Last Updated: November 26, 2021

Bangkok Vs. Phuket: Where To Stay In Thailand?

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

Both are exciting places with a plethora of fun things to do and see, but they cater to different kinds of tourists. While Bangkok is a bustling city with a huge population, Phuket is much tamer and more appropriate 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 better 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 better option for travelers who want to party since it offers the best nightlife in all of Thailand.

Phuket is an island with a much smaller population than Thailand’s capital. The atmosphere there is entirely different from the one in Bangkok, and you should stay in Phuket if you want to have a relaxing vacation. There are still lots of things to do and see in Phuket, but the nature of those attractions is very different.

Key Differences

Phuket Aerial View

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand with a population of more than 5,5 million, whereas Phuket has a population of fewer than 80,000 people. Bangkok is also three times the size of Phuket and that should give you a good idea of the major differences between the two places.

Phuket is known for its stunning beaches, luxury resorts, and breathtaking nature. Bangkok, on the other hand, is fast-paced with wild nightlife. You’ll never be bored in Thailand’s capital since there’s always something to do in Bangkok at any time of day and night. But, it’s also a very crowded city – walking down the street is enough to give you anxiety if you’re not a fan of crowds, so keep that in mind while deciding where you want to travel.

Although Phuket is much more relaxed and slower-paced, it’s not at all boring. There are still lots of things to do and see on the island, so travel there if you want to see amazing beaches, temples, fabulous viewpoints, and wild animals. On the other hand, travel to Bangkok if you’re more into rooftop bars, spectacular nightclubs, shrines, museums, and castles.

Highlights And Things To Do

Bangkok Temple

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

Phuket is known for its stunning nature and it’s the better option for people who want to see beaches, go on hikes, and spend some time with animals. The island boasts too many beaches to count and all of them feature stunning views and a turquoise sea. It’s also known for hilltop viewpoints, which are usually just a short hike away from the city center.

It’s worth noting that both cities offer lots of opportunities to mingle with wild animals. However, I would not recommend visiting these places because most of them are notorious 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 those wildcats just so you can have a cool photo for your Instagram?

Animal cruelty is a big issue in all of Thailand, so skip the zoos, “sanctuaries”, animal kingdoms, and theme parks with abused elephants. I did include one place in Phuket where you can go and mingle with retired elephants, and it’s pretty much the only place on the island where animals are treated ethically.

Cost Of Travel

Phuket Resort

Both Bangkok and Phuket are pretty cheap when compared to other similar destinations. But when it gets down to the nitty and gritty, Bangkok is generally about 30% cheaper.

Thailand’s capital city is synonymous with affordable luxury, and the average tourist can get by with some $65 per day. Phuket is known for its luxurious resorts and upscale hotels that tend to be more expensive than their Bangkok counterparts, and on average you need about $95 per day to have a good time.

When it comes to the cost of going out, both cities are generally very affordable. If you’re trying to stick to a specific budget, just skip the upscale restaurants and bars, and head to establishments that aren’t as high-profile. There are loads of affordable locales throughout both cities and they’re not very difficult to find.

Things To Do In Bangkok

Bangkok City View

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

The Grand Palace

Bangkok Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is the most famous landmark in the city. Originally built in 1782, the palace complex is situated in the heart of Bangkok and it’s 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.

Tour the interior of the palace for the full experience, but keep in mind that there is a strict dress code for both men and women. Also, it’s important that you be respectful – this is a place of worship, so visitors aren’t allowed to take photos or disturb the monks.

Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC)

Bangkok Art and Culture Center is the perfect place to visit for all art lovers who come to Bangkok. BACC boasts a vast collection of contemporary art, as well as a bookshop, library, café, and a performance venue. The center is situated in one of the busiest parts of Bangkok, right next to the city’s most popular shops. If you’re in the area and you get tired of walking around the malls, head to BACC to rest for a little while 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 that comes to mind. Bangkok’s largest and busiest market boasts thousands of different stalls where you can shop for anything you want.

Ride the Sky Train

Bangkok Sky Train

The best way to get around Bangkok is to ride the sky train, especially on a hot summer’s day. The trains boast air-conditioned carriages, so you can cool down while riding around Bangkok and experiencing the city from a different perspective.

Also, this is the quickest 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 famous 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 lots of different things to see while you’re at Wat Pho.

Bangkok National Museum

Bangkok National Museum

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

Cocktails at a Rooftop Bar

Rooftop Bar Bangkok

A trip to Bangkok is not complete without a night out at a rooftop bar. The city views are fabulous from any rooftop bar in Bangkok, but Sky Bar Bangkok remains the most popular rooftop lounge in the entire city. It’s where the Hangover movie was filmed, and it attracts a diverse crowd each night. The panoramic views are best experienced at night, with a delicious cocktail in your hand!

Things To Do In Phuket

Phuket View

Phuket is an island oasis featuring gorgeous sandy beaches, hilltop viewpoints, beautiful temples, and lots of wild animals. Whether you want to spend your days on the beach, hike around the island, or go mingle with elephants, Phuket will not disappoint!

The Big Buddha Temple

Big Buddha Temple

The Big Buddha Temple is one of the best temples and most famous attractions on the entire island. and it’s an absolute must if you decide to travel to Phuket. The 45-meter tall statue of Buddha sits atop a mountain, and it’s truly an astonishing sight. Plus, once you’re actually standing in front of the marble statue, you also get to experience some of the best panoramic views in all of Thailand.

There’s also a café and a gift shop at the top of the mountain, so you can enjoy those stunning 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. Situated in a scenic bay, the town is the busiest place on the entire island, so you’ll get a glimpse of what your vacation could have been like if you traveled to Bangkok instead.

Walk around the streets of Old Phuket Town, see the beautiful shrines and temples, and admire the architecture characteristic for 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 famous for its ethical treatment of elephants and the Tree Tops Elephant Reserve is a rare exception. It’s a sanctuary for retired elephants where they can roam free and truly enjoy the rest of their days.

This is the place you should visit if you want to see the elephants, but you don’t condone any of the unethical practices that are very common throughout the country. Elephants roam free in the Tree Tops reserve and you can truly see that they’re enjoying themselves.

The Beaches

Phuket Beach

The coast of Phuket is pretty much just vast stretches of beautiful sandy beaches. They all boast spectacularly turquoise water and endless horizon views, which is exactly why this island is the perfect destination for a classic beach holiday. You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a beach for the day and you can travel to a different part of the island every day.

The beaches that are more easily accessible tend to be crowded, but it’s still not going to be as bad as in Bangkok. There are also lots of secluded beaches that are practically deserted all day long, and they’re perfect for travelers who prefer to have privacy and be away from the crowds.

Kathu Waterfall

Kathu Waterfall is the perfect destination for avid hikers who want to scratch that itch while they’re in Phuket. The trail to the cascade is about 4.5 kilometers long, with a total elevation of gain of some 460 meters.

It’s a well-marked trail but the ascent and descent are very steep, so you will need appropriate hiking gear. The path to Kathu waterfall is rated as difficult and it’s not suitable for inexperienced hikers, so keep that in mind.

The Viewpoints

Phuket Viewpoint

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 strap on your best hiking gear and get sweaty.

One of the most popular viewpoints in Phuket is the Monkey Hill Viewpoint. Ironically, the views from here aren’t that spectacular, but the place is very popular because there are loads of monkeys roaming around the hilltop. Be careful though – the monkeys like to steal from visitors, so make sure that all your valuables are safely tucked away in your pockets!

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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