The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand
Last year over 10 million tourists flocked to Phuket, Thailand in search of the perfect beach, delicious food and the perfect exotic vacation. And while Phuket has the beaches, the food and the feel of paradise, it has also developed tremendously fast in the past few years and is struggling the keep up with the constant horde of visitors it receives.
Only a two hour ferry ride off the east coast of Phuket lays the Phi Phi Islands. Made up of Phi Phi Don (the main island) and Phi Phi Lay (a smaller national park), they boast some of the more iconic Thai scenes anyone could imagine. Littered with gorgeous white sand beaches, the water is always that extra bright shade of blue and the snorkeling; diving and water activities are top notch.
In our “Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island” we will give you all the information you need for a complete trip to the islands and all you need to know to maximize your time in paradise.
How to Get There:
First things first you will need to get transportation from Phuket or Krabi out to Phi Phi Don. Boats leave daily from Phuket, most days at 9am and 2:30pm. A one way ticket will cost you just 250 baht, which a round trip ticket costing 400baht (around $13USD). Tickets are sold on almost every single corner in Phuket and you will have no problem purchasing one. Any hotel will be able to get you one, or any street stand selling tourist activities, as trips to Phi Phi are among the most desired. Your ticket will include a transfer via mini bus from your hotel to the Rassada Pier.
Make sure to buy your ferry tickets BEFORE you arrive at the ferry. If you wait until you arrive at the pier to buy your ticket, you will pay 1,000 baht round trip, almost double what it would cost to get a round trip ticket and transfer to and from your hotel. We got burned by this once, it stings.
The ferry ride itself can vary from day to day as there are about 10 ferries of differing shapes and sizes that sail daily. Some have complete mini bars, comfortable inside seats and generally comfortable accommodations. Others are more bare bones and while they will still get you there, offer less inside seating, no chairs on the deck and less than desirable toilets. But not to worry, the ride is only about 2 hours and then you are there.
TIP: Stop by one of the many pharmacies around Phuket and ask for Dramamine, or any other pill for motion sickness. A blister pack of 10 pills will cost you around 150B and often really help with the varying degrees of rough seas. Remember to ask for the non-drowsy kind, learn from our mistakes!
Once you have landed at the pier in Phi Phi Don you will be required to pay a 20baht island tax. This money is collected by the local government to keep Phi Phi clean and beautiful and is hardly a hassle to keep the islands looking as beautiful as they do. Does the money actually go to keeping the islands beautiful – who knows.
Where to Stay:
As you walk down the pier you will undoubtedly be bombarded by Thai locals displaying laminated signs showing pictures of every type of accommodation from high scale resorts (there are only a few) to simple island bungalows (there are tons). A simple fan room can go for as little as 400baht with a private double room with AC for around 900baht. If traveling with a group of friends, try finding a dorm room option. These rooms generally offer between 4-8 beds and can cost as little as 250baht per person (around $10USD). If you are searching for a nicer hotel, you can find a handful of “luxury options” on the island complete with swimming pools, room service and a gym.
TIP: There are no roads or cars on the Phi Phi Islands so wherever you stay just remember you will have to walk there. The lack of cars make the island experience much more enjoyable and bicycles are available everywhere. However, Phi Phi is small enough to walk anywhere, just remember you will have to carry your luggage or stay in a place that will wheel it around for you.
Marine House offers a quiet environment with private rooms and dorm rooms available. The kindly provide beach towels, which is super helpful when you forget yours and don’t want to spend the 300baht to buy one on the island. The staff is friendly, helpful and can do your laundry overnight if dropped off by 11am. Just remember to ask for bug spray for your room, sometimes a mosquito or two will find their way in.
Ban Thai is a very popular backpacker guest house run by Miss Lee, an energetic woman who will remember your name from the second you meet her until the minute you leave. Offering more rooms than Marine House, Miss Lee’s Ban Thai Guesthouse is a great place to stay with a group of friends as she has an abundance of twin rooms and is quite used to groups of young friends staying with here. Miss Lee has a row of computers available for those traveling light and without internet connection from day to day. 1 baht per minute.
Miss Lee is also very knowledgeable about all the local tours that are offered around the island. Whether you are looking to visit Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lay (the same beach made famous in the movie “The Beach”), take a day snorkeling trip on a long tail boat, an overnight scuba trip or a day long fishing trip, Miss Lee can set it up, reserve you a spot and make the planning effortless.
Our Recommendation: Both Phi Phi Charlie and Phi Phi Princess are owned by the same people and offer the perfect mix of location, comfort and amenities. While nothing fancy, their rooms are comfortable, have free wifi and aircon. An average double room will cost about $50 a night and adding an extra bed will cost you around $15. They also offer a family room which can sleep 4 people comfortably. Easily the best bonus to staying here is their amazing infinity pool looking out over the amazing Tonsai bay. Many chose to spend their hungover mornings and rowdy afternoons in the pool by the swim up bar, easily the best pool on the island and a great place to mingle with other travelers. The cost of the room includes a great breakfast buffet, thai and western food and both sets of rooms (Charlie and Princess) are a short 1 minute walk down the beach from Slinky Bar and Woodies, where you will most likely be ending you night.
TIP: Unless you are staying at a high-end hotel make sure to bring soap and shampoo with you, as many of the budget options do not provide them.
What to Do:
As for activities and things to do on Phi Phi Don in the sun, the list is pretty endless. There are gorgeous beaches all over the place and its up to you how far you want to walk to find your perfect spot in the sand. The twin beaches at the heart of Phi Phi Don are pretty spectacular but are always crowded with tourists from sun up to sun down. We suggest paying 100baht for a short 5 minute trip on a local long tail boat to drop you off at Long Beach, one of our favorite beaches on the world. Just as beautiful as the rest, Long Beach boasts way less tourists than many of the other beaches and is well worth the time to get there. You can walk to Long Beach from the main drag, but it will take about 20 minutes and is very hilly.
TIP: If you go to Long Beach visit the small restaurant on the sand and try their Penang Curry sandwich, its delicious!
The majority of visitors to Phi Phi are young backpackers and many are inspired to visit Phi Phi to visit Maya Bay and say they have been to “The Beach”. Speedboats and longtails make the trip all day long and you can rent them by the hour. The longtail boats seat about 6 comfortably and can be had for 1,000Baht an hour. The speed boats vary in size and how many people the can hold, and can go for up to 5,000baht an hour.
TIP: Bring snacks with you on any day trip to Phi Phi Lay. Remember, it is a national park and almost completely undeveloped. There is nothing more than a small set of bathrooms and a shack that sells overpriced canned beer and potato chips. Stop in one of the many mini marts before you leave and grab a back of goodies for the day.
If you want to maximize your time, or only have an afternoon to fit in all you can, we suggest taking an afternoon trip which will include a boat out to Phi Phi Lay for afternoon snorkeling (fins and masks included), a trip past the famous Viking Caves, a sunset trip to Maya Bay (so much nicer once all the tourists have left), a complete Thai meal on the boat and some include night snorkeling with phosphorescent plankton. We recommend making sure it is NOT a full moon if you want to do the plankton snorkeling as the light, even at night, makes them almost impossible to see.
Many half and full day trips like this are available all over the island and range in price from 400b for a half day to 1,2000b for the plankton version.
Once the sun sets on the island, everything gets a bit more exciting. The volume gets turned up, and the main area of the island becomes the ultimate party playground. But before you go too crazy you’ve got to eat, and we have a couple places we would suggest to fill your stomach before you enjoy too many buckets on the beach.
Where to Eat:
Consistently rated number one is a small restaurant called Anna’s. It is located up the first side street off the main drag you find yourself on when you walk off the pier. Anyone who has been on the island more than 10 minutes will be able to show you the way. Despite its popularity, it is a small place, maybe 10 tables or so, and remains authentic, friendly and offers delicious western and Thai food. Free internet, delicious shakes and a wonderfully knowledgeable staff make this a great place for a quick bite to eat or a place to hang out for hours and relax.
Breakers is as close as you are going to get to a true sports pub. Located next to the world famous Reggae Bar (which we’ll talk about next), they offer large comfortable wooden tables, an open atmosphere for anyone walking up off the street and have a wide selection of beers on tap. Their food is both delicious and fairly priced and an excellent place to meet friends, hang out and people watch or catch a game on TV.
TIP: Along with the sit down restaurants are endless rows of stalls selling all varieties of street food and no trip to Thailand would be complete without trying a few random things. Meat on sticks is a great way to go, whether you are trying fried fish balls, spicy beef, chicken, pork, who knows, but it all tastes delicious. The kebabs and samosas are amazing as are the banana pancakes. Trust us, after a couple drinks you will try some street food, no matter how much of a stomach ache you think it will give you.
At this point we have covered getting to Phi Phi, where to stay, what to do in the sun and where to eat, so now comes the most exciting part… what to do at night!
Phi Phi is a constant party when the sun goes down, 7 days a week 365 days a year, and even if you are not a big partier, some things are not to be missed.
Most people coming to Phi Phi have come from Phuket, where the idea of going to a bar swarming with bar girls and lady boys has lost its charm (if it ever had any). Phi Phi provides a much needed relief as there are no lady bars, bar girls or stripper poles in sight while offering some awesomely entertaining events in their place.
Before you head down to the beach for the real fun, make sure you stop into Reggae Bar, located right next door to Breakers. Offering anyone who wants to the chance to Muay Thai fight, you are sign up to fight a friend, your grandpa (yes, we’ve seen this), or a complete stranger. If you put your life on the line and enter the ring you are given the necessary safety equipment (headwear, gloves, shorts) and you will be given a free bucket of booze upon the completion of your 3 rounds in the ring. Buckets at Reggae Bar are 2 for 1, and are 400b each.
TIP: Buckets are popular all over Thailand as the fun and exciting way to drink your alcohol. The literally take a bucket, the kind you built sandcastles with on the beach when you were a kid, and load them up with an abundance of the alcohol and mixers of your choosing. Complete with multiple straws, it’s a fun way to share a drink with friends, but be warned, they are strong, you are drinking a literal bucket of alcohol after all.
It’s wildly entertaining to watch two liquored up backpackers go at it in the ring, with rarely any idea what they are doing between them. Every 5 fights or so real muay thai fighters enter the ring and show off some amazing moves. Part acting and part real boxing it is some of the most entertaining muay thai we have seen as it is as hard hitting as the real thing with added excitement. We have seen muay thai fighters get thrown out of the ring as well as the poor ref getting a swift kick to the nuts.
When you have seen all there is to see at Reggae Bar, follow the crowds down to the beach and find yourself a seat on the sand in front of one of the many, many beach lined bars, each displaying their own fire show. “Poi” reigns king of late night activities and it is never boring to watch people play with fire. We recommend “Slinky Bar”, directly to your left as you walk on to the beach. Music pounding from all the bars, the stakes are quite high as performers juggle flaming torches, spin sparkling spools soaked in petrol and even balance on wires balancing flaming wheels on their heads. The shows start each night, 7 days a week, around 8:30pm and last late, late into the night.
If watching the performers isn’t entertaining enough for you, just wait until they bust out the flaming jump rope and flaming limbo pole, both designed for crowd participation. Those brave enough are welcome to try their hand at jumping a flaming jump rope and the super brave can even try the double flaming jump rope, or try going doubles with another brave friend.
After the crowd has gotten their thrills from the jump rope of death, they will bring out the flaming hoop and flaming limbo pole. If you are sensing a theme here, its high stakes drinking.
Egged on by friends and a free shot for attempting either, sit back and relax watching dozens and dozens of wobbling kids jump, swerve, stumble, fall and fling themselves through the burning obstacles and dance the night away.
TIP: Once the tide goes out, it goes OUT. When you arrive at the beach past dark you will not be able to see the water at all as it has gone out sometimes up to 100 yards. (if you aren’t American and speak in meters, that’s the length of a football field… real football, American football.) Take a stroll out as far as you can walk, enjoy the striated beach below your feet and watch the pulsing lights and listen to the conflagration of music from way out in the wet sand, it’s a very cool experience.
So that’s it! You’ve got all you need to know for a complete trip to Phi Phi. You know how to get there, where to stay, places to eat and how best to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself in Phuket or are planning a trip to Thailand in the future, we highly suggest taking a trip to Phi Phi and enjoying one of the coolest beach communities we have come across. Whether you want to party til the sun comes up, relax at a quiet beach or finally conquer your fear of scuba diving, Phi Phi offers it all, all while preserving that perfect image of paradise you’ve had in your head for years.
So have fun, be safe, bring your sunscreen and take the leap!