These ways to save money in Koh Samui give you advice regarding the most common expenditures on vacation. This list includes tips on traveling around, dining, shopping, sightseeing and accommodations.

    After saving on these essentials, you can allocate your remaining budget to special activities like a day trip to Ang Thong National Marine Park, or dinner at one of the many upscale restaurants on the island. Make the most of your Koh Samui vacation without spending too much with our money-saving guide below.


    Eat street food or at local restaurants

    Generally, food is pretty affordable in Thailand. It’s only expensive in restaurants serving specifically international dishes or those making local dishes specifically for tourists. You can eat pretty well without spending too much in Koh Samui.

    Street food is delicious and very cheap. It’s available in weekly fresh and night markets as well as in permanent fairs such as Chaweng Walking Street. Local Thai restaurants serve classic Thai dishes such as pad thai (stir-fried noodles) or kway teow (noodle soup) for just a few dollars.


    Visit free attractions

    Most of the major landmarks and natural attractions in Koh Samui can be visited for free. There’s definitely a great number of beautiful sites to see without spending a dime: waterfalls such as Namuang and Hin Lad, temples like Samui Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem, as well as all the beaches – 24 strips of sand to be exact. There are also many little coves hidden in between that require a little bit of exploration, but not the paying of an entrance fee.


    Travel around by songthaew

    Songthaew is arguably the most economical way to get around Koh Samui. This is the name for mini pickup trucks with a roofed back, in which 2 benches allow up to 10 people to sit. They are the main public transportation system in Samui.

    You can find them on Ring Road and in the resort towns. Most of the time, the destination is written on the back of the songthaew. As it doesn't run to a schedule, you can hop on or hop off wherever you like. Just negotiate the price of your journey before getting in.


    Shop at Tesco Lotus for snacks and beverages

    You can find Tesco Lotus grocery stores in Chaweng, Lamai, and Nathon. These are generally the cheapest grocery stores for buying beverages, snacks, toiletries and other necessities in Koh Samui.

    Just slightly more expensive, yet available everywhere throughout the island, are convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart. You can also get affordably priced beverages and snacks at local mom-and-pop grocery stores.


    Shop at night markets for souvenirs

    Night markets and walking streets are really great places to visit in Koh Samui. Some take place once a week while others are opened daily, such as the Chaweng Walking Street. You’ll find a tremendous choice of souvenirs at each – shirts, handicrafts, sunglasses and much more – at very interesting prices.

    Bargaining is a fundamental part of shopping in night markets. Keep your cool, smile, start by cutting the opening price the vendor gives you by half, then see how things go from there.


    Withdraw large amounts from ATMs

    When using an ATM in Thailand, most banks charge you a usage fee. AEON machines found in large grocery stores such as Tesco Lotus and Big C charge a little less than most. Your own bank will probably add a fee, too.

    Therefore, it’s a good move to use ATMs as rarely as possible. Try withdrawing large amounts once or twice during your vacation, but store most of it in your hotel room to keep it safe. Another tip is to avoid paying with your credit card in shops, as an additional fee will be added to your bill.


    Be wary of common scams

    Common sense and vigilance are the best way to not fall into the traps set by dishonest people. Crime is rather uncommon in Koh Samui but, as one of the prime vacation destinations in Thailand, it naturally attracts a few con artists. Just be cautious with your money and belongings.

    When a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is. The most common scams include shady personal watercraft operators, timeshare salespeople, greedy taxi cab drivers and, in general, people who approach you in the street with an outstanding deal for you.


    Travel in the low season

    Koh Samui has 2 high seasons per year, from December to February and from July to August. The monsoon hits the island from September to November, while the period between March and June is extremely hot.

    If you do not mind rainfall or oppressive heat, these times of the year are the best to visit Koh Samui at rack rates. With incredible deals on accommodations, excursions, and even in some shops and restaurants, you’ll save a fair amount of money by coming to Koh Samui offseason.


    Stay at one of the quiet beaches

    Most of the time, prices increase with the popularity of a destination. The prime resort towns in Koh Samui, such as Chaweng, Lamai, Bophut, and Maenam, are generally more expensive to stay in than smaller and less-sought-after beaches. Basically, the more local you go, the less you’ll spend. While this approach could see you staying a little further away from the top attractions, restaurants and nightlife, Koh Samui is still relatively small – you can easily get around on a bike or by foot. 

    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveler

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