Rent a moped.
Go read some posts about how Thai people try and charge you extra upon returning a moped for scratches and damages – I can’t be bothered to explain that stuff here. It’s definitely worth hiring a moped in Koh Samui, even if it’s just for a day. It’s by far the cheapest way to see the island and offers you complete control over your journey. A lot of overpriced tours will take you to see underwhelming things you could’ve just popped to see on your own, like the Grandmother and Grandfather rocks.
Jellyfish are a slight issue.
When exploring areas with no humans, the tiny little ones are everywhere. Slap a bit of vinegar on the stings and you’ll be fine. Touristy areas don’t tend to have a jellyfish problem (we’re a dirty species), but in the evening I’d advise getting out of the water if your visibility gets low as there are some absolutely huge beasts that float in and I can’t imagine they’d be fun to brush up against.
Don’t dive in Samui.
There are snorkels and diving excursions on sale at every street corner, but Koh Samui doesn’t really have much to see under the water. You’d be MUCH better hopping on a ferry and spending some time in Koh Tao if you want an excellent diving experience.
There are a lot of ferry ports in Koh Samui that offer cheap rides to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, Angthong, Surat Thani and more. They’ll be advertised absolutely everywhere but are usually cheaper if you buy your ticket at the pier. I would advise just using one of the many agents down the streets though, as they’ll often include a minibus to take you to/from the ferry for that extra £1 you’re paying. The piers you set off from can often be a hassle to reach, so this is totally worth it.
Chaweng isn’t crap.
People kept warning me that Chaweng was a toilet full of tourists, fast food chains and general waste. Sure those things exist, but they’re not overwhelming at all. It’s still far quieter and cleaner than your generic European destinations in Benidorm or wherever your family inevitably took you every year. The beach is still powdery white sand and the water is clear blue. There’s Western food chains aplenty, but there’s massive night market full of street food as well.
Angthong National Park is incredible.
Seriously… WOW. Island clusters are pretty awesome anywhere you go, but these are by a wide margin the most beautiful I have ever seen. I’d try and explain, but I lack the words. Googling it won’t even prepare you adequately for the visual treats that await. There’s also plenty to see and do out there, so if you get the chance to stay the night to cram in more fun, do it!
Partying is plentiful.
Despite being an island people visit to feel like they’re in paradise, there are still areas swimming in bars, drinks deals, drugs and clubbers. It’s nothing like the party venues we see in Europe, but if you fancy a few fish bowls, strobe lights and some rammed dance floors then you’ll be able to find them in Koh Samui.
TONIGHT AT 9PM – BE THERE! (Don’t be there).
Muay-Thai fights are a big tourist draw in Samui and are absolutely everywhere all the time. If you know somebody that’s been to Samui, just shout “TONIGHT AT 9PM” in their ear. They’ll get it. The problem is that the big successful companies have been able to push their prices through the roof and book pretty big fighters… which leads to boring fights full of blocking and defence. Head down to Lamai, where you’ll find an arena with free entry as long as you buy a slightly-overpriced (£2) drink. There’s also a half-time competition for the audience in the ring that’s a bit like Mario Kart’s battle mode, but on foot. There’s even a bottle of Thai whisky up for grabs!
Even bad weather is great.
Don’t worry about what time of year you visit – it’s always hot and beautiful. Even during “low season” you can just stay in the sea and be warm whilst the half-hour monsoon rushes by. The sun will come straight back out and dry everything up like it never even happened! There’s also absolutely no waves whatsoever, so it’s perfectly safe to just keep floating around in the sea, laughing at how strange it feels.
After three wonderful weeks in Koh Samui, I thought I was done with it. Not long after leaving, you’ll want to return though! I genuinely loved the place and although it won’t be for everyone, I strongly dislike the “Koh Samui is a tourist hellhole” rubbish that hippie travellers tend to preach. If you don’t act like a snobby asshole, you’ll love it just as much as I did!