If you’re headed to the Thai islands, chances are that Koh Phi Phi is on your itinerary. In fact it may be the main reason you put Thailand on your bucket list in the first place. You saw your friend’s Instagram pictures of the jagged rock-like islands jutting out from the emerald green water and had never seen anything so beautiful in your life. Or maybe you’ve just been waiting to have your Leonardo DiCaprio moment ever since you watched The Beach, which was filmed at the now famous Maya Bay back in 2000.
The Phi Phi islands are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful in the world, but with it comes a price — hoards of people that have the exact same itinerary as you do. To some extent the crowds are impossible to avoid, but to ensure that disappointment doesn’t ruin what you thought was going to be the most memorable trip of your life, here are a few tips that will help you navigate the islands better so that you can walk away with the best experience possible.
First Things First, Manage Your Expectations
Not to be a downer, but if you’re the kind of gal looking for a pristine, peaceful beach vacation where you can enjoy a slice of sand all to yourself with nothing but the chirping birds to distract you from your book and piña colada…well, let me snap you back to reality. This is not the place. Tourists run rampant here and overdevelopment since the island was rebuilt after the 2004 tsunami remains an increasing issue. With that said, there are still ways to enjoy Koh Phi Phi… but I’m here to make sure you do it right. Keep reading.
When to Go
If you haven’t already booked your trip to Phuket, strongly consider going in the low season (from May to September) when crowds will be a bit more tolerable. Thailand is probably the most popular country in SE Asia for tourists and thus prices skyrocket in the busier season from October to April and especially during the holidays December/January when accommodation, spots in day tours and just about everything else is harder to come by.
While there are day trips that will take you out to Koh Phi Phi from Krabi or Phuket, you’ll end up feeling rushed and likely battling tourists the whole way. If you can take the time, stay on the island or dock for a few nights by boat in the harbor so that you have more time to be flexible with when and how you’ll see everything on your to-do list.
You’ve likely heard many times over that Thailand is a safe haven for the budget traveler — and thousands of backpackers flock here each year for this reason. But be aware that unlike other areas of Thailand, prices are a bit inflated on Koh Phi Phi, due to the sheer number of visitors the destination receives. Expect to pay more here for food, drinks and accommodation, and always bargain where possible. It helps to check with other travelers on prices before you commit to anything and when it comes to taking long-tail boats around the islands, make sure to bargain down BEFORE stepping off the dock.
Prepare to Be on Foot
There are no roads or cars on Koh Phi Phi which means your options are going it by bike or by foot. I prefer on foot as many of the dirt alleyways can get crowded and a bit difficult to get through on two wheels. With that said, bring shoes you’ll be comfortable in all day because your feet will definitely be getting a workout!
Don’t Miss The Phi Phi Viewpoint
Not only is this the best photo opp and view of Phi Phi from above, but you’ll get your workout in to get there – win win! Don’t forget your camera and consider going at golden hour for epic sunset shots to bring home with you.
There’s no question that Maya Bay is drop-dead gorgeous, but as you can see, avoiding photo-bombers in the back of your pictures is near impossible. To minimize the number of tourists sharing your view, get up at sunrise and beat the crowds. Trust me — it’s so worth it.
An easy long-tail ride from Koh Phi Phi, this section of beach is famous for its super friendly and tame monkeys who are known to eat (and even drink) offerings brought by visitors. If you want to interact with them, don’t forget to bring treats (bananas are a good option).
Bring Your Own TP
Sometimes after a few cocktails, all you want to do is find a nice restroom…with toilet paper. Am I right? Not so fast. This was one of my main frustrations on the island especially at night as many bars charge a few baht to use their bathrooms that resemble jail cells sans toilet paper. Lesson learned: if this is something that will bother you, bring tissue in your purse to avoid the hassle.
Know How to Navigate Your Way Home
Koh Phi Phi beach parties can go late into the night, and chances are you’ll want to partake in enjoying one of the many “buckets” of deliciousness offered across the beach bars (piña colada bucket anyone)? While Koh Phi Phi feels like a small intimate corner of Thailand, it’s actually quite easy to get lost down dirt alleyways and end up on the wrong side of the bay (all of the main activity on the island is situated on a thinner strip of land in between two bays that can start to look strangely similar after a couple of cocktails). Just saying.
Bring a Crossbody Bag
A friend in our group learned the hard way that putting your bag down for even a second here is never a good idea. One of the locals came up to her to dance, she put down her bag for a second and within a flash it was gone — with her passport in it. Don’t ruin your trip by being careless with your belongings. A crossbody that you never take off will solve this.
Weigh Your Options
There are tons of activities to do on Koh Phi Phi and you’ll have people approaching you left and right with offers for diving excursions, day trips to other islands and the like. These are a dime a dozen, so don’t feel like you have to go with the first one you see. It helps to shop around a bit to make sure that the experience you choose is the best suited for you (and your budget).
Have a tip on Koh Phi Phi that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!