Samui is a very safe destination to visit, but like all places that attracts large crowds, problems can occur if you’re not aware of them beforehand. Most of these potential scams and hazards are fortunately already pretty well-known and may even sound obvious to experienced travellers. However, it’s easy to forget about them in the excitement of discovering such an exciting, exotic holiday destination.
Be vigilant and stay cool, should be your motto every time you visit a new destination, especially in a foreign country. The old quote – “forewarned is forearmed” sums it up nicely, which is why we’ve listed below a collection of known problems to avoid in Samui.
There are two types of taxis in Samui: taxi meters and songthaews (pick-up taxis). Always ensure that the meter is turned on and do not accept to discuss the fare beforehand with the driver when you use taxi meters. Songthaews are cheaper than taxi meters but they have a set route so might not take you exactly to your destination. A journey by songthaew from Nathon (west coast) to Chaweng (east coast) should cost you no more than 60 baht. However, some drivers unfortunately apply double pricing. This ‘bite the hand that feeds you’ behaviour happens from time to time, and the best way to help to end this type of malpractice is to smile, pay the fare, write down the taxi’s plate number, take a photo of the driver’s licence, and report him to the police. In any case, stay cool.
Driving in Samui, and more generally in Thailand can be somewhat risky. It seems that road rules and safety are still not yet the main concern of the authorities, despite the fact the country has been ranked among the most dangerous places to drive in the world. In addition to that fact, Samui roads are generally in poor condition due to the increasing number of vehicles that use them, and the tropical maritime climate which, in low season, spoils the road surfacing. That said, driving in Samui can be very pleasant for experienced drivers, it just requires more attention and prudence, especially if you rent a motorbike. It’s certainly wise to take it slow, especially at night.
Infamous Jet Ski Scam
From Phuket to Pattaya to Samui, jet ski scams often hit the headlines. The trick is simple: after you’ve enjoyed 15 or 30 minutes at sea, the owner of the jet ski claims that you’ve damaged his vehicle and you are liable to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get it fixed, otherwise he’s going to call the police. The best way to avoid this is to simply not rent a jet ski. If you really can’t resist the appeal of having fun on a jet ski, the first thing you should do is to take as many photos of the vehicle as possible, including close-up shots, before you ride it. That may save you from being scammed by the beach boys when you return to the beach.
Going out at night in Samui is pretty safe, but the same general precautions you would take anywhere else in the world should be applied here after dark. Vigilance is the only way to avoid trouble while going out at night: pickpockets, drink spikers, and other thugs are in a tiny majority, but they are present in Samui. It’s wise to only carry the cash you need for that night (or, at least, don’t show it off), and be discreet. Also note that Thai people can be rather hot tempered after a few drinks, so it’s best to not get involved into any kerfuffle; leave it to the authorities because things can get out of hand rapidly.
Although Koh Samui has greatly improved its infrastructure (roads, electricity, hospital, and more), it’s still a tropical island covered by lush vegetation, sheltering a variety of insects and reptiles. The chances that you encounter a centipede, scorpion, or cobra during your holiday are pretty slim, yet it may happen. To stop any unexpected visitors entering your room, keep your windows and doors closed, and, if you keep your shoes outside, double check inside them before putting them on. Mosquitoes are also plentiful in Samui, and some of them carry diseases, such as Dengue, Chikungunya, and Yellow Fever. So, do not forget to use a good mosquito repellent, especially between 16:00 and 20:00; it’s the period during which Aedes Aegypti (the mosquito that spreads these fevers) is the more active.