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Koh Samui is one of the most popular islands for tourists to visit in Thailand. It’s the biggest island for one, it has an airport, and it’s very built up making it a great spot for holidays in Thailand!
It offers a huge amount of accommodation from incredibly fancy 5* hotels to huts on the beach and plenty of hostels. Koh Samui offers adrenaline-filled activities for everyone including children, it has western brands and foods for those missing home or who like home comforts and a lot of good nightlife!
However, because of this, Koh Samui is not a cheap island to visit. I mean, it is if you’re on a one or two week holiday and used to paying European prices, but it’s not if you’re backpacking Thailand or looking for a cheap holiday in Thailand.
I’ve been to Koh Samui 3 times (because I just can’t stay away from Thailand!) and on my last visit, I really paid attention to how Koh Samui can be visited on a budget because I believe you can visit Koh Samui without needing to spend a lot of money. Here are some tips for you:
Walk out of the Airport to get a Taxi!
Flying to Koh Samui island is a great time-saver rather than getting buses and boats, and flights to and from Koh Samui can be pretty cheap if you book in advance. Koh Samui Airport is really tiny and it’s very close to the tourist area of Chaweng Beach however you will need to get a taxi from the airport to your accommodation in Koh Samui.
There is a taxi desk inside Koh Samui Airport but the price to Chaweng, for example, is 400baht for 1-4 people which is a lot seen as it’s not far. I decided to walk out of the airport and get a taxi that way because the airport is so small, it’s literally a second walk from the airport to the road and once you get there, there’s a Family Mart & 7/11 supermarket, it’s hard to believe that there’s an airport behind you.
Anyway, as soon as I walked out a guy asked if I wanted a taxi and we agreed on 200baht, this was at 9:00 pm too and perhaps in the day, it could have been cheaper.
My advice – walk out of the airport and get a taxi outside rather than one from the airport taxi desk!
Better yet, get a Bus & Boat to Koh Samui.
If you’re coming from Bangkok to Koh Samui a cheaper option than flying is to take an overnight bus and boat because prices for these start at $25.00 USD. You can also get to Koh Samui from Phuket by bus and boat too.
These days transport in Thailand can be booked in advance for pretty much the same price as you pay travel agents once you get there, so if you’re on a tight schedule or tend to worry about booking things on the day, book some tickets in advance on sites like this!
If you like to go with the flow and not over plan, there’s plenty of people telling transport tickets when you get to Thailand!
Stay in Chaweng Beach or Mae Nam.
Accommodation is going to be your main cost in Koh Samui.
Chaweng Beach on the Eastern Coast is one of the most popular area’s of Koh Samui to stay in because it’s super touristy with lots of accommodation for all budgets along with plenty of restaurants and bars, and a gorgeous, but busy beach!
Mae Nam in the North West side of Koh Samui is another good place to stay. The beach here is gorgeous and again there is lots of accommodation for all budgets here too.
If you’re looking for budget hotels and resorts offering good value, these are rated very highly: Floral Hotel Chaweng, Rattana Guesthouse and Bungalows, Wazzah Resort Bungalow, Kanlaya Park, Kiddee Condo.
I stayed at Floral Hotel Chaweng and was really impressed with the standard of the Hotel.
Eat Street Food in Koh Samui.
Koh Samui is full of restaurants and bars and if you’ve travelled to anywhere in Thailand before Koh Samui you’ll quickly realise that the prices are a lot higher than Bangkok and the other islands! This is the downfall of Koh Samui being so touristy and popular with holidaymakers.
If it seems like the food in the restaurants in Koh Samui is too expensive and you want to visit Koh Samui on a budget, look out for the street food stands!
There are many to be found along Chaweng’s main road especially outside the 7/11 supermarkets. They sell a range of Thai Noodle, Rice and Soup dishes, and not only are they cheap – about 60baht per dish but made fresh in front of you!
There are also locals selling meat on sticks and there’s Thailand’s famous Pancake street food stands selling Savoury and Sweet Pancakes.
In addition to this, the beach bars are also pricey and the way to get around this is either to pop back to the street or get some fruit and sweet corn from the many vendors along the beach! Cheap, good food and you’ll be supporting the local people who work so hard here everyday!
On a Friday there is Koh Samui’s Friday Night Market in the Fisherman’s Village if you’re not staying close by it will cost you to get there but once you’re there the food is cheap and there is so much on offer – 10baht-50baht per item.
Check out the Lunch Deals.
As I was walking down the street a lot of people were saying they have lunch deals on, so if you do want at least one big meal out a day in Koh Samui lookout for the lunch deals on offer rather than eating in a restaurant in the evening.
Look out for Happy Hours in Koh Samui.
Happy Hours or Happy Times as they call them in Koh Samui are your best friend! Be sure to look out for these, some go all day into the early evening and others just the early evening. You can get 2 for 1 cocktails in many bars and cheap buckets.
Avoid Buckets in the Beach Bars.
With that being said, when it’s not happy hour the most expensive places to drink in Koh Samui and in Chaweng is on the beach. Especially at popular places like Ark Bar which is definitely the most popular beach bar on Koh Samui.
Ark Bar sells cocktail buckets for 600-1000baht, that’s crazy! They do however sell small beers for 100baht which is much more reasonable.
My suggestion would be to get some beers on the beach whilst watching the fire dancers who start at 9:30 pm and then head into the bars on the street after for more drinks and look for bucket and cocktail deals then! This will save you a lot of money in Koh Samui!
Related Post: Do you like to party? If so be sure to see which other islands to visit in Thailand for the best parties!
Do some Free Activities in Koh Samui.
There are so many things to do in Koh Samui, it is full of activities on its land and in its water. There’s enough to keep you busy for a full week and there are some places that are free to enter. The only cost will be transport.
If you can ride a moped confidently it is popular for tourists to ride mopeds on Koh Samui as the main roads are very well paved (although quite steep in places). Moped will be the cheapest way to get around and after that, you can visit many different beaches, the Big Buddha, Waterfalls like Na Muang Waterfalls and plenty of viewpoints!
If you do not ride mopeds you can do a day tour to see all of the best places in Koh Samui. I did a day tour to see 7 places which were a great way to see the island and we got our monies worth. Here are some good value tours you can do:
However, if you are not going to Koh Samui to sightsee or be active and you want to lie on the beach you can do this for free!
Don’t Go Shopping.
As you may have guessed, shopping here is expensive too even from the local stalls. If you are visiting Bangkok first get all the Thai stuff you need there – sarongs, elephant pants, dresses, bags, etc because it is so much cheaper. And if you’re going to Chiang Mai before Koh Samui get it all in Chiang Mai as it’s even cheaper!
With that being said, if you are going to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan after, these islands can also be expensive for items like toiletries because they have to be shipped in whereas some things in Koh Samui are a bit less expensive as they are flown in!
Sit on the Sand, not on the Sun Beds.
If you want to sit on a sunbed on the beach it’s going to cost you either 100baht or purchase from the restaurant, which is fair enough! However, the sand, especially on Chaweng Beach is really nice so you can sit on the beach in the sun or in the shade without paying for anything!
Remember that Thailand is all about bartering and unless its food and drink you can barter for anything including massages on the beach- I got mine down from 300 to 250baht, clothes, tours and transport!
Enjoy your time in Koh Samui!
If you like to party and you’re looking for an itinerary around Thailand check out my Party Places in Thailand Itinerary!
Accommodation in Koh Samui:
The earlier you book accommodation in Thailand the more range of accommodation you’ll have. I use Booking.com to make all of my bookings because there’s so much choice!
Flights to and from Koh Samui
Internal flights in Thailand can be pretty cheap and are a great way of getting around quickly and more comfortably, especially to Koh Samui. Again, the earlier you book the better the prices will be so have a look on Skyscanner here to see what you can find!
Bus & Boat to Koh Samui
To get the cheapest transport to Koh Samui take a bus and boat, these can be booked once there or online on trusted sites like 12GO Asia.
For more of my posts on Thailand see: