I recently returned from my first ever solo travel trip and I will share with you here, the logistics and prices, as well as my personal reviews of tourism and reactions to Thailand.
PLANE: $350.00 USD round trip Air Asia XJ
-Booked through Skyscanner.
-Carry-on limit: 15 kg/ 30 lb, plus your personal item.
-Liquid limits 100ml bottles…I got away with 120ml.
BANGKOK ACCOMMODATION: $7 USD / 250 THB per night
Feel At Home Backpackers, Hostel
-Located in Banglampoo. Short walking distance to Khao San Road, Lomprayah bus station and Chao Phraya River. -Female dorms offer huge lockers under beds for your entire luggage, mixed dorms only offer small lockers for valuables. They provide locks. -Air con, wifi, nice staff, better than many Asian beds, pretty clean shower, hot water, there will be random shampoos left behind but you should bring a towel, and they offer laundry services.
BUS & BOAT TO KOH TAO: $61 USD / 2200 THB, round trip Lomprayah
-I bought tickets online. Their website is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It took about 6 rounds of selecting the day & time and getting redirected back to the homepage before I got through to the credit card portal…you have to just keep trying until it works. -Long check in lines, sometimes the bus leaves early, get there at least an hour early. -Toilet on the bus and one food/bathroom break. -The bus can be cold, bring a sweatshirt. -The nights bus arrives at the pier around 5:00am and the boat for Koh Tao Leaves at 7:00am. You’ll kind of not know what to do with yourself for those two hours. -I’ve heard from others that Lomprayah is the only Thai bus company to be trusted. http://www.lomprayah.com/ww/
The hostel I stayed at was a 4 minute walk from the bus station. If you start walking from Feel At Home Backpackers or I guess South West down Chakrabongse Rd towards Kaoh San Road, the last cross street you get to before Kaoh San Road is called Rambutri. You’ll turn left and keep going for a few minutes and as the road curves to the left you will see Lomprayah on the right side of the road. I stumbled upon it my first night while I was wandering around.
KOH TAO ACCOMMODATION: $5 USD / 200 THB per night
Scuba Junction Basic Bungalow
-Basic room through Scuba Junction at this reduced price on days that I am enrolled in a diving course.
I will say I jumped at the price and slightly underestimated SJ’s use of the word “basic”. These bungalows are “basically” little wooden rooms with a mattress on the ground accompanied by one lightbulb, power outlet and fan. It has a very “open air” feeling as one window is just a screen and the floorboards are each a centimeter apart, which means bugs can get through kind of easily. If you are okay with camping, then you will be okay with these bungalows…they pretty much offer camping indoors.
After the first night I honestly got really used to my bungalow and had no problem staying there. I found if I sprayed down the room with bugs spray once a day the bugs stayed away for the most part. You have to get used to the toilets too. If you can’t handle manually flushing with a bowl of water and putting used toilet paper into a trash bin…then don’t stay here. The only reasons I’d probably stay in a hostel next time are 1. wifi and 2. it was harder to meet people in a secluded bungalow. If you are coming with a friend or significant other and want a little more privacy I would totally recommend staying here though.
Hostels are pretty easy to find here for 350-400 THB. At one point I was contemplating switching to one and every hostel seemed to have space for me that day if I had wanted…however I’m not sure if January is their high season or not. Also, not every hostel is listed on Trip Advisor or Hostel World etc, you’ll find them by just walking around.
OPEN WATER DIVING COURSE: $280 USD / 10,000 THB
ADVANCED OPEN WATER COURSE: $223 USD / 8,000 THB
(If you do both courses the 2nd one is 10% off)
Scuba School: Scuba Junction
This is a great school to go through because they have small classes at 4 students to each instructor. (If you’re diving for the first time you really will want to be in a smaller class.) In case you haven’t noticed…Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to get certified! Most of the schools have pretty similar pricing so when it came to choosing, I based my decision off of this über helpful post.
I’d suggest getting certified through the SSI course because they wont make you buy the book like PADI does and if you continue on to higher diving education you can always switch to PADI. I was a very nervous diver, (I was kind of the needy student lol), and my instructor was very patient with me. I felt safe with Scuba Junction.
IF NOT DIVING IN KOH TAO? There are lots of things to do!
-Go Rock Climbing
-Get a Massage
-Lie on the Beach
-Swim in the Ocean
-Rent a Skooter
-See a LadyMan Show
I’m not sure…but probably cheaper than other places.
Climbing & repelling for beginners $61 / 2200 THB
$5 USD / 200 THB Half Hour $8 USD / 300 THB Hour
$7 USD / 250 THB
I’m not sure…but probably cheaper than other places.
Free admission if you buy a drink (250 THB alc 150 soda).
Depends…but alcohol is more pricey than the food.
Good cheap food everywhere! But not as cheap as Bangkok.
If you pay much higher than 120 THB for a meal, you’re doing it wrong.
I decided to go hiking and explore the secluded North side of the island. I found this viewpoint with a bar, (run by a Canadian expat), on the way to Mango Bay. Below is one of the few buildings you’ll find by the bay.
My favorite place to eat in Koh Tao is Coffee Coffee. The sign is pretty easy to miss but it’s towards the south end of the brick path that runs parallel to Sairee beach. Everything I got there was amazing and its a chill place you can go to by yourself without feeling awkward.
DID I FEEL SAFE IN KOH TAO? As a solo, female traveler…yes I did.
As my mother sent me more and more online articles on the deaths of British backpackers in Koh Tao, (the week before my scheduled departure), I began to get very nervous. I started envisioning nights in Koh Tao and wondering if it would be like areas of Chicago or Detroit where you have to constantly look over your shoulder to make sure no one is following you. I feel silly thinking that now because…KOH TAO IS NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL! Yes people have been murdered there, which is scary and horrible, but plenty of people have been murdered in places like New York and Paris. Have people stopped traveling there???
ONLY SPENDING A COUPLE DAYS IN BANGKOK? You better hit the ground running because there is so much to see!
-Chao Praya River Boat
-Go to China Town
-Go to a Floating Market
-Drink & Party
-Let Fish Eat Your Feet
-Explore, take photos
$0-$15 USD / 0-500 THB
50¢ USD / 13 THB Each Way
Not quite as cheap as food.
$4 USD / 150 THB Half Hour $8 USD / 300 THB Hour
$4 USD / 150 THB 15 Minutes
I really enjoyed my time in Thailand and feel I definitely need to make it back there. Two weeks was barely long enough to explore Bangkok and Koh Tao, not to mention the fact that I didn’t make it to the North side of Thailand…which seems to be the crowd favorite.
It’s really pretty easy to travel around Thailand, even if you’re not sure of what you are doing before-hand. There were travel agencies up and down every street where I stayed. Most people speak basic English and I saw a few hostels and agencies specifically for Israelis, Koreans, Germans etc. Many of my hostel roomies would wake up in the morning deciding it was time to travel to the next city, and with in a few hours be on their way with everything from buses to accommodation booked. Most hostels are also able to book things for you such as transportation to a floating market or a shuttle to the airport. (However, planning and booking in advance may be a little less stressful.)
Thailand, and Bangkok especially, seems to get this reputation for being intensely overwhelming…but honestly I didn’t think it was that crazy. If you like the big city feel, you will do just fine in Bangkok and if you aren’t the most stuck-up neat freak ever, you will do just fine in Thailand. The toilet situation takes a couple days to get used if you are outside of Bangkok…Just research it before so you can mentally prepare if you need to.
Thai people are very cool and laid-back. After spending five months in Korea, where locals tend to be a bit more straitlaced, it was refreshing to see tattoos and plugged ears everywhere I turned. Most Thai people are friendly and may go out of their way to help you. I could swear even the street cats we’re friendlier than normal. Because the Thais are so easygoing, timeliness and organization are not the highest priorities, however this did not create any huge problems for me. Honestly, the only thing I found hard to deal with in Thailand was the heat. The fact that is was around 90-95 ºF / 32-35 ºC everyday, and it was not nearly the warmest time of year, is the only thing that would really scare me off from staying in Thailand long term, (other than the corrupt government that blames migrant workers for everything…but hey no one’s perfect).