Koh Phi Phi island (Thailand 🇹🇭): an essential travel guide with tips
Planning a trip to Koh Phi Phi? Here’s all the advice and tips you need to prepare and organize your visit to Koh Phi Phi in Thailand:
- Where is Phi Phi Island
- How much money do you need
- How to get to Phi Phi Island
- Where to stay on Phi Phi Island
- What are the best things to do in Phi Phi island
- Where to go out at night
- Where to eat
- How many days to stay on Phi Phi Island
- When to go to Phi Phi Island
- What to bring to Phi Phi Island
- Useful tips
- Useful links
First thing to know before you go: When you hear of Phi Phi Island (not ‘fifi island’), you should know that it’s not a single island, but an archipelago of six islands located in the Andaman Sea, in southern Thailand.
The largest of these islands is called Koh Phi Phi Don, it is also the only one inhabited. This is where all hotels, inns, restaurants and other infrastructure are located, which are mainly concentrated on a symmetrical strip of sand that connects the eastern and western mountainous parts of the island. On either side of this sandy strip are the bays of Ao Ton Sai (in the south, where ferries arrive) and Ao Loh Dalum, in the north (where parties are held in the evening). The island is very small and we go from Ao Ton Sai to Ao Loh Dalum in 5 minutes walk. Everything is done on foot because cars are forbidden on the island.
Koh Phi Phi Don is about 48km from Phuket Town, and about 40km from Krabi. The island is now very developed compared to what it was 30 years ago. It was hit by the 2004 tsunami, but the damage is almost invisible today.
Tourists come to Koh Phi Phi mainly to celebrate and enjoy some of Thailand’s most beautiful diving spots. It is important to keep in mind that it is one of the most touristic islands in the country, but despite the development it has undergone its landscapes remain magnificent.
A few kilometres south of Koh Phi Phi Don is the uninhabited island of Koh Phi Phi Ley, where Maya Bay is located, the beach that was used as a backdrop for the film’The Beach’, released in 1999. Koh Phi Phi Ley is part of a national maritime park.
Even if Thailand is a very cheap country, you will have to plan your budget up if you want to visit the Phi Phi Islands. Concerning food, it is not the most expensive on the island (for information coconut juice costs 10 Baths more on the 7thleven in Koh Phi Phi than on the mainland). There are very cheap Thai food restaurants on the island. Where you will have to spend a little more is mainly on accommodation, alcohol (if you drink a lot) and excursions.
Indeed, the islands around Koh Phi Phi Don are part of a national park where you must pay 400 Baths per person per day (200 Baths for children), whether to access Maya Bay, dive, snorkel, or simply a day on the beach. However, if you don’t want to pay 400 Baths, there are already beautiful and free access beaches on Koh Phi Phi Don.
Some price indications:
- diving: from 2500 Baths
- day trip to Maya Bay by long tail boat: 1600 Baths (includes 400 Baths of national park fee / 2017 price).
- Kayak rental: from 200 Baths
To summarize, your budget will depend mainly on the activities you want to do.
Koh Phi Phi Don is only accessible by boat from Phuket or Krabi (about 2 hours of travel). If you are in Ao Nang, it’s cheaper to take a return trip directly from Ao Nang than from the ferry in Krabi. The price generally includes pick-up from your hotel, as well as return to your hotel as soon as you return to Krabi (note: do NOT lose the sticker you are given when you board!).
To leave Koh Phi Phi Don, if you already have a ticket to leave the island, no need to book, just go to the pier half an hour before the ferry leaves for the destination you want to go to (ask on the spot at your hotel or port, I don’t want to be responsible if you miss your boat!
The frequency of departures from Phuket or Krabi depends on the season, but generally in high season there are 4 to 5 departures per day.
From Phuket: one way: 650 Baths. A/R: 1000 Baths). Ferries from Ao Nang or Koh Lanta stop at Koh Phi Phi in high season.
From Krabi: 4 departures per day, 650 Baths one way.
For the information I paid 600 Baths A/R from Ao Nang, so if you want to save money, take a A/R directly to Ao Nang!
You can buy ferry tickets just about anywhere, either directly at the reception desk of your hotel or in travel agencies in Ao Nang, Krabi or Phuket. It costs less than taking your ticket directly to the port! No need to take your tickets long in advance, buy them the day before your departure or two days before if you want to be more relaxed.
Whether you are leaving from Phuket or Krabi, the journey takes about two hours. You can buy snacks on board (chips, Pringles, beers / Coke or cup noodles). There is air conditioning so bring a sweater, and seasickness medication if you are afraid of vomiting. Places cannot be booked, so try to be there in advance if you want to choose a good place. The seats are comfortable.
When you arrive in Koh Phi Phi Don, you must pay in cash a mandatory entry fee of 20 Baths which is used to clean up the island.
If you have booked a hotel room on the internet there will probably be a staff member waiting for you when the ferry arrives and will help you carry your luggage to the hotel. There is something for everyone, from a dormitory bed for a broke backpacker to a luxury hotel with a swimming pool.
The choice of a hotel will be made mainly according to your noise tolerance and your budget! I met a couple of Canadians who stayed in a luxurious looking hotel and had trouble sleeping because of the noise, while my less classy hotel was rather quiet (the Panmanee Hotel).
The noisiest boxes are located east of Ao Loh Dalum, so I guess this is the place to avoid if you’re looking for peace and quiet. That said, whether or not your hotel is located far from nightclubs and bars, don’t expect to spend a night in absolute calm either: Thai people get up very early in the morning, there may be a drunk guy singing on the street or someone slamming a door…
TOP 3 BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PHI PHI ISLAND
To save time, here are the best rated hotels on Booking, depending on your budget:
👉 Low budget: Voyagers Hostel (beds in dormitories)
👉 Budget moyen: Panmanee Hotel (super well located and quiet, that’s where I stayed).
👉 Very confortable: Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort (one of the highest rated on Booking)
Diving: Koh phi Phi is famous for its diving sites among the most beautiful in Thailand. You can see barracudas, leopard sharks, as well as whale sharks if you are lucky (mainly around February/March). Visibility is at its highest between November and February.
Here are some of Koh Phi Phi’s best diving spots: Anemone Reef, the wreck of the Kledkaeo & the King Cruiser, Hin Bida, Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Ko Bida Nok.
You will find a lot of dive shops in Tonsai village, often with a staff member who speaks French and can give you information.
Some ideas of prices:
- First dive (includes 2 dives): 3400 Baths
- Sea trip for 2 dives (the price depends on the distance from the spot): from 2500 Baths
- Open Water: around 14000 Baths
Don’t forget to ask if the price includes the entrance to the national park to avoid unpleasant surprises!
Excursions to Koh Phi Phi Ley: One of the most popular excursions is the day trip, with a program: snorkeling in the morning in front of the Viking Resort (possibility to see sharks), Bamboo Island beach (superb), stop at Monkey Beach to see the monkeys, then direction Koh Phi Phi Ley with a boat trip in front of the Viking Cave where swallow nests are collected (the cave is not visited), snorkeling stop in the two lagoons of Ao Pileh and Loh Samah Bay, then stop in Maya Bay, sunset from the boat, then stop along the coast in front of Tonsai village in total darkness, to admire the luminescent plankton. An excursion like this one costs 1600 Baths and includes lunch, the national park fee, and long tail boat transport (it’s more expensive but also faster in speed boat, but be careful it hits the buttocks – sit at the back of the boat and not at the front!
It is not possible to spend the night on Koh Phi Phi Ley but you can spend the night in front of Maya Bay on board a boat, under the stars (see mayabaytours.com; 3500 Baths/person).
⚠️ WARNING: I did the day trip which ends with the visit of Maya Bay in the late afternoon (not the right plan because low tide!): access to Maya Bay is then by the side opposite to it, to Loh Samah Bay, and the least we can say is that it was archipelagic because it is necessary to go through a tiny cave and then walk in the middle of rocks: remember to take with you beach shoes (forget the flip flops!!!).
There is no stairs or adapted access for tourists except an old fishing net that is used to hang on at the end of the trip, if not absolutely nothing to hold on to… I have seen many tourists make bad injuries to their feet and fall because the rocks are sharp and slippery, and there is absolutely NOTHING to hold on to (fortunately I had my selfy-stick to help me standing….) !!
And I didn’t mention the stop to see the plankton, where swimmers throw themselves into the water in the dark, without shoes and without knowing that there is only one meter of water and coral cutting their feet in the bottom, all while avoiding the speedboats… in short also plan to take a first aid kit with you! There are some reviews of people on Tripadvisor who had the same experience as me…
Beaches: the most beautiful beach in Koh Phi Phi Don is Long Beach (or ‘Hat Yao’). It is located half an hour’s walk from Tonsai, taking the path along the coast. You can also go by long tail boat from Tonsai (100 Baths). There are bars, restaurants and toilets.
To get away from the crowd, there are other beaches further along the east coast of the island (take a large bottle of water and sunscreen): Ao Toh Ko, Ao Rantee and Hat Pak Nam, Ao Loh Ba kao…. you can also go to the northern tip of the island, to Laem Tong (accessible only by boat): from there you can see Bamboo island and Mosquito island.
Loh Dalum Beach (or Ao Loh Dalum) is the bay located on the other side of the pier: there are bars and nightclubs. In the evening you can see fire shows. The surrounding landscape is superb but the beach itself is not very beautiful (many boats and rubbish).
Snorkeling: One of the best snorkeling spots is on Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island), 6km north of Koh Phi Phi Don. A lot of good spots also along the east coast of Koh phi Phi Don. Snorkeling trips cost around 700 to 2500 Baths, depending on the type of boat you take (long tail boat or speedboat). You can also join a dive trip: most dive shops offer snorkeling trips.
Excursions are also organized very early in the morning to see blacktip or leopard sharks.
Admire the viewpoint view: There are several viewpoints but most tourists go to Viewpoint 2. Allow 20-30 minutes to reach the top via very steep stairs. The climb can be tiring if it is hot, so bring a bottle of water. Many people go there for sunset but honestly the light is not great at that time and if you want to take beautiful pictures, it is better to go early in the morning to see the island and the blue of the sea in all its splendor. To access the viewpoint you have to pay 30 Baths. There is a bar and a toilet at the top. To get there follow the “Viewpoint” signs to the base of the stairs. There is also a passage through the jungle along the road but it is a little longer.
Going for a kayak ride: the best way to admire the cliffs up close. There are several places to rent kayaks in Tonsai. Price: from 200 Baths for one hour. Instead of going alone, you can also take part in excursions to explore the surroundings by kayak and see the sunset.
Climbing: Several climbing spots, for more information type “rock climbing” in google. Count about 1000 Baths for half a day.
Take a sailing trip with Captain Bob’s Cruise: (3000/2500 Baths man / woman): boat cruise with unlimited alcohol, paddle, kayak and snorkeling equipment. Another alternative is to leave with the ‘P. P. Pirate Boat‘, who also does the excursion to Maya bay, but it’s more focused on fiesta with loud music and drinking games. If you want to party and meet other travellers it can be fun (but it’s more for young people).
Take Thai cooking classes: Le Pum’s restaurant offers Thai cooking classes from 500 Baths.
Celebrate on the beach: most tourists come for this, the shows are on the beach at nightfall and it’s spectacular to see, you can even participate! (watch out for burns!!!!!)..
Finally, you can also go deep-sea fishing, get a traditional tattoo, go shopping (many souvenir shops), or even get a massage.
If you like to party, you’ll be served! Nightlife can cost you a lot of money if you plan to go out every night. The small streets of Tonsai are home to many bars that are competing for the most customers. It is a bit like Khao San Road but at the beach…. Among the most popular, we find:
- Reggae Bar: there is a Thai boxing ring where you can watch amateur fights between bar customers (the winner wins a bucket) but also real fights. There are also pool tables. To attend the fights you have to take a consumption.
- Tiger Bar: live music, DJ, it’s next to the Papaya restaurant.
- Rolling Stoned Bar: to listen to live music.
- Slinky Beach Bar: pyrotechnic show in the evening.
- Banana Rooftop Bar: relaxed atmosphere (it is located above a Mexican restaurant).
- Sunflower Bar: located east of Loh Dalam, near the Tsunami Memorial Park. Nice to enjoy the sea view and listen to reggae, rather relaxed atmosphere.
There is a little bit of everything in Tonsai. As everywhere else in Thailand we find the classic banana pancakes and mango shakes. There are also 7thlevens on every street corner in Tonsai where you can buy coffee and toasted sandwiches, not bad for breakfast. Outside Tonsai hotels, visitors usually stay to eat at their hotel restaurant.
If you have a small budget, I recommend the Thai restaurant on the corner opposite the Panmanee Hotel. Very nice staff, excellent food and cheap.
Here are some names of restaurants that come up most often in the Lonely Planet/Tripadvisor guides (I haven’t tried all of them obviously):
- Anna’s Restaurant
- Unni’s restaurant
- The Mango garden (tested, good but quite expensive – for breakfast / snack only)
- Large PP Arcade
Day trips are possible from Krabi, Phuket and koh Lanta to visit Koh Phi Phi Ley, but I really recommend spending three nights in Koh Phi Phi Don (or more if you plan to dive):
- Day one: Arrival by ferry, check-in at the hotel, then walk around the island to get your bearings, admire the panorama from the viewpoint, book an excursion for the next day, then evening in a bar.
- Day two: Day trip: snorkeling, Bamboo Island beach, Monkey beach to see the monkeys, Maya Bay, sunset (worth it!), then admire the plankton at night.
- Day three: either a day at the beach (Long Beach, accessible by foot from Tonsai village) or a dive/kayak trip.
- Day four: checkout of the hotel and departure from the island.
The best time to visit Koh Phi Phi is from November to April, when it rains the least. Prices are also lower in the low season. Remember to book your hotel in advance if you plan to come around Christmas / New Year’s Day.
For those who would like to dive, visibility is at its highest between January and May, the sea is also the calmest during this period.
Even if we find everything we need in Tonsai village, don’t forget the basics: beach towels, aloe vera, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses…
Also consider taking a mask and snorkel if you plan to snorkel.
For those who do photo/video, know that the prices of GoPro accessories sold to Koh Phi Phi are the same as those in France (i.e. very expensive)… so don’t forget your accessories!
Finally, if you have a light sleep, a pair of earplugs may be useful.
- Motor vehicles are prohibited on the island, except for a few roads where scooters operate. You will often meet Thai people who travel with carts in the small streets of Tonsai. If you arrive in Koh Phi Phi with a lot of luggage, you can hire someone to transport it to your hotel if they have not already sent a member of their staff to meet you at the pier.
- There are a few mosquitoes hanging around the island, remember to spray yourself with mosquito repellent if they tend to bite you at night.
- The island can be visited on foot, from the pier you can reach the opposite beach in a five-minute walk.
- We find distributors, exchange offices, there is a hospital, 7th floor, in short we find almost the same things as on the continent.
- Remember to lock your valuables in your suitcase with a padlock, there may be robberies in hotels.
- Drones are not allowed on Bamboo Island unless you have a special authorization (I just saw a guy take off his Mavic Pro at the viewpoint).
- Mosquito island is closed to the public to allow coral damaged by tourists to regenerate.