Did you think Koh Phi Phi was overrated? It’s a gorgeous island but if you don’t get away from the main bars and beach, you might not see some of the best places and will leave with a bad taste in your mouth. Here are 7 ways to screw up Koh Phi Phi. Try not to do them and use the Koh Phi Phi travel tips below instead!
Ko Phi Phi Travel Tips – 7 Ways to Screw it up
1. Having High Expectations.
Ko Phi Phi is packed to the brim with what looks like 18-year-old kids chugging 400 baht buckets having a Spring Break style party. You don’t want to have expectations beyond laying out, maybe some hiking, and partying. There are some quieter beaches to visit and you could avoid all of the parties, but it is sort of the “thing to do”here.
the incoming ferry
What you should do instead: have realistic expectations. The sea water isn’t that clean these days, there isn’t a lot of lodging compared to amount of people, you’re going to spend double your budget, and the island is so small that you’ll fall asleep to the techno/dub music lullaby of the island. Also, buy your buckets on the street, not at a bar. Like college, you need to pregame or go for the bucket deal: Buy 2 get one free and let each person have their own bucket. It is an awesome place to let loose and party, so expect that this will be one wildly fun, budget-unfriendly time.
you’ll get this if you just take a 20-minute hike
2. Not getting off the main party strip of Ko Phi Phi Don.
It’s a small, crowded beach. Yes, it’s gorgeous in a panoramic view; but up close the partying remnants from the night before are floating in the water along with pieces of old long-tail boats. There is another beach that is full of boats that you can’t go on, and then you have the side with the huge new pier. It’s a small island; you’re pretty limited on where to go. Check out my post on Koh Lanta, a place that I found beaches just to have to myself!
main beach- when the tide goes out, the beach doubles in size
the long-tail boat beach; you can’t swim here
Instead, take the 20-minute hike to Long Beach. It’ll still have a few groups of people, and if you’re unlucky it might be overly crowded, but it’s still better than the main beach. The hike is gorgeous and the water is clean and deep! You can actually stay on that side of the beach. I think for more than two days you’d get bored, as all the shopping and most popular bars are on the other side. On the main beach, you can rent a kayak for 100 baht per person. If you want to get to the “open water” via kayak… well it’s harder than it looks to get out of the bay! Once you get out, you’ll see the water change to a darker, deeper color, you’ll remember Shark Bay isn’t far away and if you’re like me, you’ll paddle faster to get back to the bay.
even hiking to beautiful Long Beach, the “gem”, you’ll see loads of trash
3. Getting massages near the beach.
These are the worst Thai massages I’ve had and it cost two times more. I am actually a Thai yoga masseuse, and one part of giving a massage is focusing on that person. These women just chit-chat, don’t watch what they are doing and massage the same area for 10 minutes so that don’t have to move.
save your massage money one day (300 baht), instead pay to use a pool & sip on some fresh fruit juice
Instead, get a massage as far inland as you can to a less crowded place. You’ll get more focused attention and a better price. The same usually goes for shopping, but I found an exception. A little place on the main strip (forget the name, tear) sells handmade leather jewelry. The guy running it is Thai and his helper is his English girlfriend. I got a hair wrap as well as a few armbands and a headband. They are my ultimate favorite pieces of jewelry right now and everyone asks where I get them! They’re shocked when I say touristy Phi Phi. A little pricey but great quality. It’s just near Woody’s.
4. Getting a bad guesthouse.
Ko Phi Phi is the most expensive of the islands, and Koh Phi Phi hotels match that. All of Thailand it’s true that booking online will sometimes be the higher price you can pay since you can’t negotiate. In person or even over the phone you will get a better rate but you risk there is no availability at the decent places.
If you just roll up and negotiate with the Thai guys at the port, you’ll find somewhere decent at an okay price if there are open rooms. I usually NEVER deal with touts but I find that Ko Phi Phi is not the most fun place to wander and hunt for a room (because it’s hot and most rooms are full). So, I wouldn’t typically say this but you are better off asking the guys for your options. Then negotiate those prices. You’ll pay a fee to him ahead of time, which will be a portion of your first nights stay. Make sure you get a receipt. Don’t book too many nights in advance because if you stay longer, you can negotiate with the actual guesthouse owner. We stayed way uphill from the beach. I preferred this; it was a little quieter and we got a nice work out walking uphill two or three times a day.
This was one of the more annoying places to find somewhere to stay so even though it’s a little more expensive it would have saved hassle to book online. Here are some great options we saw:
Phi Phi Relax Beach Resort– cute bungalows, cheap
Mama Beach Residence– Ao Ton Sai beach, yoga, chic
Zeavola Hotel Koh Phi Phi– if you want to live it up, the most luxurious stay
You might also find something on airbnb which has great options all over the world. I have a discount code for you: $40 off your first stay if you use this airbnb link to book. You can actually sign up now and it will save the credit until your first booking even if its not one of the Koh Phi Phi islands hotels.
5. Not getting to Maya Bay.
Some people come all the way to Ko Phi Phi and don’t see Maya Bay because it’s “too touristy”. You got all the way too overrated Phi Phi and drew the line at Maya Bay!? Come on! Just check it out.
Go to Ko Phi Phi Ley: Maya Bay, but follow these 10 tips for Maya Bay, like taking a private boat and being prepared to get up the difficult rope climb if they go in the back way.
I get a lot of emails asking me about a tour to Maya Bay (Ko Phi Phi Leh) from the main bit of Ko Phi Phi Don, and these are the best options: this tour with Viator which includes lunch. If you want something cheap you can do this longtail boat for just $18 on getyourguide.com.
6. Jumping a Rope of Fire with the Fire Gods.
The fire gods are what we dubbed the oiled up Thai guys that put on the all-night fire shows. If you’re unlucky the hunkiest of all will pull you up to hold you while he jumps rope- a giant rope on fire. Then you’ll catch your hair on fire. It will be traumatic. Your friend will do the same and burn her leg; she’ll have a scab for weeks after. It’s not fun. Be smart! Yes hair grows back and scabs go away, but I’ve heard worse stories that what happened to us.
Understand that it’s real, hot, fire and even though it touches them and they don’t seem to care- it will burn and it will hurt. If you want to jump, keep your hair and a pony and do it when you’re not that drunk. You can also choose to do something a little less scary. You can jump through a hoop or just stand there while the Fire Gods spin the flames around you. They’ll pull up people near the front to participate so if you don’t want to be around it then sit back a couple rows.
7. Eating Beef at Breaker’s.
This restaurant is geared toward tourists with its t.v.’s playing soccer and it’s menu like that of an American Bar. I eat beef in India all the time and wasn’t that worried about it- I guess in the last year of Indian life I’ve let my guard down a little. My friend and I shared the nachos… and I got a cheeseburger. Two hours later we were sweaty, puking all over the bathroom. It was disgusting. We were way uphill on the island, a 30-minute walk from the hospital. We both were dehydrated, but I was sicker than the time I got food poisoning from prawns in Goa. I went to the hospital at sunrise and told them I want an iv asap. As a nurse, I see the magic of a little fluid all the time and really just wanted to fast forward the process. Anna was sick at this point too and got an iv as well. We were better in an hour, but without fluid replacement, we would have suffered all day. The consequence was being on antibiotics for 5 days after (that I didn’t take because seriously if I did every time I got sick living in India and traveling in Asia, I’d be on them ALL the time).
all my bikinis I wore in Thailand were Agua Bendita – the CUTEST bikinis, love them!
like the pizza, Ko Phi Phi was “Not the Best, but nice one”
Ko Phi Phi does have some positives because we stayed for a week. Part of the lengthy stay in comparison to our stays at other Thai islands was because we were waiting on friends to meet us. If you go into this with realistic expectations, you can enjoy yourself; party all night, sleep all day. I had way too high of hopes for “The Beach” and I wasn’t in the mood to drink buckets with youngsters (did I mention I was there when England colleges had a huge school break?)
Headed to Thailand? Other than my Koh Phi Phi travel tips, check out these other posts and resources so you can save time and see the best there is to see on your trip.
- Getting to Koh Phi Phi by flight: I do all my flight bookings these days on Kiwi. It is the bomb and searches all the budget airlines plus gives you a free flight if you miss a connection!
- Please get travel insurance if you are coming to Thailand. I recommend World Nomads. The hospitals ARE expensive.
- You do need a visa as well.
- If you’re planning a big trip, check out my guide to start planning from scratch.
- Traveling SE Asia? Here is a guide to how much money you’ll need.
- An additional 23 tips for traveling SE Asia you should definitely check out.
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