How I spent less than $30 a day on Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao
There always seems to be one place in each country that I fall in love with and for Thailand that place has to be Koh Tao. I know that I am not alone here, many have mentioned it as their favourite place. It is well known for its diving scene, but you don’t have to be a diver to have an amazing time here, there is plenty more to do. We ended up spending twice as long here than initially planned because we just couldn’t get enough of it.

Island destinations are often a bit more expensive than the mainland but it’s still possible to visit the Thai islands on a budget. We have travelled most of Asia on a budget of less than $30 a day and I’ll show you how we managed to do this while on Koh Tao.

Day 1
We arrived on Koh Tao nice and early on our first day. Luckily our guest house (Simple life Cliff View Resort) allowed us to check in early, so that we could drop off our bags and have a shower after our overnight bus and ferry trip from Bangkok. After a typical breakfast consisting of orange juice and banana pancakes at Clifftop Cafe (banana pancakes seem to be a breakfast staple for backpackers exploring Asia), we took a stroll through the quaint Sairee township. Sairee has many a shop filled with souvenirs and beach wear, you could spend hours exploring, although neither of us are big shoppers so before long we were down on the beach.

After a lot of swimming, sunbathing and reading we choose a beach front restaurant for a quick lunch. With full stomachs we decided to take a walk down the beach where there were several places hiring out paddle boards. We found one outside Wind Resort which seemed to be the cheapest. I love paddle boarding and Koh Tao was a stunning place to do it. The waters are so still and clear that you can see the fish while you paddle and when you get tired of paddling you can just lay on your board and relax. We stuck to just paddling down Sairee beach because we only hired the boards for an hour, but I would love to paddle around to some of the quieter bays next time.

Once our hour of paddle boarding was up (it’s more of a workout than it looks!) we decided, we deserved a drink. The Wind Resort has a swim up pool bar with a 2 for 1 happy hour, the perfect way to end the day. Although little did we know, the best part of the day was still to come! With the sun long gone we started looking for somewhere to have dinner. We stumbled upon what looked like no more than a street food cart with a handful of tables and chairs opposite Blue Immersion on Sairee’s main street. For only 60 baht this was the BEST Pad Thai I have EVER had! I honestly still dream about it; it was that good.

Day 2
After another breakfast of banana pancakes (nope, still not sick of them yet…) we decided to hire a scooter and explore the island. The two main beaches are Sairee and Mae Haad but if you hire a scooter you can explore the island and find your favourite bays. The island has quite a few hills though and the roads aren’t great, so make sure you get a scooter powerful enough! We stopped in several bays for a swim, I think my favourite would have to be Mango Bay.

Once we were back in Sairee for the evening we found a restaurant that also played a movie on the big screen each night (there are a few of these around Koh Tao). This evening they were playing the movie “The Beach”. Perfect, I hadn’t seen it in ages but its a great movie and very fitting seeing as it’s also set in the Thai islands!

Day 3
We got up nice and early today for our full day snorkel trip. Ok that’s a lie it wasn’t that early, the snorkel trip didn’t begin until 10am. But we headed down to AC resort early to have some breakfast and a delicious smoothie before getting on the boat. Many resorts around Koh Tao offer these full day snorkel trips and most are the same price, however AC was slightly cheaper and only charged 600 baht. All these tours include lunch and go to mostly the same snorkelling spots, although some may have better boats or more of a party atmosphere, so take your pick depending on what you want out of it. We were happy with AC, lunch was good, snorkelling was impressive (even though I missed out on seeing the shark…) and the boat had a choice of sitting undercover or on the rooftop.

After a full day of sun and snorkelling we decided to go back and enjoy the best Pad Thai on the island! And of course it did not disappoint.

Day 4
We had seen a lot of flyers around Sairee advertising Grounded yoga and finally on the morning of our 4th day we decided to give it a go. For only 250 baht we were given a great yoga class by Marieke. I really enjoyed her style of teaching and by the end of the session I was definitely ready for a swim to cool off.

Koh TaoWe spent the rest of the day enjoying the beach. After hours of swimming, reading and eating (three of my favourite things!) we decided to take a walk up the hill and enjoy the sunset at the aptly named sunset bar. It turns out this walk is not a decision to take lightly. It’s a very steep and very sweaty 90 minute walk. There is also the option of scootering up but as I said it’s VERY steep. I did see several passengers having to walk up the steepest parts because the scooter couldn’t handle both of them. Once you’ve made it up there you’re rewarded with a pricey cover charge but at least you get to enjoy an amazing sunset view with a drink in hand.

So there you have it. Even on a budget of $30 a day you can have an awesome time on Koh Tao! We ended up staying for longer than four days seeing as we loved it so much, but I won’t bore you with even more details of our stay. Below you can see a breakdown of how we spent our pennies.

Budget: US$30/1050 baht

Day 1
Accommodation: 300 baht (US$8.50)
Breakfast at Clifftop: 80 baht (US$2.30)
Paddle boarding outside Wind Beach Resort: 200 baht (US$5.70)
Lunch: 120 baht (US$3.40)
Wind Beach Resort pool bar: 100 baht (US$2.80)
Dinner: BEST pad thai & sprite for 80 baht (US$2.30)
= 880 baht (US$25)

Day 2
Accommodation: 300 baht (US$8.50)
Breakfast at clifftop: 80 baht (US$2.30)
Scooter hire: 200 baht (US$5.70)
Lunch: 90 baht (US$2.60)
Dinner: 150 baht (US$4.30)
= 820 baht (US$23.30)

Day 3
Accommodation: 300 baht (US$8.50)
Breakfast: 90 baht (US$2.60)
Snorkel Tour with lunch included: 600 baht (US$17)
Dinner: 60 baht (US$1.70)
=1050 baht (US$29.80)

Day 4
Accommodation: 300 baht (US$8.50)
Breakfast: 75 baht (US$2.10)
Yoga at Grounded: 250 baht (US$7)
lunch: 100 baht (US$2.80)
Sunset Bar: 100 baht (US$2.80)
Dinner at J’Nees: 100 baht (US$2.80)
= 925 baht (US$26.30)

Please note that prices are from January 2016 and may have changed since then.

Art of Long Term Travel

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