Krabi or Phuket – Which one should you visit?
[Page Updated: 3 August 2019]
I asked myself this question a little while back when I was considering moving from Surat Thani down further south to either Krabi or Phuket (Patong Beach really). I had been to Phuket and lived there for a couple of months when I first arrived in Thailand. I loved it for the nightlife, but I had a family now and couldn’t be bothered with that.
I had been to both areas about ten times as we did long weekends and other vacation holidays. We loved Krabi Town and Beaches for so many reasons, but there were no jobs here. We ended up moving to Krabi, as you might have guessed. We’ve lived here for about nine years now.
Here are some Advantages of Living in or Visiting Each Area:
- Nightlife Until You Cannot Stand It Any Longer. There is some really good nightlife in Phuket – live bands, ladyboys dancing on the stages who really get into dancing. There is excellent food and drink specials. Some bars have bells that are rung multiple times each night and everyone in the bar gets a free drink when someone buys them. That’s always a good time! There are hundreds of good bars in Phuket. There might be a dozen, maybe two dozen in Krabi.
- More International Food in Phuket. There are hundreds of great restaurants in Phuket Town, Patong Beach, Kamala and other areas of the island. Many more so than in Krabi, I can tell you that! If food is one of the top criteria on your list – Phuket is hard to beat. In the south, it is impossible to beat – hands down, best food options – but definitely more expensive. Anything you want can be found in terms of Starbucks, western food, even some foreign food – pizza places abound. Mexican, Japanese, a lot of variety and of course excellent Thai food.
- Better Schools. If you’re moving with a family and you have a child who needs to attend an international school – then Phuket is your winner over Krabi – easily. Krabi is still struggling to create a good school, though we have one new international school that might work out OK. Phuket has a number of good schools that are well established with the British Curriculum and top-level teachers.
- Easier to Get Teaching Jobs in Phuket. Because Phuket has a number of good schools, and far more foreigners resident on the island, it is the better place for someone hoping to teach English to Thai kids, or international kids. Krabi is really hurting for jobs!
- Better Travel Options at Phuket’s International Airport. There are many more locations served internationally from Phuket than at Krabi’s International Airport. Many more people fly into Phuket, so they have a bigger airport with more travel options.
- Better Healthcare. There is a branch of Bangkok Hospital in Phuket which is probably the best hospital in Southern Thailand. Though Krabi has an international hospital, they have limited services from what I’ve heard, and often times they send patients to Phuket’s international hospital.
- Better and More Variety of Beaches. Being an island, Phuket has many more and better beaches than Krabi does. In Krabi, we have marginal beaches which are polluted with heaps of trash. There are cleanups by foreigners every couple of weeks, but still, the trash is rather depressing. Phuket takes better care of their beaches because they have the money to do so, I guess. I think all the best beaches are easily reachable by car or motorbike – no need to rent a tuk-tuk or van, unless you’re afraid of driving and then yes, we understand!
- Fewer People to Deal With! Here in Krabi, we have far fewer people in town, in traffic on the streets, and at the best attractions. Though, this is changing as we are constantly getting more visitors as the years roll by. Traffic is non-existent. It’s much safer to ride a motorbike, bicycle, or car in Krabi. People are stressed less. The atmosphere is much more relaxed than the pressure-cooker feeling of Patong Beach.
- Cheaper Food, Housing, Hotels, Attractions. This is a big reason to just come to Krabi and skip Phuket. Krabi is cheaper than Phuket, but it is getting to be one of the higher.
- No Real Nightlife – so we have fewer problems late at night. Still, there are some robberies, attempted rapes and other things that happen mostly around Ao Nang Beach and Koh Phi Phi.
- Foreigners Treated Differently – not looked at as ATM machines (as much). There is no gawking at foreigners and you’ll likely never see a Thai bar girl trying to do business in the streets like so often happens in Patong.
- Closer to Other Great Places. We decided on moving to Krabi for a couple of reasons, and one of them is because it is in the center of so many cool places: Phuket, Phang Nga, Surat, Koh Samui, Satun, Trang, and Nakhon Si Thammarat.
- Less Crime. This is a major benefit if you have a family. I couldn’t deal with our home being broken into or fights in the street by cab drivers in traffic. Krabi is safer, though still, we have our share of horrible crime every now and then. Drink less and stay out not quite so late to avoid some of the worst any Thai vacation spot has to offer.
- Better Mountain Trails and Deep Rainforest. One thing we have in Krabi over Phuket’s selection is mountains. We have a couple of long deep-rainforest sections we can walk through for hours. The mountains are higher in Krabi (Ngorn Nak and Khao Phanom). There is a wider selection of reptiles roaming the rainforests here for sure!
- Crowded and Traffic. Beach road and, well, every other road in Patong Beach is too small and dangerous drivers are everywhere.
- Crime. Crime is getting nuts now that so many people are on drugs on the island. It’s unlivable just for this reason in my opinion.
- Prices. High prices compared to other Thailand spots. Higher than Krabi on average for Tuk-Tuks, taxis, etc.
- Bargirls / Ladyboys. Everywhere. Keep track of your husband or he’ll turn a 10 minute 7-11 run into a 5 minute 7-11 run and 5-minute play for pay.
- I’d not call it a family destination. Though the choice between Patong and Pattaya is clear for where to bring your family, Krabi is still much better for families.
- Locals. I don’t get the impression they’re very genuine in Patong / Phuket town. Money is tight in this market. Business is the reason everyone is there. There is a lot of competition. A lot of stress to make enough cash apparently.
- No Nightlife. Literally, there is very little in the way of anything at all going on at night. You can find bars that are open in Krabi town. At Ao Nang beach you can find a very small soi with some Patong style bars but they’re not anything to get excited about. That’s all there is though – so if that’s what you’re craving look for that soi.
- Few Housing Options. If you already have a home, great. If you’re looking for one that suits you – good luck! We just moved again after 4 years of living in a place that we settled for. Finally, we found a nice one. Though we’re paying higher prices than Phuket. That’s another negative.
- Cost of Living. I think it is actually higher than Phuket in many respects. Especially housing.
I can’t think of anything else as a negative for Krabi. Maybe the fact that the level of English here is dramatically lower than in Patong Beach and Phuket. Maybe the fact that there isn’t an international hospital here would be a negative for some.
Krabi overall is the much better choice and has better and less crowded attractions (waterfalls, hikes, mountains, springs, beaches, islands) than does Phuket/Patong.
Am I jaded?