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Ko Tao (เกาะเต่า), also known as Koh Tao, is a small island located off the coast of Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Samui. What this island is primarily known for is its amazing scuba diving and snorkeling. This is also a great place to get a good price on a scuba diving certification, while experiencing the great reefs. Ko Tao's current economy is focused almost exclusively on tourism. The official population on the island is only 1382 in the 2006 census.
The island was mainly used by fishermen, or had brief settlements on it during most of its history. In 1933 the Thai government started to use the island as a penal colony for political prisoners. In 1947 the prime minster at the time argued to close the prison down. In that same year illegal settlers from Ko Pha Ngan made the dangerous trip by sail boat to Ko Tao and set up a permanent settlement on the island.
In the 1980s the first budget travellers started to make the long journey to Ko Tao and it grew in popularity very quickly as a great scuba diving location. Over the years too much diving and too much fishing has started to take its toll on the environment. In recent years diving groups and Thai environmentalists have teamed up to try and restore the area and prevent any future damage.
The island is only 21 km² making it pretty small. The coast line is covered with beautiful beaches and coral that hosts an abundance of life. The interior is very mountainous and can be a bit scary while riding on the back of a motorbike.
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Diving is the main activity in Ko Tao. There are amazing things to see under the water off the shoreline on this island. Some areas even have a visibility of up to 35 m! Check out places like White Rock, Green Rock, Twins, Red Rock or Mango bay for a good time. Remember to arrange stuff with a local company, which are very easy to find.
Like much of Thailand, Ko Tao has a warm tropical climate with high temperatures and humidity. Temperatures during the day average between 29 and 32 degrees Celsius (May - September being the warmest time) while nights are mostly around 24 or 25 degrees Celsius. Unlike much of Thailand though, there is not a very dry or very wet season. Rain is possible during most of the year and most of this falls during October (300mm) and especially November (400mm). Then from December to March, there are still heavy rainshowers possible, while from April it becomes drier regarding the amount of rain, but there are more days with rain (around 20 versus 12-14 during December to March), meaning less intense rain.
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The nearest airport is Samui Airport (USM) on the island of Ko Samui. From there, you can catch the ferry to reach the island of Ko Tao. Samui Airport has domestic flights to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket and U-Tapao. There are also limited international flights to Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The airlines that fly in and out of Samui Airport are:
The airport is not far from Big Buddha Pier, which is where most ferries to and from Ko Tao depart from. There are frequent transfers from the airport to the pier by minivan during the day.
The only way to get to and from the Ko Tao is by boat. All boats leave from Mae Hat Pier located on the west coast of the islands. There is an overnight boat from Surat Thani (4 to 9 hours). There are day boats from Chumphon (1.5 to 3 hours), Ko Samui (4 hours) and Ko Pha Ngan (2.5 hours). Many of the boats leave in the morning or evening. Also during busy times of the years there will be more boats. Therefore check with your guesthouse about current boat schedules.
The roads around the island are pretty basic and can be a bit scary. Some of the more remote beaches away from the coast offer a water taxi service.
Food on Ko Tao is more expensive when compared to other parts of Thailand. The reason why is because there are no local markets on the island. Also all of the restaurants are in guesthouses and geared towards foreign travellers, making the prices higher. Therefore be prepared for a slight hike in the prices then compared to some other places.
Hat Sai Ri is the only area with an active nightlife. Even that nightlife is nothing compared to the neighboring islands.
Sleeping is pretty much in basic bungalow style housing. Although the prices are higher then compared to similar accommodation on the other larger islands.
|Ao Muong resort||Bann aomuong koh tao suratthani 16 moo 4 mea nam samui suratthani||Hotel||-|
There are countless internet bars across the country in big and small towns. Internet cafés are widespread and most are inexpensive. Prices as low as 15 baht/hour are commonplace, and speed of connection is generally reasonable, but many cafes close at midnight. Higher prices prevail in major package-tourist destinations (60 baht/hour is typical, 120 baht/hour is not unusual). Keyloggers are all too often installed on the computers in cheap cafes, so be on your guard if using online banking, stock broking or even PayPal. Remember that in the smaller towns and more traditional areas the owners and staff of internet bars prefer if customers take off their shoes at the entrance and leave them outside. This might seem strange although this gesture goes a far way to make friends and give a positive image of foreigners to Thai people.
Outside the most competitive tourist areas, free Wi-Fi is not as common as in neighbouring countries in many budget hotels and guesthouses and they may charge small fee for Internet by LAN or Wi-Fi even if you bring your own laptop. Wi-Fi is commonly available in cafes and restaurants serving Westerners.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international code for Thailand is 66. 999 connects to all emergency services. Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks. 911 for Tourist Police Department, English available.
For mobile phone users, Thailand has three GSM mobile service providers - AIS, DTAC and Truemove - which may be useful if you have a mobile phone that will work on either one or both of the GSM 900 or 1800 frequency bands (consult your phone's technical specifications). If you have one, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for any of the Thai carriers in any convenience store for as little as 50-200 baht and charge it up as you go. Using your own mobile phone while on holiday with a Thai pre-paid SIM card can save a lot of money and lets you give your number to family back home, so they can have an emergency contact number.
Thailand Post is the Thai postal service that deals with all local and international mail in Thailand. The business is operated from local post offices. Post offices are easy to recognise with their red white and blue motifs and the words 'Thailand Post' in English and Thai above the entrance. They are open from Monday to Saturday, usually 8:30am to 4:30pm (main ones until around 8:00pm), though keeping shorter hours on Saturdays (usually until 1:00pm). They are generally closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Each post office offers a comprehensive service which includes an Express Mail Service (EMS) and parcel post. They also have a price calculator for letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. They also have a track and trace system and money transfer services. If you want to send packages, it might be a good idea to check with private courier companies like DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are fast, reliable and generally quite competitively priced.
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