Southern Thailand islands also known as the “Paradise” Islands are among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. More than 12,000,000 tourists have visited Thailand in 2005, and the majority of them had left the Bangkok International Airport immediately after their arrival and headed straight to the Southern Islands. Some of the visitors were fascinated by the stories of people who were caught in the charms of the unforgettable ambience of the islands, some of them were taken by images they saw on the web, while others were convinced as per the words of their travel agent that the Thai Islands were indeed the ultimate tourist destination that fits every taste, age, budget and personality type. This can partly explain the massive flow of honeymooners, backpackers, families-on-vacation, partygoers, divers and many others to the Thai Islands every year.

However, the inexperienced Thailand traveler may be unconscious to the fact that a satisfying vacation is not a surefire thing even in a place nick named Island Paradise. In order to be successful, enjoyable and fulfilling, your vacation must be thoroughly planned. Unfamiliar destinations often hide little unknown secrets, which hold the enormous potential to make the desired positive change in your vacation.

This article will discuss the biggest mistakes you can make prior and during your visit to the Thai Islands. Adhering to or ignoring the five amendments below can literally make or break your vacation in the Southern Thailand Islands.

Mistake 1: choosing your vacation island spontaneously. Web pictures of tropical islands often make them look almost identical. The inexperienced traveler is likely to assume that no matter where you go in Southern Thailand Islands – you will bump into the same picturesque beach with white sands, turquoise water and a single coconut tree. Falling into the illusion of images while choosing your vacation island out of pure impulse can be a very disappointing experience in case the final destination island does not meet your needs, your personality or expectations at all. To avoid this mistake, define your preferences before hand, make a dedicated research prior to choosing your destination by gathering the relevant information using guidebooks in addition to using the Internet. As you choose the island that fits your needs, pay close attention to the following points:

1. The level of tourist development. Some travelers like their islands loaded with tourist facilities (i. e. Phuket, Koh Samui), whereas others prefer the classic touch “old school” isolated touch (i. e. Koh Phangan, Khao Lak).

2. Nightlife – Phuket, Koh Samui and at lesser extent Krabi offer a thriving nightlife, whereas Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao are quiet and drowsy.

3. Diving sites – Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao offer the best diving sites in Southern Thailand.

4. The prevalent level of accommodation. Phuket and Koh Phi Phi offer a immense variety of luxury hotels, while Koh Phangan and Koh Tao offer mostly basic (not necessary low standard) accommodation.

Mistake 2: Assuming that a great vacation can be carried out at a very low budget. Some travelers tend to wrongly assume, that Thailand being a country with developing economy will provide everything including a high standard hospitalization in ridiculously cheap prices. This is partially right, since the local tourism industry suggests an inexpensive travel opportunities to backpackers. However, the spoiled tourist who is used to savor on luxury westernized accommodation will find out the hard way that in order to meet his or her traveling expectations the expenses are appropriate to what is offered. To avoid this mistake and eliminate serious deviations from the planned budget – make your research to learn about price gaps in Southern Thailand Islands. For instance, one should know that staying in some islands (i. e. Koh Phi Phi) is expected to be more expensive, while staying in other islands (i. e. Koh Phangan, Koh Tao) can be significantly cheaper. To avoid any disappointments related to over expenses, I recommend adhering to the following guidelines:

1. Avoid planning a budget on the basis of someone else’s estimations, especially if that person visited the Thai Islands many years ago; spent the vacation in another island than the one you chose; much younger than yourself/ or prefers a different life standard.

2. Make an informed decision regarding the desired level of accommodation. The basic accommodation that includes a clean air-conditioned room and western style bathroom can be booked on relatively low, albeit not ridiculous, price. Contrary to that, a luxury accommodation (that kind of accommodation is quite common in Phuket and Koh Samui) may be almost as expensive as the hotels in your neighboring country.

3. Although checking the room rates is possible using the Internet – the prices of meals should be carefully checked as well. Don’t assume that no matter where you eat – the meal will be cheap. During my first visit to Thailand, I was very surprised to receive a check of the same value as in my home country. Now I know, that the Southern Thailand Islands offer a myriad of western style restaurants with western style prices. Therefore, before you enter a well-designed restaurant – check the menu and make clear budget estimation.

Mistake 3: choosing your vacation beach spontaneously. This is similar to mistake number one – but probably easier to correct, because checking other beaches on the destination is easier logistically and cheaper than checking other islands. However, the “wrong” beach choice can make you feel that you haven’t exploited the full potential of your vacation, or that you have wasted significant part of it. For instance, during my first visit in Koh Phangan I found out two days before the end of my vacation, that my “perfect” beach is located on the other side of the island. The following tips can help you avoid a similar situation:

1. The most developed and crowdie beaches on most islands are located in proximity to the airport (in case there is an airport in your island) or to one of the main seaports.

2. In case you prefer the above type of beaches – be aware of the fact that some of them, especially in Koh Samui and Phuket, are not family friendly.

3. The old school quiet and picturesque beaches are always on the other side of the island. If the “old school” beach is what you are looking for – don’t give up even if the way to Thailand was long and exhausting, and try to make a small effort to cross the island on your way to the opposite side; it will be well worth your while.

Mistake 4: insisting on Westernized food. Some of us tend to worry about experimenting with an unfamiliar food. The Thai tourist industry is aware of this fact; therefore the supply of Western style restaurants in Southern Thailand Islands is huge. Having said that, limiting yourself to these restaurants could be a huge mistake, since the prices for western cuisine are much higher compared to the ones in authentic local restaurants; and even worse– you miss out on one of the most important experiences of the Thai culture – the superior Thai cuisine, probably one of the best in the world. To avoid this mistake, don’t hesitate entering small restaurants with ridiculously neglected interior design, plastic maps and un-plastered walls. These restaurants’ owners are probably the worst marketers – but usually are superior cooks. Your meal in one of these restaurants will often be unbelievably cheap, tasty and mostly made of fresh sizzling ingredients. You will fantasize about these meals long after you have left the island.

Mistake 5: To take your big business suitcase to an island that could be only accessed by sea. A big suitcase is of course very convenient [in Europe]: using it, you can pack everything you need; it can be carried easily thanks to those little wheels; and it makes you look very representative. However, taking a big suitcase to Koh Phangan or Koh Tao is not something I would recommend. The platforms in the piers are extremely narrow and occasionally unstable. So if you’re really lucky – your big suitcase will be safe. If you’re a little bit less lucky – it can fall into the water. If you ran out of luck – you can fall into the water together with your suitcase. I seriously think a back bag would be your best bet. Just for the record, the huge suitcase that was taken by yours truly to her first trip to Koh Phangan was left somewhere in the jungle to frighten local monkeys.

So, on the next time the idea of heading the Thailand Islands crosses your mind, as tempting as it may be, try not to succumb to rumors and fascinating imagery. A thorough research and planning ahead may take some time and effort on your side, but it will be more than worth your while.