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
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort– little more high end, pool, stunning views
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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Steering clear of beef aside, I think it’d be impossible not to love it there!
yes, steer very clear of the beef!
The timing on this post is absolutely perfect for me. Particularly number 5 as I was actually planning skipping Maya Bay for that precise reason. But you’re totally right, I’m already being uber touristy, might as well just do it haha.
OO yeah don’t skip it and this week I’m putting up a post on Maya bay tips!
Great and humorous list! Haven’t been ourselves yet, but we’ve heard equal parts horror stories, equal parts love stories, so I’m definitely intrigued. These points will definitely come in handy one day :)
yeah it seems a lot of people really either love it or hate it. I didn’t HATE it, but it was my least favorite island (mainly b/c of crowds and pricing) – the others are just as beautiful so if I go back i’ll choose to try out some new ones
I hope lots of people read this…it’s GREAT advice (and I’ve never even been there haha!)
haha thanks girl!
Wow, sort of impressed so many bad things managed to happen to you there! It’s nice to see you’re not totally ripping it apart then. I agree with a lot of what you said though – Koh Phi Phi isn’t my favorite Thai island, but if you temper expectations and do it the right way it is totally worth visiting. Great tips!
Yeah, it doesn’t deserve to be ripped apart- it’s great if you’re going for what it’s great at.
I visited Koh Phi Phi over a decade ago and at the time it was quite touristy; it would probably be even more of an eye opener now. I dealt with a tout when I went before and found really cheap accommodation in a wooden hut on stilts for about £2.50 a night which was away from the noise. Visiting Maya Bay was one of my highlights and seen as though the movie ‘The Beach’ enticed me to go to Thailand – it just had to visited (it really is just as beautiful as in the film).
Yes I love Maya Bay too! It’s SO crowded now so we went at about 6 AM to miss the crowds. Sometimes the touts can be helpful :)
I am woefully undertraveled when it comes to SE Asia (never been to Thailand, for example) but love seeing other bloggers’ pictures of the amazing beaches and parties!
It is sooooooo pretty! I really wanna make it to the Philippines too!
If you do make it to the Philippines, head for Bantayan Island or Malapascau Island. Bantayan has beaches and caves and is really something special. Skip Manila for your own sanity. Great write-up of Phi Phi.
Recently, I’ve been hearing terrible things about Manila. Thanks for the advice!
Ahhh I’m from a city called Long Beach in California! I now must go to its Thai counterpart :)
That means that I have to get to Long Beach, Cali! very cool
interesting! what are the best Thai islands for solo travelers? mixing great nature, interesting people, decent nightlife and avoiding the too busy and turistic places.
I think you’ll like Ko Lanta & the outskirts of Ko Samui which has waterfalls and a nature park
Rachel, where did you put up in Phi Phi? My Husband and I are planning a short backpacking trip to Thailand in June and were thinking of visiting Phi Phi before heading to Koh Samui. Tips on where to stay (budget accommodation) would be great!
U stayed in one up a huge hill that I can’t recommend because it wasn’t the best… but luckily when you get off the ferry there are porters you can negotiate room costs with- although make sure the deal you make lets you see the room before you pay. I would recommend Long Beach. It’s the less touristy side and if I were to go back that is where I would stay. They have tree houses! It’s mostly huts. The hotels are pretty pricey.
I meant I stayed in one up a hill, not you! whoops.
Thanks yo! :)
Hey, thanks for the post ! It really all comes down to what you really want from your travel : if you’re into sea, sex and fun, then yeah go to Phi Phi, go to Krabi Aonang, go to Bangkok Khaosan road, go to Patong Beach Phuket and go to the Full Moon Parties !
If you’re looking for temples, head to Ayuttaya, Sukothai, Chiang Mai …
And if you want peace and quiet, try Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe or some secluded bay such as Haad Tien in Koh Pha Ngan.
Exactly… I loved Koh Lanta! It was almost empty :)
Wow! I hope you still enjoyed Ko Phi Phi. I went to Phuket not too long ago and it could of turned out better. Your right about the tourists, their everywhere!! We didn’t get much peace and quiet, so next time I head to Southern Thailand I’m going to find a secluded island. Love your pictures!
-The Southern Adventurer
I enjoyed ko phi phi for the most part. I think as long as expectations are kept in check it’s possible to still have a great time. The more secluded islands are definitely better though!
I was in Koh Phi Phi for 8 days last July/August and I couldnt agree more with what you said. I stayed in the exact same place as you did and got food poisoning off western food, a pizza to be exact and I’m almost sure it was in the same place as you. My friend was the same at the same time.
I have recently just moved to Thailand to teach English and I have promised myself that western food will be a one off treat from now on and I am sticking to a thai food diet as they know how to cook that properly… wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Yeah you’re right to stick to the traditional food. It’s the same in India- when I DO get sick it’s usually western food that’s been cooked incorrectly.
I’ll be going to Thailand next month. Is there any tour package from Phi Phi to 4-Island (Krabi) and 4-Island (Koh Lanta)? Or should I need to take ferry-transfer first to Ao Nang/Lanta then find a good deal package from there? Thank you in advance!
I’m here right now! Staying for a total of three nights (leaving tomorrow) and that was enough for me. Maya Bay was the highlight of my trip, although I was soaked by the rain and waves during the entire tour. That’s what you get for traevling during the rainy season, though. I didnt have high expectations because I hadn’t planned on coming here originally. 300 baht at B Place Guesthouse was the best deal I could find for somewhere that was clean, cheap, safe, with AC and wifi. I do think Phi Phi is a bit overrated and overdeveloped. Not the relaxing beachy atmosphere you would expect.
Yeah travel in rainy season can totally change a place. I’m glad you liked Maya bay! Thanks for sharing your perspective and enjoy your time there!
I had no idea you were a nurse too! :) I’ve always been inspired by your blog, but this definitely hits way closer discovering that you left the field of nursing to travel the world. I always thought I’d be wasting my nursing degree if i pursued something else that would allow me to travel full time (like becoming a flight attendant or teaching abroad) but I see more and more each day that it should never cost you your happiness to be doing something you don’t absolutely love. Safe travels, lovely! <3
Hi Shem, I’m so glad you can relate. I keep my license active because I may one day need it and it’s a great living and a job that helps people you can feel good about it. Definitely worth pursuing other avenues though!
Thanks for all the useful info. Heading there myself soon but staying at the zeavola so should hopefully avoid the crowds. I’ve been a couple times when i was younger but my motivations are different this time round!
Can you tell me what time the long tails stop running? If I did venture to the town one night for dinner I’m i would like to know the latest time I could hear back – do you know?
Hi Caroline, I’m sorry I don’t know what time.
nice article really helped me any suggestions on affordable centrally located accommodation? the ones you mentioned were quite expensive except the bungalows but they are far from anything.
I’m sorry, Phi Phi is just awful now. I went back in 2001, returned in 2002. Most beautiful place on earth. Went back in 2008 (I can only imagine now) and it was oil slicks, touts, and thousands of young tourists there just to party. I would never go back.
But if you’re going to go I agree that Long beach is the spot. Because honestly, the rest has been ruined. A real shame.
Yes, Long Beach was really nice. I was there in 2013. It was clean but crowded. For me, it wasn’t awful – but thanks for sharing your experience!
I can’t disagree more with this post. Went to Phi Phi in June, stayed at the Viking resort, going back in December with five friends. I did not have any of the awful experiences that you described. I didn’t find it expensive, I found it quite relaxing, the water was prestine, yes there was trash, but there is trash everywhere in thailand. Spent three weeks all over the country and Phi Phi was by far the best place. I really hope your post doesn’t deter people from visiting.
I did the beef thing so i know your pain always check TripAdvisor first and i wanna go back as didn’t get full experience just my luck the king died when I went doh so no partying whatsoever good job I was ill and i’ll remember about and IV next time did it cost much?