Koh Tao has been one of the most popular islands in South East Asia for nearly two decades, and with its pristine beaches, tropical coral reefs, and panoramic ocean views, it’s easy to see why. But is Koh Tao safe for travelers? In recent years, despite the hundreds of thousands of visitors who continue to visit and have hassle-free stays, this question pops up time and time again. So however you are travelling and whoever you are travelling with, here is our take on it along with some tips to help you stay safe on Koh Tao…
Is Koh Tao Safe to travel to?
Getting to Koh Tao is safe and easy. Three main ferry companies offer regular services to and from the island. So whether you want to island-hop to Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, cross to the mainland for a connecting plane, train or bus from Chumphon or Suratthani, or travel all the way to Bangkok, you will be able to find a service that meets your needs. Virtually all transport options are comfortable, air-conditioned, and in good working order. All companies have English speaking staff, so you can either book tickets directly with the service provider, or through your travel agent on Koh Tao. Travellers on the way to and from the island very rarely have any issues, but we do recommend the following precautions to help you and your baggage arrive safely on Koh Tao:
- Keep all of your valuables with you in your day bag or wallet.
- Never leave your day bag or wallet unattended.
- Ensure any stowed luggage is securely locked.
Is Koh Tao Safe for Backpackers?
Koh Tao is very safe for backpackers as long as common sense is used. There is a vibrant backpacker scene on the island, and therefore many hostels and guest houses where you can meet fellow travellers to explore and enjoy the island with. Between the various late-night bars, event nights, and the Koh Tao Pub Crawl, virtually every night can be a party night here! With late-night drinking comes additional safety risks, but as long as you are responsible there is no reason why you shouldn’t be safe on Koh Tao. Our top tips for backpackers are:
- Don’t buy, sell, or take drugs during your stay. Apart from the lack of judgment that could affect your safety on Koh Tao, the penalties for getting caught with drugs in Thailand are severe.
- Beware of cheap, ‘knock-off’ alcohol. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
- Don’t drive a rental scooter when you are drunk.
- Try to avoid a big night out when you first arrive so you can orient yourself to the island. If you do go out, take a business card from your hotel or hostel so you can easily find it again or ask for directions if you lose your way.
Is Koh Tao Safe for Solo Travellers?
While many solo travelers come to Koh Tao it’s hard to stay solo here for long, as it is such an incredibly social island. The many hostels, bars, and event nights make it easy to meet people, and if you are coming to Koh Tao to take a dive course, then you’ll be welcomed into the dive centre community too. There are, of course, some preventative steps you can take to ensure you stay safe on Koh Tao:
- Party responsibly and don’t accept drinks or rides home from strangers.
- Sign up for organised events or hostel socials where you’ll have buddies to walk with if you are concerned about being out alone.
- Carry a pocket map of Koh Tao with you. There are many island maps available free of charge at travel agencies, tourist information points, and in the stands outside 7-Eleven stores.
- If you are headed out to explore solo, make sure you let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
Is Koh Tao Safe for Families?
Family holidays on Koh Tao are becoming increasingly popular. Thanks to the wide range of family-friendly accommodation, childcare options, and activities for children, there is plenty to see and do for all ages. Our top holiday tips to keep families safe on Koh Tao during their stay are:
- Rent a taxi (either cab or longtail boat) to visit beaches and bays that are out of walking distance from your accommodation. This is much safer than trying to ride a rental scooter with children.
- Pick a quiet resort away from the bars and nightlife to ensure your family is well slept and ready for exploration and fun every day.
- Research the best daycare facilities, and only sign your kids up for activities with properly trained and qualified providers.
Is Koh Tao Safe – The Media
OK, let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s no secret that Koh Tao has attracted its fair share of bad press over the years following the murder of two backpackers in 2014. But do bear in mind that in most cases, this is exactly the right description for it – bad press. While it is horrible that such a violent crime happened on Koh Tao and nobody is trying to pretend it didn’t, most of the stories in the media calling Koh Tao ‘Death Island’ or ‘Murder Island’ have been sensationalised to add a ‘clickbait’ effect and boost sales.
2014 was a crazy time to be a Koh Tao resident. Before this, Koh Tao had rarely made the news for anything aside from scuba diving related stories and various island conservation efforts. So it came as a shock to read about our beautiful island home in anything other than a positive way. Don’t get us wrong, none of us are laboring under an illusion that bad things can never happen here. But for the most part, except for a few motorbike accidents and other assorted drunken injuries, Koh Tao had never been associated with danger before.
It took a long time for the island to recover, and to this day we still receive questions from travellers asking ‘is Koh Tao safe’. We believe it is – especially compared to other popular tourist destinations that have much higher crime rates. Most visitors agree, and we’ve yet to meet anyone who says they don’t feel just as safe – or even safer – walking around on Koh Tao than they would in their home town or city.
So…Is Koh Tao Safe
Yes, we honestly believe Koh Tao is safe. Of course, safety can never be 100% guaranteed in any destination. So visitors to Koh Tao do need to take some responsibility and use good judgement to avoid accidents and issues. Mostly this just means using common sense and applying the same principles you’d live by at home to your trip to Koh Tao. You can also follow our tips about how to stay safe on Koh Tao.
We wish you all a safe and happy stay on our paradise island. If you have any questions or need further information, feel free to contact us ☺