Ko Lipe is the southernmost Thai island in the Andaman Sea, commonly visited by tourists. Its only about 25km by sea from Malaysia’s Langkawi island. Although hardly undiscovered, Ko Lipe is a nice mixture of clean beaches, clear water, and plenty of places to stay and eat.
When to Visit Ko Lipe
The only real time to visit is during the dry season – the wet season storms makes it too rough for regular boat connections and most (all?) businesses close down. The main season is November to April. With the possible exception of the Christmas/ New Year period – there is no real need to book ahead – you will find plenty of options when you arrive.
How To Get to Ko Lipe
If you are travelling north you can get a daily (dry season) ferry from Langkawi (Malaysia) to Lipe. The trip is only 1.5 hours (remember there is an hour’s time difference between Thailand and Malaysia). Alternatively you can travel back to the mainland – take a mini-bus north to Pakbara in Thailand and a ferry from Pakbara – this will definitely be a much longer option, it may be slightly cheaper.
From Lipe there are plenty of boats either to the mainland or onto islands such as Ko Lanta, Ko Ngai, Ko Tatarua etc.
You should note however that Ko Lipe does not have a jetty or pier. Depending on the tide you will be transferred to a local Longtail boat to get you to the beach – and you will get wet feet. its hardly cold – but make sure you have shoes you are happy to get wet. Its also a good time to have light and easily transported luggage.
Entering Thailand by Boat
Immigration is straight forward either way – prior to arrival your passport will be collected – immigration is casual at the larger Varin Resort – but unless you have got a Thai visa in advance most western visitors will only get 14 days on arrival (this counts as a “land” arrival). If you need longer get a visa in Kuala Lumpur or before leaving home.
Should I book Ko Lipe Accommodation on Ko Lipe in Advance?
In late November the place appeared very empty – and looking online I had only found expensive places – 1500Baht and up. There are three main beaches on Ko Lipe – the main beach Pattaya where you land, which is closest to the densest selection of restaurants, dive shops, mini-markets and bars. The second biggest collection accommodation is on Sunrise Beach, while Sunset beach only has a couple of options. Both the later would be quite a walk in the heat of the day with luggage – but you can get either a boat or a motorcycle taxi to take you.
In November 2011 the cheapest place I saw advertised was 300baht – that was inland near Jack’s Jungle Resort – I also saw 500 baht advertised on Pattaya beach between Varin Resort and Green View Resort. We stayed at Green View where we paid 700baht for a fan bungalow) with an excellent tiled bathroom attached and WIFI included (only at reception not in the room).
In general costs on Lipe were similar to those on Langkawi – i.e Ko Lipe is probably one of the most expensive islands in Thailand.
Can I Change Money on Ko Lipe?
We saw a sign saying “ATM” at Varin Resort – but not an actual machine – even if it exists I wouldn’t rely on it. If you are coming from another Thai location -stock up on currency before you arrive – you will get better rates elsewhere.
On Ko Lipe there are several money changers on Walking Street who give slightly better rates than the big resorts – and will give you cash advances on Credit Cards for another 5% fee. There is not difference in rates for Traveller’s checks or cash and they had rates for all major currencies (Euro, US$, GBP) and some minor ones too (A$, NZ$, C$ etc etc). So if you are coming from Malaysia bring cash.