Everyone wants to have fun and get the most of their holiday especially when in a foreign country. However, Koh Samui has a set of customs and traditions that while might be different from yours, must be honored and respected. We are all about the fun but we are also here to help you avoid common tourist faux pas. So if you are of thinking of visiting the island, read these do’s and don’ts first to have only the best Samui experience.
Dress for the weather.
Unless you live in the tropics, the sunny weather of Thailand can be a bit overwhelming. So dress light and stick to natural fabrics such as cotton. Avoid anything clingy and heavy as you will only fill hot and uncomfortable wearing them. You’ve been warned.
Every time you head out, wear sunscreen. This is even more important when you will be swimming and will be doing outdoor sports. Sunscreen though available on the island can be pricey if bought at the stores so just make sure to bring enough with you.
Eat Thai food.
Koh Samui is a culinary paradise with so many restaurants to choose from. While it will be exciting to try different cuisines on your holiday, don’t forget to try local food. You can get them everywhere, are affordable, and are so delicious.
Book for a private accommodation.
Resorts and hotels are plenty in Koh Samui but if you want to really enjoy your stay, private accommodations are the way to go. There are hundreds of beautiful private villas on the island. Not only will you have privacy, you will also feel more at home with any of them.
Visit the Buddhist temples.
The temples on the island are intricately made and are beautiful landmarks that mirror the culture and religion of the locals. Start with the Big Buddha, then check out Wat Plai Laem and the Mummified Monk Temple also.
It may be the stinkiest fruit known to man but it is also one of the best tasting ones. While yeah, it smells overwhelming to the point of nausea, you will eventually get past that. Once you taste it, you will realize that it is not bad at all. Thread lightly. Start with durian candies, durian ice cream, or durian cake. Or maybe try fritters with durian. If you are brave enough, try the fruit. The ripe one is sweet, creamy with a texture almost like ice cream and with an after taste just like cheese. It is good!
Explore local fruits.
Fresh local fruits are always the best and in Thailand, you will have lots of exotic fruits to try. There is pineapple, durian, mangosteen, papaya, dragon fruit, and of course mango. These are cheap, sweet, and oh so tasty. They are healthy too.
Stop by the night markets.
Some of the most exciting places you can visit in Koh Samui are the night markets. Almost every beach has one nearby. The night markets are a good place to buy souvenirs, cheap clothing, and get an affordable meal. Cocktails are sold at a lower price at night markets compared to bars so you can indulge without spending too much.
Honor the local customs and religion.
Buddha images are sacred and are to be treated with utmost respect. In addition, monks also need to be honored because of what they represent in Buddhism. Women should never touch a monk.
Bring a present when visiting someone’s home.
It is a thoughtful gesture to arrive with something for the host/hostess of the house you will be visiting. It could be a basket of sweets, a bottle of whiskey, or some bird’s nest soup. Flowers are also considered great gifts. Just avoid carnations and marigolds as these are usually used during funerals.
Take off your shoes when entering a house or a temple.
Look around you and take cue on the behavior of locals. If you see them taking off their shoes, do the same.
Thais are among the friendliest and nicest people you will ever meet and they deserve your best treatment. Smile at the waiters who serve your food. Smile when you meet your guide and also when you are trying to haggle at the street markets. Smile is a surefire way to stop budding conflict and meet friends along the way.
Cover up when visiting a temple.
Temples are sacred grounds and you should respect the prescribed dress code. Ladies should cover their shoulders and knees while men should also wear appropriate clothing.
Always assume that it is not allowed to take photos inside temples.
As tempting as it is to pose for a selfie near a Buddhist statue, don’t do it unless you have confirmed that photos are allowed. This will save you from a lot of trouble during your sightseeing trips. Save your selfie poses at the beach or at the mall.
Leave a small tip as a nice gesture.
Tipping is not expected in Koh Samui but it is still a good gesture regardless. A tip of about 10% is good enough. Of course you can give more if you want.
Keep it forward.
Don’t visit the same place twice if you will only be on the island for a while unless it is a street vendor that serves those amazing fried soft shell crabs ( we totally understand). Point of the matter, unless it is a dining place that serves really good food, don’t come back until you explore other places on the island. There is so much to see!
Stay at the beach doing nothing.
Seriously. This is your chance to be a bum and forget your grown up responsibilities. Lay back at the beach, breathe in the fresh air, drink coconut juice, or cozy up in a hammock. We don’t really care what you do, just be there. It will be good for your mind and your body. Take your mind off work, forget your boss who does not miss you by the way, have a break from Twitter and Instagram and just live in the moment. Everyone can benefit from taking things slow, including you.
Read about the Royal Family before your trip.
They are the most important and highly respected family in the country and the locals look up to them. It is important that you have a certain knowledge about the Thai monarchy so that you can avoid behaviours that may not be considered appropriate. Only speak highly about them and know that any item that has their image deserves only the best treatment and respect. Any offensive behavior against the Thai monarchy will be penalized and is a serious offense in Koh Samui.
Take daily baths.
Swimming in the beach does not count. Because of the intense heat in Koh Samui, you will be sweating even if you are just basically sitting unless you are in an air conditioned room. This makes daily showers very necessary. You may be used to taking a shower twice a week where you live, but here do it and you’ll stink. The locals take frequent baths. You are expected to do the same. Also, take your clothes to the laundry once you used them.
Don’t stay in your hotel or resort the whole time.
Get out and explore. The island is so beautiful and the sunny weather is a good excuse to see the outdoors, be with nature, play at the beach, and see Koh Samui’s amazing temples and landmarks.
Don’t do drugs.
These substances are bad for you and the temporary high is not worth going to jail for. Always assume that you will get caught by authorities because you most likely will be.
Don’t touch anyone in the head.
The head is considered sacred and it is considered rude to touch someone there, even if affectionately. This rule also applies for babies and children. To be on the safe side, do not touch anyone you are speaking to and keep your hands to yourself.
Don’t buy on impulse.
Yes it is exciting to shop in Koh Samui and is so tempting to buy something at first sight but hold back and wait a bit. You might find better deals at other stalls.
Don’t get too drunk in public.
Your inhibitions may be low when you are in vacation and could be tempted to have one bottle too many. Unless it is inside your own villa or you are with someone reliable who can take you back to your room, it is wise to stay sober. Drink if you must but not too much that you risk embarrassment and get yourself in trouble.
Don’t touch a monk.
Ladies should never, ever touch a monk. They are forbidden to be touched by women.
Don’t forget to give someone you trust your itinerary.
If you will be heading out alone, say shopping or going to the spa, it is best to let a family member or friend know where you are going. Koh Samui is generally a safe place, but this is just common sense. Someone you know should know where you are.
Don’t wear your shoes inside a shop, a home, and especially the temples.
When visiting a sacred area, it is required that you go barefoot and neatly tuck your feet under your body when sitting down. When unsure, always see how locals do it and mimic their manners.
Don’t have a haircut on Wednesday.
It is among the known superstitions in Thailand. It is considered bad luck to cut one’s hair on a Wednesday. While we don’t really know why, it is best to observe local beliefs when in a foreign country.
Don’t go back out to the beach when there is a storm.
Storms can be mighty dangerous and can cause the waters to become violent and unsuitable for swimming or sports. When it is raining, it is best to avoid the beach and just stay in your hotel or villa. You can also just engage in indoor activities to be safe.
Don’t visit an unknown territory alone.
There are secluded places in the island that are known for their beauty but are either hard to get to or just simply deserted. While it is great to explore the offbeat path and it is not forbidden to do so, do not ever go to a secluded place you haven’t been to before on your own. Go sightseeing with a buddy and visit unknown places with a trusted tour guide. Again, always carry your smarts with you.
Don’t be a sucker for too-good-to-be-true offers.
You know this already. You can’t win something in a raffle if you haven’t officially joined the contest or filled out a form online or in paper. And also, always read the fine print. You have to pay for decent service and let’s face it, nothing in this world is really free. The bottom line: don’t get scammed. Keep distance from strangers offering you all sorts of deals. They pawn on tourists who don’t know what they are doing so don’t take the bait.
Don’t forget to shop for souvenirs.
There are a lot of local goodies that you can buy and hand out to friends and workmates when you get back. Get them handmade soaps, monkey figurines, sarong, handmade coconut oil soaps, Thai chips, and spicy Tamarind candy. You can also choose beaded accessories, weaved bracelets, and Thai silk pillowcases. People love souvenirs and don’t disappoint them by bringing nothing.
Don’t leave rice on the plate.
Rice is Thailand’s staple food and takes hours of physical labor to harvest. Each grain is precious so make sure to finish every bit on your plate, especially if you are in a local’s home. Another note on rice—do not eat it with your fork. Use a spoon to put rice in your mouth. That’s just how they do it here.
Don’t be too loud in public.
When in public places, especially in a transport vehicle or a restaurant, keep your voice down. While they won’t reprimand you in public, Thai’s don’t take too with well with very loud people.