Thailand is a very popular travel destination in Southeast Asia, and there are 4 locations that are frequently visited.
In this post, we take a deep dive into Phuket vs Krabi vs Koh Samui vs Phi Phi Island so that you can make a quick decision on which to visit!
What will be covered in this post
- Range of Activities
- Cultural Experience
- In conclusion: Which is better? Krabi, Phuket, Koh Samui, or Phi Phi Island
In this section, we look at the locations of these places and their proximity to the capital of Thailand, Bangkok.
All four of these locations are close to the Andaman Sea or Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui), so you can be sure of some spectacular views!
Our top choice: Krabi
Phuket is located to the south of Bangkok, approximately 200 degrees from the capital.
When it comes to straight-line distance, it measures roughly 687 kilometers (or 427 miles). The driving distance will extend that to 846 kilometers (or 526 miles), and on average, it will take 12 hours to drive there.
Krabi is located to the south of Bangkok, approximately 195 degrees from the capital.
When it comes to straight-line distance, it measures roughly 646 kilometers (or 401 miles), and on average, it will take 10 hours and 30 minutes to drive there.
Read more: Planned for you Krabi Itinerary
Koh Samui is located to the south of Bangkok, approximately 186 degrees from the capital.
When it comes to straight-line distance, it measures roughly 476 kilometers (or 296 miles). Since Koh Samui is an island, you are not able to drive there.
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is located to the south of Bangkok, approximately 195 degrees from the capital.
When it comes to straight-line distance, it measures roughly 694 kilometers (or 431 miles). Since Ko Phi Phi is an island, you are not able to drive there.
In this section, we will discuss the ease of traveling to the locations from Bangkok, the country’s capital and also the main gateway to its amazing destinations.
While there are direct flights to these locations from some countries, we figure that using Bangkok as the reference point will suit the needs of travelers coming from all around the world.
Our top choice: Phuket
There are 3 main ways to get from Phuket to Bangkok, namely by bus, train, and plane. Let’s explore each of these options.
This will be your cheapest option to get from Bangkok to Phuket, but will also be the one that takes the longest time.
A one-way bus trip will take around 12 hours but sometimes this might be longer if traffic is not cooperative.
On average, a one-way ticket will cost between THB 637 (USD 19) to THB 991 (USD 29)
What you can do is take an overnight bus ride to save time and get some sleep on the road.
We also suggest booking with a private bus operator such as Transport Co, Lignite, or Sombat Tour.
Check ticket prices and availability here:
Your next option to get from Bangkok to Phuket involves taking the train.
Trains in Thailand are generally cheap, clean, and basic, and give you an undeniably unique Thai experience.
However, you should know that there are no direct trains on this route, as they will end at Surat Thani, where you will have to get on a minivan to complete your journey.
Trains to Surat Thani depart from Bangkok Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
The entire trip will take around 10.5 to 12 hours on the train, and an additional 4 to 5 hours on the minivan.
This option has become quite difficult at this point of writing, as the service from Surat Thani train station to Phuket can cost way above THB 3000 (USD 87) per person.
The next best option is to head into Surat Thani town and take the minivan service from there, which usually costs only THB 300 (USD 8.70), but you will have to find a way to get there. Taxis are your best bet, which should cost around THB 140 (USD 4) for the 20 minutes journey.
Flying to Phuket is the easiest way to get there. In fact, there are many regional airlines that fly direct to Phuket, including from Singapore, Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, and Sydney.
From Bangkok, it is a short 1 hour 25 minutes flight to reach Phuket International Airport and quite often, you can find one-way flight tickets as low as THB 860 (or USD 25) only!
Similar to Phuket, there are 3 main ways to get to Krabi. Read on for more details and to book your options.
Getting to Krabi is a long adventure, to put it mildly. The bus trip typically takes between 11 and 14 hours depending on the option you choose and is best taken overnight to save time.
The price for a one-way ticket is commonly between THB 650 (USD 19) and THB 850 (USD 25), so this option is probably the cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Krabi.
Book your tickets here.
Krabi does not actually have a train station, so the method to get there involving trains is similar to Phuket.
You need to get on a train to Surat Thani, from which you need to take a taxi that takes about 2.5 hours to reach Krabi.
Book your tickets here.
The best way to get to Krabi is by flight in our opinion. It takes the shortest amount of time.
More time saved means more time spent exploring!
Cost-wise, it might cost slightly more than flying more to Phuket, but not by a massive amount. Take note too that there are slightly lesser direct flights to Krabi, but you can still fly in from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Yangon, and Helsinki.
Koh Samui is an island, so you can really only get on a flight or take the ferry there. That said, you do have options with trains and buses if you wish to experience the countryside while getting there.
Similar to the 2 destinations above, you can take a bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani and transfer to a ferry to get to Koh Samui.
This is also likely the cheapest way to get to Koh Samui from the capital, but also the longest time taken.
From here, you can transfer to a van service that takes you to the ferry terminal.
Book transfer service here:
From Bangkok Hualumphong Train Station, take the train to Surat Thani and get a transfer to the jetty where you can take the 1 hour 45 minutes ride across to Koh Samui.
There are direct flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui daily, and the flight time is only a shade over 1 hour, making this the fastest way to get to your destination.
However, if you were on a tight budget, this option might price you out as flights typically cost around US$200.
If you want to reduce the cost, you can consider flying from Bangkok to Surat Thani and taking the ferry instead. That will cut the flight cost to less than half, but you will have to contend with the additional 3 hours of transfers.
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is the remotest out of the 4 destinations, but it is in close proximity to Krabi and Phuket, so the best way to get there is to reach either of these 2 spots and transfer to a ferry or speed boat.
Follow the steps above to get to your desired location for the transfer.
From Krabi Klong Jilad Pier, speedboats will take 30 minutes, while the ferry service takes 1.5 hours.
The service usually includes transfers from the hotel to the pier.
Book speedboat service from Krabi to Phi Phi Island here:
Book ferry service from Krabi to Phi Phi Island here:
Similarly, you can do the same thing if you are transferring through Phuket.
The journey by speedboat takes about 1 hour, while ferries will take about 1.5 hours.
Most of the time, you can get a ride from your hotel to the ferry terminal included in the price of a ticket, making this option very convenient for those who are planning to stay a couple of days in Phuket first.
Book speedboat service from Phuket to Phi Phi Island here:
Book ferry service from Phuket to Phi Phi Island here:
You will be spoilt for choices when it comes to beaches. All four of these locations are well known for being seaside towns and all of them have great beaches to hang out and enjoy different activities.
Our top choice: Koh Samui
Phuket is probably the most popular destination out of the 4 mentioned here and beaches are one of the most highly sought-after spots.
With lots of options to choose from, it can be difficult to make your choice.
Our recommendation is to check out Kata beach and Freedom beach for smaller crowds or stay along Patong beach to soak in the hustle and bustle of Phuket.
Although Krabi is not exactly the most well know for its beaches, it does have a nice selection.
Lots of travelers are familiar with Ao Nang beach, and it is great for people who want to get in with the crowd and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
You won’t find white sandy beaches here though. For that, you will have to make your way to Railay beach or the lesser-known TubKaek Beach.
Once again, there is no shortage of options here on Koh Samui. After all, the little island is well known for its white sandy beaches against a beautiful backdrop of pristine jungle.
Many people travel here just for the beaches alone, and to try out some of the water sports such as diving and snorkeling.
The best beach here is definitely Silver beach in terms of beauty and glistening white sand. Not only that, it does not attract large crowds, making it perfect for chilling out and relaxing.
Head to Lipa Noi beach if you want to witness a magnificent sunset, or choose Chaweng beach to remain close to the action.
Phi Phi Island
Ko Phi Phi is actually an archipelago of 6 islands and Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Leh are the 2 most visited spots.
In fact, Ko Phi Phi Leh gained international recognition when it was used as the filming location of the movie, The Beach.
As you can imagine, or in fact seen for yourself in the movie, there is an abundance of beautiful beaches here.
Most visitors will not miss out on checking out Maya Bay, but you should not miss out on Long beach as this is where you will find the softest and whitest sand.
Divers should definitely check out Mosquito Island, which is home to a small but stunning beach and is great for water sports.
Range of Activities
All 4 of the locations in this article are geared toward receiving tourists, so you can be sure there will not be a dull moment from the moment you arrive.
From basking in the glorious tropical sun to adrenaline-pumping bungee jumps, you are spoilt for choice here.
Our top choice: Krabi
Phuket is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand and it is not hard to see why.
Travelers from all over the world flock here to enjoy the plethora of activities both on the sea and inland.
You might want to join the line to bungee jump (currently closed, check online for availability) or take part in a bone bruising Muay Thai session at the world-famous Tiger Muay Thai Gym.
Prefer to sail along the water? Take a private longtail boat ride and explore the islands.
You can think of Krabi as the untamed cousin to Phuket, offering more activities in terms of adventure for outdoorsy kinds.
Travelers can easily spend hours traversing the hiking trails here, or take to the sea for a kayaking excursion to see the magnificent limestone karsts.
Perhaps you need more adventure? Then you should not miss out on rock climbing at Railay beach. Beginners and world-class athletes gather here for an experience that will not be forgotten.
Sunseekers arrive at Koh Samui expecting to have a nice time on the beach but that is not the only thing you can do here though, as Koh Samui does offer a nice range of other activities too.
Nature lovers will appreciate a boat tour in the Ang Thong National Marine Park where you can go on a guided tour and learn about this unique protected area.
For a spiritual experience, you can visit the Wat Plai Laem where a Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy, statue rises majestically.
For an unforgettable adventure, we recommend joining a 4WD wild jungle safari tour!
Phi Phi Island
Since Phi Phi is actually an archipelago, that opens up the option to go explore its islands. An island hopping tour will take you to the Andaman Sea and is the best way to see its surroundings within a day.
On the main island of Ko Phi Phi Don, you must make a hike to Phi Phi Viewpoint. It is here that you can witness one of the most spectacular sunsets in Thailand as well as the bright blue and turquoise colors of both Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalam Bay.
A kayaking trip through the massive cliffs is a great way to immerse in the unique landscape where, and you can be more adventurous by paddling all the way to Monkey Island, a mere 50 minutes away.
While the destinations in this guide are tourist-centric, they still retain a charm that is unique to Thailand, and you can have the chance to experience it while on your vacation here.
It is probably a side that not as many people see, but nonetheless should not miss.
Our top choice: Krabi
A trip to Phuket must include a visit to the Old Town for its Sino-Portuguese architecture that has been in place since 1511.
Here, you will get to rub shoulders with the locals as they go about their everyday lives, some seemingly oblivious to the barrage of tourists.
A cooking class is also a perfect way to get to know Phuket more intimately.
As we alluded to earlier, Krab is not as developed as Phuket and that means lots of opportunities to soak in the cultural aspect of this small town.
We recommend checking out the Tiger Cave Temple which has an interesting back story to it, and you definitely should not miss out on Krabi Town.
This is where lots of locals converge to do their shopping or to offer their amazing foods, often through small carts that retain that old-world charm.
This island destination does not seem like the place to go to for a culturally rich experience, but there are hidden spots that you can visit to understand it better.
Behind the glamorous resorts and restaurants, you can walk into the massive Big Buddha Temple and see firsthand how worshippers pray and the rituals that are commonplace here.
Aside from that, a visit to Wat Lamai Temple Folklore Museum will give you some insight into the relationship between Buddhism and the Thai people.
Phi Phi Island
This chain of islands is probably not the best place to visit cultural spots, but there are still lots of locals who come from various parts of Thailand to work here.
That means lots of chances to speak to some of them to learn more about the area or their backgrounds. This kind of conversation often leads to many amazing and interesting stories you can bring back home.
Thai food is world-renowned, and in each of these destinations, you can feast on a wide array of the country’s best dishes, ranging from the ubiquitous Tom Yum to refreshing Yum Talay salads.
Luckily for us, you can still walk down streets lined with street food vendors and really eat like a local!
Our top choice: Krabi & Phuket
Krabi & Phuket
There are a lot of similarities between the food you find in Krabi and Phuket, and it is not hard to find authentic local dishes in both destinations.
At first appearance, Phuket’s intoxicating combination of night markets hawking Thailand’s best street cuisine and upmarket fine dining establishments wins the Food category.
Yes, the seafood is fantastic, and Krabi cannot compete with Phuket in terms of sophisticated dining.
But, Krabi excels in budget dining. There are roughly 70 stalls to choose from at the Sunday night market alone.
Then there are the vegetarian eateries in Krabi that attract plant-based eaters searching for a vegan fix.
Krabi is hard to beat on budget and rustic dining venues if the entire Thai experience includes munching on fresh tropical fruit and trying your first Panaeng curry.
This might come as a surprise for some, but Koh Samui does food really well too, and at all price points.
If all you need is seven days of Pad Thai, Koh Samui will satisfy you.
Or, you can hook up with food guides and locals alike to enjoy little hole-in-the-wall restaurants for simple yet authentic Thai food with a lot of heat.
And if Thai is not your thing? From pizzas (and even Indian-inspired pizzas) to sushi and the world’s best sausage rolls, you’ll find cuisine from practically every country.
Phi Phi Island
The heart of the Phi Phi eating scene is Tonsai Village.
There are lots of restaurants ready to serve superb cuisine at reasonable prices, whether indoors, outdoors, or in areas that blur the line between the two.
A short walk to the east of Koh Phi Phi Don, down a seaside promenade, will lead to even more cafes with views of the Andaman.
There are also quite a lot of Thai and Western alternatives, ranging from quick bites to candlelit dinners.
Many international travelers know that Thailand is amazing for its varied nightlife, catering to the casual sipper to the most hardcore of partygoers.
In each of these destinations, you are bound to come across a spot that whets your appetite.
Our top choice: Phuket & Koh Samui
Patong nightlife is known all around the world for being vibrant and carefree.
It has changed a lot to appeal to all types of travelers and isn’t as boisterous as Pattaya or Bangkok.
Most seaside communities throughout Thailand have lively nightlife during the high season (November to May), especially in Patong Beach where it is vibrant and colorful till 2 a.m. (officially), although it is frequently later than that.
Patong’s nightlife includes amazing nightclubs with international DJs, a few rooftop bars, more live bands than you can handle, and ladyboy acts that will blow your mind.
At least once, you might be tempted to peek inside those infamous go-go bars.
Krabi has a diverse choice of evening and day drinking establishments, but the nightlife scene is somewhat quiet in comparison to other Thai tourist destinations.
You’re more likely to find modest beer shacks, a pool table, and a local or Filipino cover band than go-go bars, huge clubs, or even a dinner and show.
Drinking spots center around Ao Nang, Krabi Town, and Railay.
Koh Samui’s nightlife is regarded as among the best in Thailand, if not the world.
The full moon events on Koh Samui draw tourists from all over the world, and Chaweng, the island’s party hub, is packed with beer bars, discos, nightclubs, and parties.
However, the nightlife isn’t just about pub crawls.
Gourmet restaurants, polished cocktail clubs, traditional Thai dance displays, nightly markets, colorful cabarets, and Thai boxing fights coexist with cheap beer and shot girls.
Chaweng and, to a lesser extent, Lamai, are places where the parties last all night.
Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is known for its vibrant party scene, amazing beach bars, and spectacular fire show.
During the day, the island offers magnificent beaches and crystal blue water, while at night, it offers amazing nightlife.
There are numerous interesting bars and venues in town where you may have a few cold beers or cocktails, and then there’s the famed beach party in Loh Dalum Bay.
And since the bars are close together, you can interact with the throng and dance the night away in the sand.
Thailand in general is a pretty safe country to travel to. In fact, it is widely acknowledged as one of the safest places to visit in Southeast Asia.
Tourist crimes are mostly restricted to pickpockets, although the occasional serious crime might happen too, just like anywhere else in the world.
With some common sense and respect for the people, and of course, staying relatively sober, you will be able to navigate the land of smiles effortlessly and safely.
Our top choice: All 4 destinations
While the cost of traveling in Thailand has increased over the years, it has stayed reasonably affordable for most people.
What’s really cool is that you can experience low-cost travel or high-end luxury in all of the destinations in this guide.
Since we are all about affordable travel, the following will be relevant for most mid-range travelers and is based on food, accommodation, and local transport.
Our top choice: Krabi
- Average cost of food, per day, per person, 3 meals: THB 720 (US$21)
- Average cost of accommodation, per night, twin sharing, per person: THB 1700 (US$50)
- Average cost of local transport (taxi), per day, per person: THB 150 (US$4.40)
- Average cost per day, per person: THB 2570 (US$75.40)
- Average cost of food, per day, per person, 3 meals: THB 450 (US$13.20)
- Average cost of accommodation, per night, twin sharing, per person: THB 1000 (US$29.20)
- Average cost of local transport (taxi), per day, per person: THB 60 (US$1.75)
- Average cost per day, per person: THB 1510 (US$44.15)
- Average cost of food, per day, per person, 3 meals: THB 650 (US$19)
- Average cost of accommodation, per night, twin sharing, per person: THB 800 (US$23.40)
- Average cost of local transport (taxi), per day, per person: THB 400 (US$11.70)
- Average cost per day, per person: THB 1850 (US$54.10)
Phi Phi Island
- Average cost of food, per day, per person, 3 meals: THB 400 (US$11.70)
- Average cost of accommodation, per night, twin sharing, per person: THB 1200 (US$35)
- Average cost of local transport (taxi), per day, per person: THB 100 (US$2.90)
- Average cost per day, per person: THB 1700 (US$49.60)
In conclusion: Which is better? Krabi, Phuket, Koh Samui, or Phi Phi Island
For us, our first choice is Krabi, thanks to its low cost, nature-oriented activities, and easy accessibility.
What makes it even better is that it is located very close to Phi Phi Island, so a day trip is easily on the cards.
The same could be said for Phuket too, but we tend to place more weight on Krabi at the end of the day.
Koh Samui is a great destination too, and if you only want to spend time in one spot, the beaches here will surely leave an indelible memory.