While Elizaveta and the southern hemisphere is currently rocking out to the warm weather, us northerners aren’t so lucky. The days are cold and dark (Edinburgh’s sun set around 3:30 pm in December though it is slowly getting lighter later! My skin though is so freakin’ white I’m just vapours, which really just blends into the atmospheric Edinburgh fog) and if you’re like me, you may be craving some winter sun after the busy holidays. Of course January can be the most skint month of the year – but if you plan carefully – you can take advantage of all the great flight deals that are offered at the beginning of the year. Now that is a resolution I can get behind!
So why Thailand? Well last year, when Elizaveta had to leave Edinburgh because her work visa ran out (lots of wine bottles were emptied while trying to come to terms with this), we decided the best way to deal with a sad situation was to travel somewhere far away, tropical, inexpensive and warm with good friends. A mutual friend of ours had recommended Koh Lanta, Thailand for its chilled island vibes – away from the hard core Full Moon parties and overly touristic areas. I’ll write a more detailed post on the island itself but it’s the best holiday that I’ve had to date.
However, before we enjoyed the beautiful island – we had to get there first. And should you also want to visit this tropical haven – here’s how we did it and how much I spent.
We took advantage of Black Friday deals in November and I scored a return flight from Edinburgh on Etihad (dubbed World’s Leading Airline 2016) to Bangkok for only £430 (US $547). That’s cheaper than travelling from Edinburgh to Ohio to see family! My friend from Chicago and Elizaveta and her partner, who were in Moscow at the time, also scored great deals from their departure countries too.
Hot tip: Take advantage of airlines’ Black Friday (the last Friday in November) deals and plan your trip for January!
If you’re planning on travelling around Thailand, the best way is to book your long-haul flight to Bangkok and then book a separate domestic flight (find the best rate through Skyscanner) to your final destination. We booked a return domestic flight through Thai Airways for only £62 (or US $76 and there were cheaper ones for around £40/ US $49 return), which was way less than if we were to book all of our flights together. Don’t forget to check out Holiday Pirates as well – they offer amazing flights, accommodation and packaged deals flying worldwide from the UK.
Once you’re fanning yourself with you plane tickets – now it’s time to book accommodation. Hotels.com, Booking.com and Airbnb are great places to find your holiday accommodation. Hotels.com and Booking.com allow you to book and pay on the day of arrival. So if budgets are tight, you can still score a great hotel room/rental house and pay once you’ve saved up.
Koh Lanta is quite a big island with different beach vibes dotted around the island. So make sure you understand each beachy feels before booking accommodation. Below are a list of the most popular and bigger beaches – there are smaller and more secluded ones as well if you want to hermit it up.
- Klong Dao Beach: We stayed here. It’s near the top of the island and near shops and restaurants. It’s great for paddle boarding, beach volleyball and yoga. But you have a few other options on the island.
- Long Beach, like its name suggests, is the longest beach on the island and is just down from where we stayed. It has a great stretch of clear sandy beaches with restaurants
- Klong Khong Beach is south of Long Beach and is the rockiest of all the beaches with plenty of budget bungalows and is great for nightlife as there are plenty of bars and fire shows.
- Klong Nin Beach is quite far south on the island and has high waves and plenty of bungalows dotted down the beach.
- Kantiang Bay is near the southern tip of the island and is the posh beach, which is even quieter than all the other beaches (which are all pretty chill). It’s perfect for honeymooners and couples but has a rockier bay.
We chose to stay on Klong Dao Beach as it was close to a yoga studio, offered cheap accommodation and had access to restaurants, bars, convenient shops and ATM. We stayed at Lanta Garden Home. It was just on the beach, had a beautiful pool and was next door to a spa were you could have a massage by the beach during the day and next to a bar where you could chill in the sand listening to relaxing tunes with a beer at night. The hotel’s customer service was also so kind and friendly and gave us discounted prices on all activities.
Now that you have the two most expensive items out of the way – don’t forget to finalise all short distance travel enroute to your hotel. One of the easiest and cheapest way is to contact your hotel after you’ve booked your accommodation. We had an air conditioned van pick us up at Krabi airport and took us directly to our hotels (54 km/33 miles) for only £65 (US $80 or £16/US $19 each for 4 people). You can also take a speedboat to your hotel from the Krabi airport, which is faster; however, this is pricier – at £48 (US $59) one way. If you book a cab they charge you an agreed rate for the taxi not per person so it works out cheaper if you’re travelling in a group as compared to other methods.
Hot tip: Book your cab ride to/from airport and your trip activities through your hotel.
Once you’re on the island, you can barter with tuk tuks to take you around to various beaches and points of interest at a cheap rate. We were able to fit 4 of us in the tuk tuk to reduce costs even further. We also walked quite a bit or secured transportation with snorkeling packages. You can also rent motorbikes for the day through most hotels. Make sure you have a valid driver’s licence and feel comfortable driving the heavy metal bikes into busy island traffic.
My rough budget for 10 days (prices as of Jan 2016)
- Return flights (Edi->Bangkok on Etihad Airways): £430 (US $517.50)
- Return flight (Bangkok -> Krabi on Thai Airways): £62 (US $75/ 2,680 baht)
- Taxi (Krabi to Lanta Garden Hotel, Koh Lanta) for 4 people: £65 (US $79/ 2,800 baht)
- Koh Lanta to Krabi Express Airport Transfer (via speedboat): £48 (US $58/ 2,045 baht)
- 10 nights (double bed with AC) hotel stay on Klong Dao Beach: £248 (US $299/ 10,725 baht per person)
- Tuk tuk ride to Lanta Old Town (4 people ride – barter costs): 47 pence (US 57 cents/ 20 baht)
- 1 hour beach side massage: £11-£18 (US $14-22/ 500-800 baht)
- All day snorkelling trip to Koh Rok and Koh Muk (the Emerald Cave) incl transport, lunch, water & equipment: £32 (US $40/ 1,400 baht)
- All day snorkelling trip to Koh Ngai and Koh Chuek incl transport, lunch, water & equipment: £32 (US $40/ 1,400 baht)
- Paddle boarding: £18 (US $22/ 800 baht) for 1 hr
- Yoga: £9 (US $11/ 400 baht per class) or £41 (US $50/ 1,750 baht) for 5 classes
Total costs: £1,000.47 (US $1,226.71)
Total baht spent on transport, activities (this is factored into total cost above): 24,770 baht
I haven’t included food expenses as these are bespoke to each traveler, their budget and their preference. You can very easily each cheaply – having a side, main and beer for £1.50 (US $1.85) – or eat for more. I hope this gives you a rough idea planning costs for a Koh Lanta or Thai islands visit. Keep in mind that prices were from January 2016 and most of all – soak up the amazing experience you’re about to have! You won’t regret it. x