My main reason for coming to Thailand was to do a SCUBA Liveaboard in the Andaman Sea out of Khao Lak.
… our first stop is Koh Lanta …
The currency in Thailand is the Baht (or the ‘THB’). I will refer to them as THBs. At the time of writing, the exchange rates for the major currencies were:
|Published Wholesale Rate||34.24||36.66||41.40|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Wise Debit Card)||34.00||36.40||41.11|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Typical Credit Card)||33.21||35.56||40.16|
|Actual Exchange Rate (ATM)||33.04||35.38||39.95|
You will NOT get this Wholesale Rate … you will get the Actual Exchange Rate:
- Expect to lose about 0.70% if you use a Wise Debit Card.
- Expect to lose about 3.00% if you use a typical Credit Card.
- Expect to lose about 3.50% if you take (the maximum allowed) cash out of an ATM.
For simplicity, think of a THB100 note as being US$3.
PLEASE NOTE: Over time, these exchange rates will change. It is also early 2023 … so inflation will need to be taken into account. Please check the current rates.
It is advised that you check out iVisa before you travel to get the latest entry requirements.
PLEASE NOTE: Requirements may change from time to time without prior notice. Please continue checking with iVisa for the complete current list of entry requirements.
At the time of writing Thailand had no COVID-19, Travel Insurance, nor Exit Ticket requirements … and, their standard Tourist Visa On Arrival (VOA) was 45 days for major country passport holders.
I was already in Khao Lak, Thailand. I booked a Minivan through my Khao Lak hotel. Pickup was from my hotel at 9:30am. The Minivan went to Krabi. We arrived at 12:30am and changed Minivans in a Minivan terminal in Krabi. We left for Ko Lanta at 1pm. We arrived in Saladan Port, Ko Lanta at 3pm. The Minivan dropped everyone off at their hotels. I was last, and arrived at my hotel at 4:15pm. The price was THB920.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all Minivan providers drop you off at your Ko Lanta hotel … many only take you to Saladan Port. Some providers quoted me THB250 more to get me to my Ko Lanta hotel. Ask before you book and make sure that drop off is included … without drop-off included, you could pay up to THB400 for a taxi from Saladan Port to your hotel.
Check out 12Go to have a look at your ‘getting there’ options:
Koh Lanta district is approximately 70 km from Krabi town and consists of three major islands. Ko Lanta Yai (commonly known as simply ‘Ko Lanta’) is the large, southernmost island … it is the main tourist island, and it is the most populated.
The nearest airports are at Krabi, Trang, and Phuket. The nearest train station is in Trang Province just south of Krabi. There are regular, daily ferry boats operating between Ko Lanta and Krabi, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi.
There are only two main roads on Ko Lanta: one runs down the west coast from Saladan Port and the other runs down the east coast from Saladan Port … there are only a couple of places where you can cut across the centre of the island between the two. The 4245 is a good road with few potholes.
Ko Lanta is a mix of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims, and sea gypsies. The majority of the population in rural areas is Muslim. Ko Lanta, however, has no apparent religious tension. Given this multiculturalism, Ko Lanta is always celebrating something.
WHEN TO GO
The weather for the ‘shoulder’ months between seasons is ‘unpredictable’. The island practically shuts down during ‘Off Season’ … but, you may be lucky with the weather during May.
The busiest months are between November and April. December, January, and February are peak months for ideal weather. Average temperatures are pleasantly in the mid-80s in November and December but then climb progressively to a scorching 103 degrees Fahrenheit or more in late April.
Luckily, a constant breeze will keep you cool as long as you remain close to the sea.
Although there will always be at least a few businesses still open, you will have a much more limited range of choices for eating and sleeping. Your resort may be the only option, and the menu may be limited. Beach-side bars and restaurants mostly close up for the year. Even the bamboo beach furniture and thatched-roof huts get destroyed by strong winds and waves. New beach platforms and huts are constructed pretty well every season!
Although you will have beaches more or less to yourself, rubbish (both natural and man-made) accumulates on beaches more than usual. There is simply less incentive for businesses to keep the beaches clean for tourists.
Accordingly, in ‘off’ season prices reduce sharply … many to half price. You’ll find the few accommodation choices still in operation willing to negotiate rates and throw in extras such as room upgrades. The roads on the island often flood with standing water after downpours.
Ko Lanta is less busy than neighbouring islands like Phucket and Koh Phi Phi.
The Entrance Fee is (THB200 / $5.30 adults, THB100 / $2.70 children 3-14 years). Here, you can hike trails, visit the lighthouse, and relax on the beach.
4 ISLAND DAY TRIP
In addition, you can take a SCUBA Dive, do a 1 day snorkeling trip to Koh Rok (2 hours each way by boat), get a Thai Massage, take Yoga Classes, and take Thai Cooking Classes.
Let’s have a look at the Island and the Beaches … what can you expect?
NORTH WEST COAST
The North West Coast hosts the most well known and ‘popular’ beach … Long Beach:
Avoid the beaches around Saladan. The good beaches start further south at Long Beach (Phrae Ae). Avoid the southern end of Long Beach. Relax Bay is nice. The Lanta Riviera is ‘average’. There is nothing worth noting south of Lanta Riviera until you get to Khlong Noen Beach (where the 4245 road turns inland).
SOUTH WEST COAST
The South West coast is quieter:
There are several really nice beaches in this area. If you want to get away from the crowds (and you have transport), you should definitely come and have a look.
NORTH EAST COAST
Don’t bother … there is nothing to see.
SOUTH EAST COAST
The South East coast is mainly ‘untouched’ by tourism:
You don’t come to the South East coast for the beaches. Lanta Old Town is now bars, cafes, restaurants, and Tourist Shops. The South East Coast is, basically, just a nice ‘road trip’.
The nice beaches are all on the West Coast starting at Long Beach going south.
Thailand is 220-240V / 60Hz. Power plugs are 2-pin accepting either flat or circular 2-pin plugs. Sometimes, you get the USA-style 3-pin plug.
I always travel with a Universal Power strip that also has USB charging ports. I just swap-out 1 plug (or use a travel adapter) to get all of the power and USB ports that I need for all of my devices.
Power on Ko Lanta (during ‘High Season’) is reliable.
MONEY / ATMs
ATM Fees in Thailand are ‘high’ compared to other countries. Foreigners are charged THB220 / US$6.40 to use an ATM. This is in addition to your normal inter-bank transaction and conversion fees.
On a (typical) maximum single ATM withdrawal of THB20,000 expect to lose 3.50%. Alas, I only needed THB15,000 and, with the fixed THB220 ATM fee, I lost 4.22%.
PLEASE NOTE: To keep costs down, use an ATM in a bank. ATMs in ‘convenient locations’ can charge higher fees.
Many places accept payment by Credit or Debit Card.
In general, you should not have a problem changing a THB1,000 (US$30) note.
WISE DEBIT CARD
I keep my costs down by using a Wise Debit Card.
RECOMMENDATION: I highly recommend the Wise Debit Card to all travelers.
I used Wise to pay for my travel and accommodation whenever possible … and, pay only 0.70% fees.
WHERE TO STAY
I suggest that you want to stay somewhere on the west coast.
WITHOUT A SCOOTER
If you do not rent a scooter, you need to choose wisely … on a GRANDPAcking budget, accommodation is mostly found in poor locations.
… with a short walk to the beach. Personally, I would avoid accommodation on the main road.
South of Long Beach, be very careful. I suggest looking at Relax Bay … otherwise, I would avoid the area between the Lanta Riviera and Lanta Wild Beach … and direct my eyes to the Khlong Noen Beach area and further south.
With a scooter, you can find GRANDPAcking accommodation in a nicer place … and easily get to the best beaches.
Alas, you are very unlikely to find accommodation at GRANDPAcking prices south of Khlong Noen Beach.
As a consequence, I suggest that you ‘widen your search’ and consider inland accommodation in this area.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are planning to stay for 1 month (or more), I advise you to book into something reasonable for 2-3 nights in advance. Then, once here, rent a scooter and look around to negotiate direct monthly deals. This can save you as much as 50% on the published rate.
BOOKING.COM / HOTELS.COM / AGODA
AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS
I DO NOT advise you to book short-term accommodation using AirBnB. The reason is simple:
- To get a reasonable price out of AirBnB you need to book many nights;
- You DO NOT want to book so many nights in advance;
- Read ‘Long Term Accommodation’, below, to find out why.
For a long-term stay, AirBnB is worth looking at … there are many well priced properties on Ko Lanta.
This is what you find at short notice in the Long Beach area:
… and on the South East Coast:
If you can find something that you like for up to THB12,000 / US$360 per month … seriously consider booking it … at that price, you can also afford to rent a scooter for 1 month too.
I find AGODA to be better than BOOKING and HOTELS in this area of Thailand.
If you are staying for less than 2 weeks, I suggest that you book in advance as soon as you can see a good discount on something that you like in a good location. Don’t worry exactly where it is located … you should be renting a scooter anyway.
RECOMMENDATION: You probably want aircon. If you are staying in a bungalow, bring a can of mosquito spray … even though you should have a mosquito net over the bed, you’ll need it.
I do a lot of islands and beach time on my travels … and, I often live close to the beach … I decided to do Ko Lanta differently.
I used HOTELS.COM to book a bungalow at Lanta Maikeaw Bungalows. I paid THB340 / US$10 per night for 7 nights. The idea of living in a bungalow in the jungle sounded like a pleasant change.
The in-room wifi was very good and I had no problems streaming video off the internet. Strangely, there was no internet in the restaurant.
For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK
LANTA MAIKEAW BUNGALOWS
My accommodation had a restaurant. The prices were very reasonable. Their Breakfasts averaged THB100-THB120 including tea / coffee.
The Maikeaw is run by a Muslim family so they do not sell alcohol. But, they don’t mind if you bring some home and drink it in their restaurant … they have no room in their fridge, but they will give you free ice.
You can eat cheaply in many places. If you have a scooter, you can go ‘discovering’ and widen your choices dramatically.
It is assumed that you will eat in budget, local restaurants.
You can get local food for THB90 / US$3. Expect to pay THB100 for a Breakfast with tea / coffee and the same for Lunch with a fruit drink. Expect to pay THB170 for Dinner with a small beer / fruit juice.
You can get a decent soup / curry meal (with rice) in a decent atmosphere for THB170 / US$5.
Pay THB260-THB340 / US$7.50-US$10.00 each if you want to spoil yourself with a special atmosphere / special location.
Ko Lanta has no Public Transport.
RENT A SCOOTER
To get the best out of Ko Lanta I strongly suggest that you rent a scooter. Prices range from THB170 / US$5 per day during ‘Off Season’ and THB340 / US$10 per day during ‘High Season’. I was here in High Season but I got a good rate for my scooter from my accommodation … they charged THB250 / US$7.25 per day. I rented it for 6 days.
You can buy petrol everywhere for THB40 per litre.
HOWEVER, if you are not driving legally, you are not insured.
Scooter rental companies hold your passport as security. If you have an accident, you will pay (usually more than you should do) to get the scooter fixed before they give your passport back.
Taxis come in 3 ‘flavours’:
- Traditional cars with air conditioning;
- Converted pickup trucks (suitable for up to 8 passengers);
- Tuk-tuks (suitable for 3 – 4 passengers).
Here are some typical aircon taxi fares (but always negotiate before you get in!):
- Saladan pier to Klong Dao beach (2 km) = 40 – 80 baht;
- Saladan Pier to Bakantiang Beach (20 km) = 300 – 400 baht;
- Klong Dao Beach to Klong Khong Beach (8 km) = 100 – 200 baht.
As a ‘rule of thumb’, budget THB20 for the ‘flag fall’ plus THB15 per km.
- 1500 baht for 4 hours;
- 2200 baht for 6 hours.
Again, at these prices, you should seriously consider renting a scooter.
INTERNET / WIFI
At Krabi Airport, TRUE were offering a new 5G SIM with 1 month ‘unlimited’ data, (local) call, text package for THB999. TRUE were also offering a 1 month data only plan with 30GB limited to 1Mbs for THB399.
I decided to wait and find a store in Krabi Town. The 7-Elevens were all selling TRUE packages at the same prices as above.
RECOMMENDATION: Do not get a ‘traveler SIM’ … they are over-priced. If you are staying in Thailand for more than 1 month, download the AIS Mobile App.
AIS are the major provider in Thailand. I had no trouble getting a 4G signal … even in remote places on the islands.
I was eating all of my meals in restaurants. I don’t spend a lot of time in bars and I rarely get drunk. As a result, I didn’t do much grocery shopping … I just needed to buy beer for my fridge to drink in the evenings on my patio. Example costs in a local minimart are:
- Pack of 20 cigarettes = THB70;
- Large (620ml) bottle of Chang / Leo Beer = THB56-59;
- Large (620ml) bottle of Singha / Tiger Beer = THB65-67.
I bought fruit from the local street market. A bunch of 18 ‘mini’ bananas was THB20.
LEAVING KO LANTA
Here are the prices for getting away from Ko Lanta.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
In summary, costs are broken down into Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL):
- COE: Is the basic costs of just being there;
- COL: Is the additional costs that make being there fun.
ORANGE COLUMNS / LEFT HAND SIDE
The left of the spreadsheet (orange columns) shows the costs for a GRANDPAcking Couple living to GRANDPAcking Standard using a Standard (Home) Bank Credit / Debit Card to pay for large purchases (e.g. accommodation) and withdrawing cash from ATMs for all other “EXISTENCE’ expenses.
For comparative purposes, it is assumed that you stay on Ko Lanta for 1 month.
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE)
Your short-term budget is THB665 / US$20 per night excluding Breakfast for 3 nights.
This gives you time to ask around and get a long-term rate of THB500 / US$15 per night. You should be able to get a room with a minibar and kettle at this price.
FOOD & BEVERAGES
Your budget is THB770 / US$23 per day eating all meals in local restaurants.
SIM CARD / MOBILE DATA
A 1 month AIS 70GB package.
A typical Backpacker Level Travel Insurance policy has been apportioned (calculated as 7 days of your annual rate).
TRANSPORTATION (TO/FROM PORT OF ENTRY)
It is assumed that you are coming from and returning to somewhere like Krabi.
Your COE is about THB1,796 / US$52 per day. This is 85% of your daily budget. You have very little left to LIVE on (US$10 per day).
A GRANDPAcking Couple can ‘EXIST’ on Ko Lanta but they cannot afford to ‘LIVE’ to GRANDPAcking Standard.
RIGHT HAND SIDE / PURPLE COLUMNS
The right of the spreadsheet (purple columns) shows how a GRANDPAcking Couple can afford to ‘LIVE’ on Ko Lanta by making some small compromises:
- Using a proper Traveler Credit / Debit Card (the Wise Debit Card is used in this example) to pay for all EXISTENCE expenses wherever possible;
- Finding cheaper accommodation away from the beach (with at least a fridge and a kettle) … a Delux Bungalow at the Lanta Maikeaw Bungalows is an example;
- Grocery shopping and eating half of your Breakfasts and Lunches at home;
- Renting your scooter away from the main tourist areas. Doing a 1-month deal should get your price closer to US$6 per day in High Season. Your budget includes petrol.
Your COE is about THB1,521 / US$44 per day. This is 70% of your daily budget.
You have about THB669 / US$19 per day to LIVE on … now, you can have more fun.
By choosing the ‘cheaper’ option, you save 15% on your COE and have an extra US$9 per day to LIVE on.
Living inland in the jungle is very calming and peaceful … it is not much a ‘compromise’. You need to get ‘Wise‘ about how you spend your money.
To keep your accommodation costs down avoid Christmas, New Year, and Easter.
If you can find accommodation with a kitchen / kitchenette and cook most of your meals at home, you can reduce your COE even further.
Many GRANDPAckers will enjoy Ko Lanta.
Could you afford to retire here on a GRANDPAcking budget? YES. Would you want to? MAYBE … your problem will be ‘Rainy Season’.