Backpacking For Under $25/Day: Koh Phangan, Thailand

Thailand is becoming increasingly expensive as the years go on. Gone are the days of $2 huts, but there are still some great deals to be found. It may not be a $10/day budget, but it’s still great value for money. One of our favourite destinations in Thailand is the island of Koh Phangan. Here are some of our secrets for travelling here on the cheap…while still having an amazing time!

Sleeping:

There are loads of hotels, huts, apartments, hostels and guesthouses on Koh Phangan. You can choose to stay right on the water, or away from the water, you can stay as glamorous as you like or as cheap as you like. Sticking to the theme of budget travel, we opted for the comfortable huts at Lighthouse Bungalows on Leela Beach, for $15/night.

koh phangan bungalows
Lighthouse Bungalows. A double hut for $15/night

 

The English owner and her Thai husband have been running this place for a very long time. The staff are Burmese and Thai and will treat you like family. The huts have unobstructed views out into the sea, bathrooms inside, comfortable beds, big balconies perfect for enjoying morning coffee and hammocks for relaxing in.

koh phangan bungalows
View from our hut at Lighthouse Bungalows, perfect!

 

The best part about staying at Lighthouse Bungalows? It’s away from everything and everyone. It’s located right out on the point and is surrounded by boulders – perfect for jumping off into the water! It’s a 3 minute walk to Leela Beach and a 15 minute walk to Haad Rin Beach.

koh phangan travel
Wooden walkway leading from Lighthouse Bungalows to Leela Beach, stunning

 

Eating:

There are so many options for the budget traveller in Koh Phangan. Whether you feel like sushi, seafood, sandwiches, Thai food, burgers, pasta, noodle dishes, Greek food, curry or pizza, it’s all available. If you’re on an extra small budget, definitely go to the supermarkets in Thong Sala and the fresh vegetable and fruit markets to buy some produce. Fresh pineapples, bananas, mangoes, dragonfruit & mangosteens are delicious! Making a salad with a can of tuna on top, or hard-boiled eggs and having a picnic is a great idea! The night before, stop at one of the little shops or 7-11’s and get some yogurt, a small box of cornflakes and a banana. Voila! Breakfast the following morning.

koh phangan on a budget
Making a quick and cheap breakfast is a good way to sped less on food

 

Apart from making food yourself, check out these cheap and delicious eats:

1. My Friend Restaurant. Our number one recommendation for eating on a budget, while enjoying authentic Thai cuisine. The owner here is so friendly! Come for food, or come for beers and people watching, it doesn’t matter, but just make sure to come here! Try the jungle curry, green curry, spring rolls, shrimps and pad thai. Meals start at just 50THB ($1.70).

where to eat in koh phangan
The delicious and authentic Thai food at My Friend Restaurant

 

2. Seafood BBQ on Leela Beach. From time to time you’ll see BBQ’s being set up on the beach and we suggest you save up your baht to enjoy this meal. It’s 300THB ($10), BUT it includes an all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh tuna, barracuda, white snapper, red snapper, prawns, shrimps, potato salad, green salad and baked potato! We literally had full fish on our plates and stuffed ourselves, the best $10 ever spent.

3. Lighthouse Bungalows Restaurant. The food portions here are massive and the flavours cooked up by the Burmese and Thai staff are delicious! The pad thai is 90THB ($3) and is very filling.

4. Mama Schnitzel. This 24/hour place is really popular! The chicken schnitzel meals are a bit pricey, but try their baguette sandwiches for only 60THB ($2) and large green salads with tuna for 120THB ($4).

koh phangan on a budget
This 24 hour Schnitzel Restaurant is super busy!

 

5. Tea Stalls. If you want to try some Thai tea, check out the local tea stalls! They serve up milky, sweet teas with ice for 20THB ($0.68).

where to eat on koh phangan
Try the delicious Thai tea and coffee while on Koh Phangan

 

6. Pancakes. Of course these had to make the list. Crepes/pancakes of many flavours (from cheese to chocolate) can be found all over the place and cost between 30THB – 60THB ($1-$2), a great snack!

Activities:

Koh Phangan is a jungley Eden with so much to do. Whether you’re into relaxing or being adventurous, there’s something to suit everyone’s needs.

For Free:

1. Lay on one of the many gorgeous beaches and read a book, have a beer and throw around a frisbee.

koh phangan on a budget
Enjoying a day at Leela Beach. Play paddle ball, read, swim and repeat!

 

2. Head to Chaloklum in the North of the island and check out the beautiful temples.

3. Fish off of the rocks with new Thai friends.

koh phangan on a budget
Fishing off the boulders near Lighthouse Bungalows

 

4. Visit one of the 5 beautiful waterfalls on the island.

5. Play beach volleyball at Cocohut on Leela Beach. All you need is a deposit on the volleyball and you’re good to go!

6. Watch fire twirling on the beach in the evening.

backpacking koh phangan
Watching fire twirling on Haad Rin is free and really cool

 

For A Fee:

If you have some money left on your budget, be sure to…

1. Go Scuba-Diving. This isn’t for those on a small budget, but is still a good deal. Dives are between 700THB – 1000TH ($23-$35) depending on whether or not you have your own equipment, and how many dives you will be doing. A day out will include a day on the boat and lunch.

2. Rent A Motorbike! In our opinion, this is a must for anyone coming here. Getting out and exploring the island on your own steam is something everyone should do. The cost of a motorbike for 24 hours is 150 – 250THB ($5 – $8.50) and a litre of petrol is 30THB – 40THB ($1- $1.35). You can cut the cost in half by sharing a bike with someone. Also, it’s standard to give up your passport when renting a bike, so the owners have some collateral if you break the bike…be sure to wear a helmet.

what to do in koh phangan
Renting a motorbike is a great way to explore Koh Phangan!

 

3. Attend A Full Moon Party. If you didn’t want to drink, this could be classed as “for free”, however, if you’re not on something at this party, you probably won’t want to be there! Music, thousands of people, fire twirlers, neon body paint, black lights and everything else you can imagine happens at this epic, 24 hour beach party.

what to do in koh phangan
People get crazy around Full Moon time on Koh Phangan!

 

4. See A Muay Thai Boxing Match. You’ll see trucks driving around announcing the latest boxing match. Get a ticket and check out this popular Thai sport. Tickets go for about 500THB ($17).

5. Go Snorkelling. This won’t cost you too much. Head up to Mae Haad Beach and small island of Koh Mar, which is attached by sandbar. Rent some snorkel gear on the beach and enjoy the underwater life! It’s typically about 90THB ($3) for the day. There are so many things to do on this exciting island. You could also try a Thai cooking class, yoga and kayaking!

In Closing:

Budget For One Day:

Room: $15 (for a double room, cheaper huts are available) Food: $4.40 (eating a cheap breakfast of yogurt and fruit and 2 meals out) Bottles of Water: $1.70 (for 5 bottles) Big Bottle of Beer: $1.70 (for one)

Total: $22.80

Add… Moped/Motorbike Rental: $5 (split the cost and share a bike with someone) Petrol: $1.35 Total: $6.35 Renting a motorbike would bring your budget to just over $25/day, especially if you share the cost of the rental. However, you won’t rent a bike every day, so save up your baht from the days before and you’ll be able to fit it into a $25/day budget!

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We try to never miss out on exciting excursions or must-do activities while travelling. In order to fit it into our budget, we just scrimp for a few days beforehand in order to save up. For example, we might eat extra cheap food, not have any beers or chocolate bars in order to do something that is really important to us (a particular tour, renting a motorbike or going snorkelling.) We suggest you don’t miss out on anything you really want to do either![/box]

budget backpacking koh phangan
Rent a motorbike and check out Mae Haad and Koh Mar

 

Thailand is a great country to travel through and Koh Phangan is an exciting island jam-packed with things to do and see. It’s relaxing, it’s beautiful and the people here are friendly. Outside of the Full Moon Party, you’ll have the island virtually to yourself. We ended up loving our time so much in Koh Phangan that we stayed here for a month! We were never bored and we highly recommend this tropical paradise.

travel koh phangan
Going for a swim at stunning Haad Rin Beach

 

For everything you need to know about travelling through this region on a budget, check out our Guide To Budget Backpacking In Thailand . Also, check out our quick transportation video of how to travel from Koh Phangan, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Have you ever been to Koh Phangan? Were you able to travel for under $25/day? Leave a comment below!

About The Authors:

Nick & Dariece Avatar

Nick & Dariece have left everything behind in search of cultural experiences, beautiful beaches and off the beaten path adventures. They call themselves Goats On The Road and their website for budget backpackers encourages others to pack their bags and leave the ordinary behind. Visit Goats On The Road and get excellent tips for the adventurous budget backpacker!

More from Agness Walewinder

Travelling the World under $25 a Day in style! How? Housesitting!

In today's post, Nicole, who makes up half the duo at Suitcase...
Read More

24 Comments

  • With all due respect, as is evident in your … awkwardly formatted budget-not-in-the-budget… it is very, very hard to go to Pha Ngan with only $25/day.
    This is especially true during the Full Moon where you will be lucky to find any rooms for under 400 baht (12$ ish) / person. Drinks (trust me, you’ll want to) will set you back another good $12. Taxis (trust me, with the heat, you’ll want to)/ bikes will set you back $8 dollars. And we have not even included food yet.

    • Hey T.K, Thanks for the comment. Definitely some valid points!
      It is more pricey over the full moon party but we spent a full month on Koh Phangan (including full moon) and it is very easy to live off of less than $25/day (trust me). We never took taxis there… why would you spend money on taxis if you have a bike, the bike is $6.50/day but you don’t need it every day so just get one every few days. There’s absolutely no reason to spend $24 / night on rooms unless your looking to go outside of a backpackers budget. There are plenty of cheap clean rooms on beaches around the island for $15/nt. And $12 on drinks is a lot. That’s 8 big beers everyday! If you’re drinking close to a flat / day maybe it’ll be hard to keep a budget anywhere!
      We encourage you to try our budget when you return to the island. It’s very easy!
      Cheers and safe travels.

    • Hi T K. We have been to Koh Phangan as well and I can assure you it is possible as long as you don’t take tuk tuks, eat street food, share your bungalow with others and don’t party that much. This post also proves it’s possible. Of course, if you are planning to hit the Full Moon party, it is going to be more expensive, but you can spend less the following day. Thailand is much cheaper when you travel with someone. We shared our bungalow with 3 other girls so I was about $5 per person per night+ $1-$3 meals of papaya salad, fish and some $1 on the go snacks, no taxis and you can make it :):).

  • That’s a lot for a pretty small budget. I’ve always dreamed of going backpacking, but then figured I’ve become too soft and old. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider that. Of course, for as long as I think things over, I might be 80 by the time I make the decision! :P

    • It is a lot to do, drink and eat for $25. No, it’s not true. It’s never too late to go backpacking and you are not too soft or too old. You would quickly realize it’s a lot of fun and experience!

  • I’m always so impressed with how much you guys manage to do with such a small budget! We were really surprised when we made it to the Andaman coast of Thailand because everything was MUCH more expensive than we had been expecting… We are hoping to head back to Thailand in a couple of months, and I am hoping that when we do, we can manage to see it on much cheaper than what we were spending before (about 3 times your budget). Same goes for Cambodia, which is unfortunately proving to be pricier than expected…

    • Thanks Steph. It’s all a matter of time. At the beginning we spent much more than $25, but then we have learnt how to bargain, look for cheap hostels, ask locals for some advice, etc. Moreover, we don’t party at all and therefore we don’t spend much money on alcohol and going out which can be very expensive in Asia if you add everything up. Comfort is not the most important so sometimes we sleep in places where nobody would like to stay :) hihihi

  • Great tips! Our favourite restaurant was Mama Poo’s kitchen close to Haad Yao beach – it was cheap and tasty, so we ate there more than once a day sometimes. And I definitely agreed that renting a motorbike is the most fun and cheapest way to get around the island – although, if I remember correctly, the road to Haad Rin beach was pretty steep and might be a little scary for first-timers.

    • Yes, we also chose to rent a motorbike. It was very cheap and a lot of fun until Cez has crushed it and we had to pay a lot for that :(…. Be careful guys with motorbikes!

  • Oh, I’m so jealous! Thailand may not be as cheap as it was, but as YOU know, it’s waaaaay less expensive than Europe. After Paris, Sweden, and Venice, to stay in Thailand basically looks like you’re staying for free! Keep up the good work. Happy travels friends!

    • Yes, so true Kelly. I got back from Oslo to Bangkok and I could feel the difference in my wallet:). Happy travels to you too!

  • With that many activities (and beach), I can see myself easily spending a month in Koh Phangan. That path to the island between waters is amazing. Thanks for the great guide.

    • I think a month can be way too long, but you won’t get bored, not in Koh Phangan. You’re welcome. Happy to help :).

    • Koh Phangan is a place-to-be if you love doing yoga, meditation or you want to detox your body. After 9 months being constantly on the road, that is exactly what we needed. The village Sri Thanu (8 km north of Thongsala) is especially good for spirit junkies. Look for a place called Samma Karuna! It is a lovely awakening and healing school with yoga twice a day (300 Baht/class) and lots of different meditation practices. a place to recharge your batteries!
      While in Sre Thanu, check out Mama Pooh’s restaurant and Good Time. In both places you find great thai food and reasonable prices. If you fancy a good coffee and inspiring atmosphere, go to the Art cafe. I literally go there every day! :)

  • hi, i think agness is bang on the mark.iv been going to the island on and off for a few years now.and going back in a couple of week,s.im renting a house nr ban tai it has bedroom hot shower living area kitchen with cooker balcony.all for 7,ooo baht and prob get it for 6,000 a month which you can sleep 4 if you want and also.and rent a bike for 100 baht a day.you have no reason to ever pay more than 150 a day even for one days hire.if you like to no more let me no.

  • Hi, so I am traveling to Thailand in August of 2014. I know, it’s hot. I’m a teacher, that’s how the schedule falls.lol

    I am going to be backpacking but staying in private room hostels (mostly) and I am on s quasi-budget. I don’t want to deprive myself, but I am also not planning on staying in 5 star hotels.

    My question is more for the people that are saying that they spent more per day. What are we looking at? $50? $100?

    I am banking for $100 per day, but that is also leading me into Malaysia then Japan (I know, Japan is expensive but it’s only for 4 nights).

    Some feedback? Advice?

    Also, have you tried going from Thailand to Malaysia?

    Thank you, any info will help.

    • $30 a day should be more than enough, seriously. If you travel solo, I don’t think you could spend more. Thailand is very cheap and as long as you don’t go overboard with local tours and parties, you can survive for $15 – $20 a day without any problems. We’ve never been to Malaysia, sorry, can’t help you with that.

  • Just rented scooter today. Petrol is 40BHT per bootle (and bootle is 0,7L, moreover its not even full so you pay 80BHT per 1L). Every seller have same price, will check petrol station price tomorrow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.