No need to spend like a drunken sailor
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 still worth seeing, so we’ve come up with some ways to visit the island without emptying your bank account.
The cheapest way to get to Phi Phi is by ferry, with frequent departures daily from Phuket and Krabi year round. Ticket prices range from 250 to 400 baht depending on your departure point, which usually includes pick up from your hotel. You could also book tickets directly at the pier, but in Phuket especially the high taxi fare to reach the pier far outweighs any cost savings on the ticket.
Once you get to the island, the biggest bite will be accommodation. If you’re keen to save some cash consider visiting Phi Phi during the low season months of May through October. You’ll find the best deals during these months, though not perhaps the best weather. Umbrellas and rain coats are available at many shops here and cheap!
Hostels are by far the cheapest places to stay on Phi Phi. We saw some on offer for as little as 150 baht a night low season; expect to pay at least 300 baht through high season. Some are grotty and loud but others are tolerable at least, and usually come with air-con and WiFi included. Check out Chao Koh Dorm on Tonsai beach, or PP Centerpoint Hostel, Ploy Dorm or Blue Diamond Dorm in Tonsai village. More seem to be popping up all the time, with most found in Tonsai village — keep a sharp eye out for signs if you’re on the hunt for a hostel.
For private rooms don’t expect to find much below 1,000 baht in high season, but there are a few bungalows sprinkled around the island offering reasonable – for Phi Phi – rates. The cheapest guesthouses and bungalows are also found in Tonsai village, including Gypsy resort, which has upgraded to a hotel but still has some of its old bungalows (800 baht low season), and the long-running Tropical Garden Bungalows (900 baht private room).
If you’re keen to stay on the beach try Charlie Beach Resort, which has opened some bamboo huts along Lo Dalam beach (850 baht). Just don’t expect a peaceful night’s sleep with all the mad bucket bars just up the sand from here.
A new wave of development stretching over the Lo Dalam headland behind the Phi Phi Viewpoint Resort is where you’ll find reasonable deals on bungalows, with Phutawan Bamboo Resort among the cheapest at 400 baht a night in low season. If you’re hoping for views, you’ll need to shell out more, with Phi Phi Cozy offering basic bungalows for about 700 baht.
At the more far-flung beaches of Phi Phi all the accommodation has moved firmly up in price with little to recommend for backpackers. The best priced bungalow we found is Phi Phi Rantee Beach Resort on Rantee beach, where a basic hut with electricity at night-time only will set you back at least 700 baht a night. You’ll need to factor in a sweaty hike or a long-tail boat trip to get there, too.
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’ with decent snorkelling offshore 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.
Another good spot to snorkel without having to shell out for a boat trip is Long Beach, which is also the easiest to reach from Tonsai village.
To stay connected on the cheap, we found that even the cheapest hostels offered WiFi for free, and free WiFi service is plentiful in the many cafes and bars around the island.
To save money on food, eat where the Thais eat — just turn down the alley between the pier and Phi Phi Bakery and, voila! No more steak and pizza, lots of rice and noodles at cheap prices (for Phi Phi, that’d be 10 or 20 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 several mini-marts including 7-Elevens, and prices there are only a few baht more than on the mainland — to the extent you imbibe, buy your booze here.
The most affordable evening of fun with friends can be found at Reggae Bar which offers Thai Boxing nightly — big buckets of booze run two-for-one all night, and if you don the gloves and get in the ring — and win — your table gets two free buckets (note, getting in a ring when drunk is extremely stupid and people have been very badly injured doing this). Jordan’s Irish Pub is another spot offering deals on buckets and a jovial scene that won’t break the bank.
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.
Lana Willocks is a freelance writer from Canada based in Phuket. Her love affair with Thailand began on a university exchange programme in Bangkok, then she returned to Phuket on the auspicious date of 9-9-1999 and never left.
Our top 8 other sights and activities in and around Ko Phi Phi