Ko Lipe

Sunset, Pattaya Beach at Ko Lipe

Ko Lipe (Thai: เกาะหลีเป๊ะ) is an island off the Andaman Coast of Southern Thailand. It is in Satun Province, close to Langkawi Island (Malaysia), 67 km from Pak Bara. It is part of a large group of over 70 islands, and also part of a smaller cluster of islands called the Butang Islands or Adang Archipelago.

Ko Lipe is known for diving and snorkelling, and for beautiful beaches and relaxed atmosphere.

Ko Lipe enjoys a great reputation and is spoken of in almost reverential terms by travel writers and on web blogs. Why this is so is difficult to understand. The island is not particularly easy or inexpensive to get to. Worse, the island is in danger of becoming another Patong given the huge number of visitors it receives and the rampant development that has transformed its "Walking Street"—overrun with commercial vehicles—into a mini-Ao Nang. If you're looking for the real "Thailand", Ko Lipe is not the place to do it.

Understand

Ko Lipe (sometimes spelled Koh Lipe) is just outside Tarutao National Park and surrounded by uninhabited islands of the Butong Archipelago.

The island is home to about 500 Chao Ley, or Sea Gypsies, who were given a grant to half of the island and live in small villages, predominantly around the far east side of the island near Sunrise Beach. The name "Ko Lipe" means "Paper Island" in the local Chao Ley language.

The huge tourism business of Ko Lipe results in water shortages, waste disposal issues, and other environmental problems. It is common to see garbage being burnt since there are not many reliable options for waste disposal. The island has a central power plant, fossil fuel-powered, but also has a small solar installation. Solar panels, even passive, are a rarity on this island awash in solar energy. Grey water is captured in cesspools as there is no sewer system. The source of fresh water is a mystery as no wells are evident.

Get in

By plane

Air Asia offers an island transfer package that includes a flight from Bangkok to Hat Yai, a bus to Pak Bara, and a ferry to Ko Lipe.

By boat

The following companies operate boats in the high season (Nov-May):

In the low-season, there is one boat per day from Pak Bara leaving at 11:30.

Boats from the mainland dock at an off-shore pontoon during high-season. During low-season ferries arrive on Sunrise Beach. Before you are allowed to proceed you must pay a 200 baht national park admission fee even though Ko Lipe is not in the national park. From there longtail boats will take you ashore for 50 baht or offer transfers to anywhere on Ko Lipe for negotiated price.

Get around

All of Ko Lipe can be covered on foot, although its size at first can be a little deceiving. There are many motorcycles and saleng on the island, none of them for rent. The saleng are motorcycle sidecar taxis (labeled as such with drivers wearing numbered blue vests) that charge 50 baht per person from any point on the island to any other point on the island (or 300 baht per hour), they are typically parked near the 7-Eleven or ordered by phone (phone numbers are displayed on many of the electric poles). There are pickup trucks on the island belonging to resorts and used to transfer their customers' bags on arrival/departure and as shuttles (certain resorts also operate golf carts as shuttles). Small concrete roads link the various beaches.

See

Do

Fishing is illegal near the island, so stay away from fishing trips and do not purchase locally-caught fish.

Diving

Around Ko Lipe are some of Thailand's best reefs, all within easy reach. The reefs around Ko Lipe are largely intact; the 2004 tsunami had little impact here. The currents here are predominantly tidal which means certain times of the month there are strong currents and at other times none at all. You can always find somewhere good to dive but the widest selection of dive sites is available twice a month, following the half moon.

You can see numerous sharks, whale sharks and manta rays. Sightings of the big guys are more likely at sites around the edge of the marine park, nearer the deeper waters. For the best chance, visit 8 Mile Rock, Stonehenge, or Ko Pung.

Dive shops

Other activities

Buy

There are currently three ATMs on the island. One is at 7-Eleven on Walking Street. Another is across from Pooh's Restaurant at the Sunrise end of Walking Street, and the third is in front of Harmony Bed and Breakfast.

Many travel agencies or hotels will offer to charge your debit/credit card and give you the cash in exchange for a 5-8 percent fee.

For currency exchange, Bundhaya Resort offers the best exchange rates for dollars, euros, pounds. or ringgit, but the rate is less than you would receive in a major city.

Eat

Drink

Beers are surprisingly cheap on Ko Lipe, given that everything else seems jacked up in price. Beers on the beach can be had for 60 baht (Feb 2016). A can of Leo in a mom-and-pop shop costs 40 baht (Feb 2016).

Sleep

There are over 60 guesthouses on the island. While some places may charge as little as 500 baht for very basic accommodation in the high season, these guesthouses sell out quickly. Most places will charge 1,000 baht+. Some hotels will have a sign advertising cheaper rates, but when you go inside to enquire, those rooms will inevitably be unavailable.

Pattaya Beach

Sunrise Beach

Karma Beach

Sunset, Bila & Sanom Beaches (Northwest Coast)

Inland

Stay safe

Precautions

Stonefish have been spotted and photographed in the waters of Ko Lipe. While the chances of getting stung are slim, you may want to consider protective footwear when swimming in the water.

Medical care

There is a hospital next to the school on Sunrise Beach, with an English-speaking doctor. There is a clinic next to Pooh Restaurant, with an English-speaking doctor.

Connect

Free Wi-Fi is available at almost all resorts and bars/restaurants. Don't expect breathtaking throughput.

Go next

Agencies abound on the island who can book the speedboat/ferry and train/bus tickets to anywhere in Thailand. It's best to buy tickets before 18:00, since the agencies won't be able to book and confirm certain bus/train tickets later in the day. If you reserve the ticket at a late hour, they will try to buy it the next day, but the train may be fully booked. It's better to insist on them reserving the ticket when you are at the agency.

For the trains it's best to book at least three days in advance. For most buses one day ahead is enough. Buses are less comfortable and more expensive compared with the 2nd air-com sleeper class trains.

Feel free to bargain. Travel agencies can't do anything about the train/bus price, but they are able to lower the ferry/speedboat price as well as the minibus transfer from the port to the city.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.