Comparisons between regions of Thailand

Which region of Thailand you choose depends on your work, budget, and lifestyle preferences.

If you are planning to operate a business in Thailand, then it would usually be difficult to operate an office outside of Bangkok, unless your business is tourism. The success of a business is dependent on the level of quality of staff, and your selection is much better in Bangkok. However, other regions are feasible.

Notably, companies who have set up in tourist areas have also complained about the effects of the environment on employee attitudes and work. This includes companies in the industrial eastern seaboard who set up an office in Pattaya.

For those retiring in Thailand (or otherwise not running a sizeable office), the kinds of conveniences you want can impact your choice. For example, do you want many foreigners and a wide arrange of shopping around you? Do you rely on public transport? Then you had better select Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket. Notably, there are superstores and western fast food in cities all over Thailand, such as Tesco Lotus, KFC, etc., but expats usually migrate to places where there is a wider selection and also more expats to socialize with.

The most economical and coolest region is Chiang Mai and the hilly and mountainous northwest of Thailand. The people who settle here tend to prefer a peaceful and secluded rural lifestyle in a scenic inland region. This is the only non-seaside region besides Bangkok which stands out in popularity.

Outside of Bangkok, Pattaya is the most popular place. Not only is it well known for the sheer number of beer bars and ladies, but it also has a wide variety of good restaurants run by expats from all over the world (most of then quite economical by western standards), a large and diverse expat community, many tourist things to do, and general expat infrastructure such as international schools.

Both Pattaya and the eastern seaboard industrial region are within 2 hours of Bangkok, which is a big reason they have grown as large and quickly as they have. However, despite its proximity to Bangkok and the eastern seaboard industrial region, Pattaya is very much a tourist area and lacks the professional business community and infrastructure of Bangkok.

Phuket is the next most popular place. It is a large island in the Andaman Sea (the western side of the Thailand peninsula facing India) and distant from the rest of Thailand's expat areas. First developed on a large scale in the 1990s, Phuket's popularity was initially due to its natural beauty and secluded location. Phuket has an international airport, first class resorts, large expat communities, and the general amenities of a tourism and retirement center.

Another popular place for expats is the western side of the Gulf of Thailand, west of Bangkok. This region starts with Hua Hin and Cha-Am about 3 hours southwest of Bangkok. This is a tourist and retirement region which is much quieter and more peaceful than Pattaya, doesn't have the girlie beer bar environment, and is cleaner and without crowded areas. Hua Hin is a traditional Thai seaside resort region dating back to the 19th century (whereas Pattaya initially built up as a Vietnam War rest and recreation area).

Down the coastline a little further south is Prachuab Khiri Khan, which is one of the most beautiful and quiet seaside places. Hopefully, it will stay that way, but it should be mentioned here. This area could be seen as spillover from Hua Hin.

The southernmost expat area is Koh Samui, a large island in the Gulf of Thailand located a short distance from the Thai peninsula about halfway between Bangkok and the border with Malaysia. Koh Samui is similar to Phuket in some ways but is quieter and hasn't been developed in the same way. There is a small airport in Koh Samui and an international airport across the channel in Surat Thani.

It is common for expats who retire in Thailand and settle down in one of the places outside Bangkok to also have a small residence within Bangkok. The main reason is that Bangkok has so much more going on in terms of special events (professional trade exhibitions, conferences, international entertainment groups), regular professional associations, and general business community, in addition to the large expat community with which to make friends. (This is especially the case for people who like to make friends with others of their own culture.)

The advantage of a residential base instead of a hotel is that you don't need to pack a lot, and you go to a place already set up with your property amenities.

Central Bangkok is much more expensive than other regions of Thailand, but Bangkok also has excellent public transportation, quite unlike all the other regions, so that a suburban condominium or house is an option.

Notably, expats have complained about the difficulty of travelling in and out of Thailand when they live in places far outside Bangkok such as Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui/Surat Thani. Even though those places have an "international airport", the flight selection is very limited, and most people must book a flight to Bangkok and then switch planes to their international flight. Due to the limited number of domestic flights, there is usually a layover in Bangkok of many hours or overnight.

A popular area for expats in Bangkok is Muang Thong Thani (MTT) due to its excellent public transport to/from the central business district and a skytrain station, nice and quiet environment, very economical costs, and proximity to the airport (just west with a no-traffic shortcut route). You can find out more about Muang Thong Thani at

The above general overview of Thailand and its regions is meant to be brief, highlighting the main benefits and some relative disadvantages commonly cited by expats. It would be a very long article if we tried to address everyone's needs, wants, and situations, so please feel free to inquire about things in particular.

If you have children, then you should also see the section on schools.

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