15 Top Things To Do in Koh Tao in 2024: Travel Guide

In this ultimate guide to Koh Tao, we give you the top things to do, both known and lesser-known spots, how to get there and go around, as well as where to stay and eat.
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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Croatian-Slovenian full-time travel duo, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists for over 4 years. We write in-depth travel guides about destinations we have personally visited, providing practical travel tips and recommendations.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - aerial view of June Juea beach

About Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a stunning island situated in the Gulf of Thailand, also known as “Turtle Island” due to its historical abundance of turtles in the surrounding waters. 

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - 
 Snorkeling with a turtle

Koh Tao is a paradise for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts, with crystal-clear waters teeming with abundant marine life. It’s what makes Koh Tao one of the best destinations for underwater exploration. 

If you want to get certified in open-water diving while seeing a lot of stuff, then Koh Tao is the place to be. Excellent diving conditions almost all year round and one of the most affordable prices are why so many visit Koh Tao to get scuba diving certified.

And did you know that if you’re lucky, you can see a whale shark in Koh Tao?

Tanote Bay beach aerial drone shot, Koh Tao, Thailand

But that’s not all – this tropical island also offers a range of other exciting activities and attractions for you to enjoy. 

Koh Tao Travel Tips

Before we jump into the top things to do in Koh Tao, let’s cover the travel essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to this incredible island in Thailand.

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Koh Tao is easy to explore on your own, but for some guided experiences, we recommend booking the top-rated ones on Viator or GetYourGuide.

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Travel map

We have compiled a Koh Tao Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.

Top things to do in Koh Tao

Let’s dive into the top things to do in Koh Tao, starting with the thing that this island is the most known for.

1. Go diving

Diving is the top thing to do in Koh Tao and the main reason why so many people visit this fascinating island. But read along to see why it’s not the only one!

Open Water Scuba Diving Course, Koh Tao, Thailand - in scuba diving gear ready to dive, dive boat

Koh Tao has fantastic and diverse dive sites that attract divers from all over the world.

For decades, countless diving schools on Koh Tao island have offered courses suitable for beginners and experienced divers alike.

Another benefit of so many diving centers in Koh Tao is that you can find one that offers courses in your own language. Although, of course, this wasn’t the case for us, as our countries’ combined population is merely 6 million (Croatia & Slovenia). 😁

Going on a try dive before going for a certification

If you’re still in the decision phase regarding diving and you’re not entirely sure if you will like it, and don’t want to commit to the full course, go on a try dive.

Group of divers underwater while Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

Try dives in Koh Tao are amazing and worth the money! The water is clear, and there is abundant marine life, so even if you don’t decide to get certified, it’s still worth the experience!

We personally didn’t feel like going for a try dive before getting our Open Water 20 certification.

And that’s because we got pretty comfortable while snorkeling and breath-hold diving a few meters deep on our numerous trips around Thailand.

We went to places like Similan Islands, Surin Islands, and Phi Phi Islands, where there was much to see underwater. So for Koh Tao, it made sense to get underwater for longer and properly dive.

Open Water 20 course

The most common diving course is the Open Water 20, which allows you to dive to a max depth of 20 meters.

We did an Open Water 20 course with La Bombona diving school, lasting 3,5 days. And in that time, we did four open-water dives with a fantastic crew and had a lot of fun.

Open Water Scuba Diving Course, Koh Tao, Thailand - pool session
Our instructor Camilla teaching us the basics in a pool session.

Advanced Explorer 30 course

While Open Water 20 is the most popular certificate and what most people leave Koh Tao with, we highly recommend the Advanced 30 course if you have the extra time and money.

And that’s because so many incredible dive sites are just below the 20-meter mark, so you can’t get to it with only the 20 one.

You can easily continue with the Advanced 30 training, which lasts 2 days and involves 5 open-water dives, including a night dive.

Bluespotted ribbontail stingray seen while Scuba Diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

Fun dives

For those already certified in scuba diving, Koh Tao offers frequent daily fun dives to the many amazing dive sites around Koh Tao.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Scuba Diving with fish

And there are incredible diving sites a bit further out from Koh Tao, like the famous Sail Rock, halfway between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.

If you plan on doing the scuba diving course in Koh Tao, we recommend adding at least a fun dive or two after you’re certified. You will love it!

Scuba Diving among schools of fish in Koh Tao, Thailand

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2. Go snorkeling

Koh Tao offers the best snorkeling experience in the Gulf of Thailand, where you snorkel off the beach around great corals and spot numerous fish and possibly even sharks and turtles.

So if diving is not your thing, don’t worry, as you can always admire the underwater world of Koh Tao by going snorkeling.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Snorkeling with black tip reef sharks, Koh Nang Yuan island
Baby blacktip reef sharks – not dangerous!

While we visited some amazing snorkeling spots in Thailand, such as Surin, Similan, and Krabi, Koh Tao had by far the most accessible snorkeling for everyone!

You simply enter the water through the beaches and snorkel the reefs – it’s as simple as that!

Snorkeling with fish on a day trip to Koh Nang Yuan from Koh Tao, Thailand

Best snorkeling beaches in Koh Tao:

All “famous” beaches in Koh Tao offer snorkel rentals, but we highly recommend buying your own or renting it for longer from your accommodation or any nearby diving shop.

You can rent snorkeling equipment throughout Koh Tao for about 100 THB (about 3 USD).

Our hosts at Pepa Guest House had snorkel masks and fins for rent, so we rented them out for a few days and took them around the island with us. Much more convenient than having to find someone to rent them to you at the beach. And you don’t have to depend on the opening hours of rental shops.

Snorkeling in Tanote Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand

Note: Please use reef-safe and ocean-safe sunscreen when visiting Koh Tao and other Thailand seaside destinations. Help protect this delicate underwater world.

Koh Tao snorkeling tours

While we love the accessibility of great snorkeling spots on Koh Tao, some are still only reachable by boat, so it’s best to join a snorkeling trip that can take you to those otherwise inaccessible sites.

We joined a Koh Tao Snorkeling Day Trip that took us to 7 different snorkeling spots around Koh Tao, including a visit to Koh Nang Yuan Island.

A snorkeling tour in Koh Tao is also perfect if you’re short on time or uncomfortable driving a scooter (which makes it harder to move around the island).

SNORKELING TOUR


IMPORTANT

Never touch or chase animals in the water while snorkeling or diving; leave them enough space to move around freely. And please, do not stand on or touch the corals! If you need to take a break, try to swim to a bit deeper part and float, or rather exit to the beach.

3. Enjoy the beaches

Even though the island is quite small, there’s no shortage of beaches, and despite Koh Tao being somewhat crowded at times, it’s still possible to find quieter beaches and spots for yourselves. 

Drone aerial view of June Junea beach in Koh Tao, Thailand

Beaches in Koh Tao are quite picturesque, especially the smaller ones, due to the beautiful rocks surrounding them. 

Best beaches in Koh Tao:

Our favorite beach in Koh Tao was Ao Tanote Beach in Tanote Bay, as it goes deeper quickly, so it’s one of the best places for a proper swim, and there’s a lot of cool stuff to see while snorkeling.

But the coolest thing that Ao Tanote Beach offers is the possibility of cliff-jumping off this huge rock not far from the shore. While we didn’t go cliff-jumping ourselves, we enjoyed watching others jumping in.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Rock cliff jumping in Tanote Bay

Our second favorite beach in Koh Tao was Sai Daeng Beach, and we also loved June Juea Beach as it was so beautiful and peaceful.

There are plenty of beaches to choose from in Koh Tao, and while some are better for snorkeling, others are better for sunbathing in a beach bar, like Sairee.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - aerial view of June Junea beach
Aerial view of June Juea beach

Best beachfront hotels in Koh Tao:

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4. Visit Koh Nang Yuan Island

A must-do while in Koh Tao is a day trip to the neighboring Koh Nang Yuan Island.

Koh Nang Yuan Island is actually three small islands connected by a sandbank. It is known for its picturesque beauty and stunning snorkeling spots. 

Couple posing on top of the rock at Koh Nang Yuan island viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand

TRAVEL TIP

The best snorkeling spots on Koh Nang Yuan are around the islands, not from the main beach. That’s why visiting on a boat tour is best if you want a better snorkeling experience.

You can also stay on Koh Nang Yuan at the Nangyuan Island Dive Resort and go snorkeling and diving right from the resort.

White sand beach of Koh Nang Yuan islands, Koh Tao, Thailand

Things to do on Koh Nang Yuan Island include exploring the vibrant marine life while snorkeling and enjoying the breathtaking views from the Koh Nang Yuan viewpoint.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Snorkeling among corals

OPENING HOURS AND TICKETS

Koh Nang Yuan is a private island with a 250 THB ($7.5) entrance fee and is open to visitors from 10 am to 5 pm.

Ferry routes include Koh Nang Yuan as a stop, and you can also get to Koh Nang Yuan by longtail boat from Koh Tao.

We visited Koh Nang Yuan as part of a Koh Tao Snorkeling Trip, which also included many more snorkeling spots around the island.

KOH NANG YUAN TOUR


5. Admire Koh Tao from the many viewpoints

The island is known for many excellent viewpoints, so enjoying the view from cool viewpoints is one of the top things to do in Koh Tao.

Many of these viewpoints are also bars, so you can grab a drink while enjoying the view.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Couple chilling with drinks at Sunset Viewpoint
Sunset Viewpoint

Best viewpoints in Koh Tao:

There are many more viewpoints than we listed here, but these are considered as the best ones! If we had time, we’d visit even more of them!

NOTE

Most viewpoints on Koh Tao are privately owned, so almost all of them require an entrance fee between 100 and 200 Thai Baht. However, in many cases, you’ll also get a drink included.

6. Visit John Suwan Viewpoint 

The best viewpoint of Koh Tao is, without a doubt, the John Suwan Viewpoint. And even though it’s not as high as some others, it offers amazing views of the south of the island.

Posing for a photo at John Suwan Viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand

John Suwan Viewpoint is also a popular sunrise spot, but it’s worth visiting anytime, especially on a clear sunny day.

You can reach the John Suwan Viewpoint by a short but steep 15-minute hike up a hill on a rocky path leading through the forest, with ropes in some places to help yourself out.

Climbing up rocks to John Suwan Viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand
Some parts of the path look like this – not all, though.

The starting point for the John Suwan Viewpoint hike is Relax Freedom Beach Resort.

We were a bit unlucky with the weather on our visit as rain caught us midway to the top, and the sky after was quite gray, but we still loved the view.

The entrance fee for John Suwan Viewpoint is 50 baht, less than $2, and also includes a visit to Freedom Beach and Taa Toh Lagoon Beach and the use of sunbeds.

7. Visit Freedom Beach and Taa Toh Lagoon Beach

Freedom Beach is another must-visit beach in Koh Tao, and it’s great for swimming and snorkeling.

And right next to Freedom Beach is a coastal boardwalk that connects Freedom Beach to Taa Toh Lagoon Beach, offering a beautiful walk along the water.

Both Freedom and Taa Toh Beach are owned by the Koh Tao Relax Freedom Beach Resort, with really cool rock cliff villas.

We had no idea this place existed before coming there, and on our return to Koh Tao, we might just stay there!

8. Visit the Love Koh Tao viewpoint and cafe

One of the most iconic viewpoints in Koh Tao is the Love Koh Tao viewpoint overlooking Tanote Bay and the eastern coastline.

Love Koh Tao Viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand
Nature around Love Koh Tao Viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand

Love Koh Tao is also a cafe with many photo spots, including the famous @lovekohtao sign and netted sitting area, which we liked the most.

The entrance fee to Love Koh Tao Viewpoint is 20 THB unless you order a drink or a meal. So if you’re in the area, like visiting Tanote Bay, definitely stop by.

On our visit, a massive storm came in after just 15 minutes, and we saw lots of lightning. We had to hide inside and wait for the weather to calm down with staff and a few other guests. It was an interesting experience!

Waterspout seen from Love Koh Tao Viewpoint, Koh Tao, Thailand

9. Chill at cool bars and cafes

Another great thing to do in Koh Tao is to chill at some of the awesome bars and cafes. And many cafes in Koh Tao look amazing and have great views. 

Shark View Bar, Haad Tien Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

Best cafes and bars in Koh Tao:

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10. Kayak to Shark Island

For the brave, kayaking to Shark Island is a fun way to explore Koh Tao’s south coast.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - White sand clear water at Sai Daeng Beach
That small island in the distance is the Shark Island!

You can rent kayaks for Shark Island at Sai Daeng Beach. And when you arrive at Shark Island, you simply attach your kayak to the buoy and snorkel Shark Island’s beautiful reef.

Tip: From Sai Daeng Beach, you can also kayak to Ao Leuk Beach or Shark Bay (Haad Tien).

The price for renting a two-person kayak at Sai Daeng Beach is 500 THB (about 14 USD) for 2 hours, with each extra hour costing 100 THB.

Note: There are no scary sharks at Shark Island. It’s just a name!

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Sea Kayaking at Sai Daeng Beach

We, unfortunately, didn’t manage to do that, as the weather wasn’t the best during our visit, and the sea was more choppy than we would like it to be for kayaking.

It’s, however, easily doable with good weather and is one of the things we can’t wait to do on our return.

Best resorts on Sai Daeng Beach:

11. Watch the incredible sunsets

Koh Tao is known to have some of the best sunsets in Thailand, which is one of the island’s must-do things. The central tourist hub of Koh Tao, Sairee Beach, has the best view of the sun setting.

Sunset with diving boats seen in the distance, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

Best sunset spots in Koh Tao:

Unfortunately, we weren’t really lucky with the weather during our time in Koh Tao, so we didn’t experience those magical sunsets as they can be!

However, we still enjoyed walking along Sairee Beach during sunset time. Sairee Beach is pretty active during this time: many people are on the beach playing games, there are many dogs, and the beach is full of restaurants and bars, so you can easily sit somewhere for a drink.

Beach bar with a pool, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

12. Go paddle boarding and clear-bottom kayaking

You can rent stand-up paddleboards and clear-bottom kayaks on Sairee Beach and explore the waters for about 100 baht per hour.

Dog on a paddleboard, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Thailand

13. Try the best Thai pancakes

Koh Tao had the best Thai pancakes we have ever tried. And we have tried MANY!

Thus, the delicious Thai Pancakes deserve a spot on the list of things to do in Koh Tao! 😀 

John’s Sandwich and Pancakes, across a 7-11 store on north of Sairee Road, is a small food stall that works (almost) every evening and serves up delicious Thai pancakes with endless filling options.

We had plenty of options throughout our stay at the nearby Pepa Guest House. 😋

But the one we loved the most was with white chocolate and banana inside, and chocolate drizzled on top – absolutely amazing! You need to ask for the chocolate on top extra, as that’s our personal spin on it. 🙂

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Best roti pancake

14. Explore Koh Tao on a Treasure Hunt

A very cool activity that we only found later is the exciting Koh Tao Treasure Hunt, an adventurous way to explore the beautiful island.

Sai Daeng Beach aerial drone view, Koh Tao, Thailand

This unique activity offers a fun-filled day out and not only allows you to discover new places on Koh Tao, but it also encourages teamwork, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

TREASURE HUNT


15. Learn Muay Thai

Muay Thai is one of the most effective martial arts practiced in Thailand for centuries. And while its home is in Thailand, it has become one of the most popular fighting styles in the world.

You can find Muay Thai gyms in every city and town in Thailand, and Koh Tao is no exception.

It offers a few different gyms, classes, and workshops for all experience levels – from beginners to advanced fighters.

Best Muay Thai centers in Koh Tao:

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - learn Muay Thai

Best time to visit Koh Tao

The best time to visit Koh Tao is between February and April when the weather is most stable. However, Koh Tao is a year-round destination, except for October and November, the wettest months.

BEST TIME TO DIVE

July, August, and September are the best for diving in Koh Tao because the underwater visibility can reach up to 30 meters or more.

WHALE SHARK SEASON

You have the highest chance of seeing whale sharks in March and April, as the whale shark season in Koh Tao spans between March and June.

Koh Tao has three main seasons; hot and dry, hot and windy, and wet (monsoon) season. 

The hot and dry season in Koh Tao lasts from February until May when the weather is typically characterized by clear blue skies and consistently high temperatures. During this season, rainfall is minimal, and the air temperature can go as high as 36 degrees Celsius with noticeable humidity, rarely falling below 28 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the water temperature can reach or exceed 30 degrees Celsius.

GOOD TO KNOW

Songkran Festival (Thai New Year) takes place in April. It’s when water fights are organized all over the country.

From May until October, Koh Tao has a hot and windy season. And during this time, the temperature remains hot, reaching a peak of approximately 34 degrees Celsius with the ocean temperature at around 29 degrees. In this period, waves can also get bigger.

The rainy (monsoon) season in Koh Tao lasts from October until February. However, thunderstorms and heavy rain usually happen in the late afternoon, so there can still be lovely sunny days. Although, during October and November, getting a few days of continuous rainfall is more usual.  

Rainy Weather in Koh Tao, Thailand

Tropical climate unpredictability

Remember that Koh Tao is a small island with a tropical climate, so it’s often hard to predict the weather.

So you can visit Koh Tao in the best possible time but still be unlucky with the weather. And this happened to us in a few places in Thailand, especially in the south!

We visited Koh Tao in mid-April for about 10 days and had a mix of beautiful sunny days and rainy and cloudy weather. The weather was amazing during our diving course in the first days, but afterward, it was primarily overcast with rain.

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Couple chilling at John Suwan Viewpoint
We had the worst weather when we were visiting the viewpoints. 😅

But don’t let this discourage you from visiting! And definitely find yourself a raincoat if you plan on going around on a motorbike. Ours proved more than useful!

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Where to stay in Koh Tao

From luxurious beachfront resorts to cozy guesthouses and hostels, Koh Tao offers various choices to suit every traveler’s preferences and budget.

Top-rated resorts on Koh Tao

Top-rated hotels on Koh Tao

Top-rated hostels on Koh Tao

Top-rated private villas on Koh Tao

Koh Tao has a large amount of these gorgeous villas (with nice pools) spread all around the island. They’re absolutely worth checking out!

Where to eat in Koh Tao

For such a small island, Koh Tao offers a great food selection of both Thai and international cuisine!

FUN FACT

We noticed the portions of Thai food in many Koh Tao restaurants are generally bigger than anywhere else in Thailand! We’re not sure why, but it was a nice surprise. 😋

Our restaurant recommendations for Koh Tao:

Top Things To Do in Koh Tao, Thailand - Busy Local Thai food at Mama Tam

Mama Tam and 995 Roasted Duck are especially famous and loved Thai restaurants in Koh Tao and are frequently crowded. So if you want to eat at those, you must often wait in line to get your seat, especially in the evenings.

Since Koh Tao is a diving center for decades, many foreigners, now locals to the island, have opened their own restaurants. So that’s why it’s easy to find delicious international cuisine.

Sandwich lady restaurant in Koh Tao, Thailand
Waiting for the delicious sandwich at the Sandwich Lady.

How to get to Koh Tao

Although Koh Tao is a small island without an airport, it’s relatively easy to get there, although the journey can be long, depending on your starting point.

The best way to get to Koh Tao is by ferry/speedboat from the mainland in Surat Thani or the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, the latter of which has an airport.

Regardless of your transportation mode, the final part of your journey to Koh Tao will be a ferry or speedboat ride.

How to get to Koh Tao, Thailand - ferry, high speed catamaran

Getting to Koh Tao from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan

There are frequent daily trips to Koh Tao from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, from speedboats to ferries providing a fast and efficient way to travel between the islands.

Getting to Koh Tao from Bangkok

You can get to Koh Tao from Bangkok with a combined transfer of a bus and then a ferry. And to get to Koh Tao by train, you get off at the Surat Thani train station and then catch a transfer to the island.

You can book a train and van combo transfer from Bangkok or organize it by booking a train to Surat Thani and a van transfer from Surat Thani train station.

Getting to Koh Tao from Surat Thani

Beyond arriving at Surat Thani by bus or train, you can also fly into the Surat Thani Airport and then get a transfer by van and boat to Koh Tao, as it’s easy to fly into Surat Thani from Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

How to get around Koh Tao

The best way to get around Koh Tao independently is by renting a motorbike. There are many motorbike rentals across Koh Tao, and you can often rent them at your hotel. 

A scooter rental in Koh Tao costs around 250 THB or about 7 USD daily.

TRAVEL TIP

You may need to leave your passport or pay a deposit of about 3000 THB (around $88) to rent a motorbike. We mainly left the cash deposit, as we don’t like anyone else having our passports.

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If you’re not planning on driving in Koh Tao, you can use the local taxis or Songthaews (shared pick-up trucks) to go around the island. 

The fares of the taxis in Koh Tao are usually fixed and should be displayed, but always confirm the price beforehand. If you want to lower your taxi cost, try to find someone else going in the same direction and share the costs.

Taxi fares in Koh Tao:

  • Mae Haad to Sairee Beach: 450 THB
  • Mae Haad to Chalok Baan Kao: 450 THB
  • Mae Haad to Sai Daeng: 550 THB
  • Mae Haad to Tanote Bay: 550 THB
  • Mae Haad to Shark Bay (Haad Tien): 450 THB
  • Mae Haad to Freedom Beach: 550 THB

Koh Tao is a small island with no Grab or other ride-hailing apps available, and renting a car in Koh Tao is not an option, unlike the bigger islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

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How many days to spend in Koh Tao?

You should spend at least 4 days in Koh Tao if you want to do a diving course as the Open Water 20 course lasts 3,5 days. And then add a day or two more for exploration of the island.

If you don’t plan on doing a diving course, you should still stay at least 3 days in Koh Tao to give you enough time to see the island’s main highlights, and do at least one day trip and relax on the beaches.

Anything over three days in Koh Tao will give you more time to have a more relaxed schedule and do extra activities.

Is Koh Tao worth visiting?

Koh Tao is absolutely worth visiting for its amazing diving and snorkeling, stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life.

We personally LOVED Koh Tao and will keep on returning!

That said, you have to know that Koh Tao can feel a bit crowded, especially in the main tourist hub area of Sairee Beach, where all the diving schools are, as well as all the main restaurants and most budget accommodations.

However, even with that, Koh Tao is a fantastic island as it’s very easy to escape the crowds, especially if you rent a scooter and zip around the various beaches.

Is Koh Tao a safe destination?

Like all of Thailand, Koh Tao is a safe destination for all travelers, including women, solo travelers, and families.

However, always practice general safety precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye on your valuables (especially in crowded places and on beaches), and wearing a helmet while driving a motorbike.

Need reliable Travel Insurance for Thailand?

With 24/7 worldwide assistance, Heymondo insurance includes comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, and baggage loss or delay.

For digital nomads or full-time travelers, we recommend SafetyWing, which includes brief visits to your home country every 3 months abroad.

Internet on Koh Tao

Koh Tao generally offers reliable Internet access across most of the island with an average speed adequate for most people’s needs. 

Need a reliable mobile package to stay online in Thailand?

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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Full-time travelers, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists.

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We're Arijana and Matej, a couple and travel blogging duo from Croatia and Slovenia who thrive while slow-traveling. And we have been doing it for over 4 years.

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