The digital nomad guide to Koh Phangan, Thailand
I’m from the Czech Republic, an awesome little country in the heart of Europe. I love living there, but less so in winter, since winters often get long and bleak. That’s why my husband and I escaped to Thailand for the past winter and spent 6 months in Koh Phangan.
I work online and even though my main job is not fully remote, I turned it into a remote one after an agreement with my boss. I work as a social media manager and apart from my main job I also have a few other projects including my travel blog Travel Geekery.
Personal Experience as a Digital Nomad in Koh Phangan
We tested the waters a year before moving to Koh Phangan for half a year. We knew about the island from a friend who called it home for a few years. At the end of one particularly long and grey autumn, we went to Koh Phangan for a month to see how it feels. We loved it and decided to come back in a year for the full winter.
Even though Koh Phangan is a relatively remote island, internet is easy to get, all cafés and restaurants have wifi and in most cases, it’s fast and reliable. Apparently, the whole island uses fiber optic cables. Power outages are rare and last a few hours at maximum, and that’s only during the heaviest rains in the rainy season. Mobile signal is great and unless you’re trekking in a jungle, you can be connected anywhere.
What’s more, despite its rather small size, the island offers all possible amenities one could wish for. It’s beautifully green with forests and jungles, some of them with trekking trails. The beaches are lovely and mostly public. There’s a thriving yoga & vegan scene and vegans don’t have any problem finding a meal at any roadside stall. Many cool events and festivals happen every week and it’s easy to meet other people. There are just so many diverse things to do in Koh Phangan!
The digital nomad scene in Koh Phangan
I’d describe the digital nomad scene on the island as vibrant. There’s plenty of coworking spaces, many cafés are work-friendly, and digital nomads often easily outnumber regular tourists in said cafés.
Expats or visitors connect usually either over yoga or working. Many groups on Facebook cater to the digital nomad crowd and it’s easy to find other like-minded travelers. The best group is called Koh Phangan Digital Nomads – they even organize a once-a-week work-together for digital nomads in a chosen café, restaurant, or a coworking space. Often they even manage to get a special perk, such as free access to a resort’s pool. After a work session, everyone has dinner together, some even hang out later in the night. Overall, it’s very easy to meet other digital nomads, since everybody is open and welcoming.
Wifi, sim cards, Internet connection, etc.
One doesn’t necessarily need a sim card if staying at a place with wifi since all restaurants and cafés have wifi too. I do need to be online pretty much all the time, so I kept a “Happy Tourist” sim card, which I purchased at Bangkok Airport.
Any 7-11 or Familymart shop sells tourist sim cards, so they’re easy to find. When you need to top up the balance on your sim card, you can either use one of the ATM-like machines (again, by any 7-11 or Familymart, or a bigger store like Tesco), but I found them a bit hard to work with.
The Happy Tourist sim card I used on my trips to Koh Phangan, and other places in Thailand previously, falls under the DTAC operator. This one has good coverage on the island. Also, the top-ups and refills are made a lot easier through a mobile app (called dtac), which is available in English too.
But again, wifi speed is generally good anywhere, so you can rely just on that.
Cost of living in Koh Phangan
While Thailand’s cost of living for digital nomads is relatively low, there’s a big difference between the North (e.g. Chiang Mai) and the islands in the South, such as Koh Phangan.
We stayed at a 2-bedroom house, ate out most of the time, and kept ourselves caffeinated well during the day at our favorite work-friendly cafés. We didn’t pay for any coworking spaces since our house provided a great work environment. We rented one scooter and used it on a daily basis. Because that’s basically the only way to get around the island, you need to factor a scooter rental + gas into the budget. It’s good if you stay at a place where you can walk to a shop or a beach, to change it up a little.
In total, we spent about $2000/month as a couple. It’s easy to stick to the budget, but you can’t eat at foreign-owned restaurants every day, because the food is pricier. We often ate at the Phantip Market in Thong Sala, where there’s plenty of different food options. Prices can differ by season too. The high season lasts from December to February.
When looking for a place to stay, there are plenty of resorts and hotels in Koh Phangan to fit any budget on the general booking sites, but if you’re after a private house, check out one of the following Facebook Groups:
Some people prefer to simply book accommodation for the first few days and then ride around on their scooter, and calling up local landlords who list their phone numbers on signs by each house for rent – and there are many.
Most countries automatically receive a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival to Thailand (by air). That can be extended at an immigration office for another 30 days. The closest immigration office is on the neighboring island of Koh Samui.
Some people take visa runs after the 30 days to get another 30 days upon returning, but this practice is looked down upon by the authorities and the more such stamps you get this way, the more of a red flag.
Thailand offers also a 2-month and a 6-month tourist visa, which you need to apply for at a Thai Embassy in your country.
Koh Phangan cafes with good wifi
There are so many work-friendly cafés in Koh Phangan! The following ones all feature a quick wifi connection.
A digital nomad hotspot, Dots is a popular modern coffee joint in Thong Sala, the main town on the island. It’s often filled with people working for several hours. Fast internet and plenty of power outlets together with strong A/C make this a no. 1 choice for digital nomads. Expect to pay about 100 THB for a cappuccino. There are not many food options available, other than sandwiches, cakes, and ice cream.
Second best choice for most people when Dots ends up being full. A locally run café is just across from Dots. The ambiance is a little different, but it’s still a great place to work. Coffee prices are slightly lower than at Dots. There’s a regular Thai food menu available too.
With two locations to choose from – in Baan Tai in the South and Haad Yao area in the West of Koh Phangan, Bubba’s is especially known for their own roasted coffee, which belongs to the best on the island. Both cafés feature a great workspace too but can fill up quickly. Pricing is on par with Dots, but here they serve especially delicious all-day breakfasts.
A new café and a bakery in one has quickly become a favorite of many digital nomads. You can find it in the Hin Kong area and if the air-conditioned ground floor fills up, head upstairs to the outdoor upper floor, where there’s still plenty of fans and a gentle breeze to cool you down. Indigo doesn’t have power outlets by the tables, so come fully charged!
Food-wise, it’s heaven. Freshly baked croissants by an in-house French baker, mouthwatering salads.. There are not many places like that in Koh Phangan. A cappuccino costs 70 THB.
An Italian restaurant by night and a lovely café by day, this spacious 2-story joint right by the road in Sri Thanu receives a surprisingly low amount of visitors. Make use of that and enjoy some privacy while working away.
Koh Phangan coworking spaces
For its size, Koh Phangan features quite a number of coworking spaces. They are:
The main coworking spot on the island, Beachub is located right at the beach – between Sri Thanu Beach and Zen Beach. A few outdoor tables overlook directly the sea, while there’s also an air-conditioned room.
Beachub offers accommodation right next to the work area in small one-bedroom bungalows facing the beach.
It’s the most expensive coworking option on the island. Expect to pay $15/day, $60/week, and $190/month (workspace only).
La Casa Tropicana
Located in the South of the island in Baan Tai, La Casa Tropicana started as a seaside resort with a large restaurant. Part of the restaurant was later remodeled into a comfortable coworking space with an air-conditioned room. Prices start at 200 THB/day ($7).
Baan Jai Dee
Situated in Wok Tum, Baan Jai Dee resort has the same owners as La Casa Tropicana. Garden views, as well as a beach and a pool, make it an awesome place to work. However, the coworking is only additional to the accommodation, so it’s available just for people staying at the resort.
On and off, Genesis Yoga Studio opens their café-like room to coworking. It features high-speed internet and a coffee machine, but there’s no A/C.
Secret Place at the end of Haad Yao Beach offers a small seaside open-space room and accommodation too. The workspace is free to use if you order a drink or a meal from their restaurant.
Koh Phangan is an amazing destination for anybody who loves yoga or wants to engage in a retreat for the body (e.g. detox) or soul (mindfulness). There are many digital nomads frequently visiting the island to combine the two.
Even though the island got some bad reputation for its Full Moon party, outside the full moon dates it’s a beautiful peaceful paradise island with plenty to offer.