Koh Samui is the second largest island in the Gulf of Thailand. Referred to as Samui, it was once a “backpacker’s paradise”. It has a bounty of natural wonders as well as man-made attractions such as the mummified monks and the glorious Buddha temples.
The idyllic atmosphere of Koh Samui makes it a perfect destination for both physical and mental wellbeing. It has become a preferred destination for medical tourism in the last few years. Visitors love the location and combine their holidays with medical and spa treatments.
The island has several sophisticated and state-of-art international hospitals such as the Bangkok Hospital, Samui, Bandon International Hospital, Samui International Hospital and Thai International Hospital, Samui. These hospitals offer affordable and timely medical services to tourists who mainly come to undergo Cosmetic surgeries, Dental Aesthetic procedures, and Sex Reassignment surgeries. Such procedures when carried out in Koh Samui cost 20% to 25% less than the cost of the same treatments in their home countries.
These hospitals are improving the range of their medical services further, to tap the potential for growth within medical tourism. They are now offering other procedures such as cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery, and ophthalmic surgery. They also have highly-qualified and English-speaking doctors available to handle and communicate with international patients.
Popular Areas in Koh Samui
Koh Samui is home to many amazing beaches, locations, temples, and markets and some of the major and popular attractions of the island are:
Ang Thong Marine Park – The park is a group of 42 tiny lush green islands with lofty limestone cliffs, crystal clear beaches, fertile mangroves, waterfalls, hidden coves, and lakes.
Wat Phra Yai – The Big Buddha temple, otherwise known as Wat Phra Yai, rests impressively on a small rocky island in the north-eastern corner of Koh Samui. The golden-colored, 12-meter tall Buddha statue is hard to miss from an approaching flight to the island.
Wat Plai Laem – It is an active Buddhist temple where devotees offer prayers daily. It features an 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. It is rich with Buddhist-themed art and architecture.
Na Muang Waterfall – It represents a set of two magnificent waterfalls. These lie about 7.5 miles southeast to Nathon Bay in inland.
Chaweng and Lamai Beach – Are the two most popular beaches on the island. Chaweng beach is on the east coast of Samui and is known for its nightlife. Lamai beach has a more laid-back atmosphere, but it still has a variety of accommodation, dining & shopping choices, luxurious spas, and tourist spots.
Koh Samui’s other attractions include Hin Ta and Hin Yai, Koh Phangan island, Fisherman’s Village Bophut, Mummy Monk at Wat Khunaram and the Secret Buddha Garden. Full Moon Party is an all-night beach party held on the Koh Phangan island on full moon day.
Weather and Climate in Phuket
Koh Samui has a tropical climate and it experiences hot and humid weather all year around. Humidity ranges from around 70 to 85 percent, and the temperature on average is about 28 degree Celsius. It has three seasons, hot, dry and rainy.
Hot Season is between March and September. The hottest period is March and April when the temperature is 30 degree Celsius and above. From May to September, it’s like a mini monsoon season with bright sunny days and light showers in the evening.
Dry Season runs from December to February. The weather is pleasant with light cool winds. The sea is balmy and tourists flock the region during this season.
Rainy Season is between September and November and the island faces its maximum rainfall with unpredictable weather and rough seas.
Getting Around in Koh Samui
Koh Samui’s airport is a private airport built by Bangkok Airways. It is still the main operator of flights to Samui. Flights to and from Bangkok operate almost every hour. It operates domestic flights to Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, and international flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hong Kong every day. Thai Airways to flies between Bangkok and Ko Samui.
Besides Bangkok and Thai Airways, Berjaya Air & Firefly of Malaysia and Silk Air of Singapore also fly to Samui Airport. Air Asia offers a special ‘Island Transfer’ which comprises a flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani or Nakhon Si Thammarat, road travel to the port and a ferry ride to Koh Samui.
Combined bus and ferry service from Surat Thani rail station or Surat Thani Airport are other options to reach Samui.
Moving around Koh Samui is easy as it is a small island and there are many transport options within Samui. They are songthaews, motorbikes, taxis, and cars and there are no tuk-tuks or buses.
Songthaews – They are mini pick-up trucks that can accommodate 8-10 adults. They circle the main ring road of Samui and travel through the popular beach towns. The drivers pick you up from anywhere on the road.
Metered Taxis – You can find them everywhere in the town. Despite having a meter, the drivers don’t use them. You need to bargain and fix a fare before you start your journey.
Rent a Car – There are major car rental chains to book a car and they have a good collection of vehicles, but can be pricey. Then there are local car operators which are cheaper but can be unreliable.
Scooter-taxis –These are the cheapest and quickest mode of transport.
Tourist Visas in Koh Samui
Visa Exemption or Visa Waiver Entry – Under a bilateral agreement, Thailand exempts nationals from 55 countries including the UK, USA, and many European countries from obtaining a tourist visa. The only condition is that tourists must have a passport that is valid for at least six months. They can get an arrival stamp on their passports, and stay in the country for a period of 30 days. They need not pay any visa fees, as it is not a visa on arrival rather just an entry stamp.
Visa on Arrival – Nationals from 24 countries like China and India with a valid Passport not expiring before six months, can get a visa on arrival at the airport. The visa permits them a stay of 15 days. There are designated immigration counters at the airport for issuing the visa.
The main currency of exchange is the Thai Baht. One US dollar is worth about 31.78 Thai Baht as of April 2019. You can also use debit and credit cards.
Most of the major banks operate in Samui Island. They exchange all major currencies and traveler’s cheques.
You can find ATMs everywhere in Koh Samui. They accept both local as well as international debit cards. However, they charge you a small transactional fee when you withdraw from your country’s bank account.
The locals of Koh Samui speak Thai – the official language of Thailand. People also understand and speak English to a certain extent, since the island is a famous tourist destination.
Buddhism and reverence to the monarchy are striking aspects of Samui culture. It has a large Buddhist Thai population along with a traditional Muslim fishermen community.
Important public holidays include:
The Chinese New Year in February
The Thai New Year (Songkran) in April
The Festival of Lights (Loi Krathong) in November