Koh Samui, Surat Thani, South - Thailand
Moving to Koh Samui Guide
With world famous beaches, chic restaurants, a variety of activities and a laid back lifestyle, Koh Samui is a top destination for expats. Offering a fantastic quality of life at affordable prices it’s a great place to live the dream. Also known as Coconut Island, Koh Samui is set in the tropical climes of the Gulf of Thailand. With all the charm of living on an island and having easy access to other destinations with an international airport and frequent ferry service to the mainland and other islands, Koh Samui is a compelling place to make your new life in The Land of Smiles.
Start your morning with a cappuccino at a French cafe, enjoy a round of golf at a world-class course, catch up on reading while lounging on a beach and take a walk around a night market to sample a variety of incredible Thai food, there is so much on offer to fill your days in Koh Samui. Not only does Koh Samui have something for all budgets, it also lets you choose how “exotic” you want your lifestyle to be. From living like a local to constantly pampering yourself in 5-star luxury (and everything in between), it’s all possible.
Koh Samui’s past as a sleepy island with fishing communities & a coconut palm industry is still there side by side modern amenities that keep its current position atop many travelers and expats destination lists. With this guide, you will find much of the practical information needed to make your move as well as cultural differences and local tips for an easy life once you’ve arrived.
Area: 228.7 km2 (88.3 sq mi)
Population: 67.01 million (World Bank, 2015)
Language: Thai with English widely spoken
Currency: Baht (THB, ฿)
Time zone: GMT/UTC +7
Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Both flat and round, two-pin plugs are used.
Everyday Costs & Exchange Rates
Quick snack from a food vendor: 25 baht
Thai meal: 40-60 baht
Western meal: 100 baht +
An iced coffee at the beach: 35 baht
Cinema ticket: 160 baht
9 holes of golf (with cart): 1,000 baht
1-hour massage: 300 baht
Phone (monthly calling & texting + internet): 700 baht
125cc Scooter rental (daily/monthly): 150/2,200
Car rental (daily/monthly): 1,200/10,000
1 bedroom condo (1-month rental): 15,000 baht +
2 bedroom house (1-month rental): 20,000baht +
1 bedroom condo (purchase): 2,000,000 baht +
2 bedroom house (purchase): 3,000,000 baht +
Utilities (water + electric) for a 1 bedroom condo: 1,500 baht (no air con) / 3,500 baht (heavily used air con)
For more details about the most current exchange rates please visit “http://www.xe.com/“
Climate and weather
Ko Samui features a tropical savanna climate. The island has only had one true dry season month, with the average monthly precipitation in February falling below 60 mm (2 in), the threshold for a tropical dry season month. The climate is warm and humid for most of the year. However, in comparison to Phuket and most of the rest of southern Thailand, Samui’s weather is relatively drier (Samui receives about 1,960 mm rain per year, Phuket 2,220 mm (87 in), while Phuket’s Wet Season is spread over 6–8 months, Ko Samui has only two months with more than 212 mm (8 in) of rain). The heaviest precipitation is typically seen in the months of October and November. For the rest of the year, given the tropical climate, rain showers are brief; 20–60 minutes duration is typical.
For everything Visa related, Travelfish.org provides an impressive guide to visa and general Thailand information. Citizens of most Western & developed nations along with numerous other countries around the world can visit Thailand for 30 days without a visa. On arrival in Thailand, your passport will be stamped with a 30-day entry permit. To be eligible, immigration may want you to provide proof that you have a return air ticket or a ticket for onward travel. This may be extended for an extra 30 days (depending on your citizenship) while in Thailand at an immigration office.
You can also initially move to Thailand with a tourist visa obtained at a Thai consulate in your home country prior to your arrival which is valid for 60 days, or a better option can be a non-immigrant visa, which is initially valid for 90 days. This visa can then be extended through Thai Immigration for up to one year for the purposes of business, education, marriage or retirement.
While both the tourist and the non-immigrant visa can be issued by a Thai Embassy or Consulate outside of Thailand, extensions are issued by Thai Immigration once you’re in the country. Below is an overview of the types of visa that can be issued by Thai Embassies or some Consulates. You should call the Thai consulate in your country or visit their website to see what the current regulations are.
Thailand Elite Visa
Thailand Elite offers intriguing options for long-term VIP Thai visas ranging from 5-20 years. The program comes with a concierge service, discounts within Thailand at restaurants & resorts along with golf & spa perks.
Thailand Elite also has a family visa option which makes things easy for the whole family. The program is being assisted by Henley & Partners and they will walk you through the entire process.
Below you will find useful website links to better inform yourself about the Thai Privilege Program.
Henley & Partners (Program Overview)
Official Thailand Elite Website:
Business Insider UK article:
Buying Real Estate in Koh Samui
Koh Samui along with other prime destinations in Thailand is
RE/MAX Island Real Estate can take care of your rental or purchase needs on Koh Samui. After an attentive assessment of your budget and knowing your can property goals we can offer practical advice for the areas in Koh Samui that best suit you. We can assist in finding you a rental property while you search for your perfect home, condo or investment property.
There are many options for property purchase, lease & rental on Koh Samui. Below are links to our Condo Buyers Guide.
If you’re moving to Koh Samui with your children, you’ll most probably want to send them to either a private school or to one of the international schools available, rather than to a public school which may be overcrowded and will teach primarily in Thai.
While the international schools teach from the national curriculum of the country attached to them, many of the private schools also follow a foreign curriculum and can be a cheaper alternative while still giving you the peace of mind that your child’s education meets international standards and is well covered.
There are many education establishments from preschool through high school to fulfill your children’s education requirements.
Here is a list of schools in Koh Samui:
Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand though in Koh Samui Islamic communities are often involved in the fishing industry. The family is the cornerstone of Thai society. Very hierarchical, you’ll find Thai people respectful, polite, friendly and eager to maintain harmony in life.
Thais are a polite people and, while remarkably tolerant of foreigners gallivanting on their beaches and with their women, you’ll find that you will get more respect if you, in turn, treat them and their customs with respect.
The traditional greeting known as the wai, where you press your hands together as is in prayer and bow slightly, is derived from the Hindu cultural influence from http://wikitravel.org/en/India “India, and still widely practised. Among Thais, there are strict rules of hierarchy that dictate how and when the wai should be given. In brief, inferiors salute superiors first. You should not wai service people or street vendors. The higher your hands go, the more respectful you are. You will also often see Thais doing a wai as they walk past temples and spirit houses. As a foreign visitor, you are not expected to know how to wai, nor to reciprocate when wai’d to; while you’re unlikely to cause offense if you do, you may well look slightly strange. If somebody makes a wai to you, a slight bow alone is more than sufficient for ordinary occasions, and for business, most Thais will shake hands with foreigners instead of waiing anyway.
Personal appearance is very important in Thailand as a measure of respect to other people, you will find that dressing appropriately means that you are shown more respect in return. This translates in many ways, even sometimes lowering initial offering prices at markets. While some allowance is made for the differing customs of foreigners, Thais respond more positively to well-dressed Westerners.
Traditionally, Thais are modest and conservative dressers. At a minimum your clothes should be neat, clean, and free from holes or tears. Except at the beach or at sacred sites normal western dress is acceptable for both men and women, except that you should avoid clothing showing a lot of skin. Pants are preferable to shorts, blouses should have capped sleeves, and if tank tops are worn, the straps should be thick (i.e., not spaghetti straps). Thai men generally wear pants, and most Thais view an adult man wearing shorts as fairly ridiculous; shorts are primarily worn by laborers and schoolchildren. Men’s shorts should be knee length or more, if worn at all.
Taking off one’s shoes at temples and private homes is mandatory etiquette, and this may even be requested at some shops. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily. Flip-flops, hiking sandals, and clog-type shoes are usually a good pragmatic choice for traveling in Thailand; only in the most top-end establishments are shoes required.
Thai is a tonal language with 5 tones (mid, low, falling, high and rising). The Thai alphabet has 44 consonants, 15 vowel symbols and 4 tone marks. Each letter of the Thai alphabet is learned with its associated object: ก “g” as in chicken, ข “k” as in egg, ฃ “k” as in bottle, …, up to ฮ “h” as in owl. There are numerous transcription methods for writing Thai in Latin letters, all of which are of limited use in Thailand. It is highly recommended to start learning the Thai alphabet from the start.
Thai transliterations into English can be quite inaccurate, as the language has several vowels and consonants which English does not have. It also does not have a couple of consonants which English does have. (c,q,v,x,z)
Another seriously mispronounced letter is “v”. This letter does not occur in the Thai language at all, and is always actually a “w”. (Suvarnabhumi – Suwannapoom – being an example.)
Google Translate has a handy speaker function that generally pronounces the Thai word equivalent to allow you to hear the pronunciation and also communicate with locals. Note that it hasn’t mastered translating English into Thai and phrases and especially longer sentences may not translate as you intended them to!
Here is a quick list of useful Thai phrases:
The food alone is really reason enough for a trip to Thailand. Curries, fruit shakes, stir fries, fresh fish made a zillion ways – and that’s just the beginning. Food in Thailand can be as cheap and easy as 25 baht pad thai (Thai fried noodles) cooked at a street stall and floating markets or as expensive and complicated as a $100 ten-course meal by a royal chef served in one of Bangkok’s 5 star hotels.
Since most backpackers will be sticking closer to the first than the second, one of the great things about Thailand is that food from stalls and tiny sidewalk restaurants is usually quite safe. Unlike some Asian countries, travellers should worry more about overeating or too much curry spice than about unclean kitchens and bad food. In fact, street restaurants, where you can see what you’ll get and everything is cooked on the spot can be a safe option.
Thai food is most commonly eaten with fork and spoon. Hold the spoon in your right hand and use it to eat, and reserve the fork for piling food onto your spoon. Chopsticks are only employed for noodle soups and East Asian-style dishes.
Thai food is meant for sharing. Everybody gets their own plate of rice and tiny soup bowl, but all the other dishes are laid out in the middle of the table and you’re free to eat what you wish. Though some people believe that taking the last piece from a shared plate is considered slightly unlucky, and you may hear people make wishes for others to compensate for their own misfortune — a popular wish is that “may my girl/boyfriend be beautiful”!
Food is also generally brought out a dish at a time as it is prepared. It is not expected for diners to wait until all meals are brought out before they start eating as is polite in western culture. Instead, they should tuck into the nearest meal as it arrives.
Thailand has 16 public holidays. These include New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, while Christmas Day is an observance.
While there are 16 public holidays, some workers in Thailand are entitled to less, and the government may also add more in the future. The dates for holidays and observances changes from year to year.
For more details please visit:
The Royal Family
It’s illegal (lèse-majesté) to show disrespect to royalty, a crime which carries up to 15 yearsimprisonment. Do not make any negative remarks or any remarks which might be perceived as disrespectful about the King or any members of the Royal Family. Since the King is on the country’s currency, don’t burn, tear, or mutilate it – especially in the presence of other Thais. If you drop a coin or bill, do not step on it to stop it – this is very rude since you are stomping on the picture of the King’s head that is printed on the coin. Also, anything related to the stories and movies The King and I and Anna and the King is illegal to possess in Thailand. Almost all Thais, even ones in other countries, feel very strongly when it comes to any version of this story. They feel that it makes a mockery of their age-old monarchy and is entirely inaccurate. In 2007, a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for spraying graffiti on the King’s portrait, although he later expressed remorse and was pardoned by His Majesty personally.
Other Important Details
The head is considered the holiest part of the body, and the foot the dirtiest part. Never touch or pat a Thai on the head, including children. If you accidentally touch or bump someone’s head, apologize immediately or you’ll be perceived as very rude. Similarly, do not touch people with your feet, or even point to them. If someone is sitting with outstretched feet, avoid stepping over them, as this is very rude and could even spark a confrontation. Squeeze around them or ask them to move. Even if the person is sleeping, it is best to go around, as others are likely to notice. Take care when you sit in a temple to cross your legs under you “mermaid-style” so your feet do not point at any person or statue. Do not pose alongside a Buddhist statue for a photo and certainly don’t clamber on them. It’s OK to take photos of a statue, but everyone should be facing it. It is considered impolite and disrespectful to visibly sniff food before eating it, particularly when eating in someone’s home (this is true even if the sniffing is done in appreciation). Do not audibly blow your nose in public. Also, as doorway thresholds are considered a sanctuary for spirits, it’s important not to step on a raised threshold, but rather to step over it. Keep this in mind especially when visiting temples.
In Thailand, expression of negative emotions such as anger or sadness is almost never overt, and it is possible to enjoy a vacation in Thailand without ever seeming to see an argument or an unhappy person. Thai people smile constantly, and to outsiders, this is seen as happiness or friendliness. In reality, smiling is a very subtle way to communicate, and to those who live in Thailand, a smile can indicate any emotion — from fear to anger, to sadness, to joy, etc. “Saving face” is a very important aspect of Thai culture and they will try to avoid embarrassment and confrontation.
In public places (such as large markets) the National Anthem is played over loudspeakers at 8 A.M. and 6 P.M. When this is played, everybody stops what they are doing and stands still, and you should do the same. The Royal Anthem is played in cinemas before the film, and everyone must stand. It lasts about a minute, then everyone will continue where they left off.
Getting In Touch
The international dialing code for Thailand is +66. When you’re dialing out from Thailand, you’ll need to use the outgoing code – 001 followed by the country code, for instance, dialing the UK, you’d use 00144 followed by your area code and number. You’ll also find that mobile phone service providers such as True & AIS offer good coverage around the island.
The country code top-level domain is .th
Broadband high-speed internet is readily available on Koh Samui with monthly costs starting at around 600 baht.
While the Thai postal service – the Thai Post Company Limited – is considered fairly reliable with expedited services available for letters and packages sent to Thailand, it will be slow when posting to addresses abroad, it’s well worth considering using an international courier service such as FedEx or DHL.
Opening a bank account in Thailand is relatively easy. Some banks may require a work permit while others only require you to hold a non-immigrant visa. Many international banks have branches in Thailand, including Citibank and Deutsche Bank but these are mostly found in Bangkok. In Koh Samui, there are many local banks with a good reputation such as Bangkok Bank and the Siam Commercial Bank. Both banks also have overseas locations such as Singapore & Hong Kong.
Insurance Overview & Private Insurance
Thailand has long been known for medical tourism and for good reason. With high-quality private hospitals and clinics, modern facilities at many and generally reasonable prices most of your health care needs should be able to be taken care of in Thailand.
Before leaving for Thailand check with your insurance plan and see which hospitals and services you will be covered for under your current plan when you arrive in Thailand. If your current insurance is limited for overseas travel or if you plan on doing activities such as trekking or diving you may want to look into purchasing travel insurance that is suitable for your needs.
Once you have decided to make a move to Thailand you may choose to purchase private health insurance locally. There are many options available including Bupa & Krungthai Axa which have plans that cover the best hospitals in Thailand and offer coverage for travel outside of the Kingdom.
A list of hospitals on Koh Samui can be found at this website:
Pharmacies are plentiful and are generally open between 9am and 9pm, while some smaller stores may be open outside of these hours. Pharmacy prices are usually very reasonable. International pharmacy chains such as Boots & Watsons are available along with many large well stopped local pharmacies. In private hospitals and most pharmacies, English will be spoken by someone on staff.