I am traveling to Thailand Dec 25-Jan 17 and I am torn between the West (Krabi/Railay, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta) and the East (Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Koh Samui). In 23 days, the obvious answer is "both"- however I would like to spend a decent amount of time in the North (Chiang Mai, Pai, Chiang Rai etc) as well. It seems best to pick a coast, allowing time to relax/enjoy rather than hurry about. I am 23, solo, and plan to stay in hostels. Any advice would be great! Thanks!
well, Koh Samui is bigger, and more luxury for me. I would recommend Krabi (Ao Nang) and Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi is better for every day party, from Ao Nang you will have to spend about 200 thai baht for Railey Beach roundtrip on boat everyday. But you can also visit Langkawi by boat from Krabi.
I lived on Koh Samui 6 months in 2012, and last year I visited both Krabi and Samui in january. For solo travel I recommend √. We stayed in a mix of guest house / spa for 800 THB/ triple. You can also tell them that you wil sleep in massage salon, it will be even more cheaper.
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I am also planning on going to Thailand this December '17/January '18 (not sure if you're going this year or already went), for about the same amount of time (25 days for us). I was struggling with the same thing as you regarding the south, and someone here on Trippy pointed out to me that December is the tail end of the monsoon season in Koh Samui, Koh Tao and the eastern islands. Since I do want to dive, and more importantly, I want my 13-year old son to get certified, I didn't want to take a chance that we get there and the weather is storming during our time there. So I changed our itinerary to go to Krabi on the western coast where we can dive, do the certification course, and travel to several different islands. We're spending 7 days in Krabi, then 4 days in Khao Lak up the coast, where we can do even more diving, and hopefully get in a visit to Khao Sok National Park, which looks amazing. We're also spending about 10 days in the north (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai) before we go to Krabi. If you haven't gone yet, enjoy your trip! I know I can't wait to go!
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Hi Brendan - not sure if you are interested in diving but if so, definitely go to Koh Tao!
Originally, I planned on staying on Koh Samui and signing up with a Samui based dive company. I am so glad I did not do it this way. Koh Samui does not have the same ‘dive energy’ that you find on Koh Tao and plus, it would mean spending a much longer time out on the boat to get to your dive sites, rather than them being a stone’s throw away while on Koh Tao. Additionally, if you are diving in Ko Tao, most shops also provide a variety of accommodation options for any budget.
So how do you pick a good dive company in Koh Tao? Nearly all of the dive shops in sairee cottage diving (Sairee Beach) are 5 Star PADI Shops with great reviews online, so you likely can’t go wrong with any. However, there are some differences in terms of location. Nearly, all the population of Koh Tao is narrowed into one area called Sairee Beach. Parallel to the beach is a tiny sidewalk where all the dive shops branch off of. In general, I would say that the farther North you are on Sairee Beach, the louder/wilder it gets. So- if you are looking to pick a dive shop + accommodation where you get a bit more relaxation but are still only steps from the action, I would recommend something a bit more south or central.
We stayed at sairee cottage diving and could not be happier! I did my PADI Open Water Certification there and stayed a total of 4 nights in a Basic Fan Bungalow Room, for $45 total. The cabin felt a bit like camping with the cold showers, but since you spend hardly any time in the room during the day, it is totally fine for the low price. Normally, basic accommodation is free but since I did part of my dive course in the USA (referral program), I paid a bit extra.
Steps from the dive resort is a great beach bar with Thai style eats. You can wander in bare-foot after a swim or dive, and get amazing fresh fruit smoothies, while catching sun on the open deck. The only obvious negative about the resort is that the wifi rarely works.
Check out my blog post for some ideas!
Here's some suggestions for getting around the island: