10 mistakes to avoid on your first trip to Thailand
Did you spot our Throwback Thursday? 14 years ago, we were first-time visitors to Thailand. While Koh Samui’s Big Buddha (above) has matured gracefully, we wince at our 2003-selves in the vacation album: visors, Bacardi Breezers, J-Lo sunglasses and worse.
Yet we have those poorly dressed creatures (and various mistakes made on that trip) to thank for not just our blog (started in 2008) but The Koh Samui Guide as well. Are you planning your first time to Koh Samui (or to elsewhere in Thailand)? If so, borrow our “older and wiser” top 10 tips and mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1. A skimpy suitcase
Our first-time mistake: We packed all the wrong things on our first Koh Samui trip. Discounting the aforementioned visors, the worst of a bad bunch was a pair of cut-off jean shorts – way too short, way too hot. Your gain: This failure of a suitcase inspired our entire website, and its 2 most popular posts…
TIP! What to wear in Thailand? How to pack perfectly for a modest culture and tropical climate? Find out:
We packed SO badly for our first visit to Koh Samui – this failure inspired our *entire* website and, later, The Koh Samui Guide. Pictured – today – we pack like pros now!
Mistake #2. Over-enthusiastic shopping
Our first-time mistake: We each bought a ubiquitous triangular Thai cushion… and then wondered how to transport it home. Your gain: A full round-up of the best things to buy in Thailand – including easy-to-pack Thai silk.
Mistake #3. Unbreakable beach bias
Our first-time mistake: We fell in love with Choeng Mon and Bophut beaches. We’ve since tried others but these will always be our particular favourites. Your gain: We want you to find *your* favourite beach – see all your many choices for where to stay on Koh Samui – it’s a huge matter of personal preference.
One big regret! Our first-time regret: We rode elephants on this trip, learning later what we wished we’d known prior. We’re massive animal lovers and it’s a big regret that we supported such a cruel practice – something we’re trying to atone for with a little soapbox ‘do as we say, not as we did’ oration. Your gain: Take full advantage of (A) our hindsight and (B) today’s internet to do a little research about why you don’t want to ride elephants in Thailand. Find out what we should have known.
Mistake #4. Spendy sunscreen
Our first-time mistake: We brought 1 sun hat between our whole family, and spent more on sunscreen than on any souvenir. Your gain: Note that sunscreen on Koh Samui costs between 150-300% more for the same bottle than on Amazon in the U.S. or the UK – bring lots, and bring it from home!
Mistake #5. Too much Pad Thai
Our first-time mistake: We ate so much Pad Thai in August 2003, we should have turned into noodles ourselves. Your gain: This early enthusiasm means we’re still not quite ready for more, ensuring much broader menu exploration ever since. Discover where to eat on Koh Samui, whether you’re craving Thai or Turkish food.
Mistake #6. Waking up late
Our first-time mistake: Only at the end of our trip did we realise that Samui sunrises are such a secret, magical show. We’re not early-riser types, so we can encourage you to do the same and not sound like smug yogis. Your gain: Enjoy the “lazy sunrise” every day of your vacation: You get up, watch the sunrise, then go back to bed and hope there’s some bacon left at breakfast later. When to get up? Set your alarm with Koh Samui dawn and sunrise times
Mistake #7. Cheap Jeep
Our first-time mistake: Beep beep, it’s a cheap Jeep. We rented a Jeep without air-conditioning – it was cheap, but big mistake! We stuck to the seats and hung out the windows like hot dogs for our first island road-trip. Your gain: Arrive savvy on your car rental options – and pay the extra for an air-conditioned vehicle.
Mistake #8. Sunshine vs skin
Our first-time mistake: We got badly sunburned. Now we know exactly where Koh Samui sits, latitudinally. Your gain: You’ll pack perfectly sun-safe hats and cover ups and will run and hide like scared kittens as noon approaches. Right? (Find out how to choose the best sun hat for Thailand).
Mistake #9. Kayaked to Cambodia
Our first-time mistake: We went kayaking, loved it, kept going, and going … out into the big, scary ocean. We were “those” tourists, and totally underestimated ocean currents (but felt properly intrepid at the time). There’s a reason long-tail boats have motors! Your gain: A healthy respect for the water around Samui, its currents and creatures (jellyfish are rare but known in the region).
Mistake #10. Last drop of alcopop
Our first-time mistake: As confessed, we were drinking Bacardi Breezers in August 2003 (and thinking we were cool). On our last day we ‘discovered’ Koh Samui rum at Magic Alambic Distillery (and have never touched another Breezer). Your gain: Thanks to the passage of time, there’s a world more option for drinks on Koh Samui today. We’ve just updated the results of 13 years’ dedicated booze research in The Koh Samui Guide. (Should you want to drink the Bacardi rainbow, Koh Samui Tesco has your back).
We often say that The Koh Samui Guide is ‘the guide we wish we’d had’ from the start. But our ‘live and learn’ first trip to Koh Samui was still a perfect holiday – as, we hope, yours will be. Still, if you want the cheat-sheet to enjoy Samui like total pros… we’ve literally written the manual. Enjoy!