Ko Phi Phi is one of the most popular tourist islands in Thailand. From the famous of Maya Bay (made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie: The Beach) to the monkeys on the aptly named “Monkey Beach” to the diving, nightlife, and resorts, Phi Phi is one of the biggest destinations in the country. Destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. Though I’ve had a lot of fun here, I don’t particularly like Ko Phi Phi. I find it too built up and touristy. It’s very overdeveloped and ruined, but thousands of people visit each year and love it. So don’t just take my advice, visit for yourself and decide.
Hostel prices – Ko Phi Phi is one of the most expensive islands in Thailand. Basic dorm rooms start at 300 THB for many beds, but most fall into the 500-600 THB range. Private rooms for two people with an ensuite bathroom start at 600 THB. Most hostels include air-conditioning. Rock Backpacker is my favorite cheap places to stay on the island (and it’s a gret place to make friends).
Budget hotel prices – Two-star hotels start around 1,000 THB for a double private room with air-conditioning and free WiFi. For luxury, the sky’s the limit. You can find private bungalows for as low as 800 THB during the low season. On Airbnb, you can find shared rooms in apartments for 490 THB. You can find entire apartments/homes for an average of 2,450 THB per night, while some are as low as 1,050 THB.
Average cost of food – Food is the cheapest in Tonsai village. The open-air local restaurants near the beach have dishes for 35-70 THB. One of my favorite places to eat for fantastic Thai cuisine is Garlic 1992. Western food is more expensive at 850 THB, so try to avoid that in order to save money. Near the beach and in the town, meals will start at 170 THB for local dishes. The Phi Phi food market in the center of town has rock-bottom prices for local seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Eat at the street stalls, the food is not only cheap, it’s utterly delicious. When it comes to drinking, going to bars can become pricey with the cheapest beers costing about 60 THB each and cocktails sometimes cost double or triple that. Whereas actually buying beers from 7-Eleven to drink on the street can be 25 THB per can.
Transportation costs – There are no taxis or buses on Ko Phi Phi, so you’ll be walking or cycling around the island. It’s not a huge island, so you’ll be okay using man power to get around. Travel between islands is best done by long-tail boat, which costs around 150 THB per person for shorter trips. Longer trips are charged by the hour.
Suggested daily budget – 1450 THB / 40 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals or eating cheap street food, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
Go during the low season – If you travel during May through October, you will be missing the peak season, and save quite a bit, even though you might catch some rain.Cheap drinks at Tiger Bar – Head to the Tiger Bar between midnight and 10 am for a free bucket of Sang Som whiskey, RedBull and Coke.Drink at 7-Eleven – Beers and drinks are heavily discounted when purchased at 7-Eleven. Purchase a few beers before you go out to the bars and cut your night’s budget by a lot.Eat in Tonsai – Eat in Tonsai village rather than on the beach, as the beachfront restaurants tend to have higher prices for much the same quality of food.Work for bars – Many bars will give you free drinks if you spend a couple of hours handing out flyers for their venue during the afternoon.Bargain – If hiring out a long-tail boat, be sure to bargain with the owner as the prices are always up for negotiation.Group together to charter a longboat – If you’d like to see Ko Phi Phi Leh or other islands, get a group together and charter a longtail boat. Split between four or more people, and it should be cheaper than an organized tour.Couchsurf — Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
Top Things to See and Do in Ko Phi Phi
Enjoy the nightlife – Nightlife here is crazy. Fire shows and Thai boxing matches are a regular occurrence at the beach bars. Often times, there are massive beach parties. For live music, make your way to the fantastically named Rolling Stoned Bar. Partying is not cheap here and is one of the reasons people end up spending too much money here!Dive the King Cruiser Wreck – One of the best dive sites off Ko Phi Phi is the King Cruiser wreck. The passenger ship sunk in 1997 when it hit the Anemone reef. This site is packed with fish including clown fish, tuna and barracuda, not to mention the sea anemones that cling to every surface of the reef. Keep an eye out for the occasional leopard shark.
Feed the sharks – One of the most popular trips out of Ko Phi Phi is an early morning excursion to feed sharks. A six-hour trip will start at about 800 THB and will have you feeding black tip and leopard sharks. Most tours also include visits to coral gardens for snorkeling, where you will be likely to see leopard and black-tipped reef sharks. For free, head to the little rocky inlet of Hin Phae, at the Eastern end of Long Beach.Snorkel in Maya Bay – Made famous for its starring role in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, Maya Bay is on Ko Phi Leh and is usually included with all the island/snorkeling trips you see advertised. For those who want to see the place without lots of boats and people, you can spend a night on the island. It’s a far better way to experience the seclusion of this place. The beach is stunning, with 100 metre-high cliffs on three sides of the beach. Tours start from 3,500 THB per person.
Hike to Phi Phi Viewpoint – The twenty-minute walk up to the Viewpoint will be rewarded by an amazing panoramic view of Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. The Viewpoint is over 600 feet high, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit to get here. The hike can be a strenuous one, with hundreds of steps and twisty path, but your camera will thank you! The best time to go is at sunset or sunrise. You can head straight from here over the hill to the eastern beaches. It costs 30 THB.Dive at Hin Muang – This diving site boasts the highest vertical wall in Thailand at 60 meters. Leopard sharks, whale sharks, manta rays and reef sharks patrol the depths at the site but its crowning glory is the huge purple rock. There are great colors to be found in the corals, and countless kinds of reef fish, including barracuda and reef sharks. Currents can be strong, so be cautious.
Hang out on Monkey Beach – Monkey Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, not just Ko Phi Phi. Powder white sands and excellent diving makes this a popular spot but one of the coolest things about it is the monkeys that come down to the beach. They’re pretty tame and you can feed them!Visit Bamboo Island – For a less crowded alternative to Maya Bay, consider a trip to the uninhabited Bamboo Island. The island lies 8 miles from Ko Phi Phi and is home to the coral garden Hin Klang. The Island is part of a National Marine Park so you’ll have to pay the 400 THB entrance fee, but you can potentially get in for only 200 THB if you visit Maya Bay beforehand. No matter what you pay it’s worth it for the secluded snorkeling, sunbathing and exploring you can do here.Go deep-sea fishing – One of the more expensive activities you can do off the coast of Ko Phi Phi is deep sea fishing. At about 2,700 THB for eight hours, it is pricey but for that, you’ll get the chance to fish for tuna, barracuda, dorado, king mackerel and sailfish. For an added twist, night fishing is a great way to experience the nocturnal life of the waters surrounding the islands.Go rock climbing – With the rugged landscape and steep cliffs, Ko Phi Phi is the ideal destination to climb. You can arrange a tour that will take you by boat to one of the islands’ limestone rock faces that is suitable for climbing. The views you’ll get from the top of the rock face will be absolutely unforgettable. Most places charge around 1000 THB for a half-day. Tonsai Tower is a rock climbers paradise.Watch the sunset by kayak – You can rent sea kayaks or arrange a kayak tour. Sunset tours head out on ocean kayaks to Wang Long bay. However, there are plenty of other tour options available, so explore your options. The island is great for kayaking, and nothing beats getting to see the sunset from the water.
Check out Thai boxing – The Reggae Bar offers Thai boxing nightly. You can get big buckets of booze, and if you are in the mood you can even get out in the ring yourself. Winners receive free buckets for their tables! Some local matches are schedule, and if you are lucky, you’ll find some high-stakes fights with professionals brought in. The bar also has large screen TVs that show a range of sports.Pretend you are a pirate – At Pirate Island Adventures you can check out a two-story shop converted into a haunted pirate shipwreck. While it’s kind of touristy, if you are looking for something cheesy and fun to do, it will definitely do the trick. There are some small rides, a 5D theater, and a haunted “boat” to check out.Learn to cook traditional Thai food – If you are looking to learn some Thai cooking tricks, take a class at Pum’s Thai Cooking School. Located in the Tonsai Village, you can take classes ranging from 30 minutes to 6+ hours. Why not get a souvenir you can take back with you, and bring back the knowledge of how to make some of your favorite dishes from Thailand! Classes start at 500 THB.
Hop aboard a booze cruise – While there is nightlife aplenty, if you are looking at getting out on the water while enjoying some rum punch, Captain Bob’s offers a fun way to see some of the most beautiful spots in the Phi Phi islands. It departs from Tonsai Bay, and includes lunch, snacks, and (in addition to booze!) snorkeling and kayaks. Prices start at 2,500 THB.Stroll the Phi Phi market – If you want to get a good glimpse at what life is like in Phi Phi, you have to make a stop at the market. Located in Tonsai Village, you can expect to find a ton of local veggies, fruits, and seafood, at pretty reasonable prices. It is open daily. Make sure you come hungry!