When it comes to Thai getaways, Phuket and Pattaya are two destinations that should be near the top of everyone’s bucket list. That’s because both can offer unique experiences and unforgettable vacations.
However choosing whether to visit Pattaya or Phuket for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday can be exceptionally difficult.
Thankfully we know both destinations well, so are here to help you decide which one is right for you.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which should you choose?
Phuket Island is a resort destination and subsequently you will find many hotels and accommodation options for tourists and families. Pattaya City is not as tourist centric, but with that comes some benefits – as we explain below.
Here we will compare both destinations, and give our honest opinion on which one is safer, cheaper, has the best beaches, nightlife, and more:
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which has the better beaches?
Phuket and Pattaya have some great beaches and if you’re looking for sun, sea, and sand then both will keep you happy.
That said, the beaches in Phuket are much better than the beaches in Pattaya, mainly due to the many white sand beaches on this island. The water is also calm, warm, good for swimming, and clearer than in Pattaya. In fact Phuket has some of the best beaches in Thailand.
Pattaya has a nice stretch of coastline, but it’s not a tropical island like Phuket. However just a short ferry ride away from the city is the island of Ko Lan which does have some beautiful beaches.
Still, if beaches are your priority then Phuket is the better choice.
Phuket or Pattaya: Which has the better excursions?
If you’re looking to do more than just sunbathe and swim, then both have some great potential excursions.
In Phuket a trip north of the main city will bring you to hiking trails, jungles, waterfalls, and the island’s natural side. Around 25km north of Phuket city is Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, where you can meet some of Thailand’s most famous inhabitants. (Recommended: Hiring a scooter in Thailand).
Off the coast of Phuket are some breathtakingly beautiful islands as well – Ko Yao Yai is one of our favourites, as are the nearby Phi Phi Islands.
On the surface Pattaya appears to be just a party destination, but if you know the city well it does have lots to offer, with markets, street food and more to be found. The Pattaya Floating Market is one of the most popular attractions and is well worth visiting, while the shopping malls are an attraction for locals and tourists alike with money to spare. If you’re feeling adventurous then just outside of the city is the opportunity to skydive.
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for city sights then Pattaya will be better. But if you want a variety of excursions and things to do in nature then Phuket will suit you more. It’s close, but we think Phuket wins this one due to the island hopping and wildlife spotting potential.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which has the better nightlife?
Thailand is famous for its party scene, and Phuket and Pattaya are two of the country’s party centers.
For those looking for a wild time, Bangla Road in Phuket’s Patong Beach offers its own selection of bars, go-go clubs and neon-covered craziness. As well as the famous adult entertainment clubs that have become synonymous with Thailand.
Phuket comes alive as the sun sets, and people from around the world come here to experience Thailand’s ‘sinful’ side and the various vices it caters too. However, this side of Phuket is confined to certain areas, and the island itself has quite a laid-back atmosphere.
Pattaya is more chaotic and has a very similar nightlife to Phuket, the one difference being that the ‘seedy’ side of Pattaya is a bit more obvious than in Phuket. This city is a popular nightlife spot for stag parties and people from Bangkok – a city with its own rowdy evening reputation – so even Thais see Pattaya as the place to be when the sun goes down. Part of that is down to this city being one of the cheapest nightlife spots in the country.
Probably the most famous evening area in Pattaya is Walking Street, which is packed with entertainment venues, go-go bars, and a red light district. For something a bit different, the Alcazar Cabaret Show is worth seeing.
Phuket or Pattaya: Which is the better cultural experience?
Phuket feels more ‘Westernised’ than Pattaya and is becoming more geared towards tourists every year. Yet beyond the beach bars and hotel complexes there is culture to be found, and the Big Buddha – a gigantic Buddha statue sitting at the top of Nakkerd Hill – is worth visiting.
Pattaya feels like Thailand and very much remains a city focused on locals, and as such there’s an array of street food and markets to enjoy and explore. We recommend checking out Thai music and dance at the Ruen Thai restaurant.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which is the most beautiful?
Phuket Island has some gorgeous spots, with crystal-clear water giving way to a jungle and mountain covered interior. All of that, combined with its white sand beaches, makes this a stunning region to visit. The one downside is that Phuket’s coastline is becoming more developed every year due to the popularity of the island.
Pattaya was originally a small fishing village, but decades of development has turned it into a brash and busy city. The beach is pretty and some of the buildings – new and old – are nice too, but it can’t match the beauty of stunning Phuket.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which is cheaper?
Phuket has become a tourist orientated region and the prices – while cheap by western standards – have gone up in tow.
In comparison, Pattaya is far more affordable in regards to accommodation, eating out and transportation. So between the two, Pattaya is far cheaper than Phuket.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which is safer?
Both are safe destinations, which is why tourists visit in their droves every year. However, as always when on holiday you should avoid confrontations with locals, avoid walking in unlit areas at night, and keep an eye on your drinks when at clubs and bars.
As for which destination is safer, you’ll find this is a contentious issue among locals and tourists alike. However the reality is that crime rates in both Phuket and Pattaya are very similar.
When crime does happen it tends to be petty theft like bag snatching and pickpocketing. Violent crime targeting foreigners is relatively rare in Thailand, but these sort of crimes have happened in both Pattaya and Phuket in the past – particularly in nightlife areas. It’s therefore best to always stick to main streets and known establishments, and avoid sidestreets.
Phuket vs Pattaya: Which is the better choice?
If you’re looking for sun, sea and sand in a beautiful location with great nightlife options then Phuket will be a better choice than Pattaya. This island is probably a more family friendly destination than Pattaya too.
However if your priority is a cheap vacation and cultural experiences, alongside evening fun, then Pattaya may suit you more.