Koh Samui is a great place for digital nomads if you want a mixture of good internet access, Thai living, easy transport, immigration office plus tourist escapes.
Koh Samui is a great place for digital nomads if you want a mixture of good internet access, Thai living, easy transport, immigration office plus tourist escapes. I would say its up there as one of the better places to be in Thailand for digital nomads, simply due to these factors. It’s definitely not perfect – food is quite expensive due to the whole place being tourist focused, rents can be higher, and the airport is privately owned, so direct flights are costly.
The island is not that big, and traffic on roads is fairly quiet in most places, so its a nice place to explore and not get bored when staying for an extended time.
Why is it better than Phuket? Phuket is a bit big and some of the areas are shady as hell. Why is it better than Koh Lanta? Lanta is a bit too small, and doesn’t have enough amenities to make a long stay interesting (just getting a decent supermarket on Lanta would be a start!). Phangnan is awesome, but without airport and immigration a long stay is harder.
The main thing I found the hardest to deal with when on Samui is the lack of coworking spaces and community for business-focused people on the island – there’s not a lot! Which is surprising considering the other places in Thailand where coworking has popped up.
Still, I tried to get around that with this list of cafes that make coworking easy and reaching out to people as much as possible.
Cafes and Coworking in Koh Samui
While I was on Samui, I created a Google Doc for places to work from – especially cafes. Find a list of Wifi and Coffee places on Koh Samui on Google Docs. The document is completely editable by anyone – so if you find somewhere I’ve missed, feel free to add it, or update existing listings with new information.
My favourite places to work
Jungle Club – High up in the mountains between Lamai and Chaweng, Jungle Club is an upmarket place where prices are as high as the viewpoint! But they have quite a few places to sit, a few power points, OK Wi-Fi and an awesome view over Chaweng, plus enough food and drink options to see you through from morning to night. Bikes can just about make it up the steep hills here (probably not if two people on a bike), and taxis won’t go, so a top tip is to get Jungle Club to pick you up from your home – phone the reception on 06818918263 to arrange it (or maybe Facebook Message although they can be slow to respond) – it’s cheaper than using taxis too.
Mawin Cafe – A “coworking cafe” at the bottom of Lamai main road. Just does coffee, the owner seems addicted to games, and I’m not sure how much of a viable business it is and how long it will last, but its a good place to do some work and enjoy the AC.
Coworking spaces on Koh Samui
There is no dedicated coworking space on Samui which is a real surprise.
There was one office space on the island – IT Complex Lamai – however it was a weird place to work from – but insanely cheap – just 10 Baht (less than 20p GBP) per visit if using your own laptop! However, this did not include any Wi-Fi access so you would have to use 3G or a True Wi-Fi hotspot that you could pickup. Connecting to it was difficult for most people, but if you get someone else to setup your account first (Phone Shops at Tesco Lotus), then it should be fine. IT Complex is easy to find on the main ring road as you enter Lamai from Chaweng, and is open 9am-7pm daily.
Hire a motorbike and avoid taxi mafia
The taxi mafia is still alive in Samui – i.e. extortionate charges for bad service – so getting a taxi anywhere, even using Grab or NaviGo Apps, costs 220THB (£6/$7/€6) as a minimum fare. This is a real shame, as this promotes drunken car and scooter use by everyone, even locals. In other places in Thailand, like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, where the taxi mafia has no power, you can get cheap Grab rides easily, but not on Samui.
If you use Grab app, the only people who seem to use it are legitimate taxi and chauffeur drivers, I’ve never just had someone trying to earn some extra money.
When to visit Samui
The worst months to visit Samui are October to January. This is the monsoon season. In October and November, rain is sporadic, but you will see a rise in mosquitos, and you should bring or buy an umbrella! In December and January – which is weirdly the peak season – the weather is the worst, with daily heavy rains, rough seas and flooding. Avoid it!
Because Samui is in a different Gulf of Thailand, it’s a great place to go when places like Phuket or Lanta in the South have their rainy season.
Getting to Koh Samui – easiest and cheapest
Easiest – Fly direct to Koh Samui (USM) airport
Cheapest – Fly to Surat Thani, get a bus from airport to the pier, get a boat to Samui, get a bus (arrival pier is on wrong side of island).
At Koh Samui airport
The airport is tiny and is the most island-style airport you’ll ever see! I love it! There are cash machines there, plus some money and exchange counters, plus a place to get a TRUE sim card (wouldn’t recommend it – I prefer AIS). There are a couple of taxi counters – their prices seem identical and prices seem fixed. You can jump in a shared van with a ton of other other people, I think it’s around 150thb regardless of where it goes.
For a private car from the airport to Chaweng is 500THB, and to Lamai is 800THB. Pay cash at the counter and give one of the slips of paper to the driver.
Where to stay on Samui
The real question here is not where you want to stay but do you want to ride a scooter everywhere? Because the taxi mafia makes taxis so expensive compared with everything else, your only real option to getting around is to ride a scooter/motorbike, or walk.
If you want to walk everywhere, you should probably stay in Chaweng or Lamai. These are established places where everything is fairly walkable – beach, supermarket, markets, plenty of restaurants. Chaweng is more of a tourist hub, so has a better selection of shops, gyms, and a cinema. Lamai is a lot more laidback, less party scene, although there are still plenty of bars and action if you know where to look.
If you are happy riding a scooter, you have a ton of options of places to stay. You can find some amazing apartments in the hills of Chaweng/Lamai, brand new modern apartments with amazing views, for around 20,000THB per month or less. Bangrak (Big Buddha) area also has a few new build modern places, and that side of the island also gets the sunset.
My advice to finding somewhere is to get here in person, then drive / walk around and try to find somewhere to live. It’s easy to find somewhere and say you want to move in the next day, and most landlords will be understanding if deposit/rent money takes a few days to transfer from your home country to Thailand.
Immigration on Samui
There is a visa immigration office in Maenam.
The office used to be in Nathon which was a massive hassle to get to, being in Maenam makes it super convenient to get to from anywhere.
Extend your visa exemption or tourist visa entry for an extra 30 days by paying 1900 THB.
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