Expat Magazine

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket Or Pattaya? – Ultimate Breakdown

By Harvie

A common debate between Thailand expats is which is the best city to live in: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya?

Today I will give you my 'unbiased' opinion. Keep in mind I have spent the majority of my time in Bangkok, but have spent adequate time in both Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya to have a understanding of how they are.

This article is only my opinion so it would be cool to here your thoughts too. Please don't get butt hurt if I say Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya sucks at any point in time - because I do - a lot.

Transport and logistics

Bangkok - No where in Thailand can you find better transport than Bangkok. Bangkok taxis are super cheap have a meter (most other cities don't), they have the BTS and MRT, hundreds of buses, a train station, motorcycle taxis, boats, and songthaews that go into the smaller streets.

Bangkok airport has flights to every major city in Thailand.

Phuket - Where to start? Phuket taxis are rip-off central, prices are really expensive for short journeys, almost 100x more than Bangkok or Chiang Mai or Pattaya. It is believed to be run by the mafia and there is no metro or bus services throughout the town.

Unless you have a scooter getting around Phuket is difficult and expensive. Scooters are death traps in Asia too, no thanks Jeff.

Chiang Mai - Except from the airport it is very difficult to find a metered taxi in Chiang Mai. Tuk Tuk are your best option inside the Old City but they are pretty expensive given most start at 50 baht. They do have songthaews which are good value.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya? – Ultimate Breakdown

Pattaya - Difficult to find a metered taxi and when you do they will almost never use the meter. Motorcycle drivers are plentiful and kind of cheap, they start from 30 baht (Bangkok is 10 baht) but still better than the other cities.

They also have songthaews that are cracking value.

Apartment costs

Bangkok - One of my biggest problems with Bangkok is the price of apartments. New apartments in On-nut are going for as much as 18,000+ baht a month, uw0tm8?

It seems all new condos are way overpriced and unless you have a keen eye it can be hard to get a good deal if you want to live close to the action.

Now, if you move away from the BTS, Sukhumvit, Sliom or Ratchada you can get some very good value condos at competitive prices - but then you're away from the action.

Click here for a list full of bangkok apartments on my site.

Phuket - Is weirdly located so I am not too familiar with how much condos cost as every time I am there all I see is hotels. I know the value is better than Bangkok but living next to the beach doesn't come cheap

Chiang Mai - For sure has the best value in apartment rentals out of the three cities. In Chiang Mai you can find nice serviced apartments for 14,000 baht a month in the city center or if you decide to opt for 6-12 month contracts you can find some sick rooms for 6,000 -8,000 baht in the action.

Pattaya - There has been a lot of people moaning about how expensive the real estate there so I won't say too much on that.

Winner : Chiang Mai has cheaper apartments than Bangkok or Phuket for sure and offer the best value.

Quality of nightlife

Bangkok - I don't think neither Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya beat Bangkok when it comes to nightlife. Although the military have tamed it down as of late, Bangkok so many bars and clubs for everyone.

RCA, Funky Villa, Levels, Demo, Insanity, Climax, Attitude, Bossy, Shock, Nung Len are just a few.

I am not really a rooftop bar kind of guy, as most of the people there are kunts but you won't find these types of bars in Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya. What makes Bangkok nightlife unique is that you want Thai hookers there are hooker heavy clubs, but if you want normal Thai girls you can visit normal clubs too.

Phuket - Don't get me wrong Phuket is fun when you're there with the lads, but Bangla Road gets a bit much after 4-5 days of the same shit. One big street full of go go bars, beer bars, hooker friendly clubs and little to no places find none-working Thai girls.

Asides from Seduction nightclub you don't really have too many options without traveling huge distances to find normal Thai girls.

Chiang Mai - Asides from Nimman Road and Loi Kroh Road I don't think Chiang Mai has anything worth writing about. Nimman is rather small and Loi Kroh is a dump in my opinion. If you like your nightlife I would suggest avoiding Chiang Mai.

Pattaya - The biggest red light district in Thailand. Walking Street is a huge cluster fuck of men and working girls. I've been there a few times and I don't like it, it's way too touristy and reminds me of being in Magaluf.

Winner: Bangkok destroys Phuket and Chiang Mai for nightlife. It has everything any one could want.

Western amenities

Bangkok - You can't walk more than 200 meters without stumbling across one of Bangkok's 125 malls (or however many they have). Most of the larger malls have several international restaurants, a cinema, blowing alley and one even has a fucking Sea World.

Branching out from malls, Bangkok undoubtedly has some of Thailand's best restaurants, they have too many choices to pick from it's unreal. While Bangkok gyms are a little expensive they have plenty of options, golf clubs, sports courts, football matches, huge events, world famous DJ performing and float tanks.

Bangkok has the largest amount of soapy massages, nuru massages and other options for sex in the whole of Thailand.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya? – Ultimate Breakdown

Phuket - Let's remember that Phuket is an island and while they do have a few malls and cinemas complexes, Phuket is not on the level of Bangkok... not even close. There are certainly enough western amenities but the choices you have are so limited compared to Bangkok.

Chiang Mai - Although Thailand's 4 th biggest city, Chiang Mai is rather small and in someways very much like Phuket. It doesn't really have anything on Bangkok when it comes to western amenities - although it does have enough to keep you happy.

Pattaya - Slightly better than Phuket and Chiang Mai because of the amount of tourist that enter and the fact it has a beach and is notan island or too far from Bangkok. Pattaya would prob be the runner up here.

Winner : Bangkok.

Types of expats and tourist

Bangkok - Is a bit of a cluster fuck when it comes to expats. You have everything from the psychos who should never have been allowed passports, poker players, school teachers, pretentious wankers and everyday geezers like me.

Bangkok has people coming from all over the world and is very varied.

Tourists I find a mixed bag over here. Most tourists start their holiday in Bangkok so you get all types.

Phuket - I think it's safe to say that Phuket brings the worst type of tourists to Thailand. Young drunks who think it's okay to walk around shirtless, salmon skin tans and just being loud and obnoxious

. This is quite a generalization but that's what I do here.

I have very little experience with meeting expats in Phuket but from what I do know they are extremely close and friendly. Going to the southern part of the island you can find some very good and healthy western expats who are chilled and easy going.

Chiang Mai - For me have the worst type of expat. The fucking digital nomad who thinks they are so awesome making $345 a month working online. I hate them all. I also hate the hippy types who go there to 'relax and unwind'.

Pattaya - You could say Pattaya brings the worst type of expat and tourist but I'd disagree. Too many Aussie kunts heading to Phuket rioded up thinking they are awesome. Pattaya brings the 2nd worst kind of tourist and expat.

Winner : Phuket for expats and Bangkok for tourists.

Cost of living (high end and low end)

Bangkok - I always tell people that in Bangkok you can live on as little as $700 a month or $7,000 per month. Depending on your needs and budget you can live almost any type of lifestyle in this city.

If you want fine dining, be popping bottles and staying in the sickest serviced apartments you can. The cost of living in Bangkok is perfect for people of all budgets.

Phuket - Phuket is on par with Bangkok for most things except transportation costs. Food, gym memberships, clothes and everything else usually costs around the same. While there are some high-end spots in Phuket they are few and far between.

If want everything at your doorstep that's not going to happen.

Chiang Mai - Is known for low cost and affordable living. If you're a budget traveler for sure your money would go further in Chiang Mai than Bangkok. If you want to live like a baller (the only way to live) there are less options and avenues for you to spend you cash.

Pattaya - I would say Pattaya is similar to Bangkok depending on which areas you live, but you can live for less in some areas.

Winner: For cheap living Chiang Mai, for high class living Bangkok, for everything in between Phuket?

Quality of girls

Bangkok - Has over 8.2 million people and has every type of Thai women you could possibly want. From good girls to Thai bar girls they have it all.

I personally find the hottest Thai girls to be from Bangkok but this could just be a numbers game as I see more girls here than Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya on average.

Girls from Bangkok tend to have slightly more feminine features too compared to Chiang Mai girls.

Phuket - is awesome for bar girls as they are everywhere on Bangla Road, but once you move into areas like Kata or Karon the quality and quantity of Thai girls drop. Phuket has a total population of 500,000 people and if you don't live in Patong most of the girls won't even be near you.

Chiang Mai - While not In Issan, Chiang Mai is pretty close too it. Issan is known for slightly darker and larger girls who work on farms and have more of a 'butch' look if you could say that.

Each time I visit Chiang Mai I always set my expectations low in terms of quality of girls and I am always glad I do - because I am usually proved correct.

Pattaya - Bar girl central but it is possible to find regular girls who work jobs. I would say the average girl here is not as attractive as the girls in Bangkok.

Winner: Bangkok has the highest quality of girls. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I think Bangkok girls are the hottest in Thailand.

Type of Lifestyle

Bangkok - Bangkok is a metropolitan city, there's a lot of traffic, pollution, noise and all that jazz. Bangkok is a city that never sleeps but you can find pockets of the city which are quiet and relaxed.

I think Bangkok is for the expat who wants everything. Good restaurants, great gyms, plenty of nightlife options and festivals. There is always something happening in Bangkok and if you want a fairly live and buzzing social life, ain't no place better than here son.

Phuket - Phuket's biggest advantage over Bangkok and Chiang Mai is that it has beaches (Pattaya beaches suck). I never thought they were that awesome until I went and wow - they are fucking great.

Ideally you want to avoid Phuket during rainy season as the beaches look like shit, from September to March they are awesome.

Phuket is a small place and if you're a beach type of person who just wants to relax, it's a good choice. I personally find Phuket boring because I get bored of going to the beach everyday and I really hate that to go somewhere you always have to travel distances.

Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket or Pattaya? – Ultimate Breakdown

In Bangkok, if I live near the city center (which I do) within a 5 minute taxi ride I can be at a number of places. In Phuket that's impossible.

Chiang Mai - lifestyle is more laid back, things go at a slower place and it's why digital nomads like to go there. Chiang Mai is a lot less materialistic than Bangkok but for me seems more pretentious after the digital nomad invasion.

Too many coffee shops with bloggers writing crappy articles on which is better: Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya thinking they are the shit. God it annoys me.

Pattaya - Is a nice little beach town that is over run by older men chasing girls for the most part. Huge red light district so if you are into that then great. Pattaya is for you.

Summary

This is just my opinion and I am sure you will disagree with some aspects - if so leave a comment.

Personally I think Bangkok is the best place to live in Thailand. It offers everything except beaches (that's Phuket/Pattaya) and mountains and scenery (that's Chiang Mai).

Bangkok is better than Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya on almost every level (asides quality of air). If Bangkok had beaches and scenery I don't think there would even be a reason to go to Phuket or Chiang Mai.

What do you guys prefer: Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket? Leave a comment below!


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