There's been a few threads about gettings reservations in peak season -- especially on Ko Phi Phi and Ko Pha Ngan, so I'm going to sticky this one and hopefully answer a few questions with this one!
I'll just preface the following by repeating an important point: The majority of guesthouses and hotels in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam cannot be booked online. These establishments rely on walk-in trade, and reservations made either in person, or by fax/telephone. By peak season I mean the last two weeks of December and the first week of January.
I'll cover Ko Phi Phi first.
Across peak season, Ko Phi Phi will be absolutely packed -- I mean absolutely packed -- so packed in fact I struggle to think of somewhere I'd less want to be! Anywhere that can be booked online will be full. All other accommodation will rely on walk-ins and as people leave and arrive every day, if you've not got a reservation your number one priority should be to get the FIRST BOAT OF THE DAY from Phuket or Krabi. In doing this, you'll be with the first bunch to arrive and have the best chance of getting a room that is a step above a filthy dog-box.
Despite what your guidebook might say, Phi Phi has a lot of places to stay -- the area inland behind Ton Sai is packed with "cheap" (by Phi Phi standards) rooms. Try that area, or if you're feeling optimistic, get a boat around to the east coast beaches and try the spots along there. Most places have a telephone, so call before wasting time going over ther only to find the place is full.
There is still availability online for rooms on Phi Phi, but most of it is flashpacker and up. The links below lead to the Ko Phi Phi sections of our online reservation partners, so feel free to give them a try, although in all these cases the focus is on mid-range and up.
Sawasdee on Krabi
Hotels2Thailand on Krabi
If you have no luck, we'd recommend either Ko Lanta as another popular destination, or Ko Yao Noi for a more off the beaten track destination.
Ko Pha Ngan
Ko Pha Ngan has hundreds of places to stay, and as long as you don't want to stay on one of the very popular beaches, you should be fine. The best beaches to escape the crowds are Baan Tai, Baan Kai and Ao Thong Sala, Ao Plaay Laem, and, if you don't mind a boatride, Haad Yuan. If you're planning on showing up on Haad Rin on New Year's Eve expecting to get a beach bungalow, don't be surprised when you end up sleeping on the beach. Beaches aside from Haad Rin which may be at capacity include Bottle Beach, Haad Yao (sorry psychiq!) and Thong Nai Pan Noi.
Remember Ko Pha Ngan is a big island which is easy to get around on -- all the main beaches will run transport to Haad Rin for the parties -- you do not have to stay on Haad Rin to attend the party. Consider staying at one of the quieter beacher and commuting for all your partying needs. Or else consider Ko Samui. For more suggestions regarding Ko Pha Ngan, read this story: Should I reserve a room for the full moon party?
As with Phi Phi, there is still some availability online for rooms on Ko Pha Ngan. The links below lead to the Ko Pha Ngan sections of our online reservation partners, so feel free to give them a try.
Sawasdee on Ko Pha Ngan
Hotels2Thailand on Ko Pha Ngan
Do I need reservations for my holiday?
Should I reserve a room for the full moon party?
What's a good guesthouse on Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi on a budget
What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
Somtam... What if I do everything right. I book for a room a month before, I even tell them that I'm going to arrive later that day. I may even send them a deposit. Are you telling me that they will give my room away?
#2 psychiq has been a member since 11/7/2007. Posts: 11
No, I'm not saying they will, but that they might -- especially without a deposit. Look at it from the guesthouse's point of view -- this is their main money-making period they'll only hold a room without a deposit for so long.
Cheap places have a reputation for not always honouring reservations. That said, a deposit paid mitigates the risk considerably. So I guess if you've got a solid reservation and have paid a deposit, then chances are you'll be fine.
Thanks for your help! If I book then all I can do is hope for the best. Its not important to definitely stay in Haad Yao so maybe I'll have another look online around the place.
#4 psychiq has been a member since 11/7/2007. Posts: 11
Can I get a train from bangkok suvarnbah airport to hualamphong train station and how long does it take? If not plan to get taxi, plane arrives in at 3.25pm, how long by taxi ( keeping in mind it will be hitting rush hour!)to hualamphong as want to book train for that evening to surat thani
#5 mazzieq has been a member since 29/10/2007. Posts: 1
I live in Bangkok and unfortunately there is no train from BKK International Airport to the train station. You can take a taxi but rush hour will be slow...at least 1.5 hours because the train station is in the heart of BKK. Suggest you take a taxi to Ekamai BTS (skytrain) station and then change to the MRT subway which will take you directly to the Train station..you will save time and money this way. Having said that taxis are cheap here, from the airport to my house in central Sukhumvit area (not rush hour) is about 250 bht...less than 10USD for a 24 km ride. Alternatively take the airport express bus from the international airport as I believe they stop very close to the train station as that is Chinatown area. Airport express bus is 150bht or $4.50USD.
#6 andreahkg has been a member since 5/11/2007. Posts: 8
My boyfriend and I will be backpacking thru the islands of Thailand for the month of March. I heard a rumor that you can leave NOTHING in your rooms or it will be stolen. (ie; backpack, clothing). We plan to be staying at cheaper backpackers accomm. Has anyone heard of this? Is it safe to leave your clothes and backpack in teh room while you go to the beach etc?
#7 hannesnaomi has been a member since 2/2/2008. Posts: 22
If you want cheap hotel, you might suffer from those things.
i once stayed in a cheap hostel and i found out later that something was stolen:(
anyway, some cheap hotels are not too bad or even surprised you with the price and quality>> check this
This hotel is in Chiangmai
#8 g4travel has been a member since 11/3/2008. Posts: 5
I friend and I will be visiting Phuket sometime next week. I tried arranging for a transport from the airport to our hotel in Patong Beach but it is quite costly (THB 1,500)!
Can someone suggest an alternative transport? Around how much would a taxi/cab cost from Phuket International Airport to Patong Beach?
#9 jpsy has been a member since 1/3/2008. Posts: 1
Re: Thai Islands.
Hi Everyone, going to SE Asia over xmas and New Year. Can anyone recommend which of the Thai Islands are the best, only want to stay in two max.
#10 karybe has been a member since 22/4/2008. Posts: 1
We are going to Phi Phi in late December and were wanting to stay at Tara Inn. They have asked me to pay a deposit into a personal bank account. I find this a bit worrying and wonder whether I should do so or not. Also even though I've had Tara Inn recommended to me by friends, they said buidings were being built in front which may obstruct the views. Has anyone been there this year?
#11 scallywag has been a member since 14/4/2008. Posts: 1
If they ask a deposit into a personal bank account, they are probably trying to avoid government tax(which they have to be paid by themselves if money is transferred to a company account)
Anyway, they will give you a room and they gain more money due to not lose a government tax as they mentioned to you that " room rate is included of all taxes"
If the agent has a legal license(called TAT license, shorten from Tourism Authority of Thailand, then there is nothing to be worried about.
#12 g4travel has been a member since 11/3/2008. Posts: 5
I am going to be arriving in Bangkok at 10.15 15 October 2008. I intend to go to Chiang Mai as soon as possible. I have contacted a guesthouse(safehousecourt) in Chiang Mai and they can give me a great deal. However it is high season and they are a popular guesthouse so they say I would have to book. What I am wondering is, will I be likely to get transport out of Bangkok that day or would I be likely to have to spend at least one day in Bangkok and go to Chiang Mai later?
#13 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107
Perhaps a really stupid question, and if so please accept my apologies, but when exactly IS peak/high season?
Obviously Xmas/New Year will be packed but I've seen variations that say peak season from October-May which seems a long time to me.
I'll be in the region from mid March to end May.
#15 daflj has been a member since 28/8/2008. Posts: 32
high season in Thailand starts from 1 November till 30 April(and around 19 December till 5 January is a peak period)
Low season hence starts from 1 May till 31 October
you will get a cheaper price during this period but in return , the weather would ruin your dream holiday
#16 g4travel has been a member since 11/3/2008. Posts: 5
So we've received a "confirmation email" that we are booked into a relatively low cost ($100 USD/night) resort over Christmas - not booked through something like Sawasadee. My concern is that they don't want a deposit. While I'm happy not paying a deposit at risk of losing it, I feel a little more secure in that the reservation is more solid with one. Any thoughts? Should I be concerned and looking out for something with more formality?
#17 Punchestown has been a member since 25/8/2008. Posts: 8
I am a first time backpacker and was planning on going to Thailand from dec 14-Jan 8. I just got the idea for the trip and have done little to prepare besides purchase airfare. I was hoping to spend a few days in the north and a majority of the trip in the south. However, I am concerned that I will not be able to find places to stay at night on my measly backpackers budget. Are my fears off? Will I be able to find good accomadations in nice areas of the north and south? Furthermore, I've read that island hopping is not worthwhile, what are a few good, safe islands that offer great things to do on a backpackers budget?
#18 mboconno has been a member since 23/10/2008. Posts: 2
mboconno - If by measly budget you mean below USD5 per night - forget it. Maybe there may be one or two places but they will be few and far between and in high seaon you'd be looking for a while. USD10 should do you OK, in high season some of the places you could get now will price themselves out of your range but you should still have a good choice.
As to what you heard about island hopping, well availability of and cost oftransport could be constraints, copy down some of the transport and timetable info from the Thai islands section of this website and see how it adds up. You could find yourself otherwise paying too much for boats or being on too tight a schedule.
As well as the Thai islands section find a post on this forum by tezza and read his blogspot.
And just as a final notice, Chiang Mai can be hell and expensive in peak season, but anywhere on the northern Mae Hong Son loop is OK.
#19 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107
me and my friends are going to be down on the coast- koh samui and koh tao in july...what is the weather like in july??and will it be easy to find pretty cheap accomodation there without having booked in advance?? :)
#22 sparkle_sista70 has been a member since 4/1/2009. Posts: 8
to add to that....would it be easy to find accomodation with out having booked in advance in bangkok and chiang mai as well in july??
#23 sparkle_sista70 has been a member since 4/1/2009. Posts: 8