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What you should bring to Koh Tao

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 15, 2018

January 1st – May 31st, 2018

Beach Yoga

If you’re going to Koh Tao, you might want to know what you have to bring and what you can just buy there. So, I will explain that here. First off, realize that Koh Tao is an island that takes a while to get to, so everything will cost more when you buy it on Koh Tao. But, it’s not a huge difference in price.

If it’s convenient to stop off at a Big C or Tesco Lotus before going to the island, then do so and buy some basics. Get your bug spray, shampoo, sun block, and so on. On the mainland you will have better prices but importantly, more brand choices.

Don’t have to go over board. You don’t need to bring everything or a 3 month supply of anything. You can get everything you really need on Koh Tao.

Water Mark

You can get all your scuba gear on the island.

There are many dive schools and dive shops that sell everything you need or want. I don’t know about brand selection, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it. You can also buy (or sell) used stuff online at Koh Tao for Sale or Koh Tao Dealerz. Both Facebook Groups offer more for sale than just scuba gear.

1. Off!

You’re going to need lots of Off!. If you’re out and about after 16:00, make sure to coat your arms and legs with it. Don’t forget to wash your hands after putting it on. You don’t want to accidentally ingest the stuff.

On Koh Tao you can buy Off! in just about every shop from 7-Eleven to groceries or pharmacies.

2. Sunscreen

If you want the best sunscreen, as evaluated by Consumer Reports, then you should bring some from your home country. If not, you can find plenty of sunscreen here.  Stay away from the brands you’re unfamiliar with. I have heard bad things about Samui Rum Leuk, the sunscreen made on the neighboring island of Koh Samui.

Be careful. Don’t buy any of the sun screens that contain skin whiteners. I’m not sure what it does, if it does anything. But generally, skin whiteners damage the skin and may cause cancer

Brands like Nivea, Banana Boat, and Australian Gold can be found at 7-Eleven, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

4. Rubbing Alcohol

Everyone gets cuts and scrapes on Koh Tao. It can be from something small like a bug bite or more serious like an attack by a triggerfish. (Those fish are an abomination of nature and knowing that fact makes them really angry.)

It’s cheaper to buy rubbing alcohol from a grocery store than the pharmacy. You can get a small bottle for 15THB.

5. Travel Towel

You can buy a quick dry travel towel from many of the dive shops on the island. Nabaiji is the main brand that is sold on the island. Mark and I both have one. They came with something we bought. The most common sizes are XL and L, but you can find XXL, M, and S. The XXL will cost about 450THB on Koh Tao, which isn’t bad at all for a quick dry travel towel. You might be able to find that same brand for cheaper on mainland Thailand. But 450THB (14USD) is so low for a travel towel, it might not be worth it to go out of your way for it.

I found the XXL Nabaiji travel towel for 450THB at a convince store along Sairee beach.

6. Ibuprofen and Paracetamol (also called Acetaminophen)

Ibuprofen is the generic name for Brufen,  Advil, and Motrin. Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen or APAP, is the generic name for Tylenol and Panadol.

The Ibuprofen on Koh Tao, comes only in double (400mg) or triple (600mg) dosages. Usually ibuprofen capsules are 200mg. Most people take 2 pills at a time, so the double dosages might not be a problem. Just remember this and don’t accidentally take 2 of these bigger pills. Remember not to take more than 1,200mg in a 24 hour period. Taking too much Ibuprofen can damage your stomach lining.

As for paracetamol, taking more than 4,000mg in a 24 hour period can cause liver damage. It’s very important to read over the counter drug label’s properly. Many cold medicines contain paracetamol, like Thera-ful and Nyquil. This makes it easy to overdose on paracetamol without realizing it.

Pain killers are cheapest when bought from the grocery stores. They are a bit expensive at the pharmacy. If you only need one or two pills, then buy a packet of Tylenol (paracetamol) at 7-Eleven. If you want the ibuprofen in liquid capsule form, you will have to buy it at a pharmacy.

 7. Tissue

You never know when the bathroom is out of toilet paper. When you run out of tissues, pick some up anywhere.

8. Hat

There are shops everywhere selling clothes, hats, bags, and flip-flops. They look nice, but they’re not exactly top quality stuff. They will last the length of your trip, but not years. It doesn’t matter, nothing is too expensive. The main downside, is that you will look like everyone else. All the tourists are wearing the same thing.

9. Swim Suits

I recommend bringing your own swim suit. If you want to buy a swim suit here, then let it be a secondary swim suit. That way, if you don’t find one that you like or in your size, it’s not a big deal.

10. Hydrocortisone Cream

Some days you will forget to put on your bug spray. Hydrocortisone Cream will help your bug bites stop itching. You can buy this at the pharmacies.

11. Flip-flops

The flip-flops sold on Koh Tao are Havaianas or random generic brands. No Crocs…

12. Cloth bag

You might not care about having one, but I hate collecting tons of plastic bags every time I buy something. I try to bring my own bag to cut down on the number of plastic bags kicking around on the island.

13. Antibiotic Cream

You might be able to find fucidin ointment on mainland Thailand. But once you get to the island, antibiotic cream is harder to find and expensive when you do find it.

14. Schick Intuition Head

Bring one head for every month you will stay on the island.

15. Dry bag

On Koh Tao, they sell mostly name brand dry bags. Buy yours at home or from mainland Thailand, where they are much cheaper. The one in the picture is a generic dry bag I bought in Malaysia for less than 8USD. Get a heavy duty dry bag for kayaking and water sports. They keep your things dry even if it falls into water, assuming you’ve closed it properly. Do not get a camping dry bag. Those keep your stuff dry during a light rain but are not recommended for use at the beach.

16. Plastic Fan

It’s kind of hot here. Get a plastic fan you can use at the beach. I bought mine at Daiso in Japan. There is a Daiso in Bangkok

17. Reflective Band

If you’re walking around at night I recommend getting some kind of reflective band. Not every street has a street light. Also, you should bring a flash light or use the flash light app on your phone. Never go anywhere without your phone for this reason.


You can buy antiperspirant/ deodorant on Koh Tao. They sell products for both women and men. They are limited to the roll-on type and to the Nivea brand. If you like something else, get it before going to Koh Tao.

Some more information:

A. There is plenty of Tiger Balm.

Though, I’m not sure if it actually does anything. It’s an interesting souvenir…

B. Go through the grocery/ hardware stores before you buy anything.

There are several grocery stores on the island that sell all sorts of things. They have far better prices on drugs than the pharmacies do. Buy your ibuprofen and paracetamol there. Also check these place out first when looking for stuff to buy. If they sell the thing you want, they might sell it for less.

C. Check out many pharmacies for the basics before you buy.

They’re prices vary for different items. Some have cheaper hydrocortisone. Others have cheaper antihistamine.

(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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