Even on a budget, you can really enjoy a holiday in Koh Samui. These 10 tips for saving money in Samui will certainly help you to keep some of your hard-earned dough for adding a cherry on the top of your holiday’s cake - something like a day trip to Ang Thong Marine National, or a fine dinner at one of the many upscale restaurants on the island, all while making the most of your vacation without spending too much.
This list of tips for spending a memorable holiday in Samui on a budget gives you advice regarding the most common expenditures on vacation. This includes travelling around, eating, shopping, sightseeing and accommodation. You can save a lot with the tips on display below.
Eat Street Food or at Local Restaurants
Generally, food is pretty affordable in Thailand. It’s only expensive in restaurants serving international or Thai dishes dedicated to tourists. You can eat pretty well without spending too much in Samui. Street food is delicious and very cheap. It’s available in the weekly fresh and night markets, as well as in permanent fairs such as Chaweng Walking Street. Local Thai restaurants are also at hand all around Samui. They serve the favourite Thai dishes such as pad Thai (fried noodles) or kway teow (noodle soup) for about 60 baht per plate.
Visit free attractions
Most of the major landmarks and natural attractions in Samui can be visited for free. There’s definitely a great number of beautiful sites to see in Samui without spending a dime: waterfalls such as Namuang and Hin Lad, temples including Samui Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem, as well as all the beaches - 24 strips of sand, plus many little coves hidden in between that require a little bit of exploration to find.
Travel around by Songthaew
The most most economical way to get around Samui is by songthaew. Songthaew means ‘two benches’ in Thai, they are mini pickup trucks with a roofed back, in which 2 benches allow up to 10 people to sit. They are the main public transport system in Samui. You can find them on the Ring Road and in the resort towns. Most of the time, their destination is written on their rear. They have no schedule and you can hop on or hop off wherever you like. For less than 100 baht, you can get anywhere around Samui - just negotiate the price of your journey before to get in.
Shop at Tesco for snacks and drinks
Two Tesco Lotus supermarkets can be found in Chaweng, with another each in Lamai, and Nathon. They are generally the cheapest grocery stores for buying drinks, snacks, toiletries and other necessities. Just slightly more expensive, yet available everywhere throughout Koh Samui, are the convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart. Local mom and pop’s grocery stores are also available everywhere, to get a beer or a Fanta with a bag of chips at rock-bottom rates.
Shop at night markets for souvenirs
Night markets and walking streets are really great places to visit. Some of them are held once a week while some others are opened daily – Chaweng Walking Street for instance. You’ll find there a tremendous choice of souvenirs – t-shirts, handicrafts, sunglasses and much more - at very interesting prices to bring back home to your family and friends, after haggling. Bargaining is the fundamental part of shopping in night markets. Keep your cool, smile, start by cutting the opening price the vendor gives you by half, then see how things go from there.
Withdraw Large Amounts from ATMs
This tip is rather straight forward common sense: when using an ATM, banks charge you a usage fee that reaches 200 baht for all ATMs in Thailand, but the AEON machines found in large supermarkets such as Tesco Lotus and Big C, ‘only’ charge 150 baht. Your own bank will probably also add a fee, too. Therefore, it’s a good move to use ATMs as rarely as possible by withdrawing larger amounts once or twice during your holiday. Another tip is to avoid to pay with your credit card in shops, as an additional 3% fee is added to your bill.
Be Wary of Common Scams
Common sense and keeping an eye opened are the best way to not fall into the traps set by dishonest people. Crime is rather uncommon in Samui but, as one of the prime holiday destinations in Thailand, it naturally attracts a few con artists. Just be cautious with your money and belongings and do not trust everyone. When a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. The most common scams often include jet ski operators, time-sharing agents, taxi drivers and, in general, people who approach you in the street with an outstanding deal for you.
Travel in the Low Season
Samui features two high seasons, from December to February and in July-August. The monsoon hits the island from September to November, and the period between March and June is extremely hot and relatively less popular to visitors. If you do not mind rainfalls or heavy heat, these times of the year are the best to visit Samui at rack rates. With incredible deals on accommodation, on excursions and even in some shops and restaurants, you’ll save a fair amount of money by coming in Samui off season.
Stay at One of the Quiet Beaches
Most of the time, prices increase with the popularity of a destination. The prime resort towns in Samui, such as Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut, and Maenam, are generally more expensive to stay in than smaller and less-sought-after beaches. Basically, the more local you go, the less you’ll spend. While this could see you staying a little further away from the top attractions, restaurants and nightlife, Samui is small enough that this is rarely a big problem.
Check Out Our List of Cheap Hotels
To help you find the best accommodation choices according to your budget and tastes, we have listed the most popular cheap hotels in Samui. We have even broken down the list include the best choices in the more popular resort towns, including Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut and Maenam. We’ve also created a special page for beach lovers on a budget: 10 best beachfront resorts for less than US$100 per night. Check these pages out and have a great vacation in Samui!