When arriving at Phuket ferry terminal, you are welcomed by agents offering single tickets for 600 Baht and return tickets for 1,000 Baht. They give you a voucher in return and take you to the official ticket office/table. Officialy the one way cost of the ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi Don is 580 Baht, plus an additional 20 Baht tax at the Phi Phi Don side. The tickets sold at the Phuket side does not include the Phi Phi Don tax of 20 Baht. Return tickets to Phuket can be bought at 300 Baht on Phi Phi Don Island.
Unique Suggestions: Rather buy a single trip ticket from the official ticket office. Buy a return ticket at any of the advertised shops/stalls.
Signed up with a group of friends for an island hopping tour via speedboat from phuket island . Tour included Maya Bay (best known for The Beach flick starring ol' Leo) with stops at Khai island, and several Phi Phi islands stops : Monkey bay, Viking cave, Pileh Cove, and Loh Samah bay. This was the worse idea we had in phuket. Firstly,we spent more time in crammed in a speedboat with 40+ tourists instead of relaxing at a beachside/ snorkelling/ swimming.
The first stop was at Khai island which is a huge waste of time . While the beach is lovely and the water clear, it is spoilt by too many tourists and locals out to get a quick buck. The inviting chairs and beach umbrellas are available for rent at 150 baht and drinks are somewhat overpriced too, e.g. 100 baht for a coconot - in patong, one can get a coconut for less than half that price. Hardly any corals and only small groups of fishes too.
The tour also included 'photo stops' at several coves which in my opinion, was a waste of time since we were not allowed to go out to swim or explore the coves even though there were other people in the sea/ beaches. The stops was just to provide us to snap some photos from the speedboat.
The best place was at Maya bay.HOwever, that's not saying much as up to perhaps a third of the corals appear dead and broken due mainly to the tsunami . Still, this is a an interesting place to snorkel and I was happy to see parrot fishes, zebra fishes, sea urchins and even a sea snake. The downside was that the tour only allowed us a mere 30 mins to snorkel there.
Our guide was a man who insisted on being called shakira. While entertaining as a performer, he was a disappointment as a guide. The tour started late (but ended right on time) and the guide himself was always among the last 5 stragglers to board the speedboat at every stop.
What disappointed me the most was the fact that the tour guide kept pushing us to rent fins for 100 baht . While I don't mind forking out for this , indeed I planned to all along , I resented the fact that he wasted a good 10 mins of our time 'selling' the fins to us before we started our tour but did NOT warn tourists to be careful not to harm the corals with their fins. I won't name the tour agency as my experience could be an exception rather than the rule.
Unique Suggestions: Charter your own boat and go early in the morning. Have no idea how much this would cost, but I spotted what looked like locals taking small groups of 3-5 persons in private boats. Could be local fishermen. Avoid Khai island.
Fun Alternatives: May be better to avoid island hopping all together and just arrange to stay a couple of nights at Phi Phi island..
Yes you have got to go but its not all that good really. When we went it was quite quiet but there was a lot of rubbish on the beach and in the sea - this place obviously gets very busy.
Unique Suggestions: Don't stay too long! There are other places nearby that are fantastic for snorkeling and are beautiful and unspoiled.
Famous after the film with Leonardo the Caprio, Maya Beach on Phi Phi Lay is a popular spot to visit from the main island Phi Phi Don. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who go there every day, and thus the place might not be as you imagine in the film. Also the corals along the beach and 100 meters out from the shore are all damaged due to the daily boat traffic.
Unique Suggestions: Buy the DVD at a cheap price and at least you can say "I was there"...
The moment you get off your boat and head down the pier, you are practically attacked by hawkers who offer anything and everything from hotels to packages.
Some of these are MAYBE legit, but most are just poor Thai's who know the island like the back of their hand and are looking to make a buck by either transporting your luggage for you or offering you a "deal" for a hotel room or other adventure activity.
They are fully aware that most tourists are tired and want to settle in a hotel as quickly as possible and they are aware you don't know where you are going. If you already have a booking at a hotel, they will try and get you to give them your luggage and they will transport it for you to the hotel, all for a charge.
Unique Suggestions: If you're loaded down with luggage and don't want to bother lugging it to a hotel, go ahead and agree for these people to lug it for you, but agree on a price first. Always negotiate a price beforehand and stay away from other offers for other services as the hotel will take care of things once you arrive.
Fun Alternatives: Me?
I wouldn't bother with these hawkers. I never did anyway. Most, if not all of the hotels in the area are within walking distance. Just ask which direction and refuse to pay some hawker to take you there.
These vultures are omnipresent, every day of your stay. They hang out on the strip and hawk everything from restaurant fare to long boat rides. Ignore them
When arriving to your accomodation, the guesthouse owners will usually start with their prices high, you'll have to bargain. Shop around to many around the island, you'll get the feel of what a good price is. If you know you're staying for over 4 nights, then use that as a bargaining tool. Most places will chop the price if you commit to staying longer.
OK since the filming of "The Beach" on Maya Bay not far from Koh Phi Phi there are thousands upon thousands of tourists come to take snaps of the beach every day during peak season from September through May, hoards of boats arrive around lunchtime and this is when its looks like a cross between a Japanese Photography Convention, and National Day of Scuba Diving Skills - i'm not joking.
Unique Suggestions: So, assuming that most people would at least like to pay it a visit during their holiday then my big tip is to go very early in the morning on a longtail boat around 10am, from there you can carry on to Monkey Beach / Island, the Lagoon (at high tide) and Long Beach - the driver will charge you about £10 for the day and can fit around 6 people on the boat, and they often have snorkels on board to lend you free of charge. Take a picnic if you're going to do this, and plenty of sunscreen and drinking water, as it can get as hot as 40 degrees.
Fun Alternatives: There is no alternative, unless you don't wish to visit the bay at all. That would be a real shame.
Maya Bay was used as a location for the infamous Di Caprio movie "The Beach". Since then it has become some sort of pilgrimage spot for travelers, and it's especially popular with Asian package tour groups who literally invade this place. It has become so bad that they now even charge a fee of 30B to enter the beach.
Whether you want to participate in this hype or not is up to you, just don't come with big expectations.
It's still a beautiful place, but even in low season ridiculously crowded.
Koh Phi Phi - beautiful double-island in the south in Andaman Sea.
Totally overcrowded; I and my wife stayed there 7-nights at March 2002. Corals are broken in many areas around the Phi Phi and it is nearly impossible to find peaceful beach area. It is OK to have many people on the beach, but the noise of the hordes of long tail boats is quite irritating from day to day.
Between the islands there are huge tourist village - with dozens of familiar scuba rentals, music bars and souvenir sellers. This is OK, but the Thai food (5 restaurants tested) is only from bulk to moderate at Koh Phi Phi, because tourists do not mind to request decent dining. If you are only after pizza and kebab, then the food chain of Phi Phi might be ok. But do not expect any culinarist experience.
At March 2002 there was a news in Bangkok Post, that Phi Phi might be closed for tourists maybe a year or two. Temporary closing might be very healthy operation to the corals and nature of Phi Phi.
The beaches of Phi Phi island can be very crowded when the tourists boats arrive. It's not nice to be on the small Phi Phi Le when it's too crowded.