- Wear long sleeved tops and trousers in the evenings and you’ll cut mosquito bites down by at least 50%. Some restaurants don’t have mosquito coils but you can buy a load and take them out with you from the local shops on the island.
- Be prepared for the entrance fee to the island which is currently 400 baht for foreigners and 40 baht for Thai people. If you go over by speedboat in the rain you can often avoid the entrance fee as most Thai people don’t like the rain.
- The fire shows on the island along the most popular beaches are great. It’s polite to give a tip and you can get great pictures or video. However, after what seems like the 1000th fire show if you stay for a long time, it can get a bit annoying as you are giving out tips still but you’ve seen it already. To avoid this, eat at about 5:00 PM or sit up in one of the restaurants not near the beach.
- Be careful of your belongings and wary of other tourists. There are professional thieves at work in all tourist areas around the world. Be especially careful if people get close to your bag. One of my relatives had a camera stolen by what seemed like a decent looking family petting a puppy near the bag. When we returned back to our room, the zip was open and the camera was gone. We also met someone whose camcorder was stolen the day after.
- There is a cheap bus service from Bangkok to Koh Samet which stops at Ban Pae pier. You can travel in luxury using one of the speedboat services or you can travel by ferry for about 50 baht. If you travel by ferry and are buying a return ferry ticket, take a quick discreet picture of your ticket before travelling back. The reason being is that I once had the person loading my luggage ask for my ticket, then when I boarded the ferry I had another guy ask me for my ticket. I was asked to pay again which I refused to do. When you buy your ticket there will no doubt be some pushy people asking if you’ve booked yet, shoving a handmade brochure into your hands. Just say you’ve booked already and don’t hang around for another 20 questions as if they book for you they will add a bit on top obviously. All in all though, the ferry service is a very good service.
- If you are buying from the touts on the beach you can get some great deals. If you buy more than one of anything you can ask for a discount. Even better, if you have a Thai friend, you can ask him or her to approach the beach vendor and negotiate for you. If you are friends with any of the staff in the resort where you are, you can get the low-down on the cheapest places to eat etc.
- Koh Samet is quite safe and certainly more safer than Koh Samui for instance, but it pays to be careful in all tourist areas. Never drink alone especially if you are a woman. Don’t get drunk – stay alert and sharp. If you want to get a bit drunk finish off the night safe in your resort or even better, in your room. Never fall asleep on a deserted beach alone for obvious reasons as many disasters occur because of this.
- The boat trips around the island are good value. You can look for signs on the beach for a trip that suits you. Taxis are quite expensive, but motorbike taxis are cheaper. Alternatively, you can hire a motorbike. If you rent a motorbike go to somewhere that people recommend on the island as you have to hand your passport over. Look over the bike to see if there are any scrapes etc. and point these out before renting the bike to make sure the person renting out the bike is already aware of this.
- Pick the area where you stay wisely. Near the island’s pier is very busy and has a party atmosphere. Further up the beach at Ao Paai for instance it gets quieter. My personal favourite is Samet Villa which is in between the very quiet area and the more lively area so you have a choice of where to go. The staff are friendly and the Swiss owner is a nice guy. I have put their contact details below.
- If you stay for longer than 2 weeks, you can often negotiate a discount at a resort if you arrive and barter in person. Resorts usually will give you a monthly rate if you’re planning a long holiday too.
Hope that these tips help.
Here are some contacts that might be helpful:
- Ban Phe Pier speedboat service (3000 baht for a private speedboat return ticket) – firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel: 086-1135594
- Samed Villa Resort (around 2400 baht per night) – www.samedvilla.com – +66 38 644094
- Jep’s Bungalows (half the price of Samed Villa at around 1200 baht per night, but still decent rooms) – www.jepbungalow.com / 038-644-112-3
- To look at a map of Koh Samet you can visit: http://www.sawadee.com/map/kohsamet.htm
Article by Kevin Baker
To read about two backpackers Andy & Nel and their hilarious adventures in Thailand to get a real feel of being on holiday in Thailand, check out their fun website journal.