The Ultimate Travel Guide To Koh Samui

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koh samui travel guide
tomtr / Pixabay

Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island. Although the island is big, the vast majority of the inland is inaccessible mountainous terrain. This means that almost everything in Koh Samui is located close to the sea, which helps to keep that tropical island feel.

Once a quiet fishing island, Koh Samui has changed and grown drastically over the years. The peaceful Thai fishing community has been replaced by luxury hotels, swanky spas, and lively bars. It’s no lie that Koh Samui has become a commercialized cosmopolitan.

However, thanks to the beautiful beaches, luxurious resorts, pumping nightlife, nature spots and wide range of activities, the island remains a popular choice for tourists and backpackers.

What I love about this island is the diversity it offers. Whatever you’re looking for you will find here. Whether you want to laze around the pool by day and party by night, have an activity-packed weekend adventure or a peaceful, low-key beach getaway, the island has it all.

In this ultimate guide, I share how you can create your ideal Koh Samui holiday and make the most out of your experience here.

Where to stay

Chaweng

Located in the northeast of the island, close to the airport, lies Chaweng. Perhaps the most touristy part of the island and certainly the party town, Chaweng is full of enormous resorts, restaurants, shops, and bars. The highlight of this area, however, is the huge beach. Chaweng beach boasts pure white sand and clear, warm water. Despite being a busy beach, there is always plenty of space and it never feels crowded.

Chaweng offers many water activities such as snorkeling, diving, and kayaking so it’s a great area to stay if you’re looking to try some water sports during your trip. Chaweng also has a big nightlife scene and some awesome street food markets.

Lamai

Slightly smaller than Chaweng but just as bustling, Lamai is another hotspot for beachfront bars, hotels, and restaurants. Although it’s only slightly south of Chaweng, I personally prefer this area. The island’s best snorkeling spots are close by and waterfalls are also a short drive away. Therefore, Lamai offers many activities and things to see, making it a great choice for those looking for an action-packed holiday, both day and night.

Both Chaweng and Lamai have an abundance of resorts for all budgets. For those looking for luxury, look no further than Lamai. Sandalwood Luxury Villa Resort and Pavilion Samui Villas and Resort are just two deluxe options.

Bophut

In the north of the island, you will find Bophut, also known as the fisherman’s village. It has a very different vibe to Chaweng and Lamai and is one of my favorite parts of the island. The beach is smaller and the water is not so clear, but what Bophut lacks in beaches, it makes up for in atmosphere.

Bophut is a charming little village with art galleries and boutique shops. It’s usually pretty quiet during the day, making it a chilled place to relax. Tourists tend to visit in the evening, especially on Fridays for the popular Friday night market.

Nathon

On the west coast, you will find Nathon town. This is the main ferry port of the island and has a slightly industrial feel. However, what I like about Nathon is the lack of commercialization. It has maintained its original Thai culture, which is a fresh change to the northern resort areas.

Nathon is perfectly located for catching the sunset. The small Nathon Beach (also known as Coconut Beach) is a quiet and tranquil spot to watch the sun go down. If you’re arriving into Nathon town via the ferry port, it’s a cheap and convenient place to stay for a night or two before exploring the rest of the island.

Lipa Noi

South of Nathon town you will find this simple and natural paradise. Lipa Noi is very peaceful and quiet, so it is a great place to stay if relaxation is what you’re looking for. Here is home to some outstanding resorts including Nikki Beach Resort and Viva Vacation Resort, but there are also some cheaper options for those traveling on a budget.

Lipa Noi has some beautiful cafes and restaurants on the beach and like Nathon, this spot is guaranteed to provide a beautiful sunset.

Maenam

Maenam is the perfect place if you are looking for pristine beaches, relaxed vibes, and cheap accommodation. There are many cheap beach bungalows here allowing you to hide out for as long as you please. Of course, 5-star luxury resorts can be found here too for those who are looking to splash out.

Maenam offers seven kilometers of stunning beach with a hilly, jungle backdrop and breathtaking views of the neighboring island, Koh Phangan. In addition, you will find great dining options and watersport activities.

The best beach spots

Being such a big island, it’s easy to find a pristine tropical beach to laze away the day. Better yet, the beaches here offer different vibes, from bustling and lively, to peaceful and secluded. If you’re staying for a while, I’d recommend spending a couple of day’s beach-hopping around Koh Samui’s top 8 beautiful beaches.

  1. Chaweng Beach

As Chaweng is the busiest and most popular town, Chaweng Beach is also the most popular stretch of sand on the island. The beach gets busy, but at five kilometers long, it never feels too crowded.

Because of Chaweng’s party reputation, the beach tends to be occupied by young, backpacker crowds. However, do not let this put you off. Chaweng Beach is great for watersports and even has an offshore reef. Moreover, it’s super close to the tiny island Koh Matlam.

  1. Lamai Beach

Another big beach in the northeast, Lamai Beach is quieter than it’s neighbor Chaweng, and therefore, in my personal opinion, a better choice. The crescent-shaped bay is adorned with powdery white sand and turquoise-blue waters.

Lamai Beach is known for its large granite boulder rocks. The most famous of them are Hin Ta and Hin Yai, located at the southern end of the beach.

  1. Maenam Beach

Uniquely, Maenam Beach has thick, yellow sand instead of the white, powdery sand found on other beaches. The water here is also deeper than most bays, which makes it an awesome swimming spot.

This coastal point is one of the closest points to the next-door island of Koh Phangan, offering wonderful views across the horizon. Because of its beachfront bungalows and hidden resorts, Maenam Beach has managed to maintain a simple, natural and authentic feel.

  1. Choeng Mon Beach

In the northeastern tip of Samui, lies a series of bays known as Choeng Mon. It’s a peaceful, quiet beach with just a handful of upmarket resorts. As it’s not well-known to most visitors, it’s still a fairly hidden spot.

On one side of the bay, you will find a cluster of rocks where there is a great spot for snorkeling. There is also a tiny island nearby that you can easily access by kayak.

  1. Taling Ngam Beach

Taling Ngam is without a doubt, one of the most untouched and picturesque parts of Samui, in fact, this is my favorite sunset spot. Located in the south, away from all the hustle and bustle, it’s remoteness makes it one of the less-visited bays of the island.

The natural beauty of Taling Ngam and the tranquility it offers makes it the perfect choice for those who are looking to escape the crowds and find total relaxation. If your ideal tropical beach is a rustic, secluded stretch of palm-lined sand, then this is one not to be missed.

  1. Bang Por Beach

Bang Por is known as the most laid-back beach in the north of Koh Samui. At almost 11 kilometers, this beach feels like it goes on forever. Even though the beach is lined with bars, restaurants, and resorts, it still manages to keep an untouched, natural feel, as this is where people come when looking to escape the crowds.

The water here is very shallow, and at low tide, the water stretches far out. Although Bang Por may not be the best swimming spot, it’s certainly a great kid-friendly option.

  1. Lipa Noi Beach

Lipa Noi Beach is one of the safest and nicest beaches to swim in thanks to the lack of underwater rocks and coral. Being closely located to the ferry port also makes it a convenient beach to visit for those not wanting to travel far.

Lipa Noi has some awesome seafood restaurants, a few cool beach bars as well as some luxury resorts such as the world-famous Nikki Beach Resort.

  1. Bophut Beach

You will certainly not get bored at Bophut Beach. This gorgeous yellow sanded beach in the small Fisherman’s Village features exotic local markets, interesting architecture, and trendy beach resorts, along with an array of other cool things to do and see.

Bophut Beach gets busy around sunset, with tourists coming to see the unique mix of Chinese and Thai architecture, creating a distinctive and fascinating look and feel. This 3-kilometer bay is one of Samui’s must-see beaches.

What to see and do

Aside from the stunning beaches, Samui is jam-packed with exciting activities and interesting things to see. All over the island, you will find awesome experiences so I highly recommend exploring the island as much as possible during your stay. This will allow you to get the full experience and not miss out on the delights of the island. Here are my top 8 things to see and do while you are here:

  1. Try a new watersport

Samui is full of cool water sport activities. As a tropical island, snorkeling is naturally a popular activity. Kayaks and paddleboards can be hired from many beach spots. In addition, several companies offer day tours to nearby Koh Taen (or Coral Island) for a day of kayaking and snorkeling.

If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime experience you can explore the deep blue sea with a diving experience on the island. Diving companies will take you 60 kilometers out from the island to the best diving spot. Here the diving instructors will teach you all you need to know and will keep you completely safe as they take you down into the waters to explore an aquatic wonderland.

  1. Visit some waterfalls

Samui has several waterfalls hidden in the mainland of the island. The most popular and also most picturesque are the two Na Muang waterfalls. If you only have time to visit one waterfall during your stay, I would recommend Na Muang.

I love the natural, untouched feel of these waterfalls as the rocks and tree roots form a natural staircase that leads up to Na Muang 1. Here you will find a large natural pool underneath the waterfall, perfect for refreshing after the short hike up.

If you carry on up the mountain for another 20 minutes or so, you will find Na Muang 2, which is even more beautiful than the first. The name Na Muang means ‘Purple Waterfalls’. This is because the rocks here have a distinctive purple shade to them making them as unique as they are scenic.

  1. Visit the Big Buddha

The Big Buddha temple (known as Wat Phra Yai to locals) is one of the island’s most popular landmarks. Located in the north of the island, close to the airport is the 12-meter high golden Buddha. The shine is so giant that it can be seen from several kilometers away. In fact, if you are flying into the island, you will likely see it as you approach the runway. Even so, it’s well worth the trip to see it up close.

The staircase to reach this Big Buddha is nowhere near as strenuous as others in the country. The temple is open every day from 8 am to 6 pm. If you want a true Thai Buddhist experience, whilst avoiding the crowds, come early in the morning to catch the monks morning chants. Like all tourist attractions, here you will find a souvenir market as well as numerous food stalls.

  1. Check out the famous ‘Hin Ta’ And ‘Hin Yai’

Every day these peculiar rock formations attract tourists by the dozens. Naturally shaped to look like male and female genitalia, these rocks have become a funny, fascinating and must-see sight for tourists.

Creating even more giggles, the names of the rocks translate to Grandpa and Grandma. You will find this unusual attraction between Lamai and Hua Thanon. Aside from the laughs you’ll get here, the views from the rocks are pretty spectacular, stretching out across the sea to nearby islands.

  1. Go on a jungle jeep safari

One for the adrenaline junkies! If you are looking for a heart-racing adventure during your stay, you will surely want to book onto a jungle jeep safari. On this day trip, your tour guide will drive you around the island in a 4WD where you will get off the beaten track, and into the wild jungle, exploring all the island’s top sights including Hin Ta & Hin Yai Rocks, the Mummified Monk, Namuang Waterfall, and Buddha’s Magic Garden.

This tour is a great option for exploring Samui’s best landmarks in one day, whilst enjoying an exhilarating and memorable ride. The tour starts at about 10 am, includes lunch and lasts around 7 hours.

  1. Day trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park

For a true Thai Island experience, a day trip to the Ang Thong National Park should not be missed. The marine park is an oceanic area which includes 42 untouched, protected islands. Within these tiny islands, you will find caves, treks, viewpoints, monkeys and even a hidden saltwater lake.

Many tour companies offer one-day trips which you can usually book through your hotel or hostel. If one day is not enough, some of the beaches permit camping ‘Castaway’ style.

  1. Watch a real Muay Thai fight

A must-do whilst in Thailand is to watch the country’s national sport – Muay Thai fighting. Koh Samui has some well-known Muay Thai stadiums, which run regular fight nights open to the public. Both local and foreign Muay Thai fighters who are training on the island or on Koh Phangan, come to participate in these Thai boxing matches.  

Every week you will find fights at Chaweng Stadium, Petchbuncha Stadium, and Samui International. Fight nights usually start around 9 pm and last for about 3 hours, guaranteeing blood, sweat and action! Tickets aren’t cheap but are worth it, generally priced around 1,500 baht each.

  1. Take a spa day

Is a holiday really complete without a luxurious Thai spa experience? The abundance of upmarket resorts in Samui means that high-quality spas are not hard to find. The most popular spas here offer traditional Thai massage, coconut oil massages, body scrubs, and other wellness treatments.

With so much choice it’s hard to know which spa to choose. A few of the most popular and highly-rated spas are Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in the southeast, Anantara Spa in Bophut, and Banyan Tree Spa close to Lamai Beach.

Nightlife

Whilst many would argue that Samui’s neighbor Koh Phangan is the king of the parties, Samui certainly does not lack in nightlife either. Chaweng is the party capital of the island so you will find many of the best bars here. However, there are some equally, if not more awesome places to party in other areas. Here are a handful of my favorites:

Ark Bar, Chaweng

Ark Bar is actually a beach resort with over 300 rooms. However, the on-site established bar and nightclub is open to all and is hugely popular with tourists. This place has been designed for party animals, so expect a crazy night here. Every day, Ark Bar hosts DJs and live music from midday all the way through to early morning. In the mix, there are also fire shows, pool parties and dancing on the beach from dusk till dawn.

Nikki Beach Samui, Lipa Noi

The famous beach party spot Nikki Beach reminds me of the Ibiza pool parties. Nikki Beach Club is just as buzzing during the day as it is at night. Highlights here are the poolside DJ, champagne on ice, an extensive cocktail menu and spacious beach beds.

A side note: not nightlife-related, but if you are staying close to Lipa Noi, be sure to check out Nikki Beach’s signature Sunday brunch buffet too!

Coco Tams, Bophut

My favorite spot to spend the evening. More of a chilled atmosphere than a party vibe, Coco Tams is a gorgeous beach bar that’s kitted out with beanbags on the beach and swing seats at the bar. The cocktails here are divine, and the music is predominantly chill-out tunes, making Coco Tams the ultimate tropical relaxation spot. If you’re not much of a party-goer (like me) this cute and cozy beach bar will be your jam!

Woobar, Maenam

Woobar is a chic beach-side bar with an infinity pool. Styled with lavish seating areas around the pool and outdoor deck, this is the place to be seen. What makes this trendy beach club even more iconic is the panoramic view of the sea. On the downside, this bar is pricey, but it’s worth it for the Instagram shot!

Girls take note, Friday night is ‘ladies’ night’ where all women get a free glass of Champagne on arrival.

Best places to eat in Samui

Whether you’re looking for local food in one of the numerous Thai markets, or a romantic, sit down restaurant meal in an upmarket restaurant, Koh Samui is an awesome island for foodies.

Food Markets

You will be spoilt for choice with the food markets here. Here are a few of my favorite markets for tasty bites around the island.

  1. Fisherman’s Village Walking Street – The island’s largest and the most popular walking street market, and my personal favorite. Near the Big C Supermarket in Bophut, you will find this market every Friday evening.
  1. Nathon Town Food Market – Every evening the pier is taken over by this local food market. This is one of my favorite markets as it has a real, authentic Thai atmosphere, and Thai prices to match. One highlight is the 10 baht noodles!
  1. Chaweng Night Market – Probably the most commercial and touristy market on the island, but also the most diverse. At this large food court, you will find whatever your stomach desires, whether that’s a Thai, European or international dish.
  1. Maenam Walking Street – Thursday nights in Maenam, sees the Chinatown area come alive with street food. Aside from the wide range of delicious and cheap food, you will also find cocktail stalls offering alcoholic drinks from as little as 60 baht.

Restaurants 

There are so many high-quality dining options in Samui that it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few. However, here are a few picks for all budgets and tastes.

  1. The Boudoir – You will find this intimate and cozy French restaurant in Maenam. Featuring Arabian style cushions, curtains, and lanterns, The Boudoir makes the perfect setting for a romantic meal. In regards to the food, the restaurant offers authentic French flavors and high-quality wine.
  1. Tree Tops Sky Dining – For an ultimate dining experience in Chaweng, you can eat your dinner amongst the treetops of the tropical jungle. With only 8 private tables, the intimacy of this restaurant makes it a popular choice for romantic meals and special occasions such as ‘popping the question’! On the menu, you will find mainly seafood, meat, and Thai dishes along with an extensive wine list.
  1. Lamai Veggie – As a vegetarian, I’m always on the lookout for meat-free restaurants. Close to Lamai Beach, I found this little veggie heaven. This tiny Thai restaurant offers a daily set menu. Flavourful curries, exotic Thai salads, veggie sausages, and samosas and some of the common appearances. They also have some yummy homemade sweet treats as well as their popular Kombucha tea for 50 baht.
  1. Lakeside by Thong Suk – If you want to eat with the locals then check out this place in Chaweng. Their nightly live music performances attract locals and tourists alike, creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all. Here you will find tasty Thai food, great prices, and friendly staff.

Shopping in Samui

Retail shopping is plentiful on the island. With large commercialized malls and outlets alongside the many markets and night bazaars, you are sure to pick up some cool stuff.

The shopping malls tend to sell more westernized clothes and items, with a higher price tag too. Whereas, at the markets and bazaars you can find interesting locally made gifts, souvenirs, and cheap clothing.

Shopping malls and outlets

  1. Central Festival Samui, Chaweng – Without a doubt, this is the largest shopping complex in Samui. This 3-story mall has everything you could ever need whilst on your holiday. Here you will find well-known western brands plus some nice independent shops, a food court and plenty of restaurants.
  2. Outlet Village Samui, Chaweng – This open-air outlet features all the top clothing & footwear brands such as Nike, Levis, Timberland, Adidas, and Lacoste. You can purchase designer brands here for a fraction of the price in western countries, which is why this mall is so popular with tourists.
  3. The Wharf Samui, Bophut – This open-air plaza features a unique mix of eastern and western architectural styles making it the most original, and least western looking shopping center. The Wharf offers 120 stores including specialty shops of local and imported goods, restaurants, bakeries, beauty salons plus a food court.

Markets and bazaars

  1. Fisherman’s Village Walking Street – As well as the incredible selection of food, this Friday night market is crammed with clothing and souvenir stalls. You can find some great bargains here such as T-shirts for 100 baht, hippy jewelry, sunglasses, and all the usually tacky souvenirs. Even if you’re not buying anything, just walking through this lively market is a fun experience.
  2. Elephant Walk, Fisherman’s Village – This small, nightly Bophut market is a quirky shopping experience. Elephant Walk offers more unique and interesting gifts and souvenirs than the standard walking street markets and bazaars. The prices are slightly higher here but are worth it for the quirky finds you will come across. This market also has some very funky and colorful seating areas including brightly painted oil drums used as tables.
  3. Lamai Night Bazaar  – Every night in Lamai, this plaza comes alive with an endless range of clothes and gifts. Although it does get busy, it is not as loud or crowded as the markets in Chaweng, therefore, without a doubt, it’s a more enjoyable shopping experience. Expect to find all the classic tacky t-shirts, Muay Thai shorts, colorful lamps, buddhas, and elephant ornaments.

48 hours in Koh Samui Itinerary

Many tourists and backpackers come to Thailand with jam-packed travel itineraries and the false impression that 2 days per island is enough. For an island like Koh Samui, one week here would be ideal to truly experience all that the island has to offer. However, you can check out the top highlights in 2 days. Here’s how:

Day 1

By the time you arrive and check into your hotel, the day will already be getting on. Use this afternoon to explore your new surroundings. Hire a scooter or jump in a Songthaew and check out one of the beaches from the guide above. Spend a few hours relaxing here, swimming and snorkeling before heading back to your hotel to freshen up for the evening ahead.

One thing I love to do when I first arrive in a new place is to go to the local food market. This is a great way to get a good feel for the area and take in the sights. Head to your nearest Walking Street market and try some yummy Thai street food, browse around the market stalls and enjoy an ice-cold beer. If you are staying in Chaweng, you can later go on to enjoy the lively bars and nightclubs.

Day 2

Wake up early (ish) for a full day of adventure. Choose a DIY island tour or book a tour at your resort (I recommend the jeep jungle safari tour). If you are exploring at your own peril, head up to the north of the island to see the Big Buddha. From here drive down to Lamai for the famous ‘Hin Ta’ And ‘Hin Yai’. Grab lunch by the beach before heading south and inland to the Na Muang waterfalls for the afternoon.

For sunset, take advantage of the many beach clubs. Most of these beach bars also have a great dinner menu so you can enjoy a relaxing sit-down meal and a few drinks whilst watching the sun go down. Depending on your vibe, either head up to Ark Bar for an ultimate Samui party night or to Coco Tams for a more chilled evening.

Day 3

If you’re not leaving the island until the afternoon, resist the temptation to sleep in and head to the beach. Hire a paddleboard or kayak for some fun in the water before catching your flight or ferry to your next destination.

How to get here

Flying to the island

Due to the commercialism of the island, Koh Samui has its own airport, making it one of the easiest Thai islands to reach. Bangkok Airways owns the airport, meaning most flights to and from the island are operated by this airline. However, Thai Airways now also offers a few daily flights. The easiest way to fly to the island is from Bangkok, which takes just over an hour.

Once you arrive at the airport you can easily find a taxi to take you to your destination. A taxi will cost anywhere between 400 – 1000 baht depending on where on the island you are going. The prices at the airport are set fares.

The airport also offers a shared minibus service to most parts of the island. This is much cheaper than taking a taxi, but you may have to wait a while before leaving. They usually require a minimum of 5 passengers per minivan so the wait could be 15 to 30 minutes. This service can be booked online in advance, or at the arrivals hall once you land. Expect to pay between 100 – 200 baht per person.

Alternatively, many hotels and resorts will organize a transfer to pick you up and bring you there, for a charge. Check with your accommodation to see if they offer this.

Koh Samui airport is like no other. The unique design and decoration of the airport strongly embrace the tropical setting and nature it is surrounded by. Both inside and outside the airport you will see many magnificent plants and trees, making it feel more like a botanical garden than an airport!

Traveling from Surat Thani

Flights to Koh Samui can be expensive, therefore a cheaper way to reach the island is to fly to Surat Thani then take a joint transfer (minibus and ferry). The minibus will take you to Donsak pier where you will then board a ferry to one of the ferry ports of Koh Samui, most likely Nathon pier.

The journey via minibus will take around 90 minutes and the ferry from Donsak is 60-90 minutes, therefore, traveling from Surat Thani will add some time to your journey. Before booking your flight, check the ferry times and make sure you will have enough time to reach the pier and catch the last ferry, to avoid getting stuck in Surat Thani for the night.

You can buy a joint transfer in advance online or once you arrive at the airport. If you prefer to travel privately, you can take a taxi to the pier and then purchase your ferry ticket. Taxi fares from the airport to the pier, however, will be high.

Once you arrive on the island, you will be greeted (or bombarded!) with taxi and motorcycle taxis offers. You can try to barter with them, especially if you are traveling in a group. You can also check with your accommodation to see if they offer a pickup service.

Best time to visit

In Koh Samui high season is from December to the end of March. During this period the island is very busy! Therefore, prices are higher and accommodation books up quickly. Therefore, if you are coming in high season, be sure to plan and book your stay in advance.

Weather-wise, this is also the best time to come as it’s what the locals call ‘cool season’ and ‘dry season’, meaning there is abundant sunshine and little rainfall. The hottest months are April to June. During this time sunbathing and staying in the sun in the middle of the day becomes much more difficult.

As a tropical island, rainstorms can happen all year round, however, they usually clear up just as quickly as they begin. Monsoon (rainy) season is typically from late October to mid-December. During this time it’s not unusual for it to rain on and off all day. The average rainfall in November on Koh Samui is 1.6 feet of rain, limiting the activities you can do there.

Getting around the island

Shared taxis (Songthaews) 

The closest thing to public transport, these shared taxis known as Songthaews, roam the island beeping their horns at pedestrians who may require a ride. These converted pickup trucks circle the island on various set routes and offer an easy way to get around.

You can flag one down whenever you see one. Prices start from about 50 Baht. If you are traveling with a group, you should be able to barter with the driver to get a better price. Make sure to agree on a price before jumping in.

Private taxis & motorcycle taxis

Standard private taxis also operate all over the island. If you are looking to go somewhere remote or off the beaten track, a taxi is a good option. Nevertheless, taxi prices are considerably higher than songthaews.

You will also spot guys on motorbikes wearing orange tops with a number on their back. These are motorcycle taxis which can be a good option if you are traveling on your own or if you need to get somewhere fast. These guys will take you anywhere you ask them to, but as always, agree to a price beforehand.

Renting a scooter

Navigating around Koh Samui is very straightforward as the main road circles the whole island. Because of this, many tourists choose to hire a scooter during their stay. This gives you complete freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want for a cheap price. Hiring a scooter will cost you between 150 – 200 Baht per day however if you are staying a week you will usually be able to get a special rate.

When renting a scooter, the rental shop might ask for your passport as a form of deposit. However, I found Koh Samui to be more relaxed than other islands in regards to deposits, and many places will accept other ID cards or money deposits instead. Even though I’ve never had a problem when returning a rented scooter here, I would still advise you to take photos of the scooter and note down any dents, scratches, etc before you drive away.

Typical costs & Budgeting

Accommodation

Accommodation prices in Samui vary greatly. You can find a bed in a budget hostel for 200-400 baht ($6-$12) per night. In certain parts of the island, you can rent a basic beach bungalow for just 400-700 baht ($12-$21) per night. The upmarket, luxury resorts will cost a lot more. If you’re looking to stay in a top resort, budget 1500-2500 baht ($45-$75) per night.

Food & Drink

If you eat at markets or Thai restaurants you can eat very cheaply, 60-100 baht per meal. Combine that with minimal alcohol and you can spend as little as 250-400 baht ($8-$12) a day.

If you’re drinking lots of alcohol and eating western food, you’ll spend up to 1500 baht ($45) a day. A western meal typically costs between 150-350 baht. A beer in a restaurant will be 70-100 baht in a restaurant and more in a bar. Wine is around 250 baht a glass and cocktails between 150-350 baht.

Transport

You can hire a scooter for 150-200 baht per day. A full tank of gasoline typically costs 120-160 baht ($3.60-$4.90).

If you’re taking Songthaews, each journey will cost between 40- 150 baht. Taxis will be much more. Depending on how many trips you make, you will need to budget between 500-1200 baht ($15-$37) a day.

Activities and trips

Depending on how much you plan to do on your trip you’ll need to budget between 350-2000 baht ($10-$60) per day for activities.

Money-Saving Tips:

● Eat at the street markets or small family-run Thai restaurants

● Pre-drink at your accommodation before going out to the bar to save on alcohol costs. Beers are very cheap in 7-Eleven.

● Take shared Songthaews instead of private taxis whenever possible for cheaper transport costs

● If you are renting a scooter, fill up the gasoline at a gas station. Do not purchase the small 40 baht gas bottles that the scooter rental shops offer. You can fill the whole tank at a gas station for 120-160 baht.

● Enjoy the vast array of free activities of the island – the beaches, waterfalls, Big Buddha and other temples are free.

● Consider traveling in low season for cheaper accommodation prices

Staying Safe

In general, Samui is a very safe destination. However, touristy areas like Chaweng and Lamai do get very crowded, and like all crowded places, caution should be taken to avoid potential scams and hazards. Here are a few tips on staying safe on the island:

● Do not leave your scooter keys in the bike.

● Use the safe at your hotel to keep all your valuables in. Do not take valuables or large amounts of cash out with you, especially if going to the beach.

● Take care when going out at night. Avoid walking down back roads on your own late at night. At bars, stay vigilant and keep an eye on your drink at all times.

● Don’t leave your bank card in the ATM machine! ATMs in Thailand release cash first then the bank card after, opposite to most other countries. This causes a problem for many tourists who take their cash and walk away, forgetting their card is still in the machine.

Scooter Safety

Unfortunately, Samui has a high rate of motorbike/scooter accidents, of which many are tourists. Although the roads are generally safe and easy to drive, if you don’t know the area or are inexperienced with riding scooters you should take extra caution:

● Drive slowly and stay close to the side of the road allowing other vehicles to overtake you. Even though you will see many tourists speeding down the highway, do not follow suit. There is absolutely no reason to drive fast on the island.

● Keep your eyes on the road. Whilst you will see beautiful scenery as you drive around, it’s vital to stay focused on the road ahead to avoid potential accidents. Stray dogs hanging around can suddenly run out in front of you. Likewise, other drivers can also pull out without looking.

● Wear a helmet! In the event of a road accident, this could be the difference between life and death. All scooter hire shops provide helmets for free so don’t chance it.

Final travel tip

The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming. They rely on tourists to make a living and they have certainly embraced tourism here. Because of this, most speak basic to good English. Even so, they greatly appreciate tourists greeting or thanking them in Thai instead of English. Simply learning these two phases will go a long way.

Koh Samui is a popular travel destination for many, and with good reason. The beauty of this island is the diversity of the tourists it attracts. You will meet backpackers, families, retirees honeymooners and more, all enjoying this little slice of heaven.

By following the tips and suggestions in this valuable guide, you can create your own ultimate tropical island break, and experience all that the incredible island of Samui has to offer. The only problem is, once you arrive, you won’t want to leave!