Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Koh Tao on a Budget Complete Guide – Is Koh Tao Expensive?

This is your complete Koh Tao Budget Guide. Is Koh Tao expensive? Is it even worth going to Koh Tao on a strict budget? All your Koh Tao budget travel questions are answered here!

I went to Koh Tao skint! At this point, I should have been on my way back to Europe.

Given I was travelling through Krabi on my way to Malaysia and then to Singapore (where my return flight home was from), I thought to myself: I can’t leave Thailand without visiting at least one of its beautiful islands!

Why Koh Tao, you might ask!

Almost every traveller I met on my trip said Koh Tao was their favourite island. I didn’t fancy the party scene of Koh Phangan or Phi Phi, and I couldn’t afford the latter either. Not to mention places like Koh Samui. And Koh Tao seemed really easy to get to from Bangkok and then to travel onwards to Krabi – so Koh Tao it was.

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

I worked out how much of my funds I could spend on Koh Tao – and believe me, it wasn’t much!

So I believe I am fully qualified to tell you how to visit Koh Tao on a tight budget and whether it’s even possible to visit Koh Tao on a budget.

So let’s crack on!

Disclaimer – Thailand is a very affordable country and you can eat well at the restaurant for as little as $2 or $3 and very well for $5! My definition of expensive vs cheap is definitely very extreme. But if like me, you travel for extended period of time, on anything between 700$ to 1000$ per month, then I think this post will be useful 🙂

Is Koh Tao expensive?

The short answer is yes. Koh Tao is definitely more expensive compared to Northern Thailand and Bangkok, but this mostly boils down to food prices and transport. Because there is no such thing as public transport on Koh Tao and not much of a street food scene.

Yes, you could argue that Bangkok can be expensive, and yes, it can be.

But you can stay in a hostel in Bangkok for $ 8 a night and eat street food every day. And although there are some really cool, cheap hostels on Koh Tao (more on that later), getting fed on a cheap is an issue.

While I could have a meal from a night market in Phitsanulok or Bangkok for 50 or 60 Baht, in Koh Tao you can expect to pay double. I found a place where I could order rice with veggies for 70Baht but anything fancier than that, will be over 100 Baht. 

Is Koh Tao a Good Backpackers’ Destination?

Koh Tao is a popular diving destination, and many travellers come here to try scuba diving for the first time or to complete their Padi diving course. This is because it is still cheaper than many other places in the world, but also because the waters and marine life around Koh Tao are just dreamy!

Many hostels also cater for divers and offer diving courses.

So as there are a large number of hostels on Koh Tao and the island has a pretty chilled vibe, it can be a good destination for backpackers if you want to chill on the beach, snorkel and don’t mind eating in restaurants most of the days.

The hostels are top-notch and very social so you will inevitably meet other travellers and have some fun if you wish 😉

And there are many awesome things to do on Koh Tao besides diving!

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Where to stay on Koh Tao on a budget (areas and best hostels)

First of all, stay in a hostel. There are quite a few pretty great hostels on Koh Tao.

I stayed at Nirvana Hostel and very much enjoyed it. The location was perfect, the beds were super comfortable and spacious and the vibe was pretty chilled too!

Also, choose the area wisely.

The best areas on Koh Tao to stay in, if you are on a budget, are around Mae Haad Pier and Sairee Beach as this is where most hostels, restaurants, bars and shops are located.

Here, apart from the Nirvana Hostel, you will also find highly-rated Revolution Koh Tao, Sabai Sabai Poshtel, Taco Shack and Savage Hostel.

Chalok Baan Bay could also be a good option if you are looking for more of a low-key vibe.

The best hostels around Chalok Baan are Dearly Koh Tao Hostel, Hydronauts and if you are desperate for a private room – Bubble Bungalow.

Both areas are located right by the free beach, near awesome hikes and have all the facilities you might need.

Anywhere outside of those 2 areas will involve getting a motorbike, or some other form of transport – so not ideal for the budget traveller.

If you want to stay slightly away and experience a jungle hostel experience then you could also opt for the Wonderland Jungle Hostel which is halfway between those two areas or a wonderful Deishaview Jungle Hostel.


Are you heading to Krabi next and wondering where to stay?

Here is my complete guide to all the best places to stay in Krabi!

And if you are wondering which is better, Ao Nang or Krabi Town, here I can a great comparison for you and my personal thoughts

Getting around Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a rather small and hilly island. And as such, it has no public transportation. It just wouldn’t make sense. Everyone here uses a motorcycle. And those who aren’t, get in a cab or a tuk-tuk.

So if you don’t want to spend money on a bike rental, yet again,you need to choose your area wisely. Book your accommodation in the area where you’ll find all the facilities such as stores, travel agencies, restaurants and bars.

I didn’t rent a bike, firstly because I couldn’t afford it but also because I am scared of bikes. Please don’t judge!

And I still managed to see a large part of the island. Mostly on foot and hiking. And always for free!

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Are beaches on Koh Tao free?

Unfortunately, entry to many of Koh Tao’s beaches is not free. It’s not a large sum of money, but it can add up if you want to go beach hopping. And if, like me, you usually only spend an hour or two on the beach, 100 baht for that is not exactly a good deal.

So if you are not willing to pay to access the beach, here’s a list of all the beaches on Koh Tao that are completely free:

  • Sairee Beach
  • Chalok Baan Kao
  • Haad Sai Daeng Bay 
  • Tanote Bay
  • Ao Hin Wong Bay
Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Where to eat on Koh Tao on a budget?

Some blogs mention a food market, but I did not find one. At least not what I would consider a food market or a night market. Which for me was a bummer.

But if you walk towards Sairee beach in the evening, you will find a few street food stalls where you can eat delicious food for little money. There are also cheaper restaurants at the top end of the street, where the Nirvana Hostel is located, and then further on towards Chalok Baan.

Here are a few great places across Koh Tao where you can eat without breaking the bank:

  • 995 Roasted Duck
  • Tree House Cafe Koh Tao
  • Chicken stick lady next to Master Divers on Sairee
  • Bam Bam
  • Chuchu Thai Food & Pizza
  • Tukta Thai Food  
Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

What to do in Koh Tao on a budget

There are many great things you can do on Koh Tao on a budget or even completely for free. The great thing about places like Thailand is that you can grab a snack and a drink from 7-Eleven and just spend a day chilling on the beach or going for a hike. Even some of the paid activities will not break the bank.

So here are totally awesome and budget-friendly things you can do on Koh Tao.

Head to the beach

As I mentioned above, some stunning beaches on Koh Tao are completely free! Grab a snack and a drink for 7Eleven, put on your swimsuit and you’ve got a great few hours ahead of you!

I enjoyed discovering beaches that are within walking distance from my location. The walk between Sairee and Chalok is especially great. A beach at the beginning and a beach at the end! What else do you need?

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?


You can snorkel very cheaply on Koh Tao, especially if you have your own snorkelling kit. If you don’t have any, you can hire it at many places on the island. Most dive shops also have snorkelling equipment for rent. And if you are not fussed then you can also just buy cheap one in one of the many shops!

Then just head to a beach like Ao Hin Wong or Tanote Bay and have fun!

If you do have some money to spare for a fun activity, snorkelling trips are actually quite reasonably priced on Koh Tao and those with lunch included are good value for money!

For anything between 550 to 850 baht, you’ll be taken to great snorkelling spots and given some sort of lunch. And the snorkelling equipment is also included. So if you think about it, you save on lunch and snorkel rental – so all in all, not a bad deal!

Watch fireshow on a Sairee Beach …

For the best sunset head to Siree Beach in the evening and then be sure to stay for the fire show! Alongside the beach, you will find a promenade where you can search for some food stalls or happy hour bars after the show.

Go Hiking

Hiking on Koh Tao is obviously free and there is plenty of it.

From easy viewpoint hikes to more challenging hikes like the one to Mango Bay, you will find a hike that’s suits your needs.

For a small island, Koh Tao packs some pretty great hiking trails!

The best known is the hike up to the Mango Viewpoint which is challenging but also so rewarding!

Behind the Sairee beach, you will find a few easier hikes to some great viewpoints like Sunset Viewpoint or  Fraggle Rock.. 

You can also take a hike from Mae Haad to Chalok Bay which will take you to some great hidden bays and beaches. 

And summit all the best Koh Tao’s Viewpoint

Koh Tao is abundant in some incredible viewpoints given its hilly landscape, and although many have paid entrance, it is hardly ever that much. 

Here are some of the most popular / must-do viewpoints on Koh Tao:

John Suwan Viewpoint – The most famous out of all viewpoints on Koh Tao, which can be accessed from Freedom Beach. The 360 views of different beaches like Shark Bay or Chalok Baan Bay are incredible!

The entrance fee is 50 Baht which includes access to the Freedom Bay.

Sun Suwan 360 – just across the John Suwan Viewpoint, Sun Suwan will give you very similar views but for less of a hike. The entrance is 50Baht which will get you a free soft drink at the top. 

Love Koh Tao Viewpoint – a cafe picturesquely located right in the middle of the island halfway between Sairee and Tanote Bay. The view over Tanote Bay is spectacular. If you have a drink at the cafe the entrance is free, otherwise, it’s 20 Baht. 

Mango View Point – one of the most challenging viewpoints on Koh Tao to reach, definitely not for the faint-hearted.  Very much worth it though! The 100 baht fee includes a drink.

Small View Point – located not far from the Sairee beach is an awesome spot to catch the sunset! The entrance is 100 Baht. There are a few more viewpoints around this area worth exploring. 

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Check out Koh Tao’s temples

There are a couple of great temples you could visit on Koh Tao. 

Wat Koh Charoen Santi Dhamma also known as Wat Koh Tao is a beautiful Buddhist temple located not far from the Sairee beach. 

You can explore the grounds and admire the temple from the outside and also enter inside while adhering to the temple etiquette.

Near Shark Bay you will also find a Tah Tooh Shrine. It is a small shrine but the walk is nice and you will be rewarded with the view of Chalok Bay.

Not far from there, you will also find a Burmese Temple. 

Check out the bars for a happy hour!

Although Koh Tao is a pretty chilled island, there are plenty of bars to choose from and many offer some kind of a happy hour deal.

There are some great bars along the beaches and in town, often with live music and the majority of them offer some kind of happy hour deal. 

Koh Tao Budget Guide - Is Koh Tao Expensive?

Conclusion – Can you even visit Koh Tao on a strict budget?

Yes, you can, because I did!

I have spent around 20€ (22$) per day including the hostel. 

So what is the minimum budget you need to stay in Koh Tao?

The bare minimum you need to visit Koh Tao is 20$ per day, and that is if you don’t want to do any excursions or paid activities and you are fine with scrambling for cheap food. 10$ will go towards the accommodation and another 10$ for food for the whole day.

100Baht – brekkie and during from 7Eleven (I had free coffee in my hostel)

100Baht lunch which for often was just a snack.

120 Baht for dinner and drink from 7Eleven or 150 Baht for a dinner with a drink in a cheap restaurant. 

If you are able to spare between 25$ and 30$ per day including accommodation, you will be quite comfortable. 

But the most important question here is – is it worth visiting Koh Tao on a shoestring budget?

I would say no, it isn’t.

Koh Tao is famous for its stunning beaches and awesome snorkelling and diving trips! If you go, you want to enjoy those activities! I don’t regret going, because I really enjoyed this stunning island! But if I did it again, I would take a few more bucks with me.

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