Our motto for this trip was “no hurries…no worries”. In the spirit of this theme we had no reservations and no idea of where exactly we would end up. After clearing customs, we checked with a few hotel representatives at the airport but decided to just catch a cab to Patong Beach and just look when we arrived. Our cab driver suggested a travel agency on the way saying that he could get us a discount. We ended up booking 2 nights at the Blue Sky Patong. This was a nice, clean and new hotel with great staff (1200 baht per night). We also rented a scooter from the company recommended by the front desk staff for $7.50 USD per day. This hotel was conveniently located by the main road and next to the police station but we realized that we were pretty far from the beach.
On the second day, we checked hotel prices and availability in the area and found the Patong Sub Inn. This hotel offered everything the Blue Sky offered at a better price (600 Baht per night) and a more central location. The owner and his staff are great people who take the time to get to know their guests and provide a welcoming environment. They go above and beyond to provide for your needs. Since coffee is always a priority in the morning, they lent us a hot water pot so that we could make instant coffee. We also rented a scooter from the rental company in front of the hotel for $5 per day.
Karon Beach is about 10 miles South of Patong and offers a more resort-like atmosphere but the prices for food and hotels are resort-type as well.
Kata Beach is about 10 miles South of Karon and has more of a surfing village vibe. They rent surfboards and have a younger crowd. There are plenty of hotels shops and restaurants here but the prices are a bit high.
A word of advice: You can’t walk 10 feet without running into time share sales people from Absolute. We consistently told them that we were not interested. However, one person was pretty sneaky. She asked if I would participate in a brief survey to better help tourism in the area. I happily obliged. That evening, I received a phone call at the front desk of my hotel explaining that we won a prize for taking the survey…an all expense paid trip to visit Phi Phi Island. She explained that we would need to schedule a 90 minute appointment. I was skeptical but we arranged a time to meet the following day. I assumed it was a time share sales presentation and it was. We planned on visiting Pi Pi island anyway during our trip so we went along with it. To their credit, Absolute did not use high pressure tactics on us and only highlighted the benefits of their program. They were true to their word; our appointment lasted only 90 minutes, we received a voucher and were booked on the Phi Phi Island cruse. On following trips to Kata Beach, whenever we were approached by the time share people we just told them that we already took the tour.
We decided to stay in the Patong area and make day trips to Kata for surfing and enjoying the less crowded nicer beach. For us, this was the best value for our money and provided the opportunity to explore the local area.