Tag Archives: thailand islands

12 Reasons To Never Visit Thailand

Here are 12 reasons why you should never visit this awful country! The first time I visited Thailand was 4 years ago and after all these terrible activities I’m still unsure why I moved back to Thailand 3 years ago. Please avoid visiting Thailand because you may just get addicted…

  1. You will mostly likely get sunburnt while snorkelling the clear waters off of paradise islands

For more on Thailand’s best islands check out this post

reasons visit thailand
Snorkelling around coral reefs

2. You will be peer pressured drunkenly into eating scorpions on Khao San road (cue blurry photo)

For less gross things to do in Bangkok, check out these lists

Top Things to Do in Bangkok

50 Things to Do in Bangkok

reasons visit thailand
Yep, don’t remember this…but I have the photos to prove I did indeed eat a scorpion.

3. You’ll spend 7 days worth of Thai street food dinners on one cocktail at a swanky Bangkok skybar

reasons visit thailand
Cheers to Bangkok, my big bad adopted city

 

4. You will most likely vomit after drinking too many fuck-it buckets. If you don’t then I am extremely impressed with you. But your liver is doomed.

5. You’ll get a hangover from drinking cheap Chang every evening and decide maybe a Leo beer is worth the extra 10 baht. We nickname it a ‘changover’.

For budget Thailand ideas, read this

reasons visit thailand
Beaches and sunset beers. Avoid at all costs.

6. You’ll get so used to cockroaches in Thailand you won’t feel bothered by them any more… (just me?!). The big ones that run at your feet and the small ones hanging out by your toothbrush in the (slightly) dirty hostel, you are officially a real backpacker now.

7. In rainy season you’ll stroll through puddles the height of your knees trying not to think about what might be floating around in there

8.You’ll get stuck in Bangkok traffic and wonder how 8 million people can live like that!

reasons visit thailand
View from my window. It’s awful

9. You’ll risk rabies for a cuddle with a stray puppy.

10. You will think you can ride a motorbike and then get a rude awakening along with a trip to the doctors clinic…and a bill!

Read this for the best ways to travel around Thailand

11. You will get seasick on a boat and possibly think you are about to die,  probably on the way to Maya Bay ” The Beach” beach where there never seem to be enough life jackets for everyone… #youcanswimthoughright

reasons visit Thailand
Cruising along the Gulf of Thailand on boats on my way to spot some whales!

12. You will fall in love with this country and move back here one day!

Especially these stunning holiday destinations around Thailand

Travelling Thailand Essentials

For when you do decide to travel Thailand, consider these items to help deal with the above issues:

I’m a recent convert to the humble backpack as you can always fit in a bottle of water comfortably (that just never happens with my handbags!) I love this turquoise Everest Backpack from Amazon
2. Alternatively, if you might be here in rainy season (May-October) then I recommend a dry bag as you will definitely get caught in a thunderstorm at some point! I love these dry bags Dry Bag (5L) from Amazon

3.  Mosquito spray is definitely one thing I recommend buying at home before you arrive in Thailand as I have never been able to buy stronger than 15% DEET here. Try this Repel 40% DEET Pump SprayRepel Insect Repellent 40-Percent DEET from Amazon

For more Backpacking Essentials read this post full of useful and practical items for your next trip to South East Asia

Reasons Visit Thailand 

Best Diving in Thailand

Thailand has some great dive spots and while some of them may not be as incredible and colourful as they once were, the reasonable prices and wide availability of dive centres will always keep me coming back for more diving.  As far as I know Koh Tao still claims to be one of the cheapest places to do your Open Water certification, which is where I did my first diving certificate 4 years ago, and it’s been an obsession ever since. I have over 70 dives and most of them have taken place in Thailand. I still have a few more dive places to try out in the near future though.

While I’ve dived off many islands and beaches around Thailand the following are my top dive sites that I have returned back to many times:

Diving Koh Phi Phi

Known as a party island, Koh Phi Phi often surprises her divers with some great underwater marine life. Some of the best diving I’ve done in Thailand has been around Phi Phi Marine Park. One dive, my sister and I spotted a turtle, a black tip reef shark AND a leopard shark – all before midday. The coral is generally in pretty good shape, though the waves can make you feel a little queasy on the way out to the dive sites. I recommend using travel bands like these from Amazon Travel Sickness Wristbands (Black)

diving with turtles in Thailand
Diving with turtles in Thailand

Getting there: Fly or take a night bus to Krabi, then approx 2 hour ferry to Koh Phi Phi. You can book joint bus and ferry tickets here. The more tickets you book the cheaper they get.

Stay: I have yet to find a great place to stay in Koh Phi Phi (after around 5 trips at least), I recommend showing up and using the little accommodation office near the pier. Give them your budget and they will find you a place.

Don’t miss: the beach fireshows – after I have been spoilt for fireshows living here, I still think they are impressive and the best in Thailand.

Diving Koh Similan / The Similan Islands

Diving the Similan Islands is usually on the bucket list for divers in Thailand. While the Similan islands are no longer covered on coral and marine life, they still have some great dive sites. Whale sharks and manta rays can be spotted around this area. Day trips here are extremely expensive (when I went we paid 6000 baht for two dives, compared with 2500 baht average in other dive spots around Thailand). Liveaboards are very popular here and you can often get great deals at the end of the season (April, May) if you can be flexible. This whole area is closed off during the rainy season (end of May to October) and even in October you are not guaranteed diving (my liveaboard was cancelled due to enormous waves one October). If you are considering a liveaboard then make sure it includes Richelieu Rock or at least Koh Bon for a chance of manta rays.

diving thailand

Getting there: The jump off point to the Similan Islands is in Khao Lak. You can book your night bus travel here on this website. Alternatives are to fly to Phuket and then travel on (sometimes two buses) two hours North to Khao Lak.

Stay: Beware of cheap accommodation here. I’ve stayed in various dives (pun intended) so nowhere to recommend.

Don’t miss: Khao Lak’s tiny national park with a few secret hidden beaches to discover along the way. For more on Thailand’s National Parks, read my post here

Diving Richelieu Rock

Arguably the best dive site in Thailand, I was lucky enough to spot my first whale shark here and therefore it will forever by up there in my memories of great dives. The dive site has lots of pretty purple coral and is claimed to be one of the best spots for whale sharks in Thailand. ( If only we could hold the whale sharks to that…!). North of the Similan Islands, it’s about a two hour, fairly bumpy, speed boat ride to get there.

diving thailand
4 metre ‘baby’ whale shark at Richelieu Rock, best dive site in Thailand

Same details for Khao Lak, see above.

 

Diving Koh Phangan

Diving on Koh Phangan can be both great and disappointing in my experience. Sail Rock dive site has a lot of shoals of fish so if you’re looking for quantity then diving here can be impressive.  The coral is fairly pretty, although expect a lot of divers underwater around the time of the Full Moon Party.  The visibility is always worse around Full Moon and, unsurprisingly, there is no diving on the whole island for the day after the Full Moon party.  For Full Moon Party Tips, read my post here as I’ve been to 5!

diving thailand
Find Nemo everywhere you dive in Thailand

Getting there: There are several ways of getting to Koh Phangan. Options include flying to Koh Samui + ferry (more expensive but faster), flying to Surat thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat + minivan + ferry, and booking a train or night bus to Chumpon + ferry. You can check out great travel deals here on this island website.

Stay: I loved staying at Seaboard Bungalows in the North and Sail Rock Divers also had some good value, nice rooms. I always use Agoda for finding the best deals.

Don’t miss:  Bottle Beach, it’s one of my favourite quiet beaches in Thailand. Read more about it and other quiet beaches here

Diving Koh Tao

While diving on Koh Tao has seen its reputation take a nose dive (!), it remains one of the cheapest places to get your Open Water Certificate and there are 75+ dive centres to choose from. If you just arrive on the island, use your negotiation skills to get your diving qualification and accommodation throw in together. Be prepared for it to get very busy underwater.

Getting there: there are multiple options. I recommend night bus or train to Chumpon and then ferry from Chumpon to Koh Tao, book your tickets here.

Don’t miss: a trip to Ang Thong Marine Park- I’m yet to go but have heard great things.

 

Ao Nang Islands, Krabi

Many dive shops in Krabi will also advertise taking you to Koh Phi Phi Marine Park, but a cheaper alternative is to stay and dive the local islands.  Visibility is not always the best but when I went I saw two bamboo sharks and I was lucky enough to see this amazing seahorse. I find there can often be lots of marine life to see even when some of these dive sites don’t shout about it. Ao Nang also offers a great jump off point for island hopping around Railay, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Noi and more. 

Getting there: Fly or night bus to Krabi and then take the airport shuttle or songtaew (truck) to Ao Nang area. . Book your bus tickets using this handy website.

Stay: I loved the location and pool at Timber House in Ao Nang, book your stay here on Agoda

diving thailand
Seahorse spotting in Krabi, Thailand

More dive posts coming soon: snorkelling around Koh Lipe was beautiful but I have yet to dive there and I’m planning on a few dives around Phuket once rainy seasons finishes. Watch this space.

Into sea animals? Read about how and where to see pink dolphins in Thailand year round.

And for more island advice, check out my honest island summaries here to help you decide where to visit

Useful Dive Items

 

I never go diving without my Gopro Hero 4. I’m convinced the moment I do is the dive when I will see five sharks, 10 mantas, some dolphins and a whale. Buy GoPro HERO4 BLACK from Amazon here 

It took me a while to figure this out but your underwater dive photos and videos will look shit unless you include a red or orange filter. (Should have listened more on that colour loss part of the Advanced Open Water!) Get yours here Polarpro Red Filter and make sure you remember it when you dive. Or your photos will look like my whale shark one above – very blue!

If you get cold easily then I recommend using a long sleeved rash vest under your shorty wetsuit. I am yet to find a dive shop in Thailand that would give me a long wetsuit (for free). I always use my billabong rash vest to keep warm on those longer, deeper dives. And especially for liveaboards when multiple dives means a lower overall body temperature. Buy a similar one here from Amazon, Dakine Women’s Persuasive Snug Fit Long Sleeve Rashguard

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best diving thailandbest diving thailand

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something, I may receive a small commission for it at no extra cost to you.

Thailand Islands: The Best Islands To Visit

Every article I read about Thailand islands seems to quote a different number of islands.  It is safe to say that Thailand has hundreds of islands you can stay on and visit and it is my intention to visit them all! With so many to choose from I often get asked which island is the best to visit. My answer is usually it depends what you’re after, party islands? relaxed and uncrowded? islands for snorkelling or diving? Hopefully this post will help you make the best decision. Even better, you can visit a few of the Thai islands on the same trip as they often have good transport links between them.

Here is a summary of all the ones I’ve been to so far and some brief information to help you decide on which paradise island to check out first including must-do activities and how to get to each island. Read more about how to travel around Thailand on this post.

Islands: The Gulf of Thailand

Koh Tao

Koh Tao Thailand Islands
Learning to dive on Koh Tao

A backpacker island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has beautiful beaches and an obvious party scene but mostly it is known for cheap diving courses, and is often advertised as one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. I took my PADI Open Water Qualification here 4 years ago and the prices are still the same. Your Open Water diving certificate can start from around 9000 baht…try and get your accommodation thrown in too. If you turn up at the pier, you can often negotiate prices with the dive shops. Unfortunately Koh Tao is not without it’s problems and I suggest being careful here, not to get too drunk and never to cause problems with locals, such as getting into fights etc.

Don’t miss: learning to dive

Cheapest way to get here: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Chumpon/Surat thani, bus to pier and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service. Alternative is to fly to Koh Samui and take a ferry from there.

Book your transport here with this useful website. The more you book the cheaper the tickets become…

Koh Phangan 

bottle beach 2
Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan

Home to the infamous Full Moon Party, this island remains one of my favourites. It’s party in the South and tranquil in the North.  For one of my favourite beaches check out Bottle Beach – a stunning Northern beach only accessible by boat so it’s very quiet.  Diving here can be great although visibility is unpredictable. Sail Rock is one of Koh Phangan’s famous dive sites and whale sharks can be spotted here (just not by me…yet!). I love staying in the North and I discovered  these cute bungalows last time, right on a lovely stretch of beach. The restaurant here did great food and there were more food options further down the beach too.  An even cheaper option with basic bungalows that also had a pool but not as a nice a beach was Lucky Resort. The restaurant had great views of the ocean for sunsets too. Read here for Full Moon Party Tips..

Don’t miss: Dancing until sunrise. Even if you miss Full Moon there are Half Moon Parties, Jungle Parties, Waterfall parties…

Cheapest way to get here: Sleeper train/night bus to Chumpon and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Chumpon /Surat thani/Koh Samui and take the ferry. Lomprayah have the fastest service.

 

Koh Samui

Koh Samui Thailand Islands
Koh Samui during an island day tour I took to see temples, beaches, monkeys and waterfalls

Boasting one of coolest airports I’ve ever been to, Samui caters to holiday makers on a large scale. In all honesty, Koh Samui is probably my least favourite island as a result of this, it can get very crowded over peak season (December – when I went!) and I don’t think it is as idyllic looking as it’s Gulf counterparts.  That said, if you are on limited time it is one of only two island that you can fly direct to (the other being Phuket). I stayed in upmarket accommodation at Lamai Wanta Beach Resort (courtesy of my generous aunt!) but a friend recently stayed at budget friendly New Hut Bungalows and recommended them to me. They look like a great photo opportunity too!

One thing to be aware of in Koh Samui is that flights are generally expensive because the budget airlines cannot fly to Samui as it is owned by Bangkok Airways. However, the airport looks like the garden of a 5 star hotel and is worth seeing. Occasionally cheap flights with Thai Smile can be found.

Don’t miss: An island tour

Cheapest way to get there: Sleeper train/night bus to Surat thani, bus to pier and then ferry. You can buy all inclusive tickets from this website

Fastest way to get there: Fly direct from Bangkok

 

Andaman Islands

Phuket

phuket thailand islands
Stunning sunsets while surfing at Kata Beach, Phuket

Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and is attached to the mainland by bridge. It has an ever-growing international airport which can lead to extremely busy beaches and very high prices for taxis, which is why it has a bit of a bad reputation among those of us who live in Thailand. However, I don’t feel this is totally deserved and as it is such a huge island there are many less popular places to explore. The busiest area seems to be Patong beach which I have always been urged to avoid, mainly because of its multitude of gogo bars. I’ve mainly spent time in the South at Kata and Karon beaches for surfing during rainy season (June-October). I loved staying at this hostel, it was about 4 minute walk to the surfing beach, was good value and they had really nice facilities.

Don’t miss:  learning to surf, you can hire an instructor and then you get the board for the rest of the day

Cheapest way to get here:  Take a night bus to Phuket Town, then songtaew (local trucks) to the beach of your choice. You may need to take two, one from the bus station and then another from Phuket town to the beach. Approx 20 baht.

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Phuket and take the local bus further south.

Koh Yao Noi

koh yao noi thailand islands
Stunning Views of Phangna Bay from Koh Nok, a small island I kayaked to from Koh Yao Noi

This island has really chilled out vibes and zero party scene. It felt a little off the beaten track but still has hotels and restaurants around. The beaches are fairly thin strips of sand so there’s not all that much room for sunbathing. Swimming with the backdrop of Phangna Bay behind you felt pretty awesome though. I rented bicycles and cycled around the island – which has a couple of hills so be prepared! (or get off and walk like someone may have done…). This is a great place to rent kayaks from as well and I discovered the small empty island of Koh Nok which this amazing viewpoint. I loved the place I stayed at,  Sabai Corner Bungalows, it had tall wooden bungalows set back into the mountain with great views of the bay. It was also very affordable and the owners were helpful with renting kayaks and bicycles.

Don’t miss:  If you can’t afford to stay somewhere like the Six Senses Hotel (and I can’t!) then head there for a cocktail to enjoy sunset and the views at this exotic looking hotel.

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then long tail boat. Book tickets on this useful website

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, speedboat to island.

Koh Phi Phi

Koh Phi Phi Thailand Islands
Views of the beach

Koh Phi Phi is the type of island that the first time I went there, I hated it. Lots of young backpackers falling drunk out of bars and overpacked long tail boats pouring into Maya Bay to see the beach from Dicaprio’s ‘The Beach’ movie. Now I’ve returned there a 2nd, 3rd and 4th time, I have to admit that Phi Phi is growing on me. I’ve accepted it for what it is : a party island and a great place to meet backpackers. Try taking a snorkelling trip to a few of the less crowded islands and definitely watch some of the fireshows. I personally feel they are the best in Thailand and even after watching a few I still think they are very impressive.

The diving around the marine park is generally of a very good standard for Thailand. I was lucky enough to see a turtle, black tip reef shark and a leopard shark all in one day. I also love that you can walk everywhere and there are no cars on the whole island, definitely a bonus if you’re living in Bangkok and sick of traffic jams.

Don’t miss:  An island hopping trip to nearby islands

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Book all your tickets together here

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Thailand Islands
Lunchtime with a view!

Serene and stunning, this is a quieter island for a relaxing time. Kantiang beach in the South is huge, wide and empty when I was there in April. There isn’t much of a party scene and not so many backpackers here. The snorkelling and island hopping trip was definitely a highlight for me as it took you to Koh Kradan, a stunning white beach uninhabited island. I went with my parents and we stayed at Alama Sea Village Resort which was incredible. It has a great view (so a short walk uphill), an infinity pool and monkeys who come and visit your balcony.

Don’t miss:  The 4 Island Hopping Trip

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry. Tickets can be booked via this website, including ferries

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

Koh Lipe

koh lipe
Mango smoothies and banana pancakes breakfast on the beach! Yes please!

This paradise island is home to white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, beautiful coral reefs and less tourists than many others! The main beach is kept extremely clean but unfortunately a lot of litter gets washed up around this island’s shores despite local efforts to consistently clear the trash. When I was there, the people were working every day but unfortunately they are fighting a losing battle with the currents. It also had some of the best sunsets I’ve seen in Thailand and the coral reefs were extremely colourful for snorkelling. (I’ve yet to dive here!) It’s close to Malaysia so can fill up if there are Thai and Malaysian coinciding holidays. I suggest you book in advance if this could be the case. I stayed at Gypsy Bungalows and loved these basic but cute bungalows with a garden walk to the beach.

Don’t miss:  Walking around the corner from the main beach to Sunset beach

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Hat Yai, minivan to pier, 2 hour speedboat

This island can take a long time to get to. I think it’s worth it but don’t try if you’re on limited time.

 

Koh Jum

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A lesser known island to both tourists and Thais, this is a rocky, wild island which still feels fairly untouched. However, this is not always a good thing as it was extremely expensive to get to from Koh Phi Phi and once on the island it was difficult to get around.  My sister and I stayed at the gorgeous Onlee bungalows – pricier than normal but amazing food as the couple who run it are Thai-French.  The stargazing was also incredible and so clear as there is not much light pollution nearby. I recommend settling into a resort as there are limited ways to visit other restaurants and if you want to hire a ‘taxi’ it won’t be at a cheap price.

Don’t miss: The stars

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to pier and then ferry

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to pier, ferry to island

 

Railay

Railay Beach Thailand Islands
Swimming around limestone karsts in Railay

I’m including Railay in this island section as it is only accessible by boat. (And until very recently I thought it was an island!).  Lots of snorkelling day trips stop off here so it can get crowded during peak season (Nov-Dec) but you can jump on boats from Krabi to get here at any point during the day. Limited options at night where the boats can charge a much higher price.  Watch dusky langur monkeys climb in nearby trees, hike to the top for a sweaty but great view and visit the Buddhist shrine to the penis. I love that this place has beaches, views and jungle.

Don’t miss: Many boats arrive on the not so nice beach area so walk through the jungle pathway to reach the prettier beach

Cheapest way to get here: Night bus to Krabi, bus from bus station to Ao Nang and then longtail boat. Book your bus tickets here

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Krabi, bus from airport to Ao Nang ferry to island

The East

Koh Chang

koh chang Thailand Islands
Lonely Beach in Koh Chang

Koh Chang has a really chilled back vibe to it, a small party backpacker crowd and some okay diving. This is one of the first islands I travelled to alone and I immediately met backpackers as it has a more intimate feel to it than other islands like Koh Tao or Koh Phi Phi. Lonely Beach is the main backpacker area and White Sand beach is a little more upmarket. I have stayed at a few places but none to rave about. There is also one creepy bartender who has followed a few solo females home so be aware and try to always walk in groups or with someone late at night.

Don’t miss: the party scene

Cheapest way to get here: Big bus or minivan from Ekkamai, Bangkok, songtaew (truck) to the pier then ferry- often a car ferry. You can book your tickets here

Fastest way to get here: Fly to Trat then ferry

Read here for Bangkok’s closest islands and beaches 

More islands information about Koh Similan, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands can be found here

 

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