Is Koh Samui expensive? It’s something you might be wondering if you’re planning a jaunt across to the sand-fringed isle in the pearly blue Thai Gulf, to see wondrous temples and shrines, laze under coconut palms, and get your fix of back-crunching massages. Well…that’s what we’re here to answer.
Yep, this guide will run through all the ins and outs of a trip to Koh Samui to outline the various costs you can expect to incur. It will reveal the average price of a hotel on the island, with estimations for budget hostels right up to deluxe honeymoon resorts. It will help give you an idea of what food costs here. And it will run through the price of traveling into and around Samui itself.
Remember that prices in the Thai islands can decrease significantly during the low-season months and soar during certain parts of the high season. Our guide is based on the dry season, but not at peak times like Christmas and New Year, when you can expect to pay a premium for flights, accommodation, and activities alike.
The average cost of a holiday to Koh Samui
We’d estimate the cost of a week-long trip to Koh Samui to be around 19,500 THB (around $580) per person. That’s if you’re traveling as a couple, based on an average outgoing of between 1,300-2,025 THB ($40-60) on hotels, up to 440 THB ($13) for food each day, and a total daily spend of up to 675 THB ($20) on transport and activities.
Some caveats: Our estimation here doesn’t include the cost of flights over to Thailand or Koh Samui. They can add a whole load more to the total, especially if you’re coming in long-haul from the US or Europe. These prices are also based on a person traveling as part of a couple. You will probably pay more if you go solo, simply because there’s often a surcharge in Thai hotels when it comes to single occupancy.
Of course, you can also push the budget to the extreme on Koh Samui. There are some seriously luxury hotels that will cost upwards of 10,000 THB ($300) a night, and fancier restaurants where you can eat Thai fusion food for more than $70 a head. On the flip side, you can also go budget, as there are hostels on Koh Samui that cost under 300 THB ($10) for a dorm room, and street-food markets where you’ll pay just 40-60 THB ($1.20-1.80) for a meal.
Are hotels on Koh Samui expensive?
There are hotels that suit all budgets on Koh Samui. You can go large with five-star honeymoon hotels with infinity pools that poke out over the glistening Thai Gulf. Or you can save those pennies by opting for a dorm-style hostel with the other shoestring travelers in predominantly backpacker areas.
Generally speaking, the port town of Nathon on the west coast and the beach resort of Lamai are the cheapest parts of the island to stay at. Midrange travelers might prefer the abundance of affordable but quality hotels that string along the relaxed gold sands of Maenam on the north coast. More classy hotels are available in the so-called Golden Triangle area between Choeng Mon and Plai Laem.
Here are some of the top hotels across the whole budget spectrum on Koh Samui:
- Melia Koh Samui ($$$) – The Melia name hardly needs an introduction but boy does this one live up to the rep. It’s a grand 5-star resort on the edge of Choeng Mon Beach, with a sprawling pool and some fantastic swim-around sunbathing decks.
- Baan Chaweng Beach Resort & Spa ($$) – There’s no need to sacrifice the seafront location when you drop the budget a little, just as Baan Chaweng shows. The rooms are in separate villa-bungalows all done out in the traditional Thai island style.
- Samui Backpacker Hotel ($) – It might be simple and cheap, but this fun-filled hostel offers backpackers a swimming pool and a games area.
The cost of eating and drinking in Koh Samui
The great thing about Thailand? The cheap food is often the best food! Yep, you can certainly get by on this sun-kissed isle in the gulf by paying just 40-60 THB ($1.20-1.80) a pop for your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. You’re looking for the street food stalls. They are pretty much everywhere, but there are also night markets and daily markets where they coalesce. For the cheapest eats, check out:
- Chaweng Walking Market – On the walking street of Chaweng on the east coast, this one’s got everything from pad Thai to mango sticky rice.
- Fisherman’s Village Night Market – A north-coast market with particularly good seafood.
- Nathon Night Food Market – A very cheap night market that takes place close to the ferry piers in the west, complete with noodle soups and stir fries.
In more recent years, Koh Samui has also established itself as a little bit of a fine-dining hub for upscale eating. That means you can fork out hundreds of dollars for a meal at an award-winning restaurant here if you want. Most of those are located in the Golden Triangle area in the north (starting in Plai Laem and ending in Maenam) or near Maret on the southeast shoreline. They run the gamut from plush French bistros to Thai degustation joints.
There are also LOADS of midrange eateries on the island. They tend to cluster mainly around the beach roads that run parallel to the sands and are expressly aimed at tourists – we hardly ever see Thais eating at them. That’s okay, though, because the food is generally excellent. Most dishes in these come in at between 80-190 THB ($2.30-$5.60).
Is Koh Samui expensive for nightlife?
Koh Samui is roughly in line with the rest of the gulf islands when it comes to nightlife. That is to say that it’s roughly in line with the more expensive side of Thailand as a whole. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the cost of a beer here if you’re jetting in from London or New York, though, but not so impressed if you’re coming across from, say, Vietnam or Cambodia.
The going rate for a cold Singha beer in one of the bars around Chaweng or Lamai ranges from 60 THB up to 120 THB ($1.80-3.60), with the best deals coming during the happy hours (although they can seem to go on for like 10 hours in some bars – hey, who’s complaining?). Wine is a whole other matter. There’s something like a 300% tax on it in Thailand, which means even the cheapest bottles will set you back at least 500 THB.
The cost of things to do in Koh Samui
Thankfully, a lot of the joy on Koh Samui comes in simply laying down the towel and soaking up the rays. This is a true R&R island. Its beaches are totally free (even if getting to and from them isn’t always free, but more on that later) and you can swim and snorkel to your heart’s content without dropping a single baht.
However, there are some must-do activities that might be worth factoring into your budget. Here’s a quick look at them and what they could cost:
- A full starter PADI course to learn how to dive – 6,750 THB ($199)
- Entry to the incredible Secret Buddha Garden statue park – 80 THB ($2.30)
- A day out at the Pink Elephant, Samui Water Park – 990 THB ($29) per adult
- Cooking class in a well-known local kitchen – 2,800 THB ($85)
The cost of getting to and around Koh Samui
Koh Samui is one of the lucky islands in that it has its very own airport. There was a time when it was entirely owned and operated by Bangkok Airways, but some other carriers have since been allowed to jet in. That said, the most common link to the runways here is the short-haul with Bangkok Airways themselves to and from the Thai capital. It goes upwards of five times per day in the high season, and costs about $130 each way.
You’ll need to add that onto the price of a long-haul connection over to Thailand itself. They can vary wildly but you’re usually looking at about $500-1,000 return in the peak season from Europe and perhaps a little more than that if you’re flying in from the USA. Most of the airlines that run the route – Qatar, Thai, Emirates – won’t charge any extra for checked baggage.
Once you’re on the ground in Koh Samui, you can either rent a car (about $17+ per day) or use the taxis. Most people go for the latter and then supplement that with scooter rentals. There are fixed transfer prices on the island. Expect to pay 600 THB ($17.70) to Lamai Beach, 700 THB ($20.50) to Nathon Pier, and about 450 THB ($13.30) to Chaweng.
Is Koh Samui expensive? – our verdict
So, is Koh Samui expensive? That depends on how you look at it. We’d say that Koh Samui, mainly because it’s a big tourist hotspot, has stunning beaches, and is detached from the mainland, is a touch pricier than the rest of the Land of Smiles. However, it’s still very affordable when you compare it to other destinations around the globe, especially the UK and the USA.
We think you’ll need a budget of about $500-600 to keep you going for a week here. That’s per person and in the midrange. You can pay a lot more (up to $4,000-6,000 a week!) if you want to crank up the luxury to the extreme, or cut it down (to as little as $200-300 per week) if you’re on a shoestring.