You’ve decided it’s time. You need to make the move. You’re looking for a slower-paced life and a culture that lives and savors the moment, and you’re aware that Thailand keeps ranking as one of the top places to live overseas. You dream of turquoise-colored seas and white sand beaches stretching as far as you can see, flanked by jungles and jagged rocky cliffs. You envision great night life in the warm climate, with wonderful food and ocean breezes.
Which beach towns are the best for working and living in Thailand? It depends on what you are looking for.
The island of Phuket, known as the “pearl of the Andaman” is where you’ll find the city of Phuket, located in the southeast portion of the island. Phuket is one of the most famous locations–with some of the most popular beaches–in all of Thailand.
Phuket will amaze you. The obligatory clear blue-green water and rocky jungle-topped mountains surround those beaches that you’ve been dreaming about. You will find many expats have already made their home here, making it ideal if you are looking to become part of that group.
Phuket is the perfect place for you if you like things to be easy-going, with a bit of clubbing on the side, though the cost of living here is slightly higher than in some of the less popular areas. A large collection of bars and nightclubs seem to be within a stone’s throw at all times, and if music and the party scene are important to you, Phuket is a great place to be. Great restaurants, shopping, access to fine medical care, and a truly modern lifestyle can be found in Phuket without the crushing crowds of Bangkok.
Phuket is large, and has a nearby airport that makes it easy to travel around Thailand without having to first go through Bangkok.
Phuket: Bustling, exciting, with great work opportunities, but slightly higher cost of living. Popular and accessible beaches.
PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN
You can find Prachuap Khiri Khan in southern Thailand, along the coast of one of the narrowest sections in Thailand. Known for its pinapple and coconut industries, this town has long been a favorite of Thai tourists. It is gradually becoming more popular with expats, meaning that some of the more comfortable amenities are springing up in the town.
This town is quiet and laid back, without all the glitz (and sometimes grime) that comes with the high-density high-energy tourist towns. It boasts a lower cost of living, a common factor of such “undiscovered” gems. If a quieter lifestyle free from lots of crowds and partying is what you’re looking for, you won’t regret Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Be aware that because it is not as large and bustling as some cities, you should make sure that your line of work is available. Prachuap’s beach isn’t optimal for swimming, though beaches to the north and south of the city are. You can reach the excellent Ao Manao beach by walking through a Thai air force base. Expats and foreign visitors may need to sign in and out before doing so.
Prachuap Khiri Khan: Low cost of living, smaller city, unspoiled, quiet and laid back, but not quite as many work opportunities as you might find in a big city. Accessible beaches.
Pattaya is a bustling city located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, just south and east of Bangkok. It is both popular with tourists and expats (including many retirees) and has many of the same qualities you’d expect from a larger city: bustling night life with bars and night clubs, shopping, wonderful restaurants, and plenty of opportunity to socialize. It also has the exotic and easy lifestyle that Thailand is famous for, but is also known for some edgier lifestyles.
Pattaya, like Phuket, offers a wider variety of work and recreation opportunities as well as wonderful (and popular) beaches. Islands off shore from Pattaya are easily reached by boat, some in under 15 minutes, making it easy to make a day trip to your own island paradise before heading back home.
Pattaya: Vibrant city with all the amenities and leisure activities of big city life, including work opportunities. Cost of living slightly more than smaller cities. Large beach areas.
Koh Samui is connected to the mainland by ferry, but also boasts its own modern airport. It is the second largest island, after Phuket. A growing tourism industry has brought with it hospitals, restaurants, and the opportunity to easily relocate here – Koh Samui has many luxury villas and homes on the market for those with slightly deeper pockets, as well as a plentiful supply of more basic huts for those on a budget.
Koh Samui, despite all of its amenities and comforts, hasn’t succumbed to the rough-edged night life that many of the larger popular beach towns have. It is a family friendly place, making it a real draw for expats who wish to move their family to Thailand and continue working.
Koh Samui is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and plenty of outdoor recreational activities and water sports.
Koh Samui: Modern and comfortable, with plenty of expats and work opportunities. Plenty of restaurants and entertainment, safe and enjoyable for even families. Beautiful beaches and properties.
Koh Samui: where peace and ocean breezes meet. Photo by Samujana.
Like kite boarding?
Hua Hin is known for it and other fun water sport activities. This beach town has a population of over 80,000, and is becoming famous for its golf courses, trekking, boating, snorkeling, cycling, fitness…if you love to be active, Hua Hin is where you want to be. You’ll find several beaches, historical attractions, and natural places to explore and relax.
Though there is excellent shopping and plenty of night life and bars, you won’t find some of the seedier bars you might see in Pattaya or Bangkok. Night life is at a slower pace, and the proximity to the Royal Palace puts the kabosh on questionable clubs.
Hua Hin is mostly Thai-Chinese, and has a distinct focus on business. It is inexpensive, and has access to many medical facilities, making it a popular place for retirees as well.
Hua Hin: Great business climate, reasonable cost of living, and slower pace of night life without some of the seedier elements you find in other cities. No shortage of activities, with several popular beaches.