Phuket Vs Koh Samui - Which Island to Visit

The decision to visit Thailand comes with real ease for any traveler considering the incredible perks of this beautiful holiday destination offers – innumerable, world-class beaches, excellent snorkeling spots, and an unmatched reputation for hospitality.  The difficult part is deciding which of Thailand’s idyllic islands to travel to.

Phuket and Samui are the most famous islands in Thailand. Both islands have welcomed millions of travelers yearly. Hence, you may find it difficult to decide which location should be your next vacation spot. To make it easier for you, we have compared Phuket and Koh Samui in terms of location, transportation, weather and other factors that would make an impact on your perfect holiday.  

Location

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and is located in the Andaman Sea in the South. It is 862 kilometers from Bangkok and is connected to the mainland by a number of modern road bridges. Phuket Island is 21 kilometers at its widest point and 48 kilometers at its longest. It is fairly easy to travel between the island’s main attractions – from the airport to Patong, the main tourist town that takes just about 45 minutes.   

Samui on the other hand is nestled peacefully in the Gulf of Thailand and is the country’s third-largest island. It is 700 kilometers south of Bangkok and 80 kilometers from the mainland’s eastern coastline. Samui measures 25 kilometers long and 21 kilometers wide. Its location in the Ang Thong National Marine Park boasts some of the best snorkeling spots on the globe. The main tourist destinations are Chaweng and Lamai, but there are also many isolated and idyllic beaches on the island’s west coast.

In terms of having beautiful places, both Phuket and Samui are at par with each other, so choosing either is a wise decision.  

Accessibility

Phuket can be reached by air, sea or land. Visitors can access the island fairly cheaply using a bus, train or a rented vehicle from the mainland on one of the road bridges. Air travel to Phuket is likewise easy – flights from different destinations are available daily. Currently, there are over 65 airlines operating flights out of Phuket Airport. The airport offers direct flights to 49 cities around the world, making it more convenient for anyone to visit the island. Ferry services from Ko Phi Phi is available on the mainland to Phuket town.

On the other hand, Samui, unlike Phuket can be reached only by air or sea. The airport is a private enterprise, and the main airline is Bangkok Airways. Daily flights arrive from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Phuket. Flights are rather expensive by Thai standards. Ferry services are also available, and some companies offers combined bus and ferry tickets from Bangkok and Phuket cites.

In terms of accessibility, Phuket beats Samui. Phuket’s large airport and a plethora of traveling options – by road or rail, make it far easier to reach.

Weather

Phuket’s tropical climate means that it is warm all year-round. During the monsoon period from September to October, a high average of rainfall is normal. During the rainy season, the rain tends to come in short but heavy bursts. It is still a good time to visit as rates are cheaper and many days are clear and blue. The driest and most pleasant time to visit Phuket is between November and March.

Similarly, Samui has a tropical climate but three distinct seasons. The weather is always warm like in Phuket, but there is a monsoon season when snorkeling is not as good, and travelers can expect high rainfall. The dry season runs between December and February while the hot season is between March and April. The monsoon season of Koh Samui is from September to November. Travelers can enjoy the optimum weather conditions when they are in Samui between April and October.

Both Phuket and Samui have tropical climates with hot weather and monsoon seasons. Choosing that island to visit when taking weather into account depends on the time of year you plan your travel to take place.  

Related: Phuket Weather and the Best Time to Travel to the Island

Which one is more expensive?

Accommodation, food and activity prices are fairly similar on both islands. It is, however, less expensive to reach Phuket than Samui. Travelers are likely to spend more money in Phuket because of the numerous large shopping malls, nightclubs, and restaurants that abound on the island. On the other hand, travelers are likely to spend more on accommodation in Koh Samui rather than in Phuket.  

In terms of affordability, there is no clear winner between Samui and Phuket. The cost of living essentials is comparable in both places, and the deciding factor is how much travelers are willing to spend.

RelatedHow Different are the Villas in Phuket & Villas in Koh Samui

Beaches

Phuket’s beaches are famous not just for their captivating views but also for the activities tourists can enjoy. At Patong, Phuket’s most visited beach, visitors can enjoy a beach massage, food service by the shore, or the bustling nightlife at one of the beach clubs or bars. Phuket also offers less-crowded beaches for those who want to relax. But it does not lack in world-renowned surf beaches either.

Samui’s beaches, while quieter and smaller than Phuket has many beaches that are excellent for snorkeling. People who want to relax in the beautiful tropical setting are more attracted to Samui than Phuket. Many of the beaches in Koh Samui offer stunning views of the Gulf of Thailand. Chaweng and Lamai Beaches are tourist-frequented. But there are many more uncrowded and peaceful parts of the coastline.

Both islands have some of the world’s most beautiful beaches so traveler’s choice will depend on their interests and what they want to get out of their holiday. For a social whirlwind or surfing, Phuket is the better choice. But for a relaxed holiday by the ocean or for snorkeling, Samui is the winner.

Things to Do

Both islands offer the classic tropical relaxation, spa, and sunbathing options. Kayaking, jet skiing, and parasailing are available on both islands. Both have a rich cultural history and many intricate and authentic temples to visit. The social life on Phuket is a lot busier, and there are more shopping centers for those who enjoy shopping on a holiday. Phuket also has museums that showcase its tin mining history.

Because it is the busier island, there is obviously more options in Phuket. It all depends on what holiday-makers want to get out of their vacation.

Related: Where to Go Shopping in Koh Samui, Thailand

Top 10 Best Places to Go Shopping in Phuket

Dining Experience

Both islands offer a wide range of excellent dining options – from world-renowned fast food chains to fine dining restaurants, to traditional Thai dining venues. On either island, patrons pay more for beachfront dining and stunning views. The best fine dining restaurants tend to be clustered in specific towns such as Bophut Beach in Samui and Chalong in Phuket. Both islands are famous for fresh seafood restaurants. In terms of cocktails by the pool, Phuket is more popular for its bars and nightclub action. However, Samui also has as many options.

Both islands are winners in terms of dining and drinking options. In either island, no one can get hungry or thirsty as there is a plethora of bars and restaurants dotting the shoreline.

Related: Party in Style with these Beach Clubs & Bars in Koh Samui

The Hippest & Coolest Beach Clubs in Phuket

Conclusion

The choice really depends on one’s personal preference, taste, and lifestyle. For a vibrant nightlife, the better choice is definitely Phuket. But for a romantic and intimate getaway for couples, Koh Samui is the perfect choice.  

The Luxury Signature

The Luxury Signature

The Luxury Signature represents and manages reservations of the finest villa rentals in Southeast Asia, specializing in some of the most stunning destinations including the islands of Phuket and Samui in Thailand, and Bali, Indonesia.

More in Koh Samui Travel Guide, Phuket Travel Guide