Ko Phi Phi on a budget
First published 18th November, 2006
A lot of people show up on Phi Phi Island ready to spend like drunken sailors, and the prices have been rigged accordingly. One way for budget travellers to save money is to simply not go there! But it's definitely worth seeing, so we've come up with some ways to visit the island without emptying your bank account.
Getting to Phi Phi can be expensive depending on where you depart from. If you're being asked to pay more than 350B, you're getting ripped off. Try showing up at the pier and talking directly to one of the boatmen. They will sometimes let you on for as little as 300B, but you have to be a bit persuasive, very discrete, and speaking a little Thai will go a long way.
Once you get to the island, the biggest bite will be accommodation. One dubious places you might try is Long Beach Bungalows, offering 200B doubles in low season -- they ain't much, but they're cheap. The future of the place is on uncertain ground, though, so there's no telling what they'll charge in high season.
It's more realistic to plan on spending 300B a night in low season, 400 to 500B in high season. Your choices multiply, and we feel more confident steering you to the places below.
Maphrao Resort has small bungalows for 300B in low, 400B in high season, and it's a great place to stay -- you can walk there from the pier, takes about an hour, and it's a beautiful hike. Viking Place next door has bungalows for 400B in low season. The Paradise Pearl, the first one along on Long Beach, offers 300B bungalows in low season, but they jump to 600B in high season.
Ao Toh Koh is reachable by an hour's hike over the viewpoint, and promises 300 and 400B bungalows year round -- call ahead to make sure they haven't changed their minds! It also happens to be one of our top picks for places to stay on Phi Phi.
There are a quite a few places in the Ton Sai Village area that charge 300B in the low season and 500B in the high season: JJ. Bungalow and Guesthouse, Harmony House, New Wave Bungalows, P.P. Valentine Bungalows, Gipsy Village, and Gypsy Village 2. All these rooms are doubles, and not that you don't already know this, but even if you're traveling alone, you can save a ton by grabbing another backpacker in same straights and splitting the cost.
Internet is 2B per minute no matter where you go. Sports Bar and Carpe Diem have free wifi, which is handy if you're a budget traveller with a computer. Otherwise, you'll have to make really good friends with someone who runs a dive shop, or do all your e-mailing before and after your stay.
To save money on food, eat where the Thais eat -- just turn down the alley alongside Barracuda Divers, and, voila! No more steak and pizza, lots of rice and noodles at cheap prices (for Phi Phi, that'd be ten or twenty baht more than what you might be used to). While you're in Ton Sai Village, don't blow past The Phi Phi Bakery thinking it's out of your price range -- surprisingly reasonable prices on many dishes are to be found there.
Since you don't want to live like a monk, you may want to have a beer at some point. Phi Phi has a 7-eleven, and prices there are only a few baht more than on the mainland -- to the extent you imbibe, buy your booze here. Also, local shops sometimes offer even better deals on bottles of Chang -- keep your eye peeled for signs. If you're looking to meet some fellow travellers while you tipple, steer clear of the bars along Ton Sai Beach, to be sure, and head out to the viewpoint road. There's a 'Bar with No Name' right beneath Phi Phi Dreams offering drinks and a relaxed, good-time atmosphere for half of what you'd pay elsewhere.
For a low cost activity, consider hiking over the viewpoint to one of three bays on the other side, if you haven't already holed up there -- Rantee, Ao Toh Koh, and Pak Nam beach. All of them are much better beaches than the ones 'in town' and they all have affordable restaurants to grab lunch at. Be sure to plan your return before sundown to avoid having to take a long tail back. The most affordable evening of fun with friends can be found at Reggae Bar which offers Thai Boxing nightly -- big buckets of booze run 100B, and if you don the gloves and get in the ring -- and win -- your table gets two free buckets.
Being a budget traveller in Phi Phi doesn't mean you have to miss out on the fun. In fact, by seeking out its cheap little corners, you'll probably meet more interesting people, learn more about the island, and have a much better time than all those suckers lining up for drinks at Apache Bar.
Story by Don Morgan
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