Ko Samui is so big, we've split it up into areas, select one of the below for detailed accommodation and food listings in that area. Sights and general overviews for Ko Samui as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don't know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Samui's different areas.
It is a known fact that Ko Samui — and other Thai tourism hotspots — are more expensive than destinations less frequented by tourists. So is it possible to still eat three meals a day for 150 baht or less on Samui? For sure! The trick however, is to eat like a local and avoid Western food. Of course, if one throws alcohol into the equation, that budget also goes out the window, so keep a special budget for partying and draw from this rather than from your food allowance.
Asian breakfasts don’t fit the conventional fry-up or continental type and be prepared for a little spice for your first meal of the day if you’re on a tight budget. A great staple that will keep the hunger pangs at bay for hours is jok, a rice porridge sold by street vendors. This warm meal is served in a clear plastic bag, along with a plastic soup spoon. Add garlic, ginger, herbs and other flavourings for a hefty portion that should set you back 20 baht.
Add to that an iced coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, and also from a street vendor for a mere 20 baht. Feel like spoiling yourself? Order the iced cappuccino with a thick milk froth and cinnamon for 15 baht extra. This breakfast will set you back 40 baht; an alternative option for around the same price is a small bunch of bananas as well as a few seasonal fruits from a fresh market.
Those venturing to the sea at lunch time would do well to try the beachside kitchens available on all the most popular beaches. A portion of grilled sticky rice for 20 baht and two barbecue chicken satays at 10 baht each makes a healthy meal, and a banana is often tossed in for free. A bottle of juice for 20 baht from a nearby Family Mart (let’s face it, there’s practically one on every corner) and your lunch has set you back 60 baht. These beach kitchens also do a great grilled corn on the cob for 50 baht, or freshly made som tam – spicy green papaya salad — for 40 baht.
An alternative option is to head to one of the food courts at Tesco or Big C where the locals lunch. Here options are available from around 30 to 60 baht. Choose from pork and noodles in brown soup (60 baht), meatballs in noodle soup (50 baht), vegetable pad thai (30 baht), chicken or pork pad thai (45 baht), fried chicken with rice (40 baht) or spring rolls (20 baht).
Evening is when dipping into the food budget for a good cocktail is all too tempting. Head down to the local walking street markets, and here a cocktail will set you back 50-60 baht rather than 150 baht in a bar. Make use of happy hour; most bars have their version. The thrifty will buy their local beers at the supermarket for around 35 baht each, and enjoy them at their own backpacker bungalow over a game of cards.
Walking street markets are a great way to experience street food with a festive vibe, and here the options are endless. Try pad krapaow moo (minced pork fried with basil and chilli, served with steamed rice) for 30 baht, and add a fried egg for 15 baht. Other options include every kind of meat-on-a-stick, pork or chicken kebabs, seafood omelettes and various curries for 30 to 50 baht.
Now, to relook that booze budget …
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 24th March, 2015.