Thailand is a land of many islands, famed all over the world for its lovely beaches and outstanding dive sites. Its Similan islands and other diving destinations like Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Krabi, Surin, and Phuket offer world class diving opportunities. People from all corners of the world come to Thailand to learn scuba diving because it has become a thriving world of diving with its drop-offs, walls, wrecks, tunnels, caverns, reefs, seamounts, guyots, and pinnacles.
Location of Thailand
Thailand is in Southeast Asia, almost at its heart. Its northern side is contiguous with the countries Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. Its dive destinations are located in the south where it is flanked on the west by the Andaman Sea and on the east by the Gulf of Thailand. The tip of its south-eastern side has a contiguous border with Malaysia.
Why Do Divers Choose Thailand?
Despite the fact that there are many dive sites across the world, Thailand holds a special charm for many divers who return there year after year. There are many reasons for this continuing attraction, as listed below:
- Thai people are friendly and hospitable by nature and always make outsiders feel at home in their country.
- Both Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and Phuket, the country’s largest island, are well-connected with other countries. Flights to these cities are quite reasonably priced.
- The tourist infrastructure of Thailand is designed to cater very well to tourists’ needs.
- Tourists do not experience any language problem as English is a popular link language in the country. Besides, many resorts have staff who can handle additional languages like Japanese, Russian, Arabic, French, German, Spanish, Chinese etc.
- The country offers good accommodation choices ranging from cheap bread-and-breakfast lodgings to super-luxury resorts.
- Travelling within Thailand is cheap and easy, and the country is safe to travel.
- Though there are some peak tourist seasons, Thailand is suitable for diving round the year.
What You Can Do in Thailand
Though diving is the major attraction for those who visit Thailand, it has lots of tourist attractions besides its fine dive sites. Further, having a ringside view of Thai culture is a delight, and their cuisine makes the place a gourmet’s paradise. Here is a list of recreational options in Thailand.
- You can snorkel and kayak at many places.
- Thai boxing known as Muay Thai is a popular pastime in Thailand. Boxing matches are held regularly, and there are centres that teach boxing.
- Golfers can rest assured of enough entertainment in many places like in Koh Tao, Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, Surin (Surin has many golf courses) etc.
- Bowling is popular in Phuket which has got six bowling alleys.
- Many resorts organize island hopping tours where tourists are taken in boats to different islands (some inhabited and some uninhabited), very often after sunset.
- Firefly watching is an entertainment option in Koh Chang where mangrove forests are lit up at night by an abundance of fireflies. Mountain biking, bird watching, and trekking (on foot or on elephant) are some of the other recreational options in Koh Chang.
- There are massage parlours, yoga centres, meditation classes, and cookery classes in many places.
- Fishing, trekking, and swimming through an underwater tunnel to a hidden lagoon called Emerald Cave, are some of the ways in which you can entertain yourself in Koh Lanta.
- In Koh Tao, there are cliffs and volcanic rocks suitable for rock climbing and cliff jumping, and plenty of walking trails for those fond of trekking.
- Koh Phi Phi is also good for rock climbing, cliff jumping, bird watching, and fishing. Monkey Beach, Tsunami Memorial Garden, and Fire Show are some of its major attractions.
- Phuket has a grand gala show every day, except on Thursdays, called Phuket FantaSea that involves carnival games, buffets, shopping venues, restaurants, elephant shows, dance, trapeze, and theatre in which there is even participation by animals like water buffaloes and doves.
- A Buddha shrine with a golden Buddha rising to a height of 12 metres, curiously shaped rocks named Hin Ta and Hin Yai considered to be the embodiments of man and woman, a tiger show, an aquarium, a snake farm, Angthong National Marine Park, and a hidden statue collection are some of the attractions in Koh Samui.
- Night entertainment options are aplenty in Thailand. Phuket has plenty of bars and cabaret shows in which young boys perform as women. Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Koh Tao have bars with fire shows and magic shows and lady-boy cabarets. Bars in Koh Lanta host a special party once a week.
Great food, very friendly locals and a bewildering choice of experiences await you on a Thailand vacation. Thailand has long been a favourite destination of those youthful backpackers of the world, all drawn to Thailand for its variety of culture, a multitude of very scenic destinations, and some of the best beaches in the world all at very cheap prices. Thailand also caters very well to the non backpacker tourist, with good quality accommodation and fabulous service, still all at discount prices.
Phuket is the main draw card for diving in Thailand. It is located on the west coast of Thailand on the Andaman sea. The best diving is from November to April when the cool winds come from the North East. From May to October winds tend to be from the south east, are much stronger, up to typhoon level and tends to bring in poorer visibility.
From Phuket you can either dive the local sites around Phuket, phi phi islands or Ao Nang sites. The second choice you have in diving from Phuket is a liveaboard, by which you can get to the less frequently visited sites in the northern Andaman sea. Most of the diving is on soft coral reefs with very dramatic sea drop offs, tunnels and swim throughs all adding to the impressive amount of fish life you can see. The one thing worth seeing is the whale shark which can be seen in the Andaman sea at the right times of the year.
Phuket is a very touristy setup, with lots of night life, restaurants, resorts and tourist activities to do.
Phi Phi islands are a series of small and very beautiful islands. There are some very good dive sites around the islands including Kings Cruiser Ferry Wreck. The islands are for people who find Phuket to busy, as no cars or motor bikes are allowed on the islands.
Krabi, also located on the west side of Thailand, operates most of its diving out of Ao Nang. Ao Nang has a wonderful bay which is dotted with James Bond style islands (Limestone structures rising out of the water). Krabi also has several live aboard boats that are cheaper than those that run out of Phuket.
Koh Tao has mostly year round diving except in November, when big seas can cut the island off. Koh Tao is predominately a backpacker’s paradise, with bare feet, diving, sunbathing and relaxing your basic staple diet. Mainly it has soft corals and pinnacles to dive on, but it can also get whale sharks making visits as well.
Koh Samui is not a spectacular diving destination in itself, but it is a great place for a holiday. What you can dive from Koh Samui is Red Rock, Sail Rock and a few other first class diving destinations.
Pattaya offers year round diving as it does not have a monsoon season. It has a wider range of soft and hard corals due to a large amount of Plankton in the water. The large amount of plankton does reduce visibility to 8 – 10 meters generally. Pattaya has the normal range of tropical fish life and also has Thailand’s first artificial reef. The reef has several WWII wrecks and a new 1000 ton, 62 meter long, medium size landing craft recently sunk by the Thai Navy. There is supposedly a group of technical divers, that visit some not well known sites, that are ancient pottery wrecks that operate out of Pattaya.
Pattaya, originally grew from US troops visiting on R&R from the Vietnam war. It has now developed into a more general tourist destination with a large array of high quality hotels and restaurants available at cheap prices. It also has a host of non diving related activities including shopping, tourist attractions from crocodile farm to buddist temples, traditional thai massages on the beach, tandem skydives, etc… Pattaya is a good place for a family holiday where dad can have a dive and there is still lots for mum and the kids to do without getting bored.
Best Time to Visit Thailand
The climate of Thailand is tropical, hot and sultry throughout the year, with the average temperature ranging from 25°C to 32°C. Even during the monsoon season, rains are sporadic and a rain does not last more than two hours.
In the coastal areas of Thailand, the best time to visit is from November till February, which is the coolest period even though the temperature could still be 30°C. However, the best season for diving may vary slightly from one place to the other.
In Phuket, the best season is from December till the end of March, whereas in Koh Lanta, Khao Lak, Similan and Surin it is from November till April. Of these, the peak season is the months of December and January. Similan is generally kept open for tourists only from the middle of October to the middle of May. March, April, and from July to September are good times to visit Koh Tao.
Best Dive Season
From November till the end of April is the best time for diving in Thailand, even though scuba diving can be done almost round the year. For those who are keen on seeing sharks, from February till May is the right time.
From May till October is the low season, especially in the western part of Thailand.
Where to Stay in Thailand
Thailand has no dearth of accommodation for tourists. There are beach bungalows and budget rooms costing less than 500 baht (about $14) per night. A dorm room may be cheaper. Comfortable hotel rooms are available for 500 to 1000 baht for one night for a person.
Accommodation costs fluctuate in Thailand depending on the season. During the December-February peak season, room rents may skyrocket while they plummet during the monsoon when the tourist flow ebbs.
While Thailand is by and large a cheap tourist spot, luxury resorts are also aplenty all over the country, catering predominantly to divers’ needs. Given below are the details of some luxury resorts.
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort (4.5 star)
This resort is a cluster of bungalows built and decorated in traditional Thai style and set in plush green tropical land. The double-occupancy rooms are spacious and have balconies with excellent views of the scenery around. Resort amenities include a private beach, swimming pool, souvenir shop, fitness centre, steam room, massage parlour, sauna, spa, round-the-clock security, and conference facilities. There is a poolside bar, a range of cuisines to choose from, a well-equipped dive centre, and many recreational options that include snorkelling, fishing, trekking, and guided tours.
Zeavola Resort & Spa (5 star)
Zeavola is an eco-friendly luxury resort set in a 10-acre plot at the northern tip of Koh Phi Phi. The independent suites, made of wood, are posh and elegant while maintaining a natural rustic charm. Besides all the amenities, there is provision for guests to play Frisbee and volleyball, and the resort organizes trips for diving, snorkelling, and fishing. Its Baxil Restaurant has a good selection of wines, and Tacada Restaurant’s barbecue items and seafood are very popular.
Rawi Warin Resort & Spa (5 star)
Major attractions of Koh Lanta like its Emerald Cave, Mu Koh Lanta National Park, and Koh Muk are within easy access of this sea-facing resort which is set in very pretty and peaceful surroundings. The resort is the epitome of traditional Thai hospitality, and won recognition as the Best Luxury Family Hotel in 2011. Its front desk operates 24 hours of the day and it has a library, poolside bar, games room, kids club, pool for kids, conference facilities, massage parlour, and provision for tennis, table tennis, and non-motorized water sports.
Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa (5 star)
This resort, located near Krabi on its southern side, has suites and villas, and villas that have 3 bedrooms have whirlpool tubs and sundecks. Among the facilities that the resort offers are wheelchair accessibility, luggage storage, babysitting, conference facility, poolside bar, water sports equipment rental, safety locker, coffee shop, kids club and a restaurant with Italian cuisine. The recreational options besides diving are billiards, table tennis, tennis, fishing, canoeing, and snorkelling.
Four Seasons Resort (5 star)
Situated in Koh Samui, on a hillside surrounded by coconut groves, Four Seasons is a collection of sixty villas. There are single-bedroom villas suitable for two people, two-bedroom villas for four, and three-bedroom ones that can accommodate six. The Koh Samui Airport is at a distance of 20 km from the resort. The resort’s restaurant, named Lan Tania, offers Italian cuisine as well as Thai cuisine. Besides the mandatory 5-star amenities, Four Seasons has valet parking, library, fax, BBQ facilities, babysitting, provision for pets, and a staff who can speak Japanese and Chinese besides English and Thai.
Santiburi Samui Beach Resort & Spa (5 star)
Another gem of Koh Samui, Santiburi consists of 77 villas set in 23 acres of palm gardens, with a river flowing through the property. The villas are designed to seamlessly merge into the beautiful surroundings in which they are set. The resort has an on-site golf course as well as another at a distance of 3 km. There is a range of recreational options that include table tennis, tennis, water sports, fishing, billiards, and squash, besides diving. Valet parking and the multilingual genial staff, who can speak Russian, French, German, English, and Thai, cap the perfection of the resort.
Banyan Tree Phuket (5 star)
This resort in Phuket consists of several types of pool villas, namely, Banyan, Banyan Lagoon, Signature, Grand Lagoon, Signature Two Bedroom, and Grand Two Bedroom. Golf course, library, fitness pavilion, spa, cooking classes, yoga classes, tennis court, golf classes, dinner cruise in lagoon, kayak tours, and a handicrafts showroom are some of the extras that Banyan Tree offers in addition to all amenities including floral bath and pillow selection. Its restaurants Saffron Thai, The French-Vietnamese, Japanese Tamarind, and Banyan Café, which offer an endless treat of culinary delights, complete the picture of luxury hospitality.
Six Senses Yao Noi
Six Senses has a range of elegant and comfortable two-occupancy and four-occupancy pool villas in the lap of nature. It is situated in Koh Yao Noi in Phuket, and has a total of 55 rooms. Hotel facilities include 3 restaurants, bar, music-and-movie library, cooking classes, spa, massage parlour, sauna, fitness centre, on-site ATM, and outdoor shower that helps you to melt into the scenery around. Among the recreational options are provision for tennis, boating, bicycle tour, snorkelling, and water sports besides diving.
Jamahkiri Spa &Resort (5 star)
Jamahkiri Resort is on the southern part of Koh Tao. It has five types of double-occupancy rooms with many amenities like a private beach, outdoor pool, poolside bar, fitness centre, spa, salon, massage parlour, hot tub, and solarium. There are a total of 35 rooms in 4 floors with 2 bars and 2 restaurants. The resort provides facilities for diving as well as other water sports and has its own desalination plant that provides clean water round the year. The staff are fluent in English, Burmese, French, and Lao besides Thai, which is the national language of Thailand.
The Rocks Luxury Villas
This resort in Koh Tao is a collection of just four villas but well-designed and exceptionally beautiful. The Sunset Villa is a single-bedroom villa adjacent to the infinity pool. The two Seascape Villas, which have two bedrooms, are situated on the slope of a hill and offer panoramic views of the sea. The Sky Villa is the biggest and at the highest level. It is surrounded by trees and rocks, and provides spectacular views of the sea. The split-level bedroom, large windows, and spacious wooden balcony make the building airy and bright.
Anantara Rasananda Koh Phangan Villas (5 star)
Anantara Rasananda is in the Thong Nai Pan Noi Beach of Koh Phangan. All villas and suites overlook pools and there is provision for private dining on the beach. There are 24-hour room service, on-site ATM, currency exchange, conference facility, and library in addition to all 5-star amenities. The multilingual hotel staff take good care of every visitor’s needs.
Santhiya Resort & Spa (5 star)
Santhiya Resort stands on a hillside facing the Gulf of Thailand, in 18 acres of landscaped property, on Koh Phangan’s north-eastern coast. The rooms are made of wood, in accordance with conventional Thai construction guidelines, and there are freeform swimming pool, lagoon, manmade waterfalls, beachfront restaurant, and bar. Its Chintara Restaurant is unique with a distinctive Thai ambience and serves delicious Thai and western delights. The resort also hosts weddings and celebratory events.
The Sarojin (5 star)
‘The Sarojin’ in Khao Lak is named after Lady Sarojin, considered the embodiment of Thai hospitality. Set in an 11 km-long private beach, each unit of the resort is so designed that it can be accessed only by going across a small stream. The gardens around are full of indigenous trees and herbs. There are three golf courses near the resort and there is a luxury boat for the use of visitors. Other services include facilities for handicapped people, library, water sports, fitness centre, spa, conference facilities, and guided tours.
Pullman Khao Lak Katiliya Resort and Spa (5star)
Set in a very scenic place from where the visitors can see caves, waterfalls, and mountains, this resort is on the white beaches of Khao Lak National Park. Its Lagoon Villas and Deluxe Rooms are tastefully decorated and furnished, and there are facilities for billiards, tennis, table tennis, fishing, golf, and water sports besides diving. Children have a playground, pool, and a Penguin Club with a wide selection of games. The resort has a total of 229 rooms.
How to Reach Thailand
Bangkok is served by New Bangkok International Airport (known as Suvarnabhumi Airport – BKK), and Don Mueang International Airport. The former is the base of airlines like Thai Airways International, Orient Thai Airlines, and Bangkok Airways while the latter is served mainly by Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Orient Thai Airlines, and Thai Lion Air. These two airports connect Bangkok to most of the important cities of the world and this makes entry into Thailand quite easy.
Phuket International Airport (HKT) serving the province of Phuket is also a gateway to Thailand because it is connected to a few important Asian cities. There are many flights every day from Bangkok to Phuket and Krabi. The Bangkok-Phuket flight duration is 1 hour and 20 minutes. There are six flights every day from Phuket to Koh Samui.
From Bangkok you can travel to Phuket, Trang, Krabi, Hat Yai etc. by road also. Most of the buses ply by night and the Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok is the starting point of these buses. There are both AC and non-AC buses and from Bangkok it takes about 13 hours to reach Krabi and 15 hours to reach Trang. Since road conditions are good and sign posts clear in Thailand, you can also hire a car and drive to the destination.
Another option is travelling part of the distance by train. You can travel from Bangkok till Surant Thani or Trang in train and then continue the journey by road.
The last leg of the journey to most of the dive destinations can only be by boat. For that there are frequent ferry services from Phuket and Krabi to Koh Samui, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan etc. Lomprayah High Speed Ferries operate combined bus and boat services from Bangkok to many of these places.
Getting Around in Thailand
Three-wheeled taxis called tuk-tuks are ubiquitous in Thailand and are quite suitable for getting around in the country. However, for those with much luggage, taxis are the right choice. There are many taxi services like Grab Taxi, Easy Taxi, and All Thai Taxi operating in Thailand. Uber taxi services are also in the country.
In some places, there are passenger vehicles called songthaews, which are modified trucks that ply like buses inside a city or cover short distances between two cities. If your travel destination falls within its route, a songthaew is a convenient option. Sometimes songthaews function as shared taxis also.
Scooters are easy to rent in Thailand and if you do not have much luggage and are comfortable driving a scooter, it is good to rent one for moving around.
The city of Bangkok has both elevated and underground rapid transit (Metro) public transport system.
Things to Remember While Travelling in Thailand
Some places in Thailand like Phuket could be very crowded during peak seasons. So, it may not be the right setting for those coming in search of tranquillity. However, Thailand has plenty of unexplored islands and rain forests, and these can be visited during all seasons.
Since the climate is tropical, travellers typically require very light clothes. A couple of light sweatshirts are advisable for those who plan to do trekking. While visiting temples and sacred places, you should be properly covered, without exposing shoulders and knees. Eastern culture do not approve of such exposure even though there are no restrictions in the case of beachwear.
If a tourist is coming from any place in America or Africa where there is yellow fever, he has to be vaccinated for it. Other than that, no vaccinations are mandatory for travelling to Thailand.
It is good to carry a first aid kit that contains basic medicines for fever, headache, diarrhoea etc, and remember to use bottled water and avoid drinking tap water. There is hardly any risk of malaria for those staying in tourist resorts and hotels, but it is safer to carry mosquito repellents while travelling in the countryside or sparsely populated islands. Mosquito repellents are necessary for keeping off dengue fever also.
You need to be careful about your possessions when traveling in buses at night. Further, pickpockets operate in larger cities. Another area where you need to be circumspect is while using a rented car or motorbike because traffic may sometimes be chaotic. You should also avoid taking drugs and visiting prostitutes.
Barring these precautions, there is nothing much to worry while traveling in Thailand because the place is relatively safe.
Passport and Visa Requirements
A passport valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of your arrival is a must for entry. It must also have at least one blank page.
For travellers from USA, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and most countries of Europe, there is no need for a prior visa so far as you are not staying for more than 30 days. In the case of other countries, you will be able to get a visa on reaching Thailand. And for those from very small countries which may just be city-states, it is safer to procure a visa beforehand by applying to a nearby Thai embassy.
On entering the country you may be asked to show some proof of a return ticket. In case you want to stay for more than a month, you must submit an application for a 60-days tourist visa at a Thai consulate before you start your trip.
Scuba Diving in Thailand?
Check out our Thailand dive guide and start planning your next dive trip!