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Posts Tagged ‘Hotels on Koh Tao’

Finding a Hotel on Koh Toa

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 25, 2018

January 1st – May 31st, 2018

So that you’re not wasting your time, I will tell you that if you are going to visit Koh Tao for a week or two this entry is not for you. This advice is for the people staying on Koh Tao for a month or two or maybe even longer.

There is a secret to this island that you might not find out about until you get here. (No, I’m not talking about the serial killer.◊) The secret is that the longer you stay, the cheaper the room rate for hotels can be, if you’re at the right hotel. They don’t usually put this information online. This can be a good and a bad thing but, I will get into this later.

Before we go further there are somethings about life on Koh Tao that you need to understand to fully appreciate what you’re getting at your hotel.

  1. The electricity goes out quite often. It can go out for an hour at a time or it can be off and on in 2 minute increments over the span of 4 hours. This happens about once to twice a week. There is nothing the hotel can do about that other than buy a noisy, stinky, expensive generator to make their own power. Most hotels do not have a generator, but many restaurants do. When the power is out, use that time to take a walk, go for a swim, take a nap, wait it out with a good book, or head to a restaurant.
  2. The internet goes out too. This might happen when the internet provider’s power goes out. When your power goes out, your internet also goes out, but sometimes you will have electricity and no internet. Here there is something you can do. You can get a sim card and pay for your own internet. I do not. I just wait it out. (All hotels and most restaurants have free wi-fi.)
  3. Service in Thailand is a little different than back home. Back in the US customer service is key and the customer is always right. People expect service with a smile and so on. But here in Thailand  unless you are in a fancier restaurant/ hotel or you are dealing with the owner of the business you will not get good service. Employees don’t care unless they are making good money. I get the feeling that many of the people in the service industry here are someone’s cousin being forced to work for just room and board, because that’s how they act. Don’t take it personally. They don’t hate you, just their job.

I tell you #3 so that you keep this in mind when reading reviews of hotels and restaurants online. Many reviewers write about their service on Koh Tao like it were something back home. They will write about wait staff not greeting them when they entered a restaurant, as they would back home, and how they were just handed a menu and taken to their seats. What they might not understand is that maybe that waiter is just the owner’s kid who is not getting paid. Maybe she speaks no English and just wants to get back to doing homework.

I know, it’s annoying when you get bad service. And, if the choice comes down to an establishment with a friendly staff and one with a staff that sits in the corner and glowers at diners while they eat, I will usually choose the friendly one. But, about 80% of the businesses on Koh Tao have a customer service problem but these tend to costs a lot less to patronize.

So, if the staff really makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t go back. But, if you’re satisfied most of the time, don’t let little incidences bother you if you like the product overall. Some of the best dishes are sold by people who hire sour waiter-staff. Maybe their sass makes the food spicy?

With that in mind, let’s move on!

Paying for your hotel with the monthly rate is a lot cheaper than paying with a daily (nightly?) rate. When you do the math, 1 month’s stay when paying monthly can cost about 14 day’s stay when paying at the daily rate. So, if you are staying more than 2 weeks, even if you don’t stay for a whole month, you might want to ask for the monthly rate. Just remember to do your own math since the rate changes from hotel to hotel and season to season.

The problem with looking for this monthly rate is that hotels almost never post it online. You can check out bookings.com, agoda, and other sites for the daily rate, but you will never see the monthly rate. You will have to show up in person and ask at the front desk what the rates are.

This might be a good thing. When you go to agoda, for example, you can see photos of the hotel and its rooms. But photos don’t always tell the truth. A lot of times photos are cropped in such a way to make the hotel room look nicer than it really is. Or, what happens a lot on Koh Tao and in highly touristed areas, the photos were taken when the hotel just opened… 20 years ago. No renovations or repairs have been done since.

So, showing up to ask about the monthly rates give you an opportunity to look at the room you might get. Hotel receptionists are happy to show you some rooms. Well, some aren’t happy, but they will show you some rooms anyway. Take notes of what you liked and didn’t like at the hotels.

The thing with renting a hotel room with a monthly rate is that water and utilities are not always included. (Also, you might have to buy things like toilet paper, shampoo, and soap yourself.) Sometimes they are and the place is super cheap. The place Mark and I got when we just arrived cost 10,000 THB a month with water and electricity included, but I thought the place was a dump. It was a tiny little air conditioned room with a small “toilet/shower”*. The room had a window the size of a science textbook and it looked out to a busy road where drunk people would walk at 3:00 am and yell at each other.

I have met a few people who were guests at that same exact hotel I hated and they enjoyed their stay. They were young single guys who spent most of their day underwater doing scuba stuff. They only went to their hotel room at night after getting super drunk and yelling at other drunks on their walk home. To each their own.

*A “toilet/shower” is a all-in-one type bathroom where the shower is right over the toilet. It’s a common find in south east Asia. There is no shower curtain; there’s just not enough room for that. When you take a shower you have to remember to place the toilet paper outside or else it will get wet. After the shower, the toilet seat is wet because EVERYTHING is wet. I hate “toilet/showers”!

So here is my advice when looking for a hotel on Koh Tao:

1. Spend the first 2 or 3 nights in whatever hotel you can book online

Most of the time you can just show up and find some hotel. It’s a little harder in the peak season (December to March and July to August), but it can still be done if you don’t care too much about where you end up. I care about where I end up, so I would find a nice hotel for the first 2 or 3 days. During that time go from hotel to hotel checking rates and find your longer term hotel.

2. Ask your scuba buddies for recommendations (I assume you’re here for scuba related purposes, because 95% of the tourists who go to Koh Tao are.)

Don’t rely to heavily on this. There have been so many times in my life when I’ve asked friends and co-workers for advice on a place to rent and got nothing. It’s not until after I’ve found a place, signed a contract, and moved in that useful information starts pouring in. Everyone always knows what you should have done, but they never know what you should do.

Sometimes you get what happened to Mark and me when we got to Koh Tao. Everyone recommended the crappy hotel we were already checked into. They all said, “Oh it’s a marvelous place!” Just because a place doesn’t have rats and roaches, doesn’t make it amazing.

But every once in a while a normal person with normal tastes will give you normal advice. That’s how Mark and I got our third hotel on Koh Tao. It’s a new hotel that’s actually still under construction, so there aren’t too many guests. (There are 2 construction workers and they are surprisingly quiet.) The hotel is off the beaten path, so we would have never known about it if one of Mark’s scuba pal’s hadn’t recommended it.

Make sure to ask people who are on Koh Tao when you are there. Don’t ask someone who was here 6 months ago. Nothing on this island stays the same for long. Even that serial killer changes up his M.O. every few weeks.◊  A hotel that was fantastic in January might have a new manager in April and soon after becomes a terrible place to stay. Or visa versa. Consistency is not something that you often get here.

◊ That’s a joke, but there might really be a serial killer on the island. Look at the information on Koh Tao below.

3. Party along Sairee Beach, stay quiet in Mae Haad 

There are hotels all over the island, but these are the two main areas. Most younger backpackers head to Sairee Beach. That’s where louder bars and restaurants that stay open later are. Mae Haad, near the docks, is more quiet. After 10:00 pm only 7-Eleven is open.

One can easily walk from the docks in the Mae Haad area to the end of Sairee Beach in less than an hour. You don’t need to hire a taxi unless you don’t know where you are going and you are lugging heavy backpacks.

4. Pick a hotel based on location, price, and amenities you can’t buy

What I mean is, if you want a hotel that comes with a pool, keep looking until you find one. But if what you want is a hotel with a tea kettle, then look for a nice hotel and if it doesn’t have a kettle, just buy one. There are a few hardware stores, grocery stores, and shops that sell stuff like that. For more expensive items check out Koh Tao For Sale. Hey, you could even get your used scuba gear there.

Some bungalows along Sairee Beach

Things to keep in mind when looking for a hotel

  1. If your hotel room faces a road, it will be noisy.
  2. If your hotel room faces a jungle, you will hear roosters crowing at the crack of dawn.
  3. If your hotel room faces a pool, you will hear drunk people yelling and splashing around at night unless the pool has a closing time.
  4. Check to see if there is any construction going on at or near the hotel.
    • Sometimes construction work only happens during the day when you’re gone anyway.
    • Sometimes there are only 2 or 3 workers who don’t really make that much noise most of the time.
    • Sometimes they use heavy machinery and they start work at the crack of dawn leaving you no peace.
  5. If your hotel is near the beach, you will get bitten by bugs every day around sunset.
    • Look for a hotel with screens on the windows.
      • In reality, screens in Thailand are almost as rare as unicycle-riding unicorns.
    • Buy bug spray, even if you’ve found one of those magical hotels with screens.
      • You can find Off in every store on Koh Tao, so there is no need to bring any with you.
      • You can also find hydrocortisone in every pharmacy on Koh Tao for the day after you forgot to use Off.
  6. If your hotel room is on the first floor then everyone who walks by can see into your room.
    • But, you don’t have to climb stairs.
  7. If your hotel room is on the top floor, you will have the best view.
    • But, you’re going to have to climb stairs.
  8. Don’t be a fool. Get a room with a balcony.
  9. You might not want to pay extra for a suite with a kitchen, but a little kitchenette is nice.
    • Some hotels have an area with an extra sink, a hot plate, and a microwave.
    • You will get tired of eating in restaurants
    • It’s nice not having to do dishes in your toilet/ shower.
  10. Not every hotel has a monthly rate.
    • Some hotels have a monthly rate, but only in the off season.
    • Some places charge even less if you rent 3 months at a time.
    • You could also make friends and rent an apartment with a real kitchen and living room for less than a hotel.
      • Per person I mean. Instead of 3 people paying 10 Money Units each on 3 hotel rooms, you guys could pay 15 Money Units together for a 3 bedroom-apartment.

Things to look for and ask about when looking at hotel rooms

  1. Check the bathrooms.
    • You want a bathroom with good ventilation. It should have a window or a fan.
    • Look to see if there is anything that is broken.
  2. Check out the balcony.
    • Make sure it has comfortable chairs for you to use when you drink your afternoon tea or beer.
  3. Ask how much everything costs.
    • Is house keeping extra?
      • When renting monthly housekeeping is usually done once a week for free.
      • Some places, but not all, charge extra to change the sheets and towels.
    • How much is the laundry service?
      • (if you’re not planning on doing your laundry by hand…)
    • How much is water and utilities?
      • Some places include utilities up to some amount. If you go over, you have to pay extra.
      • Ask how much most guests pay for water and electricity.

It’s almost noon!

Keep in mind that no matter how much time and effort you put into finding the right quiet hotel, you might still end up with idiot neighbors like this guy. He and his friends stayed up all night drinking, singing, laughing, and yelling at each other. The next day they were all passed out around the pool until way past noon, making it very uncomfortable for other people who wanted to swim. They did this 3 nights in a row. I was so glad to see those guys leave.

Likewise, I’m sure that along Sairee Beach you might find people shushing party goers. It’s important to know what kind of hotel you’re in and not to get your areas mixed up.

I’ve talked about our first hotel and our third hotel, but I haven’t said anything about our second hotel and why we left. The second hotel cost about 14,000 THB  a month not including utilities. House keeping was free, but new sheets and towels cost 150 THB. It came with a view of the docks and not much else. But, we managed to spruce up the place with a couple trips to the hardware store. We bought a kettle, a clothes horse, and an ice tray. We were living the high life!

We made friends with other guests and Mark recommended the hotel to several of his diving buddies. I would spend my evenings on the balcony talking with this guest or that one as we watched the sunset. Many evenings Mark and I would go out for dinner with someone from the hotel.

The service at the hotel wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. I enjoyed the hotel even though there were a few things I didn’t like about the place. For example, they had a pool, but they didn’t clean it often enough for my taste. (I only used the pool on very hot days or during the weeks it got cleaned.) I would have been happy to stay there during our whole stay in Koh Tao.

But, our friends one-by-one all finished their diving courses and left the island. It seemed like in the span of one week everyone we knew packed up and left. New guests moved in. They were probably all nice people, but they were heavy smokers. I don’t like to be around when people are smoking. These guys would sit out on the balcony and smoke for hours.

When they started their marathon smoking sessions I would close the window and turn on the air conditioning. The windows and doors of the hotel had a lot of gaps. So, even with the place closed up and the AC on, my hotel room would still fill up with cigarette smoke every evening.

With no friends holding me to the hotel, when the monthly deadline came I decided to check out other options. The hotel we moved to next was bigger and had a little kitchenette. It was more expensive at 17,000 THB a month. But, this one came with 300 units of water and 10 units of electricity. Anything after that we had to pay for. Also, house keeping was done once a week with new sheets and towels for free.

It was a lot more quiet and I really liked it there. I got more writing done and even started doing yoga.

I traded my beach view for a jungle view

(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.







Scams & Dangers:


  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Koh Tao

Basic Information



  • It’s pretty inexpensive, but you can rack up quite a bill for just about anything if you’re a chump.


  • Koh Tao means “turtle island”. There are no turtles on the island, but the island is shaped like a turtle. Well, at least the person who named the island thought so.
  • ◊Koh Tao has the nickname “Murder Island”. Some people think there is a serial killer on the loose. Maybe there is.  I don’t really think so but, I could be wrong.
    • Many of the people who were “murdered” were very drunk at the time. Some of them jumped into pools and drowned.
    • A lot of the “murders” were incidences of parents of 20-somethings who couldn’t believe that their kid would get so drunk and fall into a pool, run off into the jungle, or whatever.
    • There are some cases that are clearly murders and the authorities have either found no suspects or they might have imprisoned the wrong people.
  • Many people rent scooters here and then crash them.
    • Some are just bad drivers.
    • But many are driving drunk.
      • Everyone either has a drunk driving story or knows of someone who does. (I have met 2 such people who openly brag about their drunk driving adventures with pride.)
      • It’s scary how common it is for tourists to get drunk then jump on their scooters and end up in the hospital.
  • DO NOT walk around in the early hours of the morning when the drunks are likely to be driving home.


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