In the southern Thailand you can literally experience a true taste of paradise. How? Just go to Koh Lipe Island located near Thai border with Malaysia. And trust us, you don’t need a fortune to spend your vacation there. We do not propose holidays in luxury resorts but those on a budget spent in a much more interesting way, eating in bars with local people for 50 THB (about 1.25USD), sleeping in a tent for 5USD and, yes, this can all be done in Koh Lipe! There are some things, however, that you cannot skip, like e.g. cost of ferry to the island and the entrance fee to the Tarutao National Park, which this idyllic island belongs to. More info below 🙂
About the island
About 100 years ago a group of people living in areas close to Koh Lipe called chao ley (or sea gypsies) settled on the island. Currently the population of Urak Lawoi equals to almost 800 people representing a significant percentage of the labor force on the island as well as conducting their own local businesses. The island itself boasts of the most beautiful beaches in the world and advertises itself as a good place for snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s possible to visit the whole island by walking in approximately 1-3 hours and surprisingly there is a high availability of services and facilities such as: a hospital, a clinic, a couple of mini-markets, several pharmacies, shops with professional equipment for the shooting / diving, barber’s shop, massage salons & spa, plenty of bars and restaurants. But despite the fact that the island is so small there are a lot of places where you can just relax and get away from the crowds, and some parts of the island seem literally solitary, which seems amazing looking at the number of tourists visiting the island. Here is a map of Koh Lipe, where you can find, among others, good places for snorkelling almost right at the beach (note fish marked in a circle on the map) instead of paying for a boat trip or for diving.
Below you can find some photos taken in the chao ley village.
How to get there?
You can get to Koh Lipe from Bangkok by plane, bus or train to Trang and then take a ferry. We purchased a train ticket online for about 25USD per person and took a night train from Bangkok. Here you can find the address of the website:
The train was very comfortable, we left at 6:30pm from Bangkok and we arrived in Trang approximately at 10:00am. Please note! After booking via website you receive a voucher via e-mail, not a ticket!, and you need to collect the ticket from the so-called DOB Building (of course local people have no idea about the building and don’t speak English). How to get to the building? You have to follow the signs to the Exit no. 2 in the subway, and go out to the surface looking to the left, there will appear an orange-and-white building, then some store / pharmacy, in the meantime you will see some stalls and the same ”know-nothing sellers”, then you need to go further until on the left-hand side you’ll see the glass doors and somewhat hidden office of DOB building ! Michal was at that time waiting for me with all our bags at the station, and me – running around like crazy looking for this place having 15 minutes to the train departure – hope it will not happen to any of you!
Arriving in Trang, what next? You can pay THB 900/950 (24USD) altogether for the transport to the harbour and ferry to Koh Lipe. You can buy this option in a travel agency (unless you prefer to do it on your own and pay for a taxi / tuk-tuk taking you 7km away to the bus station, then pay for the bus, and then go by ferry – if you want to catch the last ferry on the same day – not recommended). Just opposite to the railway station in Trang there is the tourist information and a travel agency (2 in 1), that we can honestly recommend. They called a driver of a minivan coming from the airport to pick us up on the way but it was full so the agency arranged a private air-con car and we were taken to the pier for the same price (40 -45min drive).
It takes approximately 3 hours by ferry to finally get to the pier in Koh Lipe but.. suddenly you notice that you are dropped off a little bit away from the shore and there is an unexpected entrance fee to pay for entering the Tarutao National Park. The exact amount to pay is 200THB (5USD for foreigners – adults) plus a fee for a small boat (50THB – 1.25USD) taking you to the shore of the island.
Where to stay?
If you want to make it the cheapest way possible we offer you accommodation in a tent for 200THB (5USD) per person in Lipe Camping Zone. You can also stay in bungalows at the same place. They have a really nice chillout zone with a bar with hammocks and reggae music until 2:00 at night, and unfortunately, poor Wi-Fi … How to get there? After getting off the boat head towards the left along the Pattaya Beach until you get to the Z-Touch Resort, where you will notice the tree with the following sign: Lipe Camping Bar. Turn right before the sign, go straight ahead passing the resort and then a little bit up the hill and you will easily find this place on the left-hand side: ) Their reggae music will be heard from the distance. The owners are a little crazy but it was just one of the advantages of this space 🙂 There was a shared bathroom (”wild nature” style :P) available to all both sleeping in tents and bungalows (its standard version was also available).
In the pic above : a characteristic tree with the sign indicating Lipe Camping Bar.
What to eat?
Koh Lipe has plenty of bars and restaurants, and frankly, it is easy to get ripped-off! However, if you control your budget and instead of spending 300-500THB (7-14USD) or even more on dinner opt for spending 50-200THB (1-5USD), you can do that, believe us, it’s feasible. The island is diverse in terms of food due to the proximity to the border with Malaysia, so you can try not only the typical Thai food but also Indian and a Muslim one. The famous ”Walking Street ” on the island has rather more expensive options, but do not worry, we can find a place within the price limit mentioned above 🙂
Option 1: fresh grilled gsnails for 150THB (4USD) for 250g – Rak-Lay Restaurant
Option 2: bamboo clams for 150THB (4USD) – Rak-Lay Restaurant
Option 3: Chicken Noodle Soup / or any other dish for 50THB (1.25USD) in one of the local bars slightly off the beaten track. Going from the Sunrise Beach just go through the playground near the school, then go left until you come across a bar combined with a grocer’s shop:
The woman preparing a soup shared with us its ingredients: a Malaysian sauce normally bought in bottles, pasta, rice and green leaves of morning glory added to almost any soup on the island. Local children watched in disbelief as we scoffed down ”their” soup. It was evident that only local people working in the nearby school and the surrounding area were coming here for lunch.
Option 4: Muslim sweet or salty roti for 40-60THB (1-1.50USD) – for sure you will have to eat more of them to fill your stomach 😛
Option 5: Muslim sweet pancake with coconut, carrots and sesame for 40THB (1USD) or ordinary pancakes served with fruit
Option 6: fresh grilled fish with 2 sauces (garlic and chilli) in the Rak-Lay Restaurant for a minimum of 200THB (5USD).
Option 7: snacks from barbecue on Walking Street for 10THB (0.25USD) only!
What to drink?
You can buy the cheapest and really the best fruit shakes on the island when going to Sunrise Beach near the chao ley village, where a woman is doing them for 40THB (1USD).
Cost of drinks in the shop:
Coca-Cola: 50THB (1.25USD)
Small Chang beer in the can: 38THB (1USD)
Bottled Chang Beer (620ml): 70THB (1.75-2USD)
Mineral water (1.5l): 20THB (0.50USD)
Hong Tong Whiskey (380ml): 160THB (4USD)
Wine: 200-400THB (5-10USDPLN)
What is worth seeing?
There are some activities that can be done for free. For example, provided that you have the equipment for snorkelling you can dive close to the shore points marked on the map in the photo at the beginning of the post. Besides you can explore the whole island entirely on foot, observe the villagers’everyday life or climb the viewpoint and reach out to all of its corners, especially those which are peaceful and calm, and you can spend the whole day like this. The island has only 3 beaches: Pattaya Beach, Sunset Beach and Sunrise Beach. On the left and the right end of Sunrise Beach you will find the most beautiful places for winding down and sunbathing (snorkelling as well!). On the left end of the beach you will find a distinctive point of the island known from postcards, where you can see the promontory, which is now a little bit smaller but still beautiful, drenched in turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea. On the right end of the beach we recommend you to get to the other side of the rocks and reach the ” private ” beach of Serendipity Resort. The beach is literally a small charming cove limited by the rocks on the left and right side. You will see a lot of small crabs there!
The view from the viewpoint on the island.
A charming cove near Serendipity Resort.
One of chillout bars at Sunrise Beach.
In the distance, the famous small promontory with a beautiful beach.
Buddhist temple on the island.
If you stay longer than 3-4 days on the island and you are fed up with sunbathing, snorkelling, and wandering around Lipe, you can always decide to use some other activities. Kayaking (a canoe for 2 people costs 700THB / 18USD for the whole day) or go on one of the tours offered by travel agencies – but bear in mind that the deals on Koh Lipe are quite expensive compared to offers from Phuket and Krabi, as well as many other services offered to tourists (e.g. massages on Lipe cost about 500THB / 13-15USD – probably you consider it as cheap? Maybe, but in Phuket / Krabi you will pay 200-300THB / 5-9USD for the same…