One of the big questions backpackers ask themselves when travelling to Thailand is: which area of the country is best for the beaches?!
If truth be told, there are plenty of beaches in Thailand that could be a great way of spending a relaxing week or three topping up that suntan! But there are so many more activities to do in the south west of Thailand, where Krabi and Phuket are both located, rather than just enjoy the beaches.
Some of the main factors in deciding which town is better are as follows:
- Accommodation price and availability
- Weather reports
- Tourist attractions
- Quality of the beaches
- Prominence of food (be it local street food or western comforts)
In my experience on the Andaman coast, Phuket and Krabi are almost equal. However, while this sounds like a cop out to the original question, it actually makes it all the more interesting to analyse things further.
Phuket is certainly more popular than Krabi. People on package holidays (yes Russians and Chinese, usually) frequent the Phuket beach resorts all year round, and even for the people native to south east Asia, flights with budget airlines to Phuket are cheaper and more frequent than those to Krabi. Yet you must decide if more popular means “better”. For some people, the chance to avoid more tourists (especially in high season) is what makes it “better”. If you’re one of those people, then you may prefer Krabi.
In terms of beaches and tourist attractions, Krabi is arguably slightly inferior to Phuket, although my personal favourite beach in Thailand is located in Krabi: Railay Beach! For day trips, both Krabi and Phuket can be used for forays north to Khao Sok National Park, south to Ko Lanta (though think twice about disturbing the Chao Lay Sea Gypsies), and across to Maya Bay – but you will find that distances (thus price) to these areas are less when you’re based in Krabi. Flights in and out of Krabi are known to be slightly more expensive, although accommodation is very similar to Phuket further north up the coast. The top 10 attractions in Krabi.
I am sure everybody will decide for themselves before heading out to Thailand which beach area is better for them. Krabi has a much more laid-back vibe than Phuket, and this is because of less tourism (though this is beginning to change). I do slightly prefer Krabi, and it was the area I visited first, so maybe it’s an emotional thing.
But wherever you end up going, don’t forget that sun tan lotion!