Tag - Thailand

Exploring the BEST Diving Spots in Thailand

Two fish at a coral reef in Thailand

Guest post by Michelle Williams

Diving in Thailand


iving is one of the major activities when visiting the islands and beaches of Thailand. The combination of clear and warm tropical waters, and the overall variety of marine flora and fauna makes Thailand a great destination for exploring the wonders of the underwater world.

A lot of the great dive spots are right off the beach, along rocky shorelines which makes diving in Thailand very beginner friendly. On top of that, you have numerous Thai dive spots that include old underwater wrecks.

All of Thailand’s top diving destinations will have dive shops and schools, making it unnecessary to bring your own equipment. Especially for snorkeling though, it is nice to have you own equipment when the opportunity arises. There are numerous options, should you want to use your own diving gear and perhaps you would also want to bring some underwater camera equipment to store your underwater memories.

Choosing the right diving location

It can be overwhelming to choose a holiday destination when you start researching, as you will surely be presented with numerous dive options in Thailand. Many of the diving destinations in Thailand are seasonal, meaning your time of travel will help determine which area to explore. Here, we break down the top dive spots to help you decide.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is located in the Gulf of Thailand, not far from two other famous islands Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Among these islands, Koh Tao is particularly popular among divers.

The diving in Koh Tao is recognized for its relatively easy waters and friendly reefs, perfect for beginner scuba divers. The island is one of the top destinations for scuba diving instruction in the world and the number of open water dive certificates handed out here each year is staggering. You will find an abundance of PADI certified diving schools. Another important factor in Koh Tao being the go-to diving destination in Thailand is the fact that the island offers year-round diving in good conditions.

On a lot of the islands beaches, you can snorkel or scuba dive from right off the beach, as the island provides plenty of rocks and reefs teeming with life.

Koh Chang

Koh Chang lies in the eastern part of the Gulf of Thailand, not far from the borders of neighbouring Cambodia. Koh Chang and its surrounding islands are known for their lush green environments, being part of the Mu Koh Chang National Park.

Weather plays a role in this area, as the summer months and beginning of autumn sees a lot of rain. This means that from June to September the visibility decreases, so this is not the best time to go diving around Koh Chang.

Koh Chang has a number of wrecks for some exciting diving, as well as rocks in the shallow waters and reefs. The dive sites are mainly located to the west and south of the island.

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands is a cluster of islands in the Andaman Sea, east of Khaolak. These islands have maintained their charm with only very basic camping grounds and bungalows on a couple of the islands.

Usually visitors to the area stay overnight on liveaboard packages or daytrips from the mainland, where the main theme is diving, snorkeling and some romantic castaway experiences. So while getting to this divespot may require a bit more planning, you will get fantastic memories to take back home.

The diving season is seasonal here, spanning from October to May, while the best conditions for diving are between November and February.


Phuket is Thailand’s most famous beach holiday destination, so naturally the area offers much more than just diving. This makes it a great vacation choice if you want a lot of activity options for you stay.

Phuket mostly serves as a hub for multiple diving sites in the area, where you jump onboard a boat and go on day trips to the best diving spots.

Just like the Similan Islands, the diving in the Phuket area is best from October to May, where the waters are more calm and visibility is highest. section seperator

Diving in Thailand Resources

For more information about Thailand, head straight to our main Thailand travel guide. For more information on diving resources, here are some excellent links:

PADI’s Diving Guide to Thailand

DivingSquad’s Diver’s Guide

Ithaka’s Beginner’s Guide to Diving in Thailand

For a quick and easy overview of when to dive in each of Thailand’s top diving destinations, take a look at this table from Asia Dive Site:
dive seasons in Thailand

Malaysia or Thailand?

Malaysia or Thailand? Malaysian beach with a boat with the Malaysia's flag and a Thai beach with longtail boats and Thailand's flag

Where to Spend Your Beach Holiday – Malaysia or Thailand?

For those of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on beach holidays, the first question we ask ourselves is often which country should we go to. As promised when we presented our new Malaysia travel guide, we want to help you compare two of the big tropical beach holiday destinations, Malaysia and Thailand, to make your holiday choice easier.

Why Malaysia or Thailand?

If you wonder, why we have chosen to compare these two great beach destinations, here is why. First of all, travel agencies and travel professionals often receive this as the initial question from their customers: “Should we choose Malaysia or Thailand for our holiday?”. Secondly, these countries are very often competing for the same visitors, since they both bring some of the same great beach holiday opportunities, and being neighbouring countries, travel seasons and travel distance is similar.

The Malaysia and Thailand Showdown

Malaysia or Thailand - a comparison between Malaysia's and Thailand's beaches, hotels, prices, food, diving, and wildlife.

Before we go through each of the scores and compare Malaysia and Thailand on the chosen parameters, we want to remind readers that the evaluations represent a general evaluation of the two countries. Here we have considered Malaysia to be both Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, although the characteristics of these two areas are rather different.

You may seek a family-friendly beach or a surfing beach-bum paradise. Ultimately, which beach destination is best for your holiday, depends just as much on your personal travel preferences as the destination itself.

Beaches: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Both Malaysia and Thailand have fantastic beaches, ranging from popular tourist magnets to secluded beaches on “untamed” islands. With a great variety and number of beaches within easy geographical reach, Thailand has a small edge here.

Malaysia Beach Score     

The number of islands and beaches of Peninsular Malaysia is relatively low in comparison to Thailand, and given strong seasonal limitations on the east coast, the options can be rather limited. However, if we add Malaysian Borneo to the mix, we suddenly have a hundreds of stunning islands in different development stages and in more or less accessible areas.

Thailand Beach Score     

Southern Thailand has an abundance of islands and beaches fitted with fine sand, dramatic rock formations, swaying palm trees, clear water, and everything you could ever wish for in terms of services and conveniences. Additionally, the beaches of Thailand cover all activities and adventures you can think of and it doesn’t take much to go from one type of beach or island to another one.

Aerial view of palm-fringed beach in Thailand with boats at the shoreline, clear blue water, and small tropical islands in the background.

It’s hard to beat the islands and beaches of Thailand.

Photo credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Hotels: Malaysia vs. Thailand

It is not uncommon that tourists stumble upon a hotel that enchant them to such a degree that the host country is of little importance. Whether this is the case or not, one thing is certain: The hotel has a significant role in tourists’ beach choice. To receive a high hotel evaluation, the diversity, price, and value for money is taken into account. Without question, Thailand is a world leader in this category.

We used to write small warnings in our Malaysia travel catalogues that customers should not expect a 3-star Malaysian hotel to measure up to a 3-star Thai hotel. This is more due to Thailand’s superiority on this parameter than Malaysia being under international standard.

Malaysia Hotel Score     

You can find exclusive eco-retreats on small tropical islands and you can find uncharming concrete hotels with uninspiring designs. The portfolio of beach accommodation is improving, but the value for money is not on par with Thailand. Furthermore, it is harder to find budget and mid-range charm among Malaysian hotels. For a real good hotel experience, you have to move into the four and five star range.

Thailand Hotel Score     

The competition among hotels in Thailand is fierce. This coupled with a good sense of quirky design and high service standards make Thailand score maximum on hotel quality and value. A 3-star hotel in Thailand can often be compared to a 4-star hotel in Europe or America. You can easily find accommodation for all budgets, and even in the cheapest beach bungalows you can find charming architecture and design wit.

Stilted hillside bungalows overlooking the Gulf of Thailand at the rugged Koh Tao Island.

Not the worst place to spend your holiday in Thailand.

Prices: Malaysia vs. Thailand

No doubt relative prices continue to rise, as both Malaysia and Thailand continue a path of economic growth and investments both in and outside the tourism sector. Prices fluctuate a lot between city and rural areas and between touristy and non-touristy destinations. Overall, however, Thailand still offers superb value for money.

While cheaper than European countries and North America, Malaysia is generally more expensive than the other Southeast Asian countries.

An excellent resource in finding user generated price information in destinations worldwide is NUMBEO.

Malaysia Prices Score     

Traveling through Malaysia, you will find that food is quite cheap, while accommodation is more expensive and less value than other Southeast Asian countries outside of Singapore. Malaysian Borneo’s unique position in terms of experiences and natural wonders have pushed prices upwards. The good news is that it is still possible to experience Malaysia on a backpacker budget, but you will have to sacrifice some convenience and luxury along the way.

Thailand Prices Score     

With the rise of the Thai middle-class, expatriates, and tourists from near and far, both financial and tourist hubs of Thailand are now much more expensive than just five years ago. This means that Bangkok, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, and Phuket can come off as expensive.

But don’t despair. Instead of going to Starbucks and Domino’s, go to a local pad thai restaurant. Instead of sleeping at Hyatt, sleep at one of the many charming boutique guesthouses. Go a little off-beat to avoid the price traps. Thailand has great prices for those who look for them, and the most beautiful thing is that being a beach bum here is one of the cheapest lifestyles you can dream of. Food is cheap, transportation is cheap, accommodation is cheap, and adventures are often free. For documentation, see our previous notes on daily beach holiday costs in Thailand.

Local Thai restaurant with signs in Thai and fresh food on display.

Eat local, stay local! Thailand offers tremendous value.

Food: Malaysia vs. Thailand

How good is Malaysian food? How does it compare to Thai food? This is obviously a very subjective topic, but at least we are not alone in thinking that both countries serve some of the world’s best food. Thailand and Malaysia are both in the top 10 food destinations in the world in this CNN poll.

Malaysia Food Score     

What makes Malaysian food great? The variety of choice and fresh ingredients! Since Malaysia consists of major cultural and ethnic groups, you can find excellent Chinese, Indian, Western, and of course Malay/Indonesian dishes in abundance. For vegetarians eating is easy because of the Indian vegetarian cuisine and the fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally.

Thailand Food Score     

The popularity of Thai food is now covering the world with Thai takeaways and restaurants from Buenos Aires to Sydney. But the best Thai food is found in Thailand. Food is an integral part of Thai social life, and when a common greeting in Thailand is “Have you eaten yet?”, food has to be a top priority. What is fantastic about the Thai cuisine is the harmonious blend of spices, sweet, sour, and salty. But if you don’t like chili, lemongrass, and galanga, you will mostly be limited to the “foreignized” and international dishes.

For vegetarians, Thailand has a lot of vegan and vegetarian restaurants that particularly sprung up in response to the tastes of visiting backpackers. In standard restaurants, however, ordering a vegetarian dish often means that fish sauce, oyster sauce, and shrimp paste will be used in otherwise meatless dishes.

Wooden signs on a tropical island in Thailand saying fruit shake, vegetable food, seafood, and Thai food.

You won’t leave thirsty or hungry!

Diving: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Both Malaysia and Thailand are wonderful places to learn and practice diving. Almost every popular beach has at least one dive operator, and the quality, equipment, and safety is good.

Malaysia Diving Score     

In Peninsular Malaysia the east coast is your best bet for diving. Perhentian Islands, Redang Island, and Tioman Island all have good and very accessible diving. Diving here is seasonally limited from roughly March to September.

The Sabah region of Borneo is the real reason why Malaysia must be considered a top dive destination in the world. The bio-diversity, visibility, and beauty is of supreme quality with dive destinations such as Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Lankayan, Layang Layang, and Sibuan leading the way.

Thailand Diving Score     

Hands up if you took your PADI Open Water Diver certificate in Thailand. Keep them up, if you took it on Koh Tao! Koh Tao is a world hub for budding scuba divers. The small island in The Gulf of Thailand offers year-round courses with dive sites right off the beaches or a small boat ride away. The water is generally clear and currents are beginner friendly. Corals and marine life around Koh Tao has deteriorated a bit although a number of organizations and awareness programmes are fighting to rejuvenate the seas.

For the best dive sites in Thailand, you have to travel to The Andaman Sea. Here you will find stunning diving between small tropical islands. It is not uncommon to find leopard sharks and manta rays. Among the best diving sites are Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, and the Surin Islands. November to April has the best visibility and sea conditions.

A nemo fish among green sea plants seen while diving in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s Sabah region offers formidable diving.

Photo credit: Tourism Malaysia

Wildlife: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Despite an increasing number of areas being designated as national parks in Malaysia and Thailand, the primary and secondary forests are diminishing. Farming, plantations, logging, and “development” is threatening natural treasures and wildlife in both countries. That said, Malaysia has some of the world’s oldest rainforests and extraordinary wildlife to match it. Thailand does not have the grand old rainforests, but there is still plenty of wildlife to experience under and above water.

Malaysia Wildlife Score     

Orangutans (literally men of the jungle), proboscis monkeys, tarsiers, pygmy elephants, hornbills, turtles and much more roam the natural habitats of Malaysia, particularly Borneo. Malaysia has around 500 endemic species and it’s hard to find destinations that can match the natural richness of the country. Unfortunately, there is great pressure on the natural habitats of Malaysian wildlife. Although a magical experience, it is frightening to see how the palm oil plantations are slicing through ever thinner rainforest areas.

Thailand Wildlife Score     

Thailand has impressive marine life and no less than 127 national parks with a diverse range of flora and fauna. You do not find the grand old rainforests and hallmark wild species as in Malaysian Borneo, but there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy in Thailand.

Male Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) from Borneo.

Only in Borneo – Malaysia’s wildlife is marvelous!

Photo credit: Tourism Malaysia

More comparisons between Malaysia and Thailand?

Malaysia or Thailand? We hope you found this head to head comparison between Thailand and Malaysia useful. There is no one winner in such a battle. It all depends on what you are after. One thing is certain though: Both Malaysia and Thailand are magnificent travel countries, so we can only suggest you visit both!

If you are interested in seeing more comparisons between these two countries, we suggest you take a look at the following links.

New Thailand Infographic and Destination Page

Similan Islands in Thailand with stunningly clear water and beautiful landscabes

Did you see our new Thailand infographic and destination page?

We have been working behind the scenes, and can now present our destination page for Thailand. The page will continuously be updated with more useful material. This page is meant to inspire you and to give you a quick overview of what the country has to offer for travellers and beach lovers.

The Thailand Infographic

Our brand new infographic has five separate sections; Numbers, Price Index, Top Beach Picks, Travel Seasons, and Why Thailand. For your convenience (and because we are delighted to show you again), here is the Thailand infographic:

Infographic on Thailand's Islands and beaches including tourism information, price index, top beaches, travel seasons, and Unique Selling Points for Thailand.You are welcome to embed this infographic on your website. Just go to the Thailand destination page and copy the code provided below the image.

A few notes on the infographic

In the “Numbers” section, you can see that China, Malaysia, and Russia provide the most international visitors to Thailand on a yearly basis. We wanted to stretch this data further to see which foreign countries have the per capita highest visitor rate. The results are shown in “Most Popular Among”-section. We omitted countries directly neighbouring to Thailand.

While the “Top Arrivals by Nationality” will show you which foreign countrymen and -women you are likely to meet on your holiday in Thailand because of their total number of arrivals, the “Most Popular Among” results will inform you of the countries in which the likelihood of any one person from that country will visit Thailand is highest – i.e. where Thailand is the most popular travel destination per capita.

Thailand’s High, Low, and Peak Travel Seasons

Thailand can be visited all year round, but when and where to go essentially depends on your preferences. Do you want to do surfing in Thailand? Then head off to the west facing coastlines of Thailand during summer (April to November). But if you want to dive or snorkel in these areas, the rest of the year is more suitable.

You may want the most pleasant weather conditions (coolest, lowest humidity, less rain) which are generally from November to March. If you prefer better deals and less crowdedness, you should avoid the high and peak seasons.

To help you decide, we included three weather charts on our Thailand page. They essentially show the three main weather areas that are relevant for your beach stay in Thailand. In the rainy season of the respective areas, the snorkeling and diving conditions will not be ideal. It may rain all day or it may rain only for an hour or two. To help you decide your Thailand destination, though, we have included sunshine hours per day and rainy days per month in our annual weather charts. Here is an example:

Annual weather chart for Southwest Thailand on the Andaman Sea side (Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Khao Lak, Koh Lanta and more) including temperature, daily sun hours, rainfall, rainy days, and sea temperature.

Southwest (Andaman)

More to come

We will continue to add useful information on the page, and we will provide links to individual pages for Thailand’s islands and beaches as they go online. In these sections, you will find more detailed information about the specific beach destinations.

Until then, please enjoy our Thailand destination guide and help us spread our beachilicious infographic!

Cover image credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Koh Chang Noi (Andaman) – the unknown Elephant Island

Seaview from Full Moon Bungalows at Koh Chang Noi (Andaman Sea side)

Another Elephant Island in Thailand

The elephant is a central national symbol in Thailand, so it is only fitting that the country has not one or two,  but three islands called Elephant Island or Koh Chang. Most people know about the big Koh Chang, Thailand’s third largest island, situated in the Gulf of Thailand not far from neighbouring Cambodia. Also in the Mu Koh Chang National Park just off the northwestern tip of Koh Chang is a small uninhabited island called Little Koh Chang or Koh Chang Noi (Noi meaning small).

Here, however, we will concentrate on the third Elephant Island which is situated in the Andaman Sea between mainland Thailand and the southern tip of Myanmar. This Koh Chang Noi is only now starting to emerge on the radar of the more adventurous travelers.

KOH CHANG NOI (Andaman Sea)
  18 sq. km² (7 sq. miles)
Location: 20 km southwest off the mainland coast at Ranong
Population: Can’t be many
Weather: Hot and humid – best season weather-wise is November-March
Industries: Rubber, cashew nuts, fishing, tourism
Facilities: Very basic 

 You will love Koh Chang Noi if you love…

  • hammocks
  • simplicity
  • wilderness

  • tranquility
  • nature
  • animals

  • solitude
  • budget travel
  • thick books

 Avoid Koh Chang Noi, if you prefer…

  • accessibility
  • entertainment
  • fine dining
  • pampering

  • tours
  • partying
  • air-condition
  • shopping

  • nearby hospital
  • comfort
  • swimming pool
  • WiFi and connectivity

Arrival at the Koh Chang Noi Southern Pier

We took the little public ferry boat from neighbouring island Koh Phayam. We were the only ones getting off at Koh Chang Noi, while the rest stayed on the boat bound for the pier at the outskirts of Ranong. Our first encounter with Koh Chang Noi says a lot about this island. It must have been low tide, since the tiny arrival pier was well above our heads as we stood on the roof of the ferry. We threw our luggage up onto the pier and hoped that we were able to follow. With a few monkey climbing moves we made it withouth dumping into the water. Koh Chang Noi is not for luggages on wheels, stilettos, and luxury travelers expecting to get pampered.

There was one person on the pier. He had a motorcycle with an attached cart. That was our ride. We rode on a small gravel road through rubber plantations. We had read that there was a village with a supply and snack shop, so when we saw a couple of houses we asked our motorcycle guy to stop, so we could inquire about its whereabouts. Well, that was it. This was that village. And sure enough, there was a small shop with supplies.

Rubber plantation in Thailand with small buckets gathering sap from the trees.

Rubber plantation, a common sight on Koh Chang Noi.

“Take us to the best beach”

Take us to the best beach, I told our driver. On all other Thai islands, this would have been a rookie mistake. In local understanding, the best beach usually means the beach with most tourists, the most international fastfood restaurants, and the most fancy tourist facilities. After all, this must be the best beach, since everyone chooses to go here, right! In this particular case it didn’t matter, since the scale of tourism is so small that there are no such places.

The main stretch of beach is called Ao Yai (Big Bay). It is a 3-4 km stretch on the west coast of Koh Chang Noi, separated into two main stretches by a canal flowing to the sea. This is where our driver let us off. We chose to head south. It didn’t take long before we had to practise our balancing skills as we had to tightrope walk on a narrow concrete log that crossed a stream. Some parts of the beach are rocky, while others have green vegetation and trees all the way to the shoreline; since we arrived at high tide.

After a few attempts to find accommodation, we found a simple, but spacious concrete bungalow at a family-run resort called Full Moon Bungalows. Like other small bungalow resorts on this island, facilities are scarce but sufficient if you like it simple, and if you are not afraid of a little wilderness and darkness. You will find most accommodation on the island to be prices from 200 to 500 Thai Bath, probably cheaper if you rent long-term.

Full Moon Bungalows

Simple concrete and wooden bungalow with decorative sea shells from Koh Chang Noi (Andaman)

Simple and charming accommodation at Full Moon Bungalows

Interior of budget bungalow hotel on Koh Chang Noi

Full Moon Bungalows interior

Budget bungalow bathroom at Full Moon Bungalows, Koh Chang Noi (Ranong, Andaman Sea)

Simple bathroom at Full Moon Bungalows

Speaking of darkness, as I showered that evening, the lights went off just as I had applied shampoo. It was exactly 9 PM. The resort provides electricity from 6-9 PM. After that the island sleeps. Scrambling in the dark, I found a something to dry myself with – hopefully a towel.

The next day we bought some candle lights and match sticks from the small supply shop. We found a rock which we used as our candle light holder. We were prepared for night number two.

White candles on a rock used as light source

Our only light source after 9 PM

Simple facilities in natural surroundings

The wind is you fan, the lukewarm shower water or the sea is your cooler. Beds have mosquito nets and come with clean blankets. The mattresses are the typical budget bungalow types – they are hard. As you are parked in the wilderness, you should expect sounds from the jungle at evening and nighttime. Most likely, you will have a few resident geckos doing their best to keep the insect population in check. We heard of two separate cases of visitors finding snakes in their living quarters.

Some people leave the island after one sleepless night, others come back year after year for extended periods to connect with themselves and nature.

Black hornbill bird with yellow beak sitting on branch in Thailand

Koh Chang Noi offers good chances to see wildlife

Exploring Koh Chang Noi on foot

During the day we explored the area on foot. The atmosphere on Koh Chang Noi is very relaxed. There is not much activity along the Ao Yai beach stretch. There are no big resorts and no apparent development on the way. You can tell that there are a lot of long-term visitors on the island.  There is a community of people who know each other well, and whichever bungalow they are staying at, they have personalised it with their own beach art creations, wall paintings, and hammocks.

There are a few beach bars and restaurants. The small resorts serve Thai and a few Western dishes at prices below 100 Thai Bath per serving. If you want Italian, you can visit Little Italy and try their stone oven pizzas. If you want vegetarian food, try Crocodile Rock’s restaurant on the rocky southern end of Ao Yai. The village shop has daily necessities, snacks, and fruits. This is where you get your mosquito coils, tissue paper, and shampoo.

In the evening we visited the Tsunami Bar in the southern end of Ao Yai. This is a “cast-away” bar decorated with driftwood, old fishing gear, and sea debris. We were three customers during the two hours we spent there, but the cocktails were superb.

Sign of Tsunami Bar on Koh Chang Noi's Ao Yai Beach

Great cocktails but not many visitors at Tsunami Bar

The beaches of Koh Chang Noi

The beaches have smooth sand. The sand is mostly light brown and yellow with pads of black sand in between. The width of the beach is very tide dependent. You will find plentiful natural shade from casuarina trees and other vegetation at the beaches. When we visited in March, the water was clear and suitable for swimming and snorkeling. There are rocky areas along some stretches, but you can easily avoid these by taking a short walk to a sandier stretch.

The beauty of the beaches may not live up to that of nearby Koh Phayam, but that may just be one of the reasons that Koh Chang Noi is still as pristine and relaxed as it is.

Wonderful view fo the sea with casuarina trees giving shade in the foreground at Koh Chang Noi, Thailand.

Plenty of shade along Koh Chang Noi’s Ao Yai Bay

Rowing boat lying in clear water near the shore of Koh Chang Noi Island in Thailand

Koh Chang Noi offers loads of tranquility

Some further readings on Koh Chang Noi (Andaman Sea / Ranong)

There are not many resources on Koh Chang Noi, but the ones that are, are superb.

Tezza’s Beaches & Islands
Tezza takes us through his personal encounters with Koh Chang Noi with detailed descriptions of accommodation and restaurant options, various beaches, and general information. Tezza’s accounts of (mostly) Thai islands and beaches are some of the best and most insightful out there.

The Koh Chang Noi section from t-GLOBE has great maps of beaches and accommodations on the island, along with area descriptions.

Read this for a quick overview of what you can expect to experience on Koh Chang Noi. As usual, Travelfish provides great info on accommodation, restaurants, getting there and away, and the overall vibe of the island.

Impress Everyone With These Thai Beach Phrases

Two longtail boats lying on a beach in Thailand with limestone cliffs in the background

Heading to a Thai beach?

After you have mastered the most important Thai words like “thank you” (khòp khun), “hello” (sàwàddee), “(I) don´t want (that)” (mâi ao), and of course our Thai Beach Vocabulary vol. I and vol. II, it´s time to put together a few Thai beach phrases to help you make your beachlife in Thailand a breeze.

Survival Thai Beach Phrases

You may not understand the entire answer you receive, but perhaps some articulation, pointing and language hacks will get you there. At a minimum, you will impress local residents with your efforts, and you will be able to order one, two, or three beers. Remember to click the sound icon to hear how each phrase is pronounced, and see if you can parrot the sounds and tones.

Let’s go to the sea! bpai (mid) thá-leh (high-mid) gan (mid) thùh (low) ไปทะเลกันเถอะ  
Which beach is most … ? hàat (low) năi (rising) … thîi-sùt (falling-low) หาดไหน … ที่สุด
popular / quiet / beautiful / romantic yôrd (falling) ní-am (high-mid) / ngîap (falling) / sŭai-ngaam (rising-mid) / roe-maen-dtìc (mid-mid-low) ยอดนิยม / เงียบ/ สวยงาม / โรแมนติก
Does this beach have …? hàat (low) níi (high) mii (mid) … măi?  หาดนี้มี … ไหม?
shade / sunbeds / restaurants / hotels rôhm-ngao (falling-mid)/ dtiang (mid) àap (low) dàed (low) / ráan aa-hăan (mid-rising) / rohng-raem (mid-mid) ร่มเงา / เตียงอาบแดด / ร้านอาหาร / โรงแรม
one / two / three beers, please kŏr (rising) bia (mid) nèung (low) / sŏong (rising) / săam (rising) kùat (low) ขอเบียร์ หนึ่ง / สอง / สาม ขวด
Is it safe to swim? wâai-náam (falling-high) bplòrd-pai (low-mid) măi (rising)? ว่ายน้ำปลอดภัยไหม?
Where can I buy … séu (high) … dâai (falling) thîi-năi (falling-rising)? ซื้อ … ได้ที่ไหน?
sun lotion / flip-flops / water cream (mid) gan (mid) dàet (low) / rong (mid) táo (high) dtàe (low) / náam (high) bplào (low) ครีมกันแดด / รองเท้าแตะ / น้ำเปล่า

At the end of each sentence you can add a little polite khâ (female) or khráp (male) to soften the sentences. If you want to print out, save on your computer or share these Thai beach phrases, you can find a printable version of the phrases here.

Animation of two men at a Thai beach with sun chairs and sun umbrellas.We hope you will find these phrases useful. For more Thai beach phrases, has a good list of useful words and phrases and even a little illustrated Thai language beach story with a conversation between two men at the beach.

Good luck!

Man-Made Beaches – from Grooming to Construction

Man-made beach north of Phuket with a romantic beach construction, a green heart, and sunbeds facing the Andaman Sea.

Why man-made beaches?

We like our beaches to be clean, comfortable, and stunning. We want soft white sand and coconut palms. So what happens when a beach does not live up to our criteria of safety, comfort, and beauty? Sometimes we groom it, and sometimes we cover up the small “natural mistakes” with a little landscaping. If we have no beach or island at all, we can just construct it! From grooming to construction of beaches, not many popular beaches of the world are untouched by human “beach optimization”.

The construction of beaches

Natural forces like gravity, tides, and the large water masses of the sea are the main creators of beaches. Actually sediments of sand originate from the weathering of rocks resulting from natural elements such as water, wind, and sun. Consequently, changes in weather conditions will have an impact on the characteristics of beaches. A good example of how natural phenomena can change beaches is the terrifying tsunami in 2004 that hit coasts in the Indian and South Asian Ocean.

Many popular beaches around the world are not only a result of natural forces, but are actually to some degree man-made. The degree to which beaches are constructed varies a great deal, and it is all done in an attempt to create safe, comfortable, and attractive beaches that attract visitors.

Beach construction continuum

Here are examples of how beach construction can take place from minor grooming to one hundred percent man-made:

Red Arrow pointing down

  • Beach cleaning
  • Beach nurturing and raking
  • Minor landscaping such as adding sandbags
  • Removal of sharp rocks and pebbles
  • Importing sand and palm trees
  • Artificial platform beaches
  • Heavy machinery construction of beaches and bays
  • Man-made islands

At the light end of the scale, beaches are nourished and cleaned from garbage and ocean debris, while some beaches are raked daily to make the beach look as neat and inviting as possible.

Workers in Goa groom a beach and remove beach garbage to keep the beach tidy and attractive

Beach grooming and garbage removal helps keeping the beach attractive

Other beaches are constructed with sandbags with sand strewn over them in order to save some beach for the high tides, protect buildings on the beach from incoming waves, and to create a safety wall for erosion and potential floodings.

Sandbags and a fence protect a nice Malaysian beach from erosion and high tides.

Malaysian beach elevated and protected from erosion and tides by sandbags and fences

Sandbags protect the beach and beach properties from erosion at Koh Phayam, Thailand

Sandbags protect the beach and bungalows at Koh Phayam, Thailand

Some beaches are re-constructed after storms and landscaped to both satisfy visitor preferences and to withstand rough weather conditions.

Man-made beaches in Khao Lak Thailand with sandbags and heavy machinery constructing the beach

Beach construction in north Khao Lak, Thailand

Artificial beach platform on the shore of Koh Tao with the blue sea and a boat in the background

This beach platform is safe from high tides

Moving towards more manmade beaches, there are hundreds of seaside resorts that don’t actually have a proper beach. To satisfy and attract clients, they sometimes construct a plain area with concrete and add a layer of sand on top. It is also common that resorts simply remove all boulders and pebbles with heavy machinery and then import sand.

Constructed beach area at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa - Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Constructed beach area at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa in Malaysia

Artificial beach deck with beach chairs and sea view at Koh Tao, Thailand

This man-made beach deck will not be affected by high tide

On far end of the scale of beach construction, we have destinations such as Singapore’s Sentosa Island and Dubai’s manmade islands. Sentosa Island is basically a theme park and weekend holiday oasis for Singaporeans and visitors who want a quick escape from the city. The island’s three main beaches Palawan Beach, Siloso Beach and Tanjong Beach are all artificial with imported sand from Malaysia and Indonesia. The boulders on the beach also seem artificial, as they have a hollow sound and feel when you knock on them. Sentosa Island still has a lot of forested areas, and there is an abundant wildlife of monkeys, lizards, and birds.

At the extreme end of man-made beaches and islands we have projects such as the entirely constructed Palm Jumeirah (Palm Islands) and The World Islands of Dubai. Most of the plots and houses here are owned by billionaires. There is a ghost town feeling about these islands, since they are rarely used by their rich owners. Shops and local life is a scarcity here, especially during the summer months. The huge beach villas lie untouched like a forsaken barbie glamour town.

Artificial pond and island in Dubai with palms and Burj al Arab in the background

Dubai is famous for man-made beaches and islands

Aerial view of the man-made Dubai Palms, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali of Dubai, UAE.

The 100% man-made Palm Islands of Dubai

Photo credits: Castles Made of Sand

More on beach construction and man-made beaches

If you like to know the theory and science behind beach construction, take a look at Beachapedia. It has a great number of examples of man-made beaches and guidelines on how to construct a beach.

We also found some great articles on artificial beaches. You may be surprised how many beaches around the world are actually much more than beautiful shorelines constructed by Mother Nature.

12 Incredible Artificial and Man-Made Beaches

 Nature vs. Nurture: Are Manmade Beaches Better?
by Flight Centre

 World’s must stunning man-made beaches
by Fox News

How to Bargain in Thailand

Charming tourist shop in Thailand displaying Thai products such as fisherman's pants, hats, and t-shirts.

The exotic act of bargaining

“Traveling to Thailand? You better polish those bargaining skills”. Isn’t that what we read or hear before our first trip to the East? First time travelers to Thailand come with the mind-set of being ready to put on their tough bargaining face, ready to seem unimpressed and walk away from any seller who doesn’t give a discount on the initial price.

Tourist t-shirts in Thailand from Khao San Road showing a tuk-tuk and an I love Bangkok print.

Be prepared to bargain for these t-shirts on Khao San Road in Bangkok

Although it may be a big part of the dominant discourse on traveling in Thailand, the idea that everything must be bargained for is exaggerated. In fact, the hard bargaining in Thailand is mostly confined to the most touristy areas.  You may think that this is about sellers trying to take advantage of tourists with no idea about price levels and the currency value of the Thai Bath. This is often the case with tuk-tuk drivers offering “good prices for you my friend”, but otherwise we argue that this is more about tourists insisting that a price not bargained for is not a good price. In turn sellers have had to start a little higher on their prices to satisfy the exotic hunger of the tourists to get the honour and personal travel story of a successful bargain.

If you walk around a market, there is much less bargaining going on between Thais compared to what you might expect. This is because the parties have a pretty clear understanding of what a mango, a bottle of water, and a pair of socks should cost, so there is not a lot of room for bargaining. The lack of price tags in these places may have led foreigners to think that bargaining is necessary, and therefore tourists may insist on lower prices regardless of what the initial price given by the seller.

Thai street vendor selling chicken and beef satay.

You would not get much out of bargaining with this Thai street vendor

Discount clothing in a Thai shopping mall with customers looking for good bargains.

You are not expected to bargain here either

I used to think bargaining was mandatory at every market and that every transaction was an opportunity to slice the price and flex some bargaining muscles. However, I slowly started to realize that in the vast majority of cases the prices given to me were the same as those given to Thais. Often I would even walk away with a price a few Bath lower than my Thai counterparts due to my insistence on a lower price.

At the same time, there has been a noticeable change in the way shops and market stalls deal with bargaining in Thailand over the last 10-15 years. Price tags have become a lot more common, and increasingly the sellers insist on fixed prices. This could both be a way of not wasting too much time haggling over prices with tourists, and it could be a trend towards shops and marketers professionalizing their operations. For travelers who don’t like to argue about prices and feel insecure about the price level of products, this is a welcome change. For travelers who have looked forward to the exotic act of bargaining, they may walk away disappointed that the sellers don’t move an inch. If you really want a successful bargaining experience, you have the best chances if you buy several items. This method works nearly every time.

A quick summary on how to bargain in Thailand

The idea that you have to bargain for everything in Thailand is exaggerated and based on exotic imagery.

Bargaining is most important in touristy areas since sellers have become used to the insistence on price haggling from tourists.

In less touristy areas of Thailand, taxi drivers, shop owners, and market sellers give you reasonable prices identical to the ones given to local residents.

The absence of price tags doesn’t necessarily mean that bargaining is expected . It could mean that the common buyer and seller know the price level already.

It has become harder to bargain in Thailand and more items are now with price tags.

Bargaining is much easier if you buy more than one item. 

Two small tips on bargaining in Thailand

Before you start bargaining, make up your mind on what you think is a fair price for the item of interest. If you don’t know the price level, have a look around and ask a few different shops about their prices on similar items. You will quickly find out whether you can agree on a price.

Teach yourself how to properly say hello in Thai. If your pronunciation is good, the seller will instantly know that you are not new to Thailand and thus know what things cost. Sawadee kha/khrap is the formal way of saying hello in Thai if you are a woman or a man, respectively. Even better, skip the ‘sa‘ and go for the more casual wadee kha/khrap.

More on bargaining in Thailand and Southeast Asia

We will not walk through the other bargaining do’s and don’ts such as smiling, having fun, walking away etc. but leave you with a list of tips from other websites.

Should I bargain for everything I want to buy in Thailand?
by Travelfish.

Bargaining in Thailand
by The Farang.

Our top 10 hot tips on how to barter your way to the best price in Thailand
by Travelling King.

Bargaining in Bangkok
by I Am Wannee.

How to Haggle
by One Eyebrow Raised.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Haggling in South East Asia
by South East Asia Backpacker Magazine.