Chang (2 days), Koh Kood - they are further, but very picturesque.
A lot of excursions with a visit to the Nong Nooch garden, water park, crocodile and snake farms, educational tours for children and adults ... Popular tours to Bangkok and Ayutthaya, as well as to neighboring Cambodia.
In general, in Pattaya there is simply a huge selection of tours, it is difficult to choose!
Attractions and entertainment
In this category you can safely bet on a draw. Boring will not be anywhere!
In Phuket, for example, there are so many interesting places that even for several months of life we always found something new there, we would like to return to some places. These are temples (from the most famous such as Big Buddha or Wat Chalong to small ones in the villages), and cozy bays with beautiful beaches, and waterfalls, Phuket Town and much more. Add to this the picturesque islands nearby, national parks north of the island and get an almost endless source of attractions :)
Pattaya also has something to see. Take even the incredible wooden Temple of Truth in the north of the city, the Big Buddha with an observation deck for the whole city, Siam Mini Park, Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, Underwater World Aquarium ...
In Pattaya, there is also the famous Walking Street, with many bars, adult shows and other spicy entertainment. In the afternoon it is an ordinary sleepy street, and with the onset of darkness it is filled with people, lights and loud music. In Phuket on Patong, there is also such a street - Bangla Road, and it is in no way inferior to Pattaya.
Phuket is considered one of the most expensive resorts in Thailand, and this is true, but only partially. There are different areas, besides a lot of competition often reduces prices. For example, in Patong you will find the cheapest accommodation (if you compare the beach areas), because there are hundreds and thousands of offers. And somewhere in Surin there are fewer hotels, and the prices for accommodation are generally higher. For about the same level of comfort hotels, the price in Phuket will be almost the same as in Pattaya.
Food prices are also slightly higher on the island, especially in tourist areas, in cafes and restaurants near the sea, and even from street stalls. In Pattaya, for example, there is a chic night market in the Soi 5 area in the Jomtien area. It’s easy to eat and drink for 100 baht with a shake, cheap seafood and all kinds of street food. We did not see anything similar in price in Phuket, except for the most local places in the center of the island.
Transport in Phuket is either inconvenient or expensive. Pattaya also has an advantage here, read about it below. But the bike solves all the problems. Thai massage in Pattaya is easy to find for 200-250 baht per hour, in Phuket, prices start at 300 baht, very rarely we saw 250 baht.
As you can see, in general, rest in Pattaya will be a little cheaper than in Phuket.
Prices in Phuket for food, transportation, hotels, entertainment and much more
How much money to take to Phuket : consider the budget of the trip
In Phuket, public transport is slightly worse developed than in Pattaya. From the airport there are relatively inexpensive buses to Phuket Town (in the center of the island) and to the beaches of the west coast, but you will have to fork out for a taxi. For example, a transfer to Patong will cost 700-800 baht.
You can move between the beaches using local Songteo trucks, but they rarely go to all the beaches and only connect the coast with Phuket Town. For example, getting from Bang Tao to Kamala is easy, although it’s not even neighboring beaches, and there is no direct route between Patong and Karon, although the distance is only a few kilometers. At the same time, for such a distance, taxi drivers are not shy about asking for 300 baht.
The best option for traveling around the island is to rent a bike, hundreds of rental points, and it costs 200-250 baht per day. On the bike in an hour and a half you can easily reach many places on the island: to remote beaches, observation points, to temples ...
In Pattaya, the distance is much less. In addition, songteo pickups go around the city, which cost only 10-20 baht. From early morning until late evening you can ride with the breeze. Taxis also break prices, but their services are often unnecessary. To rent a bike is also a good idea, though driving around the city is not so comfortable due to heavy traffic.
About taxi in Phuket wrote in detail in this post
Pattaya or Phuket: which is better?
Personally, we like Phuket more, it is cool to relax and live comfortably here. First of all, in this competition he wins due to the quality of beaches and the diversity of areas. It is very convenient that you can choose to stay both tourist places and remote, local. Due to this, the prices will be quite reasonable. But even in the most popular places, prices are not globally higher than in Pattaya.
Our favorite area is Kamala. There is a beautiful beach and picturesque mountains on the other side of the village, there is a Big C supermarket and many small shops, several markets on different days, and you can get to the same Patong by bike in 15 minutes. Ideal ratio of infrastructure / number of tourists / availability.
We are also very impressed by the nature of Phuket and the fact that you can swim to the islands or move north to Khao Sok Park or Khao Lak, for example.
Pattaya can be chosen for slightly more affordable prices, entertainment, excursions and proximity to Bangkok. You will bring a lot of impressions from there, but it is not suitable for a beach holiday.