Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi (หมู่เกาะพีพี) is a small archipelago in Krabi Province, Southern Thailand.

Understand

Aerial photo of Ko Phi Phi Don

The named islands are:

Most of the development of Phi Phi Don is in or around Ton Sai Village, which is on the low, sandy isthmus that joins the two hilly spurs that comprise the rest of the island. There are also other, quieter resorts on Long Beach, Laem (Cape) Thong, and at other less accessible areas of the island.

Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, when the island's entire infrastructure was nearly wiped out. Redevelopment has, however, been swift, and services are back with building regulations in place to limit the height of new buildings to preserve the island's stunning views.

It should be noted that, while very laid back, many of the local islanders are Muslim. You will lose considerable respect if you walk around town in your skimpies (this applies to Buddhist areas of Thailand too!). While many thoughtless tourists do parade down Main Street in their Speedos or thong bikinis, to avoid offending your hosts, it's best just to throw on a pair of shorts or a sarong. Similarly, going topless on the beach, while grudgingly tolerated by most locals, is also best avoided.

Climate

Weather in the region is tropical. There are only two seasons: the hot season from Jan-Apr, and the rainy season from May-Dec. Temperatures during the year average 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 89.6°F) and the yearly rainfall averages 2569 mm. Unlike in, say, Europe, the rain in this region comes down heavily over short periods.

History

From archaeological evidence, it is believed that the area was one of the oldest communities in Thailand, dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this province may have taken its name after the meaning of "Krabi", which means "sword". This may have arisen from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding.

The name Phi Phi (pronounced "pee pee") originates from Malay, the original name for the islands were "Pulao Pi ah Pi". The name refers to the mangrove wood found here.

Geography

Ko Phi Phi is considered to be one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the world (in fact, there are six islands in Phi Phi). They lie 50 km southeast of Phuket and are part of Had Nopparattara-Ko Phi Phi National Park which is home to an abundance of corals and amazing marine life. There are limestone mountains with cliffs, caves and long white sandy beaches. The national park covers a total area of 242,437 rai (about 39,000 hectares; 97,000 acres).

Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le are the largest and most well-known islands. The islands are surrounded by the Andaman Sea.

There are two villages on Ko Phi Phi under the administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province.

Get in

By plane

Krabi International Airport (KBV), Tel. +66 75 636541-2, is about 10 km from the city limits, 15 km from the city centre, 40 km from Ao Nang, and 23 km from Had Yao.

Thai Airways operates daily direct flights to/from Bangkok, likewise Air Asia from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok Airways flies direct to/from Krabi and Ko Samui nearly every day of the week. Nok Air operates daily flights to Krabi from Bangkok (Don Mueang).

Air Asia has a special “Island Transfer” offering that includes a flight from Bangkok to Phuket, surface transport, and a ferry to Ko Phi Phi. It can all be booked at their website.

The international departure tax surcharge is 700 baht but is included in most ticket prices now. Domestic departure tax is included in the price of the flight.

National Car Rental and Budget Car Rental have a branch at the airport. Motorcycle taxis are available outside the terminal.

Krabi Limousine (Tel. +66 75 692073) has a desk inside the terminal and provides "limousine taxi" (using large air-conditioned sedans) transport to Krabi for 500 baht, Phuket for 2,500 baht.

Air conditioned airport bus service is 90 baht to Krabi. The bus service meets all incoming flights and serves most outgoing flights. A songthaew to Krabi town is 40 baht from the road near the airport. Going to the airport they will drop you right at the departure terminal.

By boat

Travelling to Ko Phi Phi by boat is how almost everyone arrives. Ferries leave from Phuket and Mainland Krabi daily (from Krabi, two ferries a day, 09:00, and 14:30, and from Phuket at 09:00, 11:00, and 14:30 (11:00 during high season only). Sailing time to/from Phuket or Krabi is 1.5-2 hours. Tickets can be purchased on the dock, from tourist offices, most local guesthouses and hotels or online at Phi Phi Ferry or Phuket Ferry (Online seems to be more expensive). There is a 20 baht per person fee required on the pier for "keeping Ko Phi Phi clean". Unfortunately, there is still plenty of rubbish on the beaches.

Ticket prices:

Ferries are all not of equal quality. Despite reports to the contrary, Andaman Wave Master will no longer take you for free to north Ko Phi Phi after the stop at Ton Sai pier (expect another 200 baht per person). Andaman Wave Master has also recently suffered a pretty big hit in customer service. Watch out for their Krabi representatives, who will offer to sell round-trip tickets at a discount with the option of changing the return destination to Phuket if you decide to take a different way back to the mainland. Representatives at both Ko Phi Phi and Phuket will refuse to refund or alter the tickets.

The Sea Angel ferries are quite nice with big flat screen TVs and refreshments. These are sold online as first class ferries.

The ferries run by Chao Koh group, particularly the smallest "Pichamon IV" are often overcrowded and appear to be very poorly maintained, which does not inspire confidence. The ferries run by PP Family are larger and seem more suited to the task.

The ferries run by Phi Phi Cruiser may take a little longer but they include a movie, complimentary breakfast (if taking the morning crossing) and complimentary beverage service. For an additional fee, you can purchase a "VIP ticket" which also includes snorkelling and a buffet lunch on Phi Phi Don.

Other tour vessels visit the island from several Phuket-based resorts, usually on day trips. The price for a speedboat from Rawai Beach was quoted at 15,000 baht return (or one way) for up to 6 people. There are many speedboats operating directly from the beach but it may be best to book the day before as most seem to be away on trips during the day. Speedboats can also be chartered from other nearby locations, but at a very high price.

By all-inclusive tours from Phi Phi Island

There are many speedboat tours of Phi Phi island for people staying on Phi Phi Island. Speedboats are generally small for groups of 4 -12 people. They can be more flexible with the time you wish to depart and also the length of time you can take. organised tours usually cover Mask, Snorkel, Fins, Life Jacket, Tour Guide, Coke, Water, Lunch, Fruit. Small speedboats from 1,600 THB per person.

Private companies providing small group tours are few:

By all-inclusive tour from Phuket

Agencies selling all-inclusive day trips from Phuket are all over Patong town, and most everywhere else on Phuket Island. Typical is a lengthier "half-day" hour tour via speedboat negotiated to 1,400 baht/person (down from the pamphlet's printed price of 3,000 baht). The tour includes 6 different stops, a buffet lunch on Phi Phi Don, snorkel usage, and minibus transport to and from the Patong Beach hotel. This offering seems incredibly common, and one should be able to find similar deals sold anywhere on Phuket that tourists frequent.

Things to keep in mind:

Private companies providing small group tours are few:

By bus

As Ko Phi Phi is an island, the bus will get you close but you'll still need to cross by boat or plane at the end. Buses from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal (Tel. +66 2 4351199) to Krabi take about 12 hours and depart as follows:

Shuttle buses run between Krabi airport and Phuket airport several times a day. There are also regular buses that make the 2 hour run.

There are buses to Krabi from every provincial town in the south.

By car

From Bangkok:

By train

The nearest train station to Krabi is in Trang Province which is 1.5-2 hours drive south of Krabi. If you are going south from Bangkok, Chiang Mai, et al. you will use the station at Surat Thani.

Get around

Phi Phi officially has no motorised transport, though there are a few motorcycles with sidecars, usually used for goods and construction material transport. Transport on land is by foot or bicycle, but in the populated areas of Ton Sai, nowhere is more than about a ten minutes walk from anywhere else. Longtail boats sail between all beaches. On Phi Phi Don, you can also walk to any beach. From Ton Sai to Long Beach, expect to pay 40 baht/person in the afternoon, at least 80 baht at night. To have a complete boat to yourself, expect to pay at least 100 baht.

Wheelbarrows are used to transport goods, including your luggage if you like. Expect free transport from the pier to your room, but not necessarily in the opposite direction.

The most common ways to get around on Ko Phi Phi are by foot and by longtail. As with most everything in an area like this, the price for longtail boats is a negotiation. Hint: Take some foam earplugs for the longtail boat rides. It's a fun ride but the engines are loud and after 45 minutes it can get to you. Negotiating for longtail boats is usually done according to where you want to go and how many hours you want the trip to last. As an example, 1,200 baht for a 6-hour outing to Ko Phi Phi Leh and Ton Sai Bay from the Holiday Inn Resort.

See

Phi Phi Don

Ton Sai Bay

This island is the largest of the 6 Phi Phi islands and consists of two main sections. It is on Ton Sai where the original inhabitants settled and is now the site of most accommodations. Phi Phi Don is quite stunning and has earned the title of one of the most fantastic islands in the world. Nowadays though, with development, the beaches have paid the price, so they're not quite as spectacular as they were in the past.

Phi Phi Leh

The second largest of the Phi Phi Islands is extremely beautiful, and near-pristine, but is uninhabited because it is a national park.

Other islands

Do

A long-tail boat on the bay off Ko Phi Phi

Diving

There are many dive shops on Ton Sai Bay within walking distance of each other. They can organize all diving and accommodations. Expect to pay the same everywhere. A PADI open water course is 13,800 baht, with SSI being 900 baht less. There are a few different trips offered by Phi Phi dive operators, the typical trip is a two-tank local dive in the Phi Phi Marine Park which will run about 2,500 baht, or 2,000 baht if you bring your own gear. They also do 2-3 tank trips to the King Cruiser wreck with your follow-up dives at both Shark Point and Anemone Reef. This trip usually runs between 3,200-3,900 baht depending on the number of dives you do. Further away, Hin Daeng has some of the steepest drops in Thailand (60+ m) as well as being the place you are most likely to see manta rays and whale sharks, and can be a great dive trip, but it only runs if sea conditions are good.

Dive sites

Sailing and cruising

Krabi has plenty of anchorages, usually deserted and all so beautiful. There are many charter sailing boats available and some even offer "join-in" day trips for two or more people. Phi Phi offers a variety of ways for sailing and cruising. Longtails can be hired for sunset tours and island excursions. They can be found on any beach.

Snorkelling

There are two rocks within swimming distance of Long Beach known as "Shark Point" where harmless blacktip reef sharks can be seen. Many dive schools take snorkellers on their dive boats, but expect to see only a hint of the underwater marvels visible to scuba divers. The snorkelling off Bamboo and Mosquito Islands is quite good although the reefs are a long way below you at high tide. If you arrive on Bamboo Island in a longtail boat you will be asked to pay 200 baht/person to stay on the beach, or 400 baht/person to stay on the beach and further afield. Always ask for the ticket. With it, you do not have to pay 400 baht/person, just the 200 baht/person.

Buy

Most stuff is brought in by boat, so most things are less original and more expensive than on the mainland. However, there are a few shops that manufacture their goods on the island. Prices for commodities vary widely between shops.

Most of the items sold here are either made by local fishermen or they are brought to the island from Phuket town. Rising commercialization and inflow of tourists throughout the year seems to be a big bonus for these locals. Prices asked may exceed the value of the item, but if you are a good talker, you can bargain for a good price.

Learn

Eat

In general, Southern Thai food is known for its spiciness. Much of the cuisine has its origins in Malay, Indonesian and Indian food. Favourite dishes from the south include Indian-style Muslim curry (massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (khanom jeen) and chicken with yellow rice.

Drink

Ton Sai Bay party

Ton Sai Bay has a variety of nightlife, something for everyone’s taste. Jazz, blues, and classics can be found at the leading hotels. Or, if it's romance you're after, you and your loved one can relax in one of the outside hotel bars and sip a cocktail under the stars. The police usually allow, if there is no trouble, bars to stay open until about 01:00 in the town and 04:00 on the beach.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 1,000 baht
Mid-range 1,000 baht to 2,500 baht
Splurge Over 2,500 baht

Accommodation is relatively expensive. Doubles range from 400 baht up into the 1,000s the closer you get to the beach front. If you are on a budget expect to work hard to find a decent price. If you get really desperate, a couple of places rent out tents for about 200–300 baht. Prices double during the high season of Oct/Nov-May. Other times of the year you can find relatively cheap accommodation for around 200-300 baht.

To have the best choice for accommodation, arrive on Phi Phi just before the full moon party, when most people will be on Ko Pha Ngan. Since a lot of people move from Ko Pha Ngan to Ko Phi Phi after the party, accommodation may be very hard to find on Phi Phi around this time. It is not uncommon to see people arrive on the morning ferry only to leave in the afternoon because they have been unsuccessful in finding accommodation.

Backpackers need only to look further east on the main street for relatively cheap accommodation. Certain guesthouses have dorms, and some have reputations for being good sources of camaraderie and parties. Compare. All the dorms are different.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay healthy

Ko Phi Phi has a couple of pharmacies and a hospital. For serious illnesses, go back to Krabi or even better, Phuket.

Go next

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