Comparing Phuket vs Krabi is something I’ve been doing subconsciously for at least as long as I’ve lived in Thailand—maybe since I started traveling here. It wasn’t until today, however, that I decided it would be a good idea to put my thoughts into writing.
Over the next dozen or so paragraphs, I’ll differentiate the practical aspects of traveling in these paradises, including topics such as where to stay in Phuket and Krabi’s best restaurants. Additionally, I’ll discuss the more esoteric things that separate Krabi from Phuket, like the number (and types) of other tourists you can expect to encounter, or the aesthetics of different beaches and islands.
Whether you plan to travel directly from Bangkok to Krabi, or incorporate time in Thailand’s tropical south into a larger Thailand itinerary, you’re going to want to keep reading.
Phuket vs Krabi: Basic Differences
Phuket is an island—Krabi has islands. Phuket also has islands, of course, to the extent that many of the best islands near Krabi (from popular choices like Koh Phi Phi to more obscure ones like Koh Poda) are also within day-trip distance of Phuket at least theoretically. If you also keep in mind Phuket is a huge island and is therefore something of a mainland itself, geography doesn’t tend to be a big differentiator between these provinces, at least not for travelers.
I was shocked, as I set up the frame for this article, to learn how many people were Googling information about Russian girls in Phuket—this isn’t one of those blogs, don’t worry. One thing I have noticed, however, is that Phuket and Krabi tend to appeal to different visitor demographics. Very large numbers of Russian and Chinese group tourists tend to choose Phuket, while Western backpackers and boutique travelers tend to choose Krabi.
As a major international hub, Phuket is more connected than Krabi, not only to the rest of Thailand and Asia, but to the world. On the other hand, while it’s not uncommon for people to travel from Phuket Airport to Krabi after having booked flights not knowing otherwise, you should definitely try to fly to Krabi directly if it’s is your destination. Neither Krabi nor Phuket is accessible via train; roads are much better in Phuket—it should go without saying that many of the islands of Krabi are only reachable by boat!
Things to Do in Phuket vs Krabi
Phuket vs Krabi Beaches (and Islands)
In general, I’ll just come out and say that the beaches of Krabi are more to my liking than those you find in Phuket, from mainstream ones like Tonsai Bay in the Phi Phi Islands and Railay on the mainland, to the tinier islands only accessible via private long-tail boat tour. It’s in Krabi where you find the “iconic” Thai beach scenery of karst islands rising over impossibly blue water. There is some nice coastal scenery in Phuket, such as Cape Promthep at the southern tip of the island, but unless you take a day trip to the so-called James Bond Island (or others in Phang Nga Bay), I wouldn’t come to Phuket solely for beaches.
Adventure Tourism in Phuket and Krabi
Among the activities that make it easiest to choose between Phuket or Krabi, adventure tourism is definitely a deciding factor. While you can zip line (as one in example) within the jungles of Phuket island, Krabi’s rock-climbing scene is practically world-famous, which has led to the perception of the province as more conducive to ecotourism. This is even evident when you consider Krabi activities like Sa Morakot “Emerald Pool,” or Wat Tham Suea temple, whose observatory is accessible only via a 1,200-step climb.
Phuket vs Krabi City Life
If you want to party in southern Thailand it’s hard to beat Patong nightlife, which is to say the bars/clubs (and other activities) available on Phuket’s seediest and most crowded beach. On the other hand, drinking and dancing aren’t the only items for city-minded people on island time to consider. Phuket has plenty of shopping malls, while Krabi doesn’t have any notable ones. Oddly, I prefer Krabi Town‘s ambiance and charm to Phuket’s, even though the latter seems to be more famous.
Hotels in Phuket vs Krabi
Phuket vs Krabi Luxury Hotels
If you’re a high-end traveler bound for Krabi or Phuket, you’ll have your pick of opulent properties in both provinces. In Krabi I love the exotic Baan Habeebee in Ao Nang, award-winning Rayavadee in Railay and Koh Phi Phi‘s Zeavola Resort, which makes you feel as if you have this increasingly crowded group of islands to yourself. Phuket luxury hotels likewise run the gamut, from The Westin Siray Bay (which sits along a private stretch of beach), to Xinlor House located right in Phuket Town.
Beach Hotels in Phuket vs Krabi
It’s not a shocking revelation to state that the best hotels in Krabi are on the coast. However, given all the amazing islands Krabi has, it might surprise you that my very favorite beach hotel is located on the mainland—Sunrise Tropical Resort on Railay Beach. Phuket probably has more beach hotels than Krabi, since it has more coastline, though these tend to be properties of the larger and more corporate sort, such as JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, located on Mai Khao Beach.
Phuket vs Krabi Hostels
Whether you’re searching for Railay Beach hostels or are seeking budget accommodation in Phuket Town, budget is not an impediment to exploring either of these provinces. You could base yourself at The Moment Hostel on Krabi’s Ao Nang beach, for example, then use the money you save staying in a dorm to take day trips to nearby islands. Phuket’s Book a Bed, meanwhile, is an upscale “poshtel,” which allows you to leep in the heart of Old Town Phuket, an ideal base both for island hopping as well as inland adventures.
The Bottom Line
Comparing Phuket vs Krabi can seem like an exercise in futility. Although there are fundamental, substantive differences between the two provinces, they appear similar enough on the surface that some travelers see them as interchangeable.