Most people know Bangkok. It is the most well known-city in Thailand. Partly because it is the capital city, and also because it has certain appeals that made many famous movies featuring the city! Have you watched Bangkok Dangerous, The HangOver and One Night in Bangkok? These movies use Bangkok as the main setting for the story! Thailand is, however, way bigger than just Bangkok alone. In fact, Thailand has over 76 provinces, and there are many cities in Thailand that offer diverse and unique experiences to their visitors.
In this article, we’ll talk about cities in Thailand that are interesting for tourism and/or living destinations.
Largest cities in Thailand
Most visitors and foreigners may feel more comfortable with large cities as they tend to be more developed and convenient. Large cities in developing countries like Thailand also tend to have more things to offer to visitors. So let’s start by looking at some of the largest cities in Thailand.
The largest provinces in Thailand by the number of population include:
- Bangkok (Central Thailand) with a population of 5.6 million
- Nakhon Ratchasima (Northeastern Thailand) with a population of 2.6 million
- Ubon Ratchathani (Northeastern Thailand) with a population of 1.9 million
- Khon Kaen (Northeastern Thailand) with a population of 1.8 million
- Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand) with a population of 1.8 million
- Buri Ram (Northeastern Thailand) with a population of 1.6 million
- Udon Thani (Northeastern Thailand) with a population of 1.6 million
- Chon Buri (Where Pattaya is, Eastern Thailand) with a population of 1.6 million
As seen above, many of the provinces from this list are located in Northeastern Thailand. This region is the largest in Thailand, and is home to about a third of the country’s entire population. However, these large cities, except for a few of them, are not that popular among international travelers. Only some cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chon Buri would ring a bell to many travelers.
Rather than visiting large cities in Thailand, many travelers prefer to visit smaller cities with unique experiences.
Which are the best cities to visit in Thailand?
Using other international cities as the benchmark, we would categorize Bangkok as the only metropolitan city in Thailand. Bangkok is home to almost 6 million people and ranked #1 in terms of tourism revenue. Bangkok has a lot to offer like from things like delicious food and drinks in restaurants, cafes and bars to night markets, shopping, visit to temples, a relaxing massage, or take a day trip to nearby provinces.
However, Bangkok is also the most expensive city in terms of cost of living in Thailand.
Mountain and lush greeneries
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s 5th largest city and is ranked #6 in terms of tourism revenue. Chiang Mai is famous for its relaxing vibes and relatively cooler weather given its location in Northern Thailand. Moreover, Chiang Mai is home to many cool and hip cafes, and at the same time it has a lot of cultural heritage to offer. You can also take a trip outside of the city to enjoy the nature like mountain, waterfall and national parks.
Chiang Rai is a smaller province located next to Chiang Mai and it shares a border with Laos and Myanmar. Chiang Rai is a less known province to foreign visitors – but it also has many beautiful natural and cultural sites. If you are in Chiang Mai and have extra time, you can consider making a day trip to Chiang Rai. However, if you want a more relaxing trip, consider staying in Chiang Rai for a night or two before going back to Chiang Mai.
Golden beach and blue sky
Phuket is a southern island with less than half a million in population. Regardless, it is ranked #2 in terms of tourism revenue. It is indisputable that Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. While Phuket is most famous for its beaches, you can also find great hiking routes, enjoy night markets and visit temples. Phuket is also a well-developed tourism destination, making the stay on this island very foreigner-friendly.
Pattaya is located in Chon Buri province, eastern Thailand. Chon Buri is one of Thailand’s larger provinces and is ranked #3 in terms of tourism revenue. Pattaya is a very popular destination among travelers as it is very close to Bangkok. It is approximately 45 minutes drive away from Bangkok so you can simply hire a car or short tour package to visit Pattaya. Similar to Phuket, the city is very foreigner-friendly.
Krabi is a southern Thailand province and is ranked #4 in terms of tourism revenue. Krabi is the most southern city on our list (only about 4-5 hours drive to the border of Malaysia). Apart from beautiful beaches and surrounding islands, you can also experience southern Thailand cuisine and culture in this city. Having been to Krabi ourselves, we think this city is quite underrated given its beauty and serenity!
Koh Samui is located in Surat Thani province, southern Thailand. The province is home to a million population but is ranked #5 in terms of tourism revenue. Koh Samui (“Koh” means island) is Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket. Being an island, Samui has many beaches with a lush green forest at the center of the island.
Photo shot during our trip to Krabi, no filter involved.
Ayutthaya is the place to go if you are a fan of history and culture. Located in central Thailand (about an hour drive from Bangkok), Ayutthaya used to be Thailand’s capital city until 1767. Some 250 years later, Ayutthaya is now home to many heritage sites – earning its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
(last but not least) Our favorite among cities in Thailand!
Here comes our favorite place to visit, Hua Hin. While it is somewhat known, Hua hin is not as popular relative to its peers like Phuket or Krabi. Hua Hin is a city in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in southern Thailand (ranked #9 in terms of tourism revenue). Beaches in Hua Hin may fall short relative to those in Krabi or Samui and the city itself is less bustling than Phuket. However, Hua Hin offers a hip and relaxing experience not too far from Bangkok (about a 3-hour drive). We did enjoy our time in Hua Hin eating tons of local seafood and fresh coconut, visiting local markets, and exploring cafes in Hua Hin.
We shot this photo during our visit to a beach-side cafe in Hua Hin.
Thailand has 6 international and a total of 20+ airports reachable via commercial flights. This makes traveling between any major Thai cities convenient and also foreigner-friendly.
Once you can travel again, which cities in Thailand should you visit?
The answer is, it depends!
As you can see, there are many cities that you can safely travel to as a foreigner and each will offer a different kind of experience. You may already know cities like Bangkok and Phuket, but now you know that Thailand has a lot more to offer whether you are looking for beaches, mountains, or heritage sites.
You can stay longer and visit multiple cities at one go. Or, just visit different cities every time you come to Thailand. There is no rush, these cities are not going anywhere!
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