Koh Samui vs. Phuket – a tale of two Thai Beaches

I’m sure you’ll agree that Thailand is now firmly on the world map as an exotic beach destination. The kingdom offers something for every kind of traveller; from idyllic beaches to wild nightlife and world class shopping, Thailand attracts.

It’s no secret that South Africans love Thailand but many have differing preferences when it comes to booking their Thailand holiday. Those who haven’t been are probably wondering whether to go for Koh Samui or Phuket? Is it worth spending a few days in Bangkok? I’ve heard Phuket can get a little crazy and I just want to relax; which Thai beach can offer me beauty as well as peace?

Koh Samui

In a nutshell, Koh Samui will suit you better if you’re looking for a quieter Thailand beach holiday sans the Go-go dancers, jet skis, crazy nightlife and hectic shopping. Nestled off the Gulf of Thailand between the mainland and Koh Pha-ngan, Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s bigger islands. About an hour plane ride from Bangkok, Koh Samui delights with uncrowded beaches, palm lined coastal scenes, and a great variety of hotels and accommodation.

Koh Samui

Lamai beach on Koh Samui


Phuket is slightly bigger than Koh Samui and is Thailand’s biggest island destination. Teeming with backpackers, party animals and sun soakers year round, Phuket offers everything and more for the fun seeking traveller. From dusk till dawn nightlife at Patong Beach, to Muay Thai match ups and bargain hunting in the streets, Phuket has it all. Beachfront accommodation is plentiful with most hotels centralized on Patong Beach and within easy walking distance to the sea, restaurants and many, many shops.

Patong Beach Phuket

Patong Beach Phuket

The great thing about Phuket is that it’s not far from quieter islands and beaches like Koh Phi Phi and Ao Nang. So if you feel like getting away for a day or 2, it’s easy enough to get a ferry for a snorkeling and sun gazing trip in entirely new scenery.

Which is Cheaper?

While accommodation/hotel prices don’t differ much between Phuket and Koh Samui, you’ll probably end up spending less in the latter. Koh Samui has less to tempt your travel budget while Phuket has an abundance of shopping, restaurants and nightclubs.

On the other hand, average prices for a comfortable hotel in Phuket in June/July 2012 are up to R1500 cheaper than hotels on Koh Samui.


The beaches around Phuket are built up. Whilst lying in the sun on Patong beach expect to be bothered by informal beach vendors selling everything from wood carvings to traditional Thai massages. Rent an umbrella and lounger and spend the day. If you decide to rent a jet ski be careful as many of the jet ski rental businesses are not insured, and they will be extremely upset if you return their watercraft in a worse condition than what it was when you hired it.

Koh Samui vs Phuket

Koh Samui vs. Phuket

Some will argue that Koh Samui is “not as beautiful as the beaches around Phuket”. Having been to both I disagree – just look at the pictures on this page. Koh Samui is flatter than Phuket so you won’t see majestic cliffs disappearing into an azure ocean, but it is a whole lot more untouched. It’s developed, but not nearly as much as Phuket. A 52km long concrete road affords you the opportunity to rent your own wheels and go in search of natural waterfalls, elephant rides and deserted Thailand beaches.

Phuket vs. Koh Samui by distance

View Larger Map

Koh Samui vs. Phuket Images: Teamworkz | Laos Hotels & Tours | wnlau | whl.travel

Our Readers Comments

  1. Awesome blog travellingking sam ! love the great information and tips you suggested however i did find that most of the shops are selling the same things 🙂 we did some trips to the islands and got a pretty good deal out of it. like 50% off from http://shopping.nowphuket.com

  2. Hi there
    I think Ko Samui its better for quit stay and Phuket for shopping.

  3. Good day, We are a group of 4 adults (1 married couple and 2 sisters) who would like to do a “hopper” kind of holiday.
    We are available for travel between 27Jun & 18Jul 2015.
    We would like to do the following:
    2 nights in Krabi
    2 nights in Phi Phi
    4 nights in Patong
    1 night in the city where our flights connect.
    Our budget is R12000 per person. Please have a look and let me know asap if I should continue shopping or if you’d be able to sort this for me.

    I’ll be looking forward hearing from you!

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Henry,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      I have forwarded your request through to our direct sales team at: travelbar@travelstart.com and one of our Travel Experts will be in contact within 2 working days.

      Travelbar’s office hours are Monday to Friday from 9am until 5pm. (no public holidays)

      You are welcome to contact them on: 021 468 4300 option to speak to one of our skilled Travel Consultants if you require any further assistance.

    • Well said. We live in Melbourne and we normally go away for a weekend or a day trip before my second was born. We haven’t been doing it for almost 2 years. We recently travel in our ‘backyard’ again and this time we are having camping instead staying in B&B or apartment or house. The kids having so much fun. We walked to the beach, bush, nearby town, boat rowing, star gaze etc. One thing that we didn’t do is taking family photo. we have lots of photos that kids playing and with one of us. I shall remember to do it next time.

  4. Hi,
    Could you be so kind and share some thoughts ,that which place be suitable, if we travel with young kids. Thanks

  5. I was in Pucket and the life is very quit only some russians like fight with the travelers when they were drunk. For me was a nice experience and I hope I like to be visit in Samui very soon.

  6. Hi Russell. You’ve put together a great post here. For me, Samui’s beaches clinch it. It’s a fantastic destination. No wonder it’s proving so popular at the moment. It’s got beautiful beaches, crystal clear oceans, and a nightlife that can’t be beat!

    Best wishes, Alex

    • Hi, we are keen to try Koh Samui in June/July 2014, but a little hesitant as we are concerned it may be too quiet at this time of the year. Can you please let me know if it quietens down much in June/July – i.e. we are talking about the restaurants, pubs etc.

      Many thanks

  7. Both are exciting beautiful destinations. I have spent much time over the last 9 years on most of the many islands. My favorite is Koh Chang followed by Koh Samui. There are many more “scams” on Phuket and the traveler must be aware. Phuket has the best ocean if you enjoy waves. Samui has the clearest water and Koh Chang the feel of yesterday in Thailand. If you are looking for nightlife Samui has plenty, but not nearly as much as Phuket. Koh Chang is far quieter and is most enjoyed if you bring a companion. All of these islands are convenient gateways to smaller secluded beautiful islands. Enjoy!

  8. Thanks for sharing your enjoyable moments with these lovely pics hope i get the chance to revisit Phuket this year.

Have something to say...