Sunday, 31 October 2010

So you want to rent a Scooter in Samui?

Many thousands of tourists visiting Koh Samui each year decide that renting a small motorcycle of scooter is the best way to explore this island. Whilst it is certainly the cheapest, there are also many downfalls. Keep reading to discover most of them.
Beware the Traffic!

Koh Samui sees more road accidents each year than any other two Thai regions put together. This is due to two specific factors. Firstly there is the quality of the roads. Koh Samui is infamous for its atrocious roads full of potholes, ban surface and broken concrete. Secondly the traffic, especially around to , is very heavy in places, with huge trucks overtaking these tiny scooters at incredible speeds, whilst the scooter rider tries to navigate their way along the aforementioned bad roads. Heads up, be careful, Koh Samui roads are dangerous.

Scratch & Scam
Many of the less reputable scooter rental operations upon Koh Samui (and it is very hard to spot them) are fond of taking a large deposit when the scooter is rented. They are clever, they will have a sign saying something like “We don’t need to keep your passport, we just take a deposit of 5,000 Baht” out front, and people think great, I don’t have to trust anybody with my passport. Big mistake, once the rental operator has that deposit, they will do everything they can to make sure they do not have to give it back. I have personally seen people ripped off for several thousand Baht because of a tiny scratch, which is almost unnoticeable and probably not even caused by the renter, for several thousand Baht. Similarly if you break something on the bike, say a wing mirror, you will be charge many times more than the true cost of a replacement. When you do hire a scooter, check it over and have the owner agree the condition of the bike before you ride it away.

Psssssst – Not Again!
Be prepared for punctures, and I mean plural, my personal record was three in a single day. The combination of bad roads and the worn tires that are on most rental scooters, mean that punctures are the norm. Luckily there seems to be a puncture repair shop on every corner!

The Basket is not for your Bag
Do not be tempted to put your handbag or day pack into the front basket of your scooter. A favourite hobby of young Thai males is to ride by and snatch the bag; can you ride a scooter well enough to catch them?
Overall, yes a scooter is a fun way to explore Koh Samui, but it is also risky at times. Always ride safely, and never drink and drive. Keep your wits about you and be prepared for anything!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Koh Samui Expat on a Shoestring

So you want to live on the tropical island of Koh Samui, but you are no millionaire? Don’t worry; although Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s most expensive tourist areas, it is still possible to live on a modest budget of around 30,000 Baht per month if you know what you are doing. Below are some quick tips to make this possible.

* Eat Thai food – Not the kind of Thai food you find in air-conditioned restaurants overlooking the beach, the kind of Thai food which Thai people eat. This means seeking out the best Thai kitchens and food stalls, where a filling meal can be had for as little as 30 Baht. Finding a good one is easy, just look for the busiest, these are always the best.

* Cut down your alcohol consumption – Alcohol in Thailand is not cheap. Although it is slightly cheaper than the western world, a small bottle of beer will still cost more than a meal in a Thai kitchen. I know many expats in Thailand who spend something like 60% of their monthly budget on Beer. If you want to live cheaply then cut your consumption.

* Give up the aircon – If you can learn to live with a simple electric fan, instead of running aircon 24/7, you will make considerable savings on you electricity bill.

* Rent privately – Forgot those beachfront condos and serviced apartments. Find yourself a locally owned property, and you will cut your rent by some 75%. You will also save on utility bills, as serviced apartments resell electricity to tenants at up to three times the cost of buying it in.

* Jump on the bus – When it’s time to go on a visa run, don’t book an expensive visa run service down to Malaysia. Instead, hop on a government bus at a fraction of the cost.

* Stay out of Big C – And Tesco, Makro or any other large supermarket chain. Shop for produce in local markets, where seasonal foodstuffs are always a fraction of the price.

* Travel home off season – If you need to visit your homeland, then do it during offseason, so any time between March and the end of November. Flights are much cheaper during this period.

There we have it, just a handful of ideas to cut down your spending whilst you are living on Koh Samui. Having lived in Thailand for five years now, I can tell you honestly, that if you are wise, you can live a very comfortable life on as little as 30,000 Baht per month, even upon Koh Samui.