one who travels indefinitely, with no long-term abode, while avoiding all forms of animal exploitation and abuse as far as is possible and practicable
early 21st century; from vegan - ‘a person who does not eat or use animal products’, and nomad - ‘a person who does not stay long in the same place’
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The Complete Digital Nomad & Traveller's Guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand
27 min read
This post was written about 5 years ago, so most likely contains out-dated information.
When we think of a holiday destination where we can just relax, escape our fast-paced day-to-day life, unwind ourselves from the stress of work and the urban life, many of us often would imagine ourselves in a tropical island surrounded by nature, breathtaking views, clear waters and soft sandy beaches.
Whether you’re a traveller or a slow travelling digital nomad like us, then this island might be a great destination you want to consider either visiting for a holiday or to live a bit longer and work from.
I designed this guide to let you know all about Koh Phangan, the good and the bad.
This guide attempts to cover all the essential details. It includes my top personal tips from our own experience living there for a month and my own additional research that I’ve done in order to make this page into a great resource if you’re planning to visit this island.
Koh Phangan has three main populated sides all with different vibes. The two towns of Haad Rin (party side) and Thong Sala (main town) are noisy and populated with shops, bars, markets and lots of traffic.
Srithanu (the Yogi side) and the rest of the island are much quieter, tranquil, beautiful and relaxing.
Haad Rin is the most concentrated area of bars and clubs in the entire Gulf of Thailand.
It also hosts the famous Full Moon Parties that draw in flocks of young backpackers to the island every month for one of the biggest beach parties in the world. Which means every month an incredible amount of noise and hyped up partygoers flood into the island.
The partygoers understandably like to explore the island while they are there, so during the full moon party period, you’ll find many backpackers riding their scooters everywhere which might bring a little ruckus to the relaxing side of the island, in which many people, especially locals, find a bit annoying at times.
But even if you're not into partying, don't let this deter you from visiting this side of the island and explore the magnificent Haad Rin Beach or just to experience the full moon party itself.
Tip: Be cautious while on the road during the full moon party period because some of the partygoers might be "under the influence" or just simply inexperienced with operating their scooters.
The main town is a busy urban town, which is almost like any other town in Thailand.
It's always buzzing, noisy, crowded and some might find it a bit hectic, especially after getting used to the quiet sides of the island.
The town is about 10 km (25 minutes scooter drive) from Srithanu (the relaxing Yogi side).
The town is great for when you need something that you usually can’t find in the more chilled areas.
The town has many shops, stalls, markets, restaurants and is always busy with many people around and traffic. It's like a mini Bangkok.
We probably went to the town about three times on our scooters and every time we made the trip it was mainly to buy something like clothes, a yoga mat or a fan for our bungalow, or to grab some cheap food to eat from the food market.
In this part, you can basically find most things that you can typically find in a normal busy city or town in Thailand. When we were living there, we visited this part of town for this purpose only.
If you are looking for a relaxing quiet place while still being near a small town, cheap fruit stalls and restaurants than I recommend living in or near Srithanu because it's less noisy, less populated and less touristy (even though you'll see many Yogis westerners around).
This area is noticeably more tranquil and has a chill holiday vibe, a few bars with great live music and is close to many great beaches and lookouts. However, this side of the island might be a bit more expensive than the other two sides.
Please note that not only Yogis live on this side. There are many locals and many other non-yogi westerners live here, partly because a unique beach front co-working space called BeacHub is located here (more on this below).
Of course, you don't have to live near Sritanu, the rest of the Island is as beautiful and tranquil. There are many areas to choose from whether you choose to live near the main town, near an isolated beach, inland in the tropical jungle or up a hill... there are many options.
A typical tropical island lifestyle is what you should expect. Friendly, smiling locals on their scooters wearing singlets and shorts, hippies, yogis, happy travellers and chilled, relaxed vibes (except around the moon party period where you can expect it to get a bit crazy).
In Srithanu (the Yogi side) - and the rest of the island - you will find a true tropical island vibe that would leave you astonished by its beauty, relaxing atmosphere and incredible food.
You can expect to be surrounded by tropical nature, clear waters and beautiful soft sandy beaches, breathtaking views, the charm of the smiley locals and happy travellers that you can share special moments with.
The best things we enjoyed doing in the Island was laying on a hammock in our little cute bungalow balcony, watching the stunningly picturesque sunsets, eating mangos, playing music while listening to the calming sounds of the insects and birds. It's as good as it sounds.
You will also have the luxury of enjoying a massive variety of fresh organic fruits. My favourites were refreshing juicy watermelons, mouth-watering sweet mangos and bananas, especially the small bananas, but there are many more fruits to experiment and entertain your taste buds with such as papayas, pineapples, coconuts, mangosteens, jackfruits, red and white dragonfruits, pomelos, rongkongs, rambutans, rakams, durians and about three other types of bananas.
There is also an abundance of restaurants that offer the tastiest and most affordable food you can imagine. If you’re a vegan like us, it won't be long until you figure out that you're in a vegan paradise. Don’t believe me? Click here to see for yourself.
Most importantly, what makes Koh Phangan so appealing to many like myself is its low cost of living, everything there is very affordable and you’ll see why as I break down the cost of living as I go through each section of this guide.
Because of its location in South East Asia, Koh Phangan enjoys a fairly constant temperature all year round; it’s always warm there. However, there are two seasons: wet and dry.
The wettest months are September to November and it’s best to avoid this period, as your activities and movement may be very limited due to the heavy rainfall and lack of sunshine.
The driest periods of the year are February to April. The rest of the year is mainly dry with random periodic rain intervals that usually only last few hours a day.
We visited the island in April, which was a great time to visit in our opinion because there weren’t many tourists around as it was the low season and the prices were at their lowest.
The rain was periodic and we didn’t find it that bad except for a 5 days non-stop rain marathon we faced when we first got there.
However, the majority of the time it was dry or it was only falling periodically so we were still able to go around and do things as we pleased.
In Conclusion: If you don’t mind the tourists and the slightly higher prices, then the best period to visit is December to February as the sunshine and weather, in general, is probably the best at this time.
However, if you want cheaper prices, quite peaceful time then March-May is your best period (our preferred time to visit).
Tip: The warm weather brings out the mosquitos and the strong sun can leave you with bad sunburns. Protect your self by always carrying a good strong mosquito spray with DEET and sunscreen at least SPF30+.
We found that most of the mosquito sprays sold in 7/11 and other shops in the island didn't do much for us. The best mosquito repellant spray we found was "OFF Active" because it actually contained Deet.
The overall cost of living depends on a number of variables:
The time of the year (low season also rainy season is around April – Sep)
The time of the month (if you are coming around the moon party period);
The location, and
Type of accommodation
As a general idea, as with everywhere else, your budget depends on your lifestyle as well.
I would say you can live from 20,000 THB ($600 US) a month if you choose cheaper accommodation, eat in cheaper local Thai places, have few massages, drink little or none, ect.
If your budget is 26,000 TBH ($800 US) or more a month, expect to be living more comfortably. You would be able to afford to rent better accommodation in better spots, get a better quality scooter, eat at other more expensive restaurants, etc.
Use this tool to compare the cost of living in Koh Phangan to your hometown or any city/town in the world.
I go into more specific details on costs as I go through the blog in each relevant section.
Tip: Avoid the moon party periods as prices go up by about 30%. If you are a nomad or a long-term traveller then this won’t affect you much if you’re renting long term.
As with everywhere, the closer to the beach and the main areas you are to shops and restaurants the more you are expected to pay, and as mentioned above, prices change dramatically depending on few factors including the time of the year/season and the location.
For Short Term, Hostels can go as cheap as 150 Baht ($5) for a 12+ Dorm room or 200 Baht ($6) for a 6 bedroom. If you're looking for something private, I recommend getting a Beachside private bungalow, they are literally everywhere along the coastlines of the island.
Private Bungalow prices can go as cheap as 350 Baht ($12) a night for a double bedroom with a fan (such as the one pictured below) and 1000+ Baht ($32+) if you opt to live in a resort, hotel or a more luxurious bungalow.
For Long Term, accommodation types and prices vary in range from very cheap bungalows to super expensive mansions.
Prices can drop down dramatically the longer you choose to stay, the time of year you visit and the time of the month as full moon periods can drive prices up dramatically.
Accommodation prices can go from as low as 5000 Baht ($160 US) for a one bedroom bungalow (if you're lucky) up to 100,000 ($3,000 US) or even more for two or more bedroom luxury villas.
Most bungalows near the beach come with a double bed (usually have a mosquito net on it), a fan (maybe aircon), a bathroom and a nice balcony hopefully with a hammock.
When we visited the island in April (low season), the prices for a bungalow ranged between 7000 Baht ($220 US) to 15,000 Baht ($470 US) a month on average.
Bigger Houses or bungalows (2+ bedrooms) can range between 7,000 Baht ($220 US) to 40,000 ($1300 US) a month on average. These houses usually come with a kitchen, living room and everything you expect to have in a house, they would be your best option if you're planning to live on the island long term.
There are countless other youtube Vlogs showcasing different accommodation types, prices and their locations on the island. Check them out if you want to have a better idea of what to expect.
The best way to search for accommodation that suits you the most with the best prices is to grab a scooter and drive around the area you are interested in.
As I mentioned above, I personally would recommend living close to the North West area (around the Yogi side) but you can spend few days exploring the island on your scooter to find the best area for you.
There are signs on the side of the roads displaying “bungalows for rent”. Drive around slowly so you don’t miss them, stop at every bungalow or street stand/shops and ask if they have something for rent. Be precise on exactly what you want to avoid wasting time.
The key is to ask everyone even your hostel, shops and restaurants. We found that people were very helpful and usually know where to direct us to find what we were looking for.
The perfect bungalow or house to rent should take you a day or two to find depending on the time you dedicate to search for accommodation.
Other options, of course, are AirBnB (usually much more expensive), Facebook groups and independent websites (also more expensive) - see the end of the blog for more links.
Roads are narrow and everyone on the island owns a scooter. There are few cars (mainly utes - or "trucks" in the US) and they are mainly owned by taxis who seem to love driving recklessly and dangerously close to scooters on the road.
Taxis are mainly operating to get new tourists from the arrival port to their accommodation or when the full moon party is in full effect.
If you’ve never ridden a scooter or a motorbike before, it might be nerve wrecking (to some this might sound funny) but riding a scooter is, in fact, a very easy task that you should be able to master very quickly.
The roads are hilly but you can walk on them. **I definitely advise you to get a scooter or even a push-bike to get around.(())
Bicycles are cheaper to rent, environmentally friendly and will keep you fit. But because of the hills and the hot climate they might not always be the most practical transportation for everyone.
Scooters cost between 150 Baht ($5 US) to 300 Baht ($10 US) to rent per day. Between 2500 Baht ($80 US) to 3500 Baht ($110 US) for a month depending on the type of scooter you get.
Most bike rental places ask to take your passport as a deposit for the scooter or a large amount of money as a deposit. Some might try to scam you and take an exorbitant amount of money for the slightest scratches that you might not have even made, so checking with the staff and taking your own photos beforehand can be useful.
When you’re in Thailand, you don’t cook. The food is that cheap. Thai cuisine, in my personal opinion, is one of the best-tasting foods you could ask for. Thai food is also the cheapest type of food on the Island as many street stalls and small traditional Thai family restaurants offer their family recipes at rock bottom prices from their own family kitchens.
If you love Thai food, both your taste buds and your pocket are in luck.
But, if you are not a fan of Thai food, then there are also plenty of varieties available. Western and middle eastern food seem to also be dominating on this island, however, expect to pay a little more for it.
As plant-based eaters, this Island is heaven to us. It's immersed in fresh organic fruits and restaurants that offer a mind-blowing variety of tasty dishes.
Of course, there are many stalls selling cheap coconuts, cocktails, smoothies and other icy refreshing juices to keep you cool in the warm weather.
Vegan restaurants are spread out in every corner especially around the Yogi area and they make the most delicious variety of vegan food at amazing prices. Check out our full restaurant guide for this vegan paradise.
Other non-vegan restaurants will most certainly be able to Veganise anything for you, just ask to replace the animal products with tofu or more vegetables and make sure to mention "no fish sauce please". The Thai word for "Vegan" is pronounced "Jay".
Authentic local Thai food (cheap, tasty and usually served by a kind and smiley Thai lady who proudly like to be called "Mama"): 50 to 90 Baht ($1.4 to $3 US) per meal.
Most other restaurants: 70 to 200+ Baht ($2.5 to $6+ US) per meal.
Fruits are cheap. Prices vary depending on the season, freshness and type of fruit. For example, when we were there in April-May, a kilo of bananas was about 30 - 50 Baht ($1 - $1.5) and a kilo of mangos was around 50 - 80 Baht ($1.5 - $2.5).
Fruit drinks and smoothies from the street stalls are about 30 - 50 Baht ($1 - $1.5), around half of what you pay inside a restaurant.
Koh Phangan has the worlds first beachfront coworking space BeacHub. As a digital nomad, this can’t get any better if you can afford it! Click here for their prices.
In this place, you'd literally be working quietly right on the beach with fast internet, listening to the waves splash and enjoying incredible views and sunsets. It's also located right in the area I recommend. What else could you ask for?
We personally like to work from coffee shops or from home mainly because we like variety and flexibility of our work environment. But if you are into co-working places, which are great to not only work in but also to network with other great like-minded people, then there are two more co-working spaces options that are cheaper for you on this island. Koh Space and Focus.
If you’re like us and like to work from coffee shops then there are countless other café’s and restaurants all with good Wifi speeds on the Island, some which are also on the beach.
Note that by design working from coffee shops and restaurants just might not be as quiet as working in a co-working place and the internet might not be as reliable or fast but will be good enough for your basic digital-nomading needs.
Yogies: Koh Phangan has a huge Yogi and ‘conscious’ community and many travellers visit the island for the sole purpose of attending one of the many Yoga retreats offered on the island.
Digital Nomad community: The digital nomad community seems to be small and still growing but at least it does exist. So finding like-minded nomads shouldn’t be a problem.
Locals: The Thais are friendly and smiley, but you might encounter few that are not as friendly and if I had to guess why I am pretty sure it’s because of the amount of drunk and rude tourist that often disrespect their island that they have to deal with regularly.
Foreigners and expats living on the island: from my observation while living there, there seem to be many westerners who live in here long term. I’ve noticed there are many Israelis and Russians around but you’ll meet many others from different parts of the world.
Travellers / Backpackers / Tourist: The other group that you’ll encounter are travellers; general tourists and mostly young people who are in the island for a short period of time (few days to a week), mainly to get messed up at the world famous Full Moon Party.
Full moon party: It's huge, full of energy, booze and other drugs and as wild as you can imagine. Read more about it here if you're interested in attending it.
Bars and Clubs: Plenty of clubs and live music can be found all around the island but I highly recommend checking out Rasta Home bar especially on the weekend when they play live music.
Rasta Home Bar is our much-loved bar and probably one of the best bars we've been to ever. We were lucky enough to go at a time when there was an incredible touring band playing great rock-reggae for several hours twice a week, as well as the usual Thai-house band playing similar music.
Nice happy casual vibes inside, and one of the best live bands we've seen. They offer food, alcohol but they definitely don't offer any "Ganja" here as it's illegal in Thailand. If you're looking for any medicinal cannabis in Koh Phangan then don't go here, or to any of these other 3 bars, because there is no way you will find any!
However, if you are a big fan of nightlife and partying or if you just want to get loose for a bit, then Haad Rin is the area for you because It offers the biggest and most concentrated collection of bars and nightclubs in Thailand.
Visit the Thong Sala night market and enjoy the food and the vibe or go for a night walk on the beach (just be careful and don't go by yourself) or for a different real island holiday experience go to one of the Green Gallery restaurant Friday gathering events like the one we attended (pictured below) where a group of people sometimes play instruments, sing, dance and chant around a campfire.
Did you know that Koh Phangan offers access to some of the best dive sites in the region and the world?
It also offers easy access to Sail Rock which is a stunning small island that can be reached within 15 minutes by a speedboat. The island is full of white sand beaches, coconut trees and has the best dive sites around the region.
Diving shops, schools and tour guides can be found easily on the island especially up north.
This is my favourite lookout/bar/tree house. It's kind of secretive, hard to find and hard to get to as you'll have to park your scooter somewhere down the bottom of the hill and climb up to get there.
There is a small nice waterfall on the way and expect to be very sweaty by the time you get to the top. But trust me, it's all worth it.
We hung out here a lot with the friendly owners and other locals and had some great chats with them about their way of life on the island, as well as playing some music with the guitars they have laying around. It's truly one of the best viewpoints of the Island and people know it, because one time when we were there, some model was getting photographed with the views in the background.
If you are into sport and wanting to keep fit, then there are few gyms on the island that you could go to. Or of course, you could do Yoga. There is an abundance of yoga classes and teachers on the island. in fact, many people from around the world travel to the island just to do a yoga course or a yoga retreat.
Click here for a list of all the indoor and outdoor gyms and all other fitness and sporting facilities in Koh Phangan.
Please check what's applicable to you and don't just rely on the information I provide here.
Most countries, including almost all of the west (including the UK, US and Australia), can get a visa exemption (visa on arrival) for 30 days, so no need to apply prior.
If you are planning to stay for longer than 30 days then you should really do your homework. The rules of stay and obtaining a visa to Thailand can be complicated to many and many blogs. discussions on forums, facebook pages and groups make it even seem more confusing.
In General, for most western countries, you could apply for a 'single entry tourist visa' prior to arriving that allows you to stay for 60 days and can be renewed while you're in Thailand for an extra 30 days.
Or you can apply for a "multiple entry tourist visas" which is a visa that's valid for 6 months. It allows you to stay for 60 days at a time but also gives the chance to leave and re-enter the country in the 6 months period.
Please note that All of this information can change as the Thai government update their visa policies quite often, so please check and don't only rely solely on the information here.
Many digital nomads and expats who choose to live in Thailand long term do visa runs, where they leave to nearby countries when their visa is about to expire, apply for another visa in that country and return back to Thailand.
Assuming you are coming from Bangkok. The cheapest and most popular way of getting to the island is by bus (12 hours drive) then take the ferry to the Island.
If you have extra money to spend and you want to make your trip easier and faster, then you could fly from Bangkok to Koh Sumai Island (1 hour) and then take the ferry directly to Koh Phangan (30 -45 minutes)
A Bus+ferry package cost around 850 Baht ($26) to 1500 baht ($47)
Flights cost about 1500 ($47) to 2500+ ($80+) by flight via Koh Samui - (NokAir do flight+ferry packages from Bangkok to Koh Phangan and vice versa. They seem to be the cheapest airline option in Thailand)
There are three main Mobile providers, AIS, True and DTAC.
It seems like AIS and True (or TrueMove) are the most popular two sim cards in Thailand. AIS might get you better signal coverage on the Island but we saw many other travellers using True with no issue.
An internet package sim card with 2GB for 7 days might cost you between 60 - 90 Baht ($2 to $4 US) a week (prices and plans change all the time. Please check the providers' websites for the latest prices and packages)
Don't fall for the traveller or tourist packages they offer you as they are much more expensive. Just ask for a regular prepaid sim card.
All Banks in here charge a fee of around 200 -220 Baht ($6 - $7) when using their ATM and most places don't have EFTPOS to pay for things so you'll need to use cash to pay for things.
If you don't like carrying too much cash with you, then the ATM fees might make you're living expenses a bit higher. I personally get as much cash as I can to avoid being charged everytime I withdraw money from the ATM.
If you live in Australia, get a Citibank card as they don't charge you any additional fees on their behalf when withdrawing from any ATM worldwide.
Also, ATMs in Thailand give you money first before your card when you withdraw cash which is the opposite of most places. So make sure you don't forget your card when withdrawing money, it's easy to do when you're used to taking your card first and then cash.
It happened to me twice, I forgot my card and the ATM swallowed it so I had to drive to the bank. Luckily they sent one of their employees with a security guard on a scooter to take my card out of the ATM and give it to me free of charge. But I've heard not all banks do that and some might destroy your card, so be super careful.