Backpacking around Thailand is almost like a rite of passage. There is so much to see and do there. Here’s what I did, the best tips I have and the things I would avoid.
The popular islands are Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi. Getting to these islands can be a bit of a trek but hopefully this helps!
Getting There: (Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan)
- Fly Bangkok – Koh Samui
- Fly Phuket – Koh Samui
- Train from Bangkok – Donsak or Chumphon and ferry to the islands
- Bus from Bangkok – Donsak or Chumphon and ferry to the islands
- Ferries run between all 3 islands
- Bus from Krabi – Donsak and ferry to the islands
Getting There: (Koh Phi Phi)
- Fly/bus/train to Phuket
- Ferry from Phuket -Phi Phi
- Ferry from Krabi – Phi Phi
There are loads of ferry companies and you can generally book as you go, however, it would help save time if you have them booked in advance or look up the timetables so you can plan properly. Most of the ferries are less than $10 so they’re very inexpensive. They can be very crowded and rocky, so even if you don’t normally get seasick, you can get seasickness tablets in most pharmacies to take before you get on, or else bring some with you from home.
Koh Phangan is the island where the Full Moon or Half Moon Parties take place. Full moon is on the beach and the Half Moon takes place in the forest. There are loads of different parties in the build up to the Full Moon, like a forest party and pool parties. This island is crazy around the time of the Moon parties because so many people come for this. (always watch your pockets here when it’s busy!) You 100% need to book your accommodation early and around the time of the Full Moon you need to book accommodation for a minimum of 4 nights, so be aware of that when planning your trip. The Full Moon Party is on Haad Rin Beach, so staying close to that is ideal, but don’t plan on getting much sleep because the party goes on all night. We stayed in Paradise Bungalows and it had bed bugs so maybe avoid there but Tommy Resort is on the beach and is one of the better Full Moon Hotels. Some other Full Moon suggestions are, CocoHut Village, Coral Bungalows and Rin Beach Resort. Coral Bungalows is where the big pool party is the night before the Full Moon, but this is a little bit further away from the beach.
The day after the Full Moon, there is a mass exodus from the island on the boats. I would suggest staying an extra night to recover and get the ferry the following day to avoid the queues and crowds. If you are leaving soon after the Full Moon, book your ferry ticket early too because they book out.
These parties mean luminous clothes and paint, just be careful not to get it all over the room because they will charge you for that. The Full Moon will be a crazy experience and there will be huge crowds. There will be a fire skipping rope too. Don’t get too brave after a few drinks!
If you have a day to spare, head to the Total Wipe-Out Obstacle course. It’s similar to the TV show and guaranteed to give you a laugh, and maybe some bruises! Check it out here.
If the Full Moon is not what you’re looking for, the opposite side of the island is more luxurious and relaxing.
Koh Tao is a beautiful island and is famous for its diving. It is the perfect place to get your diving certificate if you don’t have one already or just try a fun dive for the experience. We stayed in Bans Resort and they had their own dive school. This is one of the best dive schools on the island and they really look after you here. You get a good deal too if you stay and dive with them.
As well as diving, Koh Tao is famous for its pub crawl. It takes place every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Chopper’s Bar. It promises to be a great night. Check out their Facebook. Lotus and Fishbowl are the main clubs on this island.
You can also rent motorbikes and explore the island too. If you are renting a bike, make sure you take photos of it before you leave because they might try to charge you for scratches or damages that may have already been there and be careful!
We flew in to Koh Samui, which is one of the more expensive islands. The airport is very small with only one runway. Flying in we had a rocky landing but flying out of here is a lot better experience. They even give you free popcorn and sandwiches!
Koh Samui has loads of beautiful places to stay that are off the beaten track, but we decided to stay by the main street in Chaweng Beach, in Arc Hotel. This hotel has a pool bar with a DJ and is lively. It is close to the Main Street too. Chaweng Garden Beach is another option or Lucky Mother Bungalow, which is a cheaper option.
In Samui, we went to see some local Muay Thai fighting. Even if you’re not into that, it was cool to see even though it can make you wince at times.
We also did a day trip to Na Muang Waterfalls. You could do all types of trips here up the waterfalls and see the animals. We just did our own thing here. We fed the elephants and went for a swim in the rockpools. One of them had slides going into the pool too. They had tigers too like they do in Chiang Mai.
Koh Phi Phi:
In Koh Phi Phi, we stayed in PP Princess Resort. They have Villas or rooms and a sister resort PP Charlie. (unless you like sleeping with loads of bugs, avoid staying in the wooden huts and book a regular room). These share the same facilities and have an infinity pool with a pool bar. It is very central on one of the main streets, but hidden away at the same time so it is safe and away from crowded streets.
From Phi Phi you can do day trips to a number of islands, the most popular being Maya Bay where ‘The Beach’ was filmed. You can go to Monkey Beach too but just make sure not to annoy the monkeys because they have been known to attack people! The trips here are fairly inexpensive so just shop around the town and see what deal you can get. There are lots of trip offices or else the hotels can organise them too. Booze cruises are organised from here too.
Phi Phi viewpoint is something you should do too. It is a steep hike with a lot of steps, so be prepared, but the view at the top is fab. Getting there before sunset is great so you can see it in daylight and then catch the sunset there too.
Nightlife in Phi Phi is just as good as the other islands. There are loads of bars, one of which has a boxing ring where you can take on one of your friends or another backpacker. The winner gets a free bucket! Slinkys on the beach is where people head later in the night. If you don’t want to spend the night in a bar, then there are loads of stands that make buckets for ridiculously cheap and one bucket will get you well on your way for the night. The Paddy Shack is one of the best places to get your bucket on the island. It’s a 2 minute walk from the street entrance to PP Princess Resort.
Another accommodation option is the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort. It is a bit more expensive but it has amazing views, beaches and reviews!
- If you’re travelling on a budget, the toasties in 7-11 are a lifesaver. They’re cheap and tasty if you’re looking for a cheap snack, especially when in a rush to dive school in Koh Tao.
- With streetfood, only go to the busy stalls or stalls where you see locals eating, if you are going to eat from them. That’s the best way to avoid a dodgy tummy. I only ever got vegetarian options from them just to be on the safe side, however, my friends tried the meat options and they survived too!
- Book Diving Courses and Full Moon accommodation as early as possible so you’re not left disappointed.
- Use the ATM Machines during the day and leave your cards in the room at night and carry cash to avoid pickpockets taking your card.
Hope this all helps. A lot of things to do and places to see in South Thailand.
Top Tip Traveller 🙂