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Northern vs. Southern Thailand – 6 Main Differences

Hua Hin Property Partner
Written by Hua Hin Property Partner

It is easy to think of Thailand as one unified place, especially if you’ve never been there before. However, the country is split into two very distinct regions, each with its own unique characteristics. To fully understand the differences between the northern and southern areas of Thailand, here are the best qualities of each.

1. Food

Thai food from the North is called Isaan or Lanna. Most of the time, these dishes can only be found in Northern Thailand. A staple dish in this region is their steamed sticky rice, which is often paired with green or red chili sauce. One of the most well-known dishes that utilizes sticky rice is som tum, aka papaya salad. You won’t find much seafood this far from the coasts.

Those who are craving seafood from Thailand don’t have to fret. They can find what they’re looking for in Southern Thailand, where seafood is readily available. The flavors of this region are hot and have a bit more a kick to them than those in the north. The locals and tourists favor dishes like tom som pla krabok (sweet-and-sour fish soup), gaeng tai pla (a type of fish curry), and khao yum (a mix of vegetables and rice).

2. Activities

Northern Thailand is where you can experience a lot of culture and landmarks. There are untouched villages and glittering temples, offering a lot to those who want to make the trek up there. You can hike through the forests and jungles of the country. This is also where you can find a number of ethical elephant sanctuaries.

For those looking for a beach vacation or life on the sandy shores, Southern Thailand is where you want to go. The region has the typical tourist-filled resorts. However, it also has plenty of private beaches for secluded and peaceful days at the beach.

3. Weather

The weather in Thailand is pretty uniform throughout, but there are a few key differences. During the cool and dry season, which is the best time to visit, Northern Thailand gets quite cold during the early morning and late night. The hot season is extremely hot, almost to the point of being unbearable. The only way to escape this heat is to spend your time in the South.

Then there’s the rainy season, which happens July through October. During this time, Southern Thailand receives significantly more rain than the North. Knowing the small differences in the weather can help you plan your trip and avoid days of endless downpour.

4. Affordability

Those looking to move to Thailand will find that the cost of living is cheaper than many other places. However, the affordability of housing differs based on region and cities. Generally, Northern Thailand is cheaper, but there are some places in Southern Thailand that are affordable. Regions like Hua Hin have reasonably priced homes. If you’re looking to have an enjoyable but affordable vacation, you can bypass most activities in the South.

5. Health

Health may not be much of a concern for many visitors. However, those planning on moving should note that dengue peaks during the rainy season. There are cases reported throughout the country, but Northern Thailand tends to report more. This is likely thanks to the humid jungles in the region.

6. Nightlife

If you’re searching for thriving nightlife, the North is not where you should go. The bars in Chiang Mai typically close at midnight, although you may find some that stay open until 2 a.m. There are plenty of restaurants, clubs, and night bazaars in the region, but don’t expect to stay up all night.

The islands of the South are where you can find the party-crazed bars and clubs. Places like Phuket, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui are known to be bustling with nightlife.

North or South?
Visiting or moving to Thailand is a unique experience. Going to any region in the country will be an adventure. By knowing the differences between the North and the South, you can plan your trip with a bit more knowledge about what you’re getting into. Both regions offer fun and excitement – but differ greatly!

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