Ko Tao 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 Tao as a whole can be found via the icons above. Don’t know where to start? Read an overview of Ko Tao’s different areas.
Ko Tao has a great range of places to eat but not every spot is suitable to those on a shoestring budget. If you are watching your pennies there’s no need to miss out on tasty treats though; you just need to know where to look.
Although there isn’t a night market typical of many Thai locales, Ko Tao does have street food which pops up and around and moves to keep you on your toes. Fairly consistently you will find street food outside most 7-elevens. During the day in Mae Haad you’ll find a woman selling deep-fried chicken; pieces range up to 60 baht and really are finger licking good. Most days and nights you will find a pancake man here too. These guys will be found at the 7-elevens on Sairee beach and village too, making both sweet and savoury pancakes of all descriptions for under 100 baht. The vigour and passion put into making these snacks is worth going to see alone.
In Mae Haad on the track that runs between the Lomprayah Pier and Songserm Pier you will find more cheap eats. Again the stands do change but you will always find a fruit stand opposite the Lomprayah building. Here you can get fruit salad, yoghurt and muesli, or any combination of the three, for less than 100 baht.
Follow along the road and you’ll find a couple of streetside sandwich spots serving simple but well-filled baguettes, ciabatta and foccacia for 60 to 80 baht. You may also find noodle soup, pad thai and Greek-style kebabs here for less that 100 baht. The last place you will find on this street of treats will be the chicken women, who arrives in the morning and stays until around 14:00. Yes, she sells chicken as well as a range of other barbecued meat for 20 baht a stick but she also sells papaya salad which is just 40 baht a bowl and one of my favorite lunches. If you miss her then you only need to wait till around 16:00 when another stand pops up outside of Dive Supply selling fried cat fish salad, again for 40 baht.
Another of my favourite lunches is yellow rice and chicken. This is simply what it says: saffron rice with deep-fried chicken, and at just 50 baht and very tasty, you really can’t go wrong. This spot is actually located just before you get into Chalok Ban Khao, past the Castle nightclub on the same side of the road and almost on the corner before you turn right. If you didn’t know it was there you would probably go straight past, so take it slowly!
The samosa man is a Ko Tao mainstay and while he does not have a designated area he always seems to arrive just when you need him. He wanders around mainly Sairee and Mae Haad and usually arrives at dive centres when the divers return. If you are not diving then you might just be lucky enough to catch him in between places or hanging out at the main pier. You’ll recognise him by his blue/green plastic basket that he carries in front of him in the fashion of an old-style cinema snack seller. He sells, as you might guess, samosas. The filling vegetable treats are just 20 baht and exactly what you need to tide you over to your next meal.
Regardless of where you are, keep your eyes open, as you never know when someone might appear with something delicious (and cheap) for sale. There’s a coconut ice-cream man; you’ll hear his horn, and if you don’t want sweet corn in your ice-cream, remember to say so! Mid-afternoon will see more stands start to appear and move around, including those selling quail eggs and deep fried wontons, as well as other coconut-based sweet treats too, lots of barbecue chicken and a range of things on sticks.
Little Thai restaurants are dotted all over Ko Tao and if you are looking for really cheap eats then head out of the main tourist areas. The road running from the 7-eleven on the main road in Sairee up to the boxing stadium is lined with eateries; try Blue Chair, Tiks and Kanya.
You’ll find a few in Mae Haad too. Try Pooks opposite Cappuccino Bakery and try Bam Bams up the hill from Songserm Pier. Most have huge menus and generous portions, often with some Western dishes thrown in too. A good tip when looking at Thai food on a menu is to see if they have an ‘on rice’ menu; this means your food comes on rice rather than with a separate bowl of rice. The portion is slightly smaller but the price will be cheaper too.
By Ayesha Cantrell
Last updated on 27th March, 2015.