Phuket and Koh Samui are two popular destinations in the south of Thailand. However, there are some considerable differences between them.
The most apparent difference is the size of the population. Koh Samui has a small population of only 60,000 people, which is a fraction of Phuket’s impressive 500,000 inhabitants. Nevertheless, Phuket is the larger island, measuring over double the size of its rival.
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, located approximately 860 kilometres south of Bangkok. The island measures 48 kilometres north to south, and 21 kilometres in width. It’s easy to travel around the island by public transport or local taxis.
Conversely, Koh Samui is Thailand’s third-largest country, located in the Gulf of Thailand, roughly 35 kilometres northeast of Surat Thani town. The island is 25 kilometres in length, and 21 kilometres wide. Koh Samui is arguably the most famous of the islands, famed for its idyllic beaches and aqua blue waters.
Both destinations are beautiful and worth visting, so visiting either is a great decision.
Let us explore the differences between the two islands, including the cost of living, nightlife, transportation, and the quality of life. By the time you have finished reading, you will have all of the information necessary regarding the Phuket Vs Koh Samui contest.
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Phuket vs Koh Samui: Which Is Better?
Asking if Phuket or Koh Samui is better is like asking if chocolate or strawberry ice cream is better. Both are great…it just depends on what you prefer.
To help give you a more useful comparison, we are going to break the question down into different segments.
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Both islands offer the perfect tropical relaxation, massage, and beach activities. Jet Skiing, surfing, swimming, and parasailing are available on both destinations.
Phuket has everything you need when it comes to shopping, with plenty of modern malls and local markets in just about every street. No matter if you’re looking for designer brands or cheap give-away souvenirs, Phuket has all of your shopping needs covered.
On the other hand, Koh Samui only has one big shopping mall plus a couple of smaller ones to choose from. However, you can still find high-quality designer items from many of the smaller shops around the island.
Because it is the larger and busier place, there is obviously more entertainment options in Phuket.
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Winner: Phuket. Due to its size, Phuket has a lot more activities to choose from.
Quality of Life
Phuket attracts a more up-market crowd with its exclusive resorts, hotels, nightclubs and restaurants. You will find this especially during the high season which runs between November to March.
In opposition, Koh Samui offers a more relaxed vibe, with plenty of small to medium-sized resorts. You tend to meet a lot of backpackers and laid back travellers in Koh Samui, especially during high season. They are usually very open and approachable, and you’ll likely form some new friendships during your trip.
In Phuket, you will find a plethora of tall buildings, hotels, and appartment blocks. Koh Samui, however, has a strict law that says no building can be taller than the nearest coconut tree. Now although coconut trees can grow fairly tall, this rule does keep the skyscrapers away.
Koh Samui presents a more relaxed atmosphere and is frequently advertised as a more sustainable and climate-friendly destination when compared to Phuket.
Winner: tie. If you want to meet fun people in a relaxed, peaceful, and friendly destination, then visit Koh Samui. For a faster way of life with plenty of things to see and do, then Phuket is a more suitable choice.
Both islands have many accommodation options to choose from; however, Phuket has a higher volume of luxury villas and exclusive resorts. Although Koh Samui does feature some high-end hotels that match the luxury benchmark of its competitor, there is just more choice in Phuket.
Accommodation prices are roughly the same, but Koh Samui offers a better selection of hostels and beachfront resorts.
Winner: Depends. Ultimately it comes down to whether you prefer luxury villas and exclusive resorts, or affordable hostels and popular beachfront resorts.
Both Samui and Phuket boast a fantastic range of dining options. From local street vendors to world-class dining restaurants, to popular fast-food chains.
The seafood is particularly great in Phuket, which is not surprising considering all sides of the Andaman sea surround Phuket. Kata beach, Patong, and Phuket Town tend to have the best selection of dining options.
Similarly, Koh Samui is also famous for fresh seafood restaurants. From tasty local snacks to first-class international cuisine, there is a large selection of choice. Chaweng Beach is the go-to place for international dishes, as well as a high-quality variety of traditional Thai dishes.
Winner: tie. Both islands are winners as both islands have an enormous range of local and international cuisines to choose from.
Both Koh Samui and Phuket offer award-winning beaches, so you can’t go wrong picking either. Although Phuket provides a more extensive selection of beaches, it’s far easier to find that perfect postcard beach on Koh Samui.
The beaches on Phuket tend to be more built up, whereas, on Samui, specific building regulations prevent structures from being over 12 meters, and within 50 meters of the beach only 6 meters tall. Koh Samui is also developed, but not nearly as much as Phuket.
Patong is arguably the most popular beach in Phuket, although there are far more beautiful beaches to visit if you travel further afield.
The sand on Koh Samui’s beaches is much finer, and many visitants to Koh Samui’s Chaweng beach admire the fact that there are beach bars directly on the sand.
Winner: Koh Samui. Our winner is Koh Samui as the beaches are less touristy and more beautiful.
Cost Of Living
The cost of living in Samui and Phuket are almost identical. Food, entertainment, and transport are pretty much the same. Visitors are likely to spend more in Phuket due to the high number of exclusive resorts, shopping malls and restaurants. Conversely, you will tend to spend more on accommodation in Koh Samui.
You can live well on both islands for a budget of £1,000 – 1,500 per month. Of course, this will increase or decrease depending on the type of lifestyle you want to live.
Winner: tie. Both islands are comparable in price, and the cost of living will depend on your budget.
Hands down, Phuket offers a more vibrant and busy nightlife scene compared to Samui. Particularly Patong and Bangla road, which are both famous for providing some of the best nightlife in Southeast Asia.
Koh Samui also offers an enjoyable nightlife scene, but typically much tamer than Phuket. Chaweng is the primary hotspot in Koh Samui, which is Samui’s version of Patong in Phuket. Featuring an array of beach clubs, nightclubs, bars, and lounges, Chaweng is undoubtedly the place to go for an enjoyable night out.
So when it comes to nightlife, where should you choose? Koh Samui or Phuket? For the biggest and the best, visit Phuket. For something enjoyable yet tamer, opt for Koh Samui.
Winner: Phuket. Our winner is Phuket as it offers a much larger and more vibrant nightlife scene.
Phuket is easily accessible by either land, rail or flight. There are many affordable ways to visit the island by taking a public bus, train, or hiring a car. By air is another popular way to travel, as currently there are over 65 airlines operating flights out of Phuket.
On the other hand, Koh Samui is far more challenging to reach. As Koh Samui does not connect to the mainland, you can only access the island by either plane or ferry. Koh Samui airport is privately owned, and the primary airline operator is Bangkok Airways. There are many daily flights to and from the airport, although prices do tend to be higher when compared to other destinations in Thailand.
Winner: Phuket. Our winner is Phuket as it’s far more affordable reach by taking a public bus, train, or car.
The countries tropical climate means that it’s warm all year round on both islands. In Phuket, the monsoon seasons runs between September to October, with a high amount of rainfall to be expected. Although you will see rain most days, it tends to only last for a few hours every day. The rainy season is still a great time to visit as prices drop significantly, and plenty of days are dry and blue. High season in Phuket runs between November and March where the temperature is at its hottest, and the number of visitors soars.
The weather in Koh Samui is similar to Phuket, with warm temperatures throughout the year. The dry season is between December to February when the average amount of rainfall is at its lowest. Monsoon season is between September to November while the high season is between January and April. Travellers can enjoy the hottest weather when visiting between April and October.
Winner: Depends. Both islands are hot throughout the year and have rainy and dry seasons. Deciding between Samui and Phuket when considering the weather depends on the time of year you are travelling.
How Many Days In Koh Samui And Phuket?
To answer the question ‘how many days in Koh Samui and Phuket’ depends on several factors.
If you enjoy a fast pace of life and enjoy being in the heart of the action, then you may want to consider spending longer in Phuket. If, however, you prefer a more relaxed, slower pace of life, then we recommend spending longer in Koh Samui.
The classic Thailand trip usually involves staying in Phuket for three to four nights and another three to four in Koh Samui. This will allow you enough time to see all of the major attractions, as well as giving you additional time to unwind and relax.
Phuket Vs Koh Samui: The Conclusion
Phuket is the larger island that boasts a selection of exclusive resorts, hotels, shopping malls, and fine-dining restaurants. It’s roughly the same price as Samui, but with the constant temptation to go out and spend money. Just like with most destinations this size, you will never run out of things to do in Phuket.
For a more quiet and relaxed environment, then visit Koh Samui. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, you will find the island of idyllic beaches and friendly atmosphere.
What it ultimately comes down to is this: Do you want a first-class holiday destination for cheap or do you want a peaceful, charming but separated large island?
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