2020 Travel Guide to Koh Samui Travel Guide + Tourist Information
Koh Samui, Thailand — Whenever we hear the country Thailand, what places usually come to mind? The busy streets of Bangkok, the beaches of Phuket, or the digital nomad community of Chiang Mai. But not all people know that there is a world-class island in Thailand: Koh Samui.
If you are sun-seeking, dreaming of dozing off in a hammock, partying at the beach, discovering wellness, and enjoying the world-class cuisine, Koh Samui has a lot to offer.
Tucked in between Indonesia and Indochina, Koh Samui is an often overlooked tropical treasure of Thailand. Once you visit Koh Samui, a small island off the coast of the usual busy country of Thailand, you will see small villages entirely made of bamboo, turquoise-colored beaches, and lush jungles. The amazing landscape of Samui is just a fraction of the island’s appeal. Its local culture will give you a taste of the Asian traditions and the unique heritage preserved in the temples and fishing villages.
Although tourism has brought a new wave of new resorts and international restaurants to the white shores of the island, Koh Samui still offers a relaxed and casual alternative to the usual beach vacation.
When is the best time to visit Koh Samui?
The best time to visit the island is from late December to April due to its perfect weather. The months of May to September are also good, but there’s a huge chance of precipitation.
The months of October to November are the rainiest months on the island, and it’s also the low season.
The weather in Koh Samui is like that of the Philippines: It is sunny almost the entire year with occasional rains.
Swimming And Exploring The Beach
If you visit the country for swimming and suntanning, late December until April has the greatest weather: lots of suns and very little rain. There is also plenty of sun from May to September, but there are usually brief showers in the afternoon or night. October and November are the rainiest months, and good beach weather can be tough to find.
Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, and Day Trips
Although Koh Samui is not known for scuba diving or snorkeling, it is near to Koh Tao. The best months to go diving in Koh Tao is anytime outside November and early December. The months of March to May are the best to see whale sharks.
One of the highlights of any trips to Koh Samui is to take kayaking trips to Angthong Marine Park, which is best to explore from December to September. The park is closed every year in November and the early weeks of December.
Visiting the island during the rainy months of October to November will give you great deals on hotels. Although the rest of the weeks can be stormy, there can still be sunny days. The months of April, May, and June are a good mixture of good weather and the best prices. These months are hot and humid, plus there are not a lot of tourists.
How To Get To Koh Samui From Manila
There are three ways on how you can get to this tropical island. But whichever of these two options you would take, the first step to get to Koh Samui is to travel from Manila to Bangkok.
From Ninoy Aquino International Airport, board the plane, which will take you to Bangkok. You can choose to travel directly from Bangkok to the island, or you can get a stopover and travel the next day.
Koh Samui is over 700 kilometers from Bangkok. The easiest way to get to the island is by plane. However, flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui can be costly and may cost more than your fare from Manila to Bangkok.
Koh Samui has its own airport, which is located in the northeast of the island. It was built by Bangkok Airways as a private airport for their use. Although in recent times other airlines are offering direct flights, the fare can still be costly.
You can get flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui via Thai Airways twice a day while Bangkok Airways has more frequent flights, departing almost every hour.
Since Bangkok Airways offers many daily flights, it is easy to find a seat on a plane. The prices vary substantially depending on when you book your airline ticket, so it is advisable to book in advance so you can get the best deals.
By Train and Ferry
If you have more time traveling to Koh Samui, a cheaper option than taking a plane is to take a train and ferry from Bangkok to Koh Samui. If you travel on a sleeper train overnight, you will not lose much time out of your vacation.
From the Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok, you can catch a train in the evening, travel and sleep during the night, and wake up the next morning once the train arrives at the Surat Thani station. Once you get off at Surat Thani, board the special shuttle bus, which will take you to the Don Sak Pier coast.
Once you have arrived at the Don Sak Pier, the trip will start to become more interesting! You have the option to take the conventional ferry, where you can just sit back and enjoy. The travel time takes around 90 minutes.
If you want a faster option and cannot wait to hit the beach, you can travel via the high-speed catamaran, reaching Koh Samui in 45 minutes or less.
By Bus and Ferry
The last option to reach Koh Samui from Thailand is via bus and ferry. This option is cheaper compared to the other two, but it is also more time-consuming.
Take a bus from Bangkok to Chumphon. Once you arrive at Chumphon, get on the high-speed catamaran, which travels to the islands of Ko Nang Yuan, Ko Tao, and Ko Pha Ngan.
This route is scenic as you can get to see more islands along the way. However, the entire journey is around 11 hours, and half of this will be traveling via boat.
Best Places To Stay In Koh Samui
Where is the best place to stay in Koh Samui? Every beach on the island has its own character. The best places to stay depends on what you want to get out of your vacation.
Decide Where You Want To Be
Do you prefer to be next to the beach or just near it? Since it is a hilly island, some of the best places in Koh Samui are located off the beach. Do you want a pool and ocean view? If so, there are many higher-end hillside properties near the beach. Booking mid-range places will also save you money. You can walk, drive a scooter or rent a songthaew.
The most popular beaches are:
Also called The Fisherman’s Village, Bophut is a fun and lively part of this tropical island. There is an abundance of restaurants and shopping places. Bophut is perfect for travelers who want to do more than just lie on the beach. They have a walking street and a night market every Friday. There are also great beach bars and spas, making it ideal for young travelers and families.
Chaweng is perfect for any kind of traveler: solo backpackers, families, and honeymooners. It is the biggest beach and town on the island and the source of fabulous beach resorts. The nightlife in Chaweng is unparalleled, making it fun for a night out, especially during the holidays.
Known for having the best beaches on the island, you can find the best beachfront resorts in Lamai. Silver Beach has been known as the best beach on the island and is close to all the area’s major resorts. Although nightlife is nothing compared to Chaweng, Lamai offers romantic getaways, making it perfect for honeymooners or travelers looking for romance.
The other beaches on the island are:
- Bang Po
- Bang Rak
- Laem Set
- Lipa Noi
- Taling Ngam
Poppies Samui Resort
Location: Bo Put, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand
[check rates and availability]
Poppies are small but pack different features. Staff will know your name and your favorite drink by your second day. It also has a gorgeous garden, a gorgeous pool and sits on the quieter stretch of Chaweng Beach. The rooms are little bungalows, giving you a feeling of home away from home.
Poppies recently turn 24 in 2018 and still remains #1 in Chaweng, according to TripAdvisor and many travel websites, even with hundreds of competitors. It is a romantic little spot that is suitable for family or honeymooners.
Silavadee Pool Spa Resort
Location: Maret, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84310, Thailand
[check rates and availability]
Just a 9-minute walk from Lamai Beach, Silvadee Pool Spa Resort is set upon a Koh Samui hill. It has spacious and luxurious Thai-style rooms with wood furnishings, modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, minibar, and iPod docks.
The resort also has the Silavadee Wellness Spa with a relaxing menu of massage treatments and other beauty therapies. The pool also has a bar offering assortments of cocktails and fruit juices. They also have their in-house Moon Restaurant that provides all guests with all-day dining and dinner options from their menu filled with international and Mediterranean cuisines.
Getting Around Koh Samui
To get around Koh Samui, you have different options for public transportation and private, hired ones. Whether you are going on foot, via taxi, car, bike, or songthaew, there are different ways to get around and get to the places where you want to go.
Koh Samui’s songthaews (pronounced as song-tao) are their version of public transportation. Instead of a bus, a songthaew is a pick-up truck with a converted bed. It can fit 8 to 10 passengers, and you can often see some people hanging off on the back bumper.
Any luggage can rack up on top of this vehicle, making it a top choice for people going to the airport or ferry terminal. Of all the transportation options on the island, it is also the cheapest.
How to Use It: With confidence and a big smile, wave at the songthaew driver near you. Stand on the roadside and flag one. Talk to the driver and tell your destination. You need to agree on the price first before hopping on the back. Once you want to get off, you need to ring the bell inside. The driver will pull over, get off, and then pay the driver.
There are many taxis all over the island. If you are dressed nicely for a dinner or party at the bar, it is the best option for you. Like the songthaew, you need to set the rate in advance as most drivers are not using the meter. Bargaining is an option as there are drivers who are giving high rates, especially to foreigners.
Scooter or Motorbike
Like in Bangkok, scooters and motorbikes are popular with locals and tourists, especially for those staying for several days. Renting a scooter or motorbike is fairly cheap as most stores are setting daily, weekly or monthly rates. However, since most motorists drive fast, make sure to wear a helmet.
If you want to tour the island, you can book your own hire car. Renting a car is highly suggested if you only have a day or two to make a grand island adventure.
Where To Eat In Koh Samui
The good news is that you won’t starve on Koh Samui. However, if you are not careful, you might get fat.
The better good news is that the tropical island offers many food options: from vegans to picky children to foodies and adventure seekers. Whether you are looking for Thai food, Indian food, seafood, burgers, or your daily dose of healthy foods, there is a lot of food that you can find on the island.
Ditch the bathing suit and wear your holiday pants instead. Koh Samui is all about eating in the morning, afternoon, and evening — plus every hour in between.
Haad Bang Po Seafood Restaurant
Listed in the World’s Best Beach Restaurants of Travel+Leisure magazine, Haad Bang Po Seafood Restaurant offers the perfect seafood beach lunch. They serve pineapple fried rice, marinated shrimp, Thai soup, curry, and other seafood delicacies. This gorgeous restaurant sits along the ring road outside of Maenam, situated so close to the beach that you might diner ankle-deep if it is high tide.
Located within the Banyan Tree Koh Samui in Lamai, Saffron brings together the blend of the different flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine and infuses it with authentic Thai specialties. The restaurant has elegant dining rooms where you will be treated to dishes such as roasted or glazed duck.
This award-winning restaurant is located at the Conrad Koh Samui. It excels for its ambiance of contemporary Thai-style, lantern-lit dining room and floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal ocean views. Their executive chef, Amporn Choeng-Ngam, creates contemporary Thai cuisine and innovative dishes.
Internet Access In Koh Samui
The Internet has become an integral part of our lives. Even if you are on vacation for a few days, you would like to check your emails, check the news, call your friend and family via Skype or Messenger, and of course, update your social media accounts.
Unlike other Southeast Asian countries, the internet in Koh Samui, like other parts of Thailand, is high-speed. Plus, there are a lot of ways on how you can connect to the internet:
- Commercial Access Point or from Internet cafes, hotels, and other establishments
- Connection through a phone line
Many hotels, restaurants, and cafes offer internet free of charge. If you need to do work and your hotel or accommodation does not offer free WiFi (which is very seldom), there are many Internet cafes providing usage of personal computers or internet connection for your laptop.
If you want to stay connected 24/7, you just need to have a SIM card from one of the many mobile service providers in Thailand. Almost all places in Koh Samui has a strong signal, and you will not have any problem connecting to the internet using your mobile device. Most service providers also offer 4, 7 up to 30 days of unlimited internet connection for foreigners.
Best Things To Do In Koh Samui
There is a repertoire of things to do and see in Koh Samui. The tropical island holds a variety of interesting things to see: from natural to man-made attractions.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
The Ang Thong National Marine Park is an archipelago composed of 42 islands in the Gulf of Thailand. It is surrounded by limestone mountains, white sand beaches, thick jungle, hidden waterfalls, and different bodies of water to explore. Ang Thong Park is a protected area that houses more than 100 square kilometers of land and sea and a variety of exotic wildlife and sea animals.
Known as the historical part of Bophut, the Fisherman’s Village is made of rows after rows of rustic-style buildings that house trendy restaurants, boutiques, shopping stores, and even hotels. Every Friday, the whole place transforms into Fisherman’s Village Walking Street Market, which attracts many shoppers, from foreigners to locals, because of the variety of food and shopping items they are selling and the lively atmosphere.
If you are reaching Koh Samui by plane from Bangkok, you will see the Big Buddha. The Big Buddha is the most well-known landmark on the island and the biggest one as well. The 12-meter high golden Buddha is surrounded by different shrines and smaller ornate Buddhas. There is also a small market selling different lucky charms, souvenirs, and food items.
Hin Ta and Hin Yai
Nature creates art that even artists cannot explain. The natural geological formations Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks or Grandpa and Grandma rocks in English translation are popular tourist destinations. These rocks resemble the male and female genitalia that foreigners cannot stop taking photos of.
Just a few kilometers away from the main island, Koh Tao or the Turtle Island, is a popular scuba diving destination. There are a lot of vibrant coral reefs and exciting and colorful sea creatures. If you are lucky, you can also spot huge whale sharks.
Wat Plai Laem
Situated near the Big Buddha, Wat Plai Laem is a colorful and interesting Buddhist temple. It features very ornate art and decor, including an 18-arm image of Mercy’s Goddess called Guanyin and a large white Chinese Buddha set on the lake.
Na Muang Waterfall
Koh Samui has many hidden waterfalls, but the two Na Muang waterfalls are the most picturesque. There are rocks and tree roots that form a natural staircase, leading to Na Muang 1’s base. There is also a large natural pool sitting under the waterfall. Taking a 10-minute walk up the mountain leads to the most beautiful waterfall known as Na Muang 2.
Mummy Monk at Wat Khunaram
The body of the island’s most famous mummified monk, Luang Pordaeng, is on display here. Luang Pordaeng died more than 20 years ago, and following his instructions, his body was placed in a specially designed glass case.
Secret Buddha Garden
Hidden away up high in the hills of the interior of the island is the Secret Buddha Garden. This breathtaking site offers majestic views and an unusual collection of statues and lush gardens.
There are plenty of ladyboy cabarets to choose from in Chaweng. Thailand’s katoeys are so famous that some of them look so feminine. It can be difficult to tell if the beautiful lady in front of you is a lady at birth.
Best Places To Shop In Koh Samui
Your holiday in Koh Samui will not be complete without a visit to a shop for souvenirs. Like the other parts of Thailand, there are plenty of cheap places where you can buy items you can take home.
Fisherman’s Village Walking Street
Like the Chaweng Walking Street, Fisherman’s Village Walking Street is the favorite destination for a tight budget. It is a lively market that is open every Friday from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM. This shopping location is also a famous tourist attraction as it offers tourists an opportunity to enjoy local delicacies and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
One of the largest shopping centers on the island, Central Festival is a huge shopping mall strategically located in the prime resort of the island — in Chaweng Beach. With its state of the art facilities, this mall is designed to match and hold trendy shops while still maintaining a tropical atmosphere. It includes a variety of restaurants, a food court, a kid’s playground, and shops.
Chaweng Walking Street
Chaweng Walking Street is one of the most colorful and exciting locations to shop. You cannot help but marvel at the array of beautiful colors on the streets. If you are looking for a place that fits your budget, Chaweng Walking Street is the place to go. You can easily haggle to your desired price for the washes, flip-flops, and souvenirs you want.
Lamai Night Plaza
This night bazaar is a favorite spot for night lovers. It offers the buyer an opportunity to purchase hand-made souvenirs and goods. This location also has a food center, cafe, and pub on the side where you can just take your time and enjoy the atmosphere as you shop around.
Koh Samui Travel Tips
Traveling to Koh Samui is easy, and there are many people and places to see. It offers a chilled out vibe, gorgeous beaches, and different activities. The island is blessed with stunning locations, friendly locations, and delicious food to fit any budget. If it’s your first time to be on a tropical island, here are some tips that you need to keep in mind to get the most out of your vacation.
Plan Your Trip Ahead of Time
To get affordable rates on airline tickets and accommodations, plan your trip ahead of time. Try traveling during the off-season and avoid traveling during the holidays if you can. Historically, Tuesdays are the most affordable days for flying.
Monitor the flights and wait for the prices to drop. You can use different apps such as Traveloka or check Skyscanner to find only the best flights to fit your budget.
Rent Your Ride
If you stay in Koh Samui for several days, renting a car or using a taxi can cost a big chunk of your budget. Car rentals start at THB500 per day during the low season and are available at different tourist spots, while taxis may cost you THB300 per ride.
Using a motorbike or scooter is the easiest and cheapest way to go around Koh Samui. A ring road runs around the island, which connects the different beaches. You may get a map from your hotel or use your smartphone’s GPS as the mobile connectivity all over the island is fast. Motorbike and scooter rentals range from THB150 to 400 a day, depending on the season. You can also fill it up with petrol which is light on the pocket.
Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Sea
Koh Samui is home to many stunning beaches. The two popular beaches, Lamai and Chaweng, are famous for their beach parties, touristy places, and shopping areas, while Maenam and Bophut are more laid back and are best for relaxing alone or visiting temples. One of the must-try beaches is Crystal Beach, with clear warm waters, beautiful scenery, and cheap massages by the beach. Plus, the crowd is sparse, making you enjoy the place more.
Be Beach Ready
Like the Philippines, Koh Samui has a hot and sunny climate throughout the year.
Bring beach-ready clothes such as good quality shorts, flow tops, sleeveless shirts, and cotton tees. Bring convenient flip-flops or sandals. Don’t forget to pack your favorite pairs of swimsuits too.
Go Temple Hopping
There are many beautiful and unique Buddhist temples that you can only see on the island. Admission is free, and donation is welcome, but it is not mandatory. You can go camera-crazy and take photos of the lovely pagodas, the koi ponds, and the lovely pagodas.
Celebrate Full Moon Parties
If you are in for more fun, you can travel to Koh Pangan, which is 30 minutes away from Koh Samui. Koh Pangan is the home of the original Full Moon Party. Thousands of people worldwide descend on this island every month for a night of dancing and drinking during Full Moon. Since accommodation prices can be very high, the better option is to book your hotel in Koh Samui and take a speedboat to Koh Pangan for THB1,000.
There are many ATMs and FOREX booths available on the island. ATMs only dispense Thai baht and has a limit of THB20,000 per transaction, with a withdrawal fee of THB180. There are also a lot of Western Union outlets in all major areas of the island.
Traveling to Thailand can be more exciting and fun, especially if you spend it on the beaches of Koh Samui!
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