Back in 2015, I did exactly the same SCUBA Liveaboard trip on the Manta Queen 7 (MQ7). You can read about it in my previous posts Andaman Sea – Thailand – SCUBA Dive Liveaboard.
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||33.82||36.08||41.01|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Wise Debit Card)||33.58||35.83||40.72|
|Actual Exchange Rate (Typical Credit Card)||32.81||35.00||39.78|
|Actual Exchange Rate (ATM)||32.58||34.76||39.50|
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 cash out of an ATM.
For simplicity, think of a THB100 note as being US$3.
PLEASE NOTE: Back in February 2015, US$1 was worth THB30.67, EU€1 was THB32.86, and GB£1 was THB46 … so, in February 2023, you are getting about 10% more THB for your money.
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.
I stayed in Krabi for a couple of nights to rest, then I booked a Minibus to Khao Lak. I was picked up from my Krabi Hotel at 11:30am and taken to the Krabi Minibus Terminal. After 30 minutes, I was on another Minibus heading for Khao Lak.
I was dropped off at McDonalds in Khao Lak at 3pm. The price was THB400. Once in Khao Lak, the driver wants an extra THB100 to drop you off at your hotel … my hotel was only 400m away, so I walked.
Check out 12Go to have a look at ‘getting there’ options:
It is assumed that you get a standard 45 day Visa On Arrival (VOA).
PLEASE NOTE: Most 5 day / 5 night SCUBA Liveaboards leave on a Wednesday, so I advise you to book into something reasonable for the appropriate number of nights in advance.
It doesn’t really matter where you stay when you first arrive. You just need to be there … your chosen Liveaboard provider will (usually) pick you up and drop you off at your hotel for free.
For ‘Short Term’ accommodation, have a look yourself:
I got an excellent last minute deal on BOOKING.COM at the Srichada Hotel. I paid THB660 per night (cash at hotel) for 3 nights:
And, as a BOOKING GENIUS, an excellent Buffet Breakfast was included for free.
Once I booked my Liveaboard (see, below), I had to wait a few more nights … so, I used AGODA to book a last minute deal at the Khaolak C-nior Bungalows. The C-nior had a nice pool area.
Also, the C-nior were kind enough to allow me to leave my main suitcase in storage with them whilst I was on my Liveaboard .. I booked a further 3 nights with them on my return at THB600 / night.
FINDING A SCUBA LIVEABOARD
You can book your Liveaboard online and, sometimes, you can get last minute discounts. I find that I can get a better price if I turn up in person and ask around.
I visited about 10 SCUBA Dive Shops. 50% were full. The remaining 50% all offered me an immediate 10% discount on my cabin cost.
I chose to go on the Manta Queen 3 (MQ3) boat with Khao Lak SCUBA Adventures.
The MQ3 is the ‘flag ship’ of the fleet. They gave me a last minute 10% discount on a Twin Cabin (to be shared with someone I didn’t know). This cheap cabin did not have a private bathroom. I only travel with a Dive Computer so, in addition to the birth cost, I had to pay:
- THB500 / day = THB2,500 for a full set of dive equipment;
- A total of THB1,300 for Dive Insurance;
- THB2,500 (cash) Marine Park Entry Fees;
- I chose to go with Air rather than pay THB2,500 extra for Nitrox.
My total cost was THB36,000 and I took another THB4,000 to give to the crew as tips (tips are almost ‘expected’ on these SCUBA Liveaboard trips). In fact, at the end of the trip, they ‘suggested’ that we pay THB2,500 each to the boat crew and another THB2,500 each to our Dive Instructor.
To keep the costs down, I paid THB33,500 of this using my Wise Debit Card Current Account to make a bank-to-bank direct transfer (which meant that I only paid 0.70% in exchange rate and commission fees).
PLEASE NOTE: Back in 2015, I paid US$890 for this same trip (at the old exchange rate). This time, I paid US$1,065 (at the current exchange rate). These prices exclude tips. So, prices have gone up by about 20% in the last 8 years.
So, in the end, you pay only THB2,100 / US$62 per dive with your accommodation and food thrown in.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
PICKUP & REGISTRATION
The Dive Shop picks you up from your Khao Lak hotel; if you are in Phuket, they would pick you up from there too (for an extra fee). They get you to the Dive Shop by about 4:30pm.
You enroll, show proof of your diving level, and sign the standard ‘diving waiver’. If you haven’t already done so in advance, you will be taken to the fitting room to select your equipment.
We have packed what we do NOT need away into our main suitcases and kept what we DO need for the ‘liveaboard’ into a day-pack and a wet-bag.
You don’t need much on board (you are in the water 4 times each day), so what we take on board is minimalistic:
- Smartphone / Kindle / Laptop
- Power leads / chargers / cables / Travel Plug(s)
- Something to throw on in between dives
- Something to throw on in the evenings
- Our spare cash for any ‘extras’
- A wet-bag to put the important things into so that they don’t get wet
No alcohol is sold on the boat … so, if you want to drink in the evenings, you need to bring your own.
After we check in to our rooms, we return to the main diving area for a full briefing and Dinner. The food on board is not high quality but it is volumous and sufficient. The boat sets off over-night to the Similan Island.
I am ‘Advanced’, so I can dive to 30 meters. You are going to do 4 dives each day. For safety:
- 6:30am Dive 1 is a max depth of 30m and 50 minutes;
- 10:30am Dive 2 the same;
- 2:00pm Dive 3 is a max depth of 25m and 50 minutes;
- 5:00pm Dive 4 is a max depth of 20m and 50 minutes.
Richelieu Rock is the ‘highlight’ of the trip. We did 4 dives here. Richelieu Rock is underwater and is known for rougher seas and strong currents … we were lucky, we had neither and actually moored there overnight.
Richelieu Rock is one of the most famous dive sites in the world. There is good reason for it… it’s teeming with life and soft corals…
Now add lots of fish.
BACK TO KOH BON
Boonsung Wreck was good because it attracted lots of sea-life.
We were back at the Pier by 17:00 and back at the Dive Shop by 17:30.
This 2023 trip didn’t match the one that I did in 2015. Back in 2015 we were very lucky … we saw Whale Sharks and Manta Rays … in 2023 they were nowhere to be seen.
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