Koh Tao is the smallest island of the 2 other neighbor islands, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Every island in Thailand is known for something else. Koh Tao is a dive paradise for everyone who loves the underwater world. Try and see if scuba diving is your secret passion and do an introduction dive or take a whole diving course. It is all up to you. Travellers come from all over the world to get their dive certification. There are multiple reasons for that. Koh Tao is not only a cheap place to get your dive license but you also get to dive on an island paradise with one of the best diving spots in South East Asia.
Top Thing To Do And See In Koh Tao
Get your dive certificate - I can't say this enough but go scuba diving! Koh Tao has amazing dive spots all around the island. The PADI Open Water is a 4-day course. There are so many different resorts that offer you a great deal so you will find the perfect fit for you. We choose to do our PADI OW at Ban's Diving Resort. We had to pay 200 USD each included a private room in the resort for the full length of our course. Our instructor was amazing and very talented. Try to get in a smaller group so it is more fun and the learning process is much faster. Keep reading for more information about scuba diving.
Drive to Mango Bay - Mango Bay is the most beautiful swim and snorkel spot. If you are lucky you will even see baby sharks and you won't have to share this experience with hundreds of other tourists because it is really secluded. I highly recommend renting a quad for a day instead of going on a motorbike. Be very cautious when you drive to Mango Bay. The path is not paved, rocky and there are massive cracks. We fell of our motorbikes multiple times... The price for a motorbike is around 250 BHT (7 USD). To rent a quad it can be triple the price but you can share this with another person and it is a lot safer. Bring lots of water because it is a hike down to the beach!
Rent a motorbike - The best way to explore the island, or any island in Thailand actually is renting a motorbike. There is no chance of getting lost because the island is really small. On the other hand, the roads in Koh Tao are not in the best shape so caution is necessary. Always wear a helmet for your own safety. You don't want to end up in a foreign hospital with broken legs for the rest of your trip. Motorbike accidents happen everyday on the islands. Prices are from 250 BHT (7 USD) a day.
Watch the sunset - Go to a cocktail bar, buy your favourite bucket and bring it down to the beach for an amazing sunset. Koh Tao truly has the best sunsets we have witnessed in Thailand.
Costs On The Island
Koh Tao is very touristic and developed. The prices for food, drinks, and transport are expensive. The island's popularity grew massively over the years. I visited Koh Tao for the first time in 2010. Now we are 7 years later and the prices have doubled.
Food and drinks - Try to find local restaurants. The food is delicious and it is cheaper. If you eat at a restaurant on the beach it is going to be a lot more expensive. You can also find western food if you really want to, but you will pay extra for it. Cold drinks are okay but cocktails are expensive.
Accommodation - Koh Tao is a true backpackers paradise. There are many hostels and resorts that offer dorm rooms and private rooms. You can get special deals if you take a diving course through the hostel or resort. Try not to book online and just wander around until you find the perfect spot for you. What always helps is taking a look online and writing down the places you want to check out. Visit them and see if they can make you a great deal. If you are travelling by yourself and you have met some friends along the way, you can always offer to share a private room to lower your costs.
Transport - There are many ferries that bring you to Koh Tao daily.
Koh Samui to Koh Tao starts from 515 BHT (15 USD) 2 hour ferry.
Koh Phangan to Koh Tao starts from 440 BHT (13 USD) 1hr30 min ferry.
Chumphon to Koh Tao starts from 550 BHT (16 USD) 2 hour ferry.
Donsak to Koh Tao starts from 515 BHT (15 USD) 4 hour ferry.
You can also book tours that bring you from Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani Town and Hua Hin to Koh Tao. Look this up online or visit a tourist office.
If you decide to do a dive course in Koh Tao make sure that you have looked up some information online. First read previews online and visit the dive center before booking anything. Do not book online because you will not get a special deal. No matter where you end up going for your dive course, always try to get a deal. For example ; dive course plus accommodation. We paid 200 USD for PADI Open water plus accommodation in Ban's Diving Resort. You can take the courses is many different languages. And try to get a small group so you don't have to wait too long and everything goes smoothly.
There are only 2 different and regulated dive agencies in the world. PADI and SSI.
PADI - Means Professional Association of Dive Instructors. Most dive centers work with both associations so it is up to you really. In some places in the world SSI is still not confirmed and is a PADI certificate necessary to have if you want to go diving. That is the main reason why we chose for PADI.
SSI - Means Scuba School International. SSI courses are slightly cheaper than PADI courses. But that doesn't mean that the courses are less good. If you don't know which one to choose you can just look it up yourself or talk to dive instructors and ask their opinion.
Our PADI Open Water schedule was a 4-day course starting with some classes. You learn the basics and most important things about scuba diving. You will get a book to study and you will have to do a little test. If you fail the test, you will most likely get a second chance so nothing to worry.
We spend 1 full day in the pool, learning about all the equipment and doing the first tests. Since we were only with the 6 of us it went very smooth and we all learnt quickly. Imagine doing this with +10 people...
You spend 2 full days on the dive boat on the water. 1 dive in the morning and 1 dive in the afternoon for 2 days. So at the end of your course you have done 4 dives in the beautiful ocean of Thailand.
A couple things you learn on your Open Water course are :
1. Learn how to equalize your ears when you go deeper in the ocean.
2. Learn how to help a buddy in need by giving them your alternate air-source (second regulator).
3. You have to be able to clear your mask from fog under water.
4. Be able to take off your mask completely and put it back on and clear it from water.
5. Take your regulator out of your mouth and put it back into your mouth without holding your breath and clear the regulator from water.
6. Learn how to use the dive computer.
7. Be able to navigate under water.
8. Find your perfect neutral buoyancy.
9. NEVER LET YOUR BUDDY OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!
When you pass all the tests and have ended all dives well you will get your OW-certificate. You also get a logbook where you can log all your dives in the future including your training dives!
Scuba diving - Make sure you get a good deal for a scuba course including accommodation. There are so many dive resorts so you will definitely find a deal somewhere.
Renting motorbikes - ALWAYS BARGAIN. If you are wanting 2 motorbikes, ask for a discount. Are you renting for a couple of days, ask for a discount. There is no harm for asking and it could save you a couple dollars.
7-eleven is your best friend - Buy your alcohol and food in 7-eleven, take it down to the beach and start pre-drinking before going out to the bar.
Eating and drinking - Try to avoid western places. It will cost you triple the price and it won't be as delicious. Having dinner further away from the beach also helps not spending too much money on food.