Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most visited Islands. Home to lively culture, scenic beaches and crystal waters, and fresh coconuts, the island is at the top of everyone’s dream destination list. From local cuisines to fancy luxurious resorts and top-notch facilities, Koh Samui is the perfect place for a honeymoon or a family vacation, but is it expensive?
While dream vacations look appealing, expenses are always our top concern. Koh Samui is not an extremely expensive place to visit or live in but is a bit more expensive compared to the mainland. This depends on local living vs. expensive living, possibly giving it a chance to become your next home.
Home to a history of growth, rising economy, and tourist attractions, traveling and spending time in Koh Samui is becoming more convenient and worthwhile. With over 2 million visitors per year, it is only guaranteed that the Thai people will provide an uttermost excellent experience for your stay.
Background of Koh Samui
Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most renowned and visited islands worldwide. However, as much as it goes for its own history, it used to barely be an area of visitation. Covered in lush vegetation and beaches, the main thing that drew tourists to the attraction was the opening of dining and world-class resorts (4).
Most of Koh Samui is home to Thai Buddhists, where landmarks such as Wat Phra Yai and houses such as the Big Buddha provide cultural representation. Moreover, Islamic and Chinese influence has also played a role in shaping the identity of Koh Samui (4).
Now, Koh Samui is one of the most important economic parts of Surat Thani. Amongst the first Chinese settlers were welcomed with abundant options for fishing and buying coconuts. The coconut industry highlighted the tourism industry and was shipped all across the region to Bangkok city (4).
Koh Samui’s Economy
With a population of over 63,000 people and a hotel occupancy rate of 73%, the number of tourists visiting the island is still increasing. This makes the successful tourist industry the primary focus of the island’s economy, alongside exports of rubber and coconuts. This has also led to changes within the island’s culture and environment (7).
While exporting approximately 2 million coconuts, Koh Samui’s cash crop has provided many traditional Thai dishes, from soup curry to coconut milk. The heritage of such fruits and exotic cultural food has spiked up its popularity; backpackers and the hippy community have been inhabitants since the early 1960s (3).
Due to tourism playing such a tremendous role in the island’s stability, Samui was amongst the first regions to welcome back foreign tourists after the Covid-19 pandemic (6). The Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) welcomes 1,000 tourists under the Samui Plus program, from where travelers could enjoy their resort trip without quarantine but under hotel supervision. This further implemented the opening of other spots in Koh Phi Phi, Rai Le, and Koh Ngai in the next month (6).
The Cost of Visiting Koh Samui
Koh Samui is one of the inexpensive and budget-friendly destinations in Thailand. Although it is slightly more expensive on the mainland, you can expect to find hotel discounts and cheap food while saving your vacation money for beach activities and nights out (2).
In terms of the accommodation cost, the villas in Koh Samui start from $114 per night for a 1-bedroom villa with a private pool to the best rentals costing $13,000 per night; the price for 8 side-by-side villas with 8 swimming pools and 38 bedrooms. The cost of food, however, depends on what you plan to do (2). Local food can be very cheap compared to dining out at a luxurious restaurant where you will find yourself paying at least 100 dollars.
You can also depend on easy transportation. The cheapest way to get around Koh Samui is by a pick-up treat called “songthaew.” These follow set routes between resorts and can cost as little as 20 baht per person. On the other hand, taking a taxi or a motorbike would be a more expensive way to get around, with bribery and non-negotiable rates (2).
As stated by Top Villas, a research study predicted the cost of various items and activities. This could help provide a background for tourists and locals on the predicted costs (2).
|Activity / Product||Estimated Price|
|A 2-liter bottle of water||68 baht ($2)|
|An espresso in a cafe||68 baht ($2)|
|A green curry at a mid-price ranged restaurant||171 baht ($5)|
|A 2-liter bottle of diet coke from the market||68 baht ($2)|
|A 1-hour Thai massage at the bach||343 baht ($10)|
|A jungle tour by Jeep||2061 baht ($60)|
|A bottle of wine from the market||618 baht ($18)|
|A full-day fishing tour||2061 baht ($60)|
The Cost of Living in Koh Samui
The cost of living, however, would be different from visiting for a couple of days. With regular trips to the supermarket, use of transportation, rent, and monthly utilities or leisure, this can be a bit more costly. Even then, Koh Samui’s living expenses are less compared to the mainland or Bangkok city (1).
As stated by Numbeo, the rent in Koh Samui can vary depending on the location; the city center apartments for 1 bedroom cost around 12,571 baht, while the 3 bedroom apartment costs 35,333 baht. On the other hand, apartments outside the city are cheaper, with 1 bedroom around 8,000 baht and 3 bedroom apartments at 27,375 baht.
However, the price to buy an apartment is a bit more reasonable with price per square meter; 35,000 baht for an apartment in the city center and 20,000 baht for an apartment outside of the center (1). These, however, also come with the cost of monthly utilities from the basic integrity of electricity, heating, cooling, garbage, and water at around 2083 baht per month. Additionally, the cost of the internet is 617 baht and 1 minute per mobile call at 1.00 baht (1).
The cost of living can also depend on your salary or finances; the average monthly net salary (after-tax) in the region is around 23,000 baht, with a mortgage interest rate of 4.64. According to the rent prices, living on the island would be a better option for those with higher-paid salaries or an individual living or sharing with a roommate (1).
Along with the living expenses are also clothing, childcare, and one of the most important aspects: food and groceries.
A chart provided by Numbeo shows the average price of essential items at the supermarket: (1).
|1-litre of milk||60.22 baht|
|Rice (1kg)||37 baht|
|Eggs (12)||60.50 baht|
|1.5-litre of water||15.73 baht|
|Bottle of wine (mid-range)||600 baht|
|Oranges (1kg)||65.80 baht|
|Beef round (1kg)||280 baht|
|Bananas (1kg)||40.67 baht|
There are five hospitals on the island, including Bangkok Hospital Samui. Hospital visits cost no more than $14 with local clinics and well-spoken English medical professionals (5). Dental and optical care is also very low at around $50 per checkup or an eye test and glasses prescription costing from the range of $60-$250. With those seeking patient care, in-hospital insurance for a couple of 55-60 years in age can pay as little as $2,600 annually (5).
So, Koh Samui, known as the country’s most visited Island, seems like the perfect destination. Is it expensive, though? Well, this thoroughly depends on your lifestyle. Known for a background rich in lush vegetation, fruits, religion, culture, and historical landmarks, Ko Samui is dependent on these factors for survival; tourism and history are needed to boost the economy.
Even then, Koh Samui offers a variety of options for those choosing to visit or live on the island. With local and expensive options for living and food, you can always find something that fits your rate. Although a bit more expensive than the mainland, you will be provided excellent healthcare facilities, friendly neighbors, and the scenery of your dreams.
1. Numbeo. Cost of Living in Koh Samui. Numbeo. [Online] December 2021. [Cited: December 18, 2021.] https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Koh-Samui/.
2. Brisk, Georgina. Is Koh Samui Expensive? Top Villas. [Online] June 7, 2017. https://www.thetopvillas.com/blog/thailand/is-koh-samui-expensive/.
3. Lucas. Koh Samui – Economy and the coconut. Your Koh Samui Villas. [Online] March 9, 2015. https://yourkohsamuivillas.com/koh-samui-economy-and-the-coconut/.
4. Estate Samui Properties. Koh Samui Island, Thailand – The Real History. Estate Samui Properties. [Online] December 18, 2020. [Cited: December 18, 2021.] www.estate-samui-properties.com/koh-samui-thailand-real-history/.
5. International Living. Koh Samui, Thailand. International Living. [Online] [Cited: December 18, 2021.] https://internationalliving.com/countries/thailand/koh-samui-thailand/.
6. Mariano, Kristin and TD Editors. Samui Plus To Welcome 1000 Foreign Tourists. Travels Daily. [Online] July 19, 2021. https://www.traveldailymedia.com/samui-plus-to-welcome-1000-foreign-tourists/.
7. Garant Reality. Koh Samui. Garant Reality. [Online] [Cited: December 18, 2021.] https://www.garant-reality.cz/en/locality/thailand-and-bali/koh-samui/.