Check out everything you need to know about backpacking Koh Phangan in Thailand. I will be giving you all the information you need to know such as costs, getting around, accommodation, what to do, the infamous full moon party and so much more!
Koh Phangan is equal parts a quiet and chilled back island, as well as a place where swarms of tourists gather to get absolutely wasted and forget realities. Though just be aware that the latter part is only for certain periods of the month. For the most part, Koh Phangan is an awesome island offering a piece of paradise. Therefore if you are planning on visiting Thailand backpacking Koh Phangan is a necessity to give you a break from the hustle and bustle of many cities here in Asia.
In this backpacking Koh Phangan travel guide, I will let you in on all the top things to do in Koh Phangan, where to sleep, where to eat, when to party, and more!
Be aware that even though there will be plenty of references to drunken debauchery in this post, Koh Phangan is so much more than that. It is actually one of my favorite islands in Thailand. There are plenty of white sandy beaches, oceanside accommodation, and locally run eateries serving the tastiest of foods.
At the end of it all, you will fall in love with Koh Phagan and all the little parts of paradise which you will no doubt discover. This island is huge, so if there is a part of it you don’t like you can simply move on. Each beach has its own specialties and different parts of the island generally cater to different kinds of travelers. Though that’s why I have written this backpacking Koh Phangan travel guide which will provide all the information you need to know.
Everything You Need To Know About Backpacking Koh Phangan
- When To Travel Koh Phagan?
- How Many Days To Spend In Koh Phangan?
- Cost To Travel In Koh Phangan
- Where To Stay In Koh Phangan?
- Getting Around Koh Phangan
- Where To Eat In Koh Phangan?
- Safety In Koh Phangan
- Things To Do In Koh Phangan
- Where To Next From Koh Phangan?
When To Travel Koh Phangan?
Located in the Gulf Of Thailand, Koh Phangan, has 2 distinctive seasons, the dry season and the wet season.
The dry season runs from late December through to March. This is when you will have hot dry sunny days and is the peak of the tourist season. Because of this, many accommodation providers increase their nightly rates so you may find yourself spending a bit more than planned.
Personally, I traveled to Koh Phangan just after Songkran during the month of April. Their monsoon rain generally only hit once per day during the afternoon. The weather changed pretty fast when one minute we were driving our scooter around under the hot run and five minutes later we are ducking for cover under the nearest overhanging balcony. The rain only lasted around 20 minutes and then as quickly as it came, it disappears again.
The wet season, also known as the monsoon season, is from April to November. These days will be hot, humid, and wet. Downpours are frequent, though they never seem to last long and always seem to be followed by blue skies. Though from September to November this is when the weather truly starts to get bad with seemingly constant downpours. The only problem you may have will be getting to and from Koh Phangan as the waters may be too rough for the ferry companies to safely operate. Though there is nothing wrong with being stranded in paradise for a couple of extra days. The prices during the wet season are also a lot cheaper than during the dry season. Making it a lot easier on your backpacking Koh Phangan travel budget.
How Many Days To Spend On Koh Phangan?
Koh Phangan is a damn chill island where I could honestly spend weeks relaxing beachside. Though I understand I am not the majority, nor is that a reasonable amount for most people when you are on an adventure to explore the whole country.
Honestly, I recommend spending between 3 to 5 days here in Koh Phangan. Though this will depend on how many islands you plan on a visit before or after. As if you are beach hopping your way down Thailand 3 days may be enough. Koh Phangan is a beautiful palm tree-covered island, but Thailand does have a lot of those.
Spending at least 3 days in Koh Phangan will also you to spend some days chilling poolside, checking out some of the incredible beaches this island has to offer, and partaking in some of the fun activities. Though more on that later.
Be aware that if you are coming to Koh Phangan for the full moon party or any of the endless other moon parties that there seems to be every week. One of those days will be considered a write-off. Therefore is best to add a day or two onto your backpacking Koh Phangan itinerary.
If you are traveling here during the main full moon party many hostels and hotels on the island generally have a minimum night’s stay in the terms and conditions of their booking. Therefore make sure to read the fine print before making a payment or paying a deposit.
Cost Per Day To Travel Koh Phangan
Being more towards the southern end of Thailand as well as being an island prices here are generally a bit more than on the mainland. This is because of 2 reasons. Number one, the South of Thailand is more touristy, when backpacking Chiang Mai, its incredible value for money. Though down here in Koh Phangan it is unfortunately not as much. The second reason is because of the cost of transporting the goods from the mainland across the water to the island. Though this is essentially the same for any island around the world. Prices will just generally be more expensive.
When it comes to accommodation there are so many options available and at widely different price ranges. From hundreds of dollars per night cliffside luxury hotels to bunk bed filled backpacking hostels. The cheapest hostels start around $5.00 per night. Though this is for a room you’ll be sharing with 15+ people. For smaller sized dorm rooms you’ll be paying around the $10.00 mark per night. Also, just be aware that during the full moon party this price can increase, a lot.
For a private room, you can plan to spend around $12.00 to $25.00 for a fan room in a decent guesthouse. This may not be a beachfront room, but you will never too far from a dip in the ocean. Best to do a bit of research though as the options for private rooms are endless as there are so many available. Push up your budget by an extra $10.00 or so and you can find yourself in a beautiful bamboo fan room with an oceanfront view.
I fell in love with the delicious meals at local restaurants in Koh Phangan. For western food, you can generally triple this price. It’s a lot more expensive so it’s best to stick local and appreciate such delicious flavors in such a paradise spot.
Overall I would budget approximately $30.00 per day for backpacking Koh Phangan to stay on the safe side. This will allow you a decent bed to sleep in, a few beers, and a couple of restaurant meals to keep you energized. Though if you are planning to go hard-partying you will need to add an extra $20.00 or so onto this budget to also for drinks and entry fees.
Where To Stay In Koh Phangan?
When deciding where to stay in Koh Phangan you really need to figure out what kind of traveler you are. This is because of different areas of the island sort of cater to different types of tourists.
Had Rin: If you’re keen on a party this is the place to be. Home to a few different hostels this beachside spot is a top hit with backpackers. Even when the full moon party is not on you can find fire shows and other parties going on.
Baan Tai: This is where I have previously stayed when backpacking Koh Phangan. Most properties here are beachfront (including hostels). It caters more to backpackers again rather than luxurious travelers. During low tide the water goes out so far, meaning you can only really swim during high tide. Though many accommodation providers along here also have a pool. There are also some awesome local restaurants nearby within walking distance.
Thong Sala: This is the main town of Koh Phangan and where the ferry boats all arrive at. You will have plenty of guesthouse options located here as well as some of the best restaurants on the island. Just be aware you will need to head a bit further out to find a nice beach.
Haad Yao: If you are wanting a beautiful beach right next door to your bedroom Haad Yao may just be the place for you. They have both cheaper guesthouses here as well as hotels. There is also an assortment of restaurants and cafes nearby. Just be aware this is not a party location.
Haad Salad: Now Haad Salad is definitely where I will be staying on my next trip backpacking Koh Phagan. Salad Beach is one of my favorite beaches on the island with pristine white sand and turquoise blue water. The accommodation options here are more beach shack vibes so is a good low-cost option for a private room. The town of Haad Salad is relatively small so you’ll need to utilize some sort of transport to get around.
Here are my top picks for the backpacking Koh Phangan travel guide:
A super chill beachfront hostel. From $13.00 per night in a hostel dorm.
A hip spot with a great restaurant. From $10.00 per night in the main town.
A beachfront resort with an incredible pool. From $23.00 per night for a basic room.
Beautiful clifftop location from $20.00 per night for a basic fan room with an amazing view.
Getting Around Koh Phangan
Getting To Koh Phangan From Bangkok
Unfortunately getting to Koh Phangan from Bangkok isn’t the easiest. This is because, no matter which type you choose, you will need to take multiple types of transport to get to the island. Though don’t worry too much about it because it gives you an opportunity to break up a lot of travel over multiple days, or to make things easy you can book the entire journey through a travel agency who will make sure everything runs smoothly. I recommend checking out 12.Go Asia for booking such trips.
Flying to Koh Phangan from Bangkok is definitely the fastest way to get to the island. Though sometimes it can be a little pricey to best to weigh up all options.
You do need to be aware that there isn’t actually an airport on Koh Phangan. The nearest airport is on the neighboring island of Koh Samui. Though from there it is a relatively easy journey to get to Koh Phangan.
There is a public bus between Koh Samui Airport and the port which leaves every hour. The cost is around 150thb. Though it depends on how long you want to wait around as to whether you should catch the bus. Alternatively, you could also take a taxi. This would definitely be a good option if you have friends you could split the cost with. You will likely need to haggle for a decent price, 200-300thb.
Once you are at the port you can just visit one of the many ferry companies. It is best to shop around to compare prices and check if the ride is direct or if it also stops at Koh Phangan. The 2 main companies are Seatran Discovery and Lomprayah. Personally, I have only used Lomprayah while in Thailand and this is simply because they provided nothing but excellent service.
You can also do a train and boat combo to get from Bangkok to Koh Phagan. I often find train journeys a lot more comfortable than buses, especially since they offer berths where you can lay flat which makes a big difference. You can book your train tickets over at 12.Go Asia.
You can either take the train to Surat Thani and then catch the ferry to Koh Phagan. There are multiple train journeys and departure times you can choose from so make sure it works which your plans. The journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani takes 13 hours so if you choose one of the overnight options you will arrive at slightly better times where it won’t be completely pitch black.
Once in Surat Thani, you can make your way to Lomprayah Tapee Pier. The boat departs from here once per day at 11.30 am and it is a 2-hour journey. It will cost you around $30.00 for the ferry.
There are plenty of travel agencies around the Khao San Road area that can book you onto an overnight bus and ferry combo to Koh Phangan. For a reputable company, expect to pay between $40.00 to $50.00. It is a long journey to make and will take around 15 hours so prepare yourself for that.
Make sure to bring warm clothes and fresh socks and the air conditioning on Thai buses can be extremely chilly.
This is a similar journey I did but to Koh Tao. Overall it wasn’t too painful and once we got away from Bangkok traffic and could keep a steady pace it was relatively smooth. It wasn’t the worst night’s sleep but wasn’t the best either. Though it was an affordable way to travel the distance which also meant we didn’t need to spend money on accommodation that night.
Traveling Around Koh Phangan
Koh Phagan is a large island and therefore you’ll need some sort of transportation to get around. Sure if you are happy on chilling on the beach next to your resort you should be fine hanging in the same spot. Though if you are wanting to travel around and explore some of the best sights of the island you will need to take some sort of transportation.
I highly recommend downloading the offline map of Koh Phangan on the Maps.Me app for your cell phone. It’ll be super helpful navigating your way around if you do not have data. This is one thing I always make sure I have before arriving at a new destination.
Sure you can walk small distances in Koh Phangan to get from your accommodation to a restaurant, but that is probably as far as you will want to go. There are footpaths, though they are generally not the best of quality.
If you’re happy chilling at your resort and staying put you will be fine walking. Though if you’re like me and wanting to check out the best beaches this awesome tropical island has to offer you’ll need to have some form of transport.
Not always the biggest scooter fan (generally because they often can get wound up in scams), I actually went ahead and hired a scooter for 24 hours. This was done through the hostel I was staying at. Though there are plenty of scooter hire shops around the island. Just remember to look at reviews online or ask the staff in your accommodation for recommendations.
There are both long term and short term hires available in Koh Phangan. For longterm you will get a much better rate per day. Though for shortterm expect to pay around $7.00 per day.
Make sure you take a video of your bike when you first get it highlighting any damage. Also, be aware that Koh Phangan is a relatively hilly island. Many people end up with broken bones and a visit to the hospital for choosing this as their place to learn how to drive a scooter. In all honesty, I didn’t think the roads were horribly bad, and there was a lot of road works happening during my visit to improve road conditions. Though potholes are seemingly around every turn, hitting one of those bad boys wrong will not end well.
For those not comfortable driving a scooter a songthaew will be your best means of transportation on Koh Phangan. These are basically pick up truck style taxis where the driver will take you where you need to go around the island.
The most popular route between Haad Rin and Thongsala has a set price of $3.33 / 100 THB per person. But with a sort of songthaew mafia running the island the prices can quickly double depending on demand. There is no point either in haggling with them as they have their own set prices and only offer discounts for groups.
Where To Eat & Drink In Koh Phangan
From cute little beach shacks to upscale modern restaurants there is a variety of places to eat in Koh Phangan. It is also a vegetarian’s paradise here with plenty of meat-free options. These are my top picks, all tested and tried, for my backpackers travel guide to Koh Phangan:
Cheap Eats In Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan has so many affordable locally run restaurants it is a budget travelers dream. It is relatively easy to find ourselves a delicious plate of meat and rice (or tofu if you are a vegetarian like me) for around $2.00 / 60 THB. This is how I ate the majority of the time I was in Koh Phangan and it was some of the best and delicious meals I had throughout my entire backpacking Thailand journey.
Unfortunately, a lot of these locally run restaurants you can’t find any information online about them. They aren’t on Tripadvisor or Google. Instead, it can simply be a matter of discovering them yourselves as you are venturing around the island. Our top spot was nearby Slumber Party Hostel in Baan Tai. It is a couple of hundred meters from there towards the hospital and you will find 5 or so local restaurants lined up all together along the side of the road.
In the main town, you can also head to Nine Restaurant and Bar for affordable meals. Their western meals are a bit more pricey around $5.00 / 150 THB. But their Thai curries and stirfries cost around $2.70 / 80 THB.
Western Food In Koh Phangan
As with many places around Thailand, Western food is a whole lot more expensive than eating local meals. This is because a lot of the ingredients are harder to come by and generally cost more as it is imported from overseas. It may not be the best on your Thailand budget, but it may just help with that little bit of homesickness.
To be honest I did not eat any Western meals during my stay in Koh Phangan. When you find delicious and affordable local food, you have no reason to pay twice as much for lunch. Though a little bit of research shows some of the top places for Western food in Koh Phangan:
Monnalisa: With 2 different locations in Koh Phangan itself you’ll have no excuse why you can’t try this spot. Either at the Thongsala Food Court in the main town or the infamous party spot of Haad Rin. Specializing in Italian food you can’t beat a delicious pasta or pizza dish with homemade ingredients. For budget travelers, you can also choose to have dry pasta instead of homemade to save some money.
The Masons Arms: This cute well built British style Pub is a great choice for Western food in Koh Phangan. Whether you are after a chip butty, Sunday roast, or a full English breakfast. This place will have you reminiscing about home.
Beach Coconut Bowls: If you are looking for something and somewhere a little bit more instagrammable head to Beach Coconut Bowls. With beautiful Bali style smoothie bowls these will definitely stand out on your feed. The bowls start from $6.00 / 180 THB.
Safety In Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is a relatively safe place. You can keep yourself safe and well by using common sense and not putting yourself in difficult situations. The main thing here is that there is a bit of petty theft. Don’t use your phone along a busy street and if you must, turn away from the traffic. Carry your valuables in a cross the body bag. Bag snatching is quite common here to you want to prevent giving people the opportunity. These happen all over Asia and these points are standard practice when you are traveling.
The water here is not drinkable. Though you are able to brush your teeth with it. You can buy cheap bottles of water from 7/11. Or even better book accommodation with a refillable water station. This is something which a lot of hostels these days have on offer.
As mentioned a bit above a common scam throughout Thailand are motorbike scams. Usually, this involves blaming travelers for scratches and other marks on the motorbike and making them pay for this. To avoid this happening make sure you hire through a recommend and highly rated company. You can also document the state of the bike via video prior to taking it so you can always refer back to that if you get blamed.
Now if you are planning on doing a bit of partying here in Koh Phangan you’ll need to be aware of safety around drugs and alcohol. First off, drugs, you need to be aware there are harsh penalties for having drugs on you in Thailand. It is likely you’ll end up in prison, which isn’t fun for anyone involved. Drugs are everywhere during the full moon party, but you are best not to partake. If you are offered drugs, this can sometimes be from an undercover police officer who will quickly arrest you if you say yes. Police are also known to pay the locals to offer drugs to foreigners so they can arrest them.
All in all, it’s best to just avoid drugs completely in Thailand. Now let’s get into the second part, alcohol. It’s cheap here in Thailand and you can very quickly consume too much and find yourself in a difficult situation. You are best to stay away from the buckets as they are lethal, instead just stick with beers.
Things To Do In Koh Phangan
How many things do you really need to do when you’re in paradise? Not too many. Though Koh Phangan has a wide array of activities on offer to keep everyone busy. That means that even if you are exactly a beach lover, there are still plenty of other things to do while you’re on the island.
Full Moon Party
The full moon party is probably the number one thing to do in Koh Phangan and is the reason the majority of travelers actually come here. Seriously during this time of the month, the island can receive an influx of 30,000+ travelers! Though in saying that, it doesn’t mean Koh Phangan is a party place. Nevertheless, let get into what you need to know about the full moon party. There is a party every month, but here you can find exact dates and tickets cost $3.33 / 100 THB.
Though don’t worry if you want to party while backpacking Koh Phangan and your plan doesn’t match up with the dates. There is also have half moon party, quarter moon party. Basically a different party each week!
If you love a bit of an underwater adventure then you can’t miss out on doing a snorkeling adventure while you are backpacking Koh Phangan. The snorkeling tour will take you to all of the best snorkeling spots around the island. A lot of which are inaccessible by land or quite difficult to get to.
Some of the best spots to go snorkeling on the island include Haad Salad, Haad Yao, and Koh Ma. There are tours available on the island or if you like you can travel around to the beaches and snorkel them yourself.
Just be aware that box jellyfish have become quite common here in Koh Phangan over recent years. These are highly poisonous and can kill in minutes. Action has been taken on certain beaches by installing nets. Though best to keep an eye out and follow any warning signs.
Koh Phangan is an island paradise so what better things to do than going on a beach-hopping adventure. This is what I did one of the days in Koh Phangan and it was a great way to see what this island has to offer. From coastal roads with ocean views to stunning clifftop locations, there is some incredible scenery on this island.
The best way to do this would be to hire a motorbike. The roads here aren’t too difficult, though you will need to be careful of potholes. Some of the best beaches in Koh Phangan include Haad Chao Phao, Leela Beach, Haad Salad, Chalok Lum Beach, Haad Rin, Baan Tai Beach, and Mae Haad Beach.
Located at the South Side of Koh Phangan in Ban Kai Village in Sramanora Waterfall. It is a simple 5-minute drive off the main road making it super accessible. What makes this waterfall a step above others on the island is the natural pool at the top.
The best time to visit is between November and March after there has been some heavy rain. This will get the water rushing and make for some awesome photos. If there hasn’t been any rain in a while the waterfall may just turn into a little trickle.
Two other waterfalls you can visit on the island are Wang Sai and Than Prawet.
If you like something a bit more fast-paced than island life why not do zip lining with Just for Fun Canopy Adventure. The park offers 1 suspended bridge (30m), 3 short ziplines (30-40m), 1 staircase, 1 ladder, and 1 long zipline (450m). The highest platform is about 40m high. It costs $25.00 / 800 THB per person.
For a more chill time and to center yourself why not visit one of the yoga schools on Koh Phangan. The most popular is called The Yoga Retreat. Here you can practice yoga, meditation, eat delicious vegan food and just get zen.
It’s only a 10 minutes walk from Haad Salad beach within the jungle. If you are overall the drunken travelers, this is definitely the place to come. A 1h 30min yoga class is $13.00 / 400 THB.
Ang Thong Marine Park
If you snorkeled all of the beaches while backpacking Koh Phangan why not head out a bit further afield on a day trip to Ang Thong Marine Park. It is made up of 42 separate islands and is one of the best spots to snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand.
Prices generally start around $30.00 for the day trip on a group tour.
Hike Khao Ra Mountain
Lastly, you could go for a hike up Koh Ra Mountain. This will give you some awesome views around the island. The best idea is to do the hike in the morning or in the late afternoon. This way you will avoid the main heat of the day with the sun beating down on you.
There is an entrance fee of $0.67 / 20 THB. The hike will take you around 3 hours return to complete. It is well signposted so you need to have a guide. It starts at Khao Ra Retreat and then you can just follow the marked path from there.
Where To After Koh Phangan?
After your backpacking Koh Phangan adventure has come to an end you have a couple of different options of where you could go:
Other Nearby Islands: Koh Tao and Koh Samui are two other islands that are in the same area as Koh Phangan. An hour or so ferry ride will take you between islands. Koh Samui and Koh Tao are quite different islands if you’re trying to decide between the two. Koh Tao is popular with scuba divers and snorkelers. There are some great reefs around this chill island. On the opposite side is Koh Samui which is the largest of all these three islands. It is more modernized and set up for tourism. There is also an airport which will be able to transport you to locations further afield.
North: If you’re planning to head north of Koh Phangan your next natural location would likely be Bangkok. I wouldn’t recommend traveling any further North in one go as that is already one long trip. Best to break up your journey with a night or two backpacking Bangkok.
South: This is the route I took and recommend if you’re looking to head further south from Koh Phangan. Make your way to Krabi in Southern Island. There are awesome things to do down here and you’ll be able to check out the incredible and photogenic Railey.
Any Questions? Let me know in the comments!
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