What is the Best City to Live in Thailand?

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Uncover the best cities to live in Thailand, from the energetic Bangkok to serene Lampang.

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What is the Best City to Live in Thailand?

If you ask me, I would straight away say Chiang Mai. I have lived here for 18 months now (as of writing). But I have also lived in Bangkok for 4 years as well as a couple weeks here and there in Phuket and Koh Samui. 

I guess it all depends on where you are in your life, how old you are, if you have family or if you are single. I am 40 now but I’ve spent the majority of my life in Thailand in Bangkok – because at the time I was still looking to go out a lot for entertainment, food, drinks etc. As I became older I was longing for the countryside that Chiang Mai provides, yet still has a bit of a city vibe. Let’s take a look at a few benefits and drawbacks of some of the major cities in Thailand. 

Bangkok – The Metropolitan Marvel

As the capital city and home to over 8 million people, Bangkok is a vibrant urban jungle that uniquely combines tradition and modernity. I first visited Bangkok in 2005 (while I lived in Hong Kong) and I was mesmerised right away. I knew that one day my goal was to live in Bangkok. I was 23 at the time so you can imagine why I wanted to live there… When I moved to Bangkok in 2014 I was in love with the city. Lots to explore, great entertainment, beautiful people, excellent food, perfect hub if you want to travel outside the country and lots more… But as I said, when I got older I got annoyed by a few things such as traffic, no or little nature, cost of living and a few other things. Having said that, I don’t regret living there at all. I loved my time in Bangkok (when I was younger). 

The Unique Allure of Bangkok Living

  • Dynamic Lifestyle: From the 24/7 street markets like Patpong to the high-energy nightlife in areas such as Sukhumvit, the city is an eclectic mix of experiences.

  • Culinary Hub: With over 50000 eateries, Bangkok is a gastronomic delight. It hosts Gaggan, once Asia’s top-rated restaurant.

  • Travel Ease: As the main transport hub, Bangkok boasts two international airports, several bus terminals, and a skytrain system.

  • Cost of Living: Together along Phuket, Bangkok is the most expensive part of the country. Anthony, a friend of mine over at manvsclock.com wrote a super detailed post about the cost of living in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai – The Cultural Capital

I live in Chiang Mai now. Nestled in the mountainous northern region, is steeply rooted in Thai traditions and customs. For me Chiang Mai has everything I need. Entertainment, nature, sports, excellent food, great weather and a much lower cost of living. I could go on and on about Chiang Mai and why I love it here. I love the nature and outdoor activities, so this is the perfect place for me. 

Chiang Mai – The Perfect Blend of Culture and Nature

  • Heritage Hub: Home to over 300 Buddhist temples, Chiang Mai hosts the annual Yi Peng Lantern Festival, drawing thousands of spectators.

  • Outdoor Paradise: Doi Inthanon National Park, a haven for hikers, is just a 2-hour drive away.

  • Living Costs: Compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai offers a more laid-back, affordable lifestyle. Rent can be as low as 10,000 THB (about $300) per month.

Phuket – The Island of Bliss

I do live going to Phuket for a holiday, maybe 2 weeks max. as its overrun with tourists at this time (2023). I find it also very expensive for food, transportation and accomodation. Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is a veritable paradise for beach lovers and water sport enthusiasts.

Life in Phuket – A Beachside Retreat

  • Sandy Shores: With 30-plus beaches, Phuket offers a myriad of scenic coastal views, the most popular being Patong and Kata beaches.

  • Ex-pat Life: Phuket has a thriving ex-pat community, boasting international schools and ex-pat clubs.

  • Luxurious Living: Phuket is known for its luxury resorts and villas, with property prices averaging ฿53,812 per square meter.

Pattaya – City by the Sea

Pattaya, once a quiet fishing village, has evolved into a bustling city popular among tourists and ex-pats alike. Yes, there is lots to do in Pattaya apart from the thing its famous for. But personally I never liked going there. I can’t imagine living there. However if you are looking for a weekend trip or holiday Pattaya can be great. 

Pattaya – Entertainment and Comfort Combined

  • Tourist-Friendly: With attractions like Pattaya Floating Market and Walking Street, Pattaya offers an enjoyable lifestyle.

  • Quality Healthcare: With internationally accredited hospitals like Pattaya City Hospital, healthcare is top-notch.

  • Affordability: Despite its high-end lifestyle, Pattaya’s cost of living remains attractive. A budget of around $1,000-$1,500 per month can afford a comfortable lifestyle.

Koh Samui – The Island Haven

Koh Samui, nestled in the Gulf of Thailand, is a popular island destination known for its palm-fringed beaches, luxurious resorts, and dynamic nightlife. I’ve been there a few times and I feel its less busy than Phuket, not as costly and less touristic. However as an Entrepreneur I can’t see myself living there. The beached would be a too big distraction for me 🙂 

Life in Koh Samui – A Blend of Leisure and Adventure

  • Beach Escapades: With its crystal-clear waters and sandy shores, the beaches of Koh Samui, such as Chaweng and Lamai, are perfect for relaxation and water sports.

  • Ex-pat community: A thriving ex-pat community, numerous international schools, and Western-style amenities contribute to the island’s appeal.

  • Thriving Nightlife: Fisherman’s Village and Chaweng Beach are famous for their lively nightlife, with a plethora of bars and restaurants.

Surat Thani – The Gateway to the Isles

Surat Thani is a province in southern Thailand known as the gateway to the country’s famous islands, including Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. I’ve only visited once and I did like the laid back style this city has to offer. 

Surat Thani – Where City Meets Nature

  • Natural Wonders: From the stunning Khao Sok National Park to the Cheow Lan Lake, Surat Thani is a feast for nature lovers.

  • Local Experiences: Surat Thani offers an authentic Thai experience, from its local markets to traditional festivals like Chak Phra.

  • Cost of Living: Housing and food expenses in Surat Thani are lower than in larger cities, making it an affordable place to live.

Udon Thani – The Northeastern Hub

Udon Thani, in the northeastern part of Thailand, is a rapidly growing commercial and transportation hub with a rich history. I’ve been to Udon Thani twice, one in summer and once in winter. It is very similar to Chiang Mai, yet I feel it has less to offer. If you are looking for the less busy Chiang Mai and even lower costs, Udon Thani is for you. 

Udon Thani – Where Tradition Meets Modernity

  • Historical Sites: Udon Thani is home to archaeological wonders like the Ban Chiang Museum, showcasing artifacts dating back 5,000 years.

  • Modern Amenities: Despite its historical roots, Udon Thani boasts modern conveniences, including Central Plaza, one of the biggest shopping centers in the region.

  • Ex-pat Life: The city has a robust ex-pat community, bolstered by the Udon Thani International School and a range of Western-style amenities.

Lampang – The Underrated Jewel

Lampang, often overshadowed by its northern neighbor Chiang Mai, offers a quiet, authentic Thai lifestyle steeped in history and nature. My girlfriend hails from Lampang, hence I visited a few times already. I really do like it there. It’s laid back, the food is great, its not as bustling as Chiang Mai yet more and more shops, coffee houses and good restaurants are popping up. As for the community, there are a few expats and international schools already. 

Lampang – A Blend of Heritage and Scenery

  • Cultural Heritage: From the traditional horse-drawn carriages to the Lanna-style Wat Phra That Lampang Luang, Lampang exudes a historic charm.

  • Natural Beauty: National parks like Chae Son and Doi Khun Than offer stunning landscapes and outdoor activities.

  • Affordability: Lampang offers a cost-effective lifestyle, with lower living costs compared to the more tourist-centric cities.

Chiang Rai – The Northern Frontier

Chiang Rai, known for its unique white and blue temples, is a city where traditional Thai culture meets stunning natural beauty. I love a trip to Chiang Rai. It’s great for a getaway, excellent food, friendly people, less busy than Chiang Mai. My favourite place to go is Chivit Thamma Da. A beautiful colonial house, owned by a Scandinavian if I am correct, with excellent views of the river, great food and more. Yet, that’s not enough for me to live there 🙂 

Chiang Rai – A Culturally Rich Experience

  • Architectural Marvels: The Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) and Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple) are iconic landmarks that encapsulate the city’s unique cultural blend.

  • Outdoor Activities: Proximity to the Golden Triangle and various hill tribe villages offers numerous trekking and exploration opportunities.

  • Peaceful Lifestyle: Chiang Rai, while smaller and quieter than Chiang Mai, provides a relaxed lifestyle with a lower cost of living.

A Tale of Two Lifestyles

At first glance, Thailand may present a binary choice: a tranquil life amidst cultural traditions and stunning natural landscapes, or the bustling dynamism of cosmopolitan cities with their modern comforts. However, the true beauty of this enchanting kingdom lies in its diversity, which allows a blend of both worlds. From the fast-paced, high-rise lifestyle of Bangkok and the beachside luxury of Phuket to the rich heritage of Chiang Mai and the serene settings of Lampang, Thailand caters to a plethora of preferences.

The Thai People: The Heart of the Nation

Beyond the physical allure of cities and landscapes, the soul of Thailand is its people. Known for their warm hospitality and cheerful demeanor, Thais are often referred to as the “Land of Smiles.” Whichever city you choose, you will be greeted with the same welcoming spirit, making your transition smoother and your stay a joyous one.

The Future Awaits

In conclusion, whether you seek an adrenaline-fueled urban life, a peaceful retreat enveloped by nature, or a blend of both, Thailand offers a multitude of options. Each city has its unique charm and lifestyle, making the question, “What is the best city to live in Thailand?” largely dependent on your individual preferences. Take the leap, and you might just find your slice of paradise in this diverse kingdom.

In Summary

As you can see, I am rather biased and prefer to live in Chiang Mai. All these cities above have something to offer, it really depends on your lifestyle, age and other factors. So, choosing the best city to live in Thailand depends on your lifestyle preferences. The cosmopolitan charm of Bangkok, the cultural richness of Chiang Mai, the island paradise that is Phuket, or the vibrant coastal city of Pattaya, each has unique features to offer.


  1. What is Thailand’s average cost of living?

    • A budget of $1,000 to $2,000 per month is usually sufficient for a comfortable lifestyle, but this varies between cities. It can go as high as $10,000 in Bangkok. It all depends on your lifestyle. I’ve written a detailed post about cost of living in Thailand here.
  2. Is Thailand a safe country to live in?

    • Yes, Thailand ranks 31st in the Global Peace Index 2022, making it relatively safe. However, regular safety precautions should be observed. I’ve written a detailed posts on safety in Thailand.
  3. How is Thailand’s healthcare?

  4. Can foreigners own property in Thailand?

    • Foreigners can own condos but not land. When buying property, legal advice is recommended.
  5. How is the education in Thailand?

    • Thailand offers a mix of local Thai schools and international schools that follow American, British, or International Baccalaureate curricula.

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