How To Survive Thailand's Full Moon Party

Beware of buckets, flaming ropes and theft of your valuables. Find out everything you need to know before you go to Thailand's Full Moon Party.

Full Moon Party

A few young travelers (up to 20,000) gather every month on a beach on a remote Thai island (Koh Pha-Ngan) and dance the night away in front of a strip of bars and clubs pumping out dance music, while getting wasted on weed, Yaba, mushrooms, XTC or bucket drinks until the sun comes up on the eponymous sunrise beach. Hundreds of thousands of participants over the past 25 years think it’s the best party they’ve ever been to, making it an essential stop on the gap year/banana pancake/backpacker trail.

Crime Gangs

There is a serious criminal element present. It’s not uncommon for people’s hotel/hostel rooms to be ransacked while they’re at the all-night party. Management is suitably shocked and alarmed about it, but it keeps happening month after month at some accommodations. 

Drug gangs operate at the party and often they can be in cahoots with corrupt police. You buy some cheap weed, get “arrested”, pay 150,000 baht to avoid prosecution, and the same bag of weed is sold to the next sucker.

Yaba (amphetamines) and XTC are highly illegal in Thailand. Buying them from a stranger at the party exposes you to a shakedown, or if the police are genuine, a nasty journey through the Thai legal system.

Bucket Drinks

Bucket drinks for sale in Haad Rin, Koh Phangan Photo credit: iStock.com/Joel Carillet.

If you stick to the legal stuff, alcohol, it’s very easy to over do it because the drinks come in buckets!

It’s literally a bucket (like the ones kids take to the beach) filled with ice, M150 (a Thai version of Red Bull which is heavy on the ephedrine), a can of soda, a 300 ml bottle of liquor and 3 or 4 straws. Total cost: 200 baht/$US6 (and that’s expensive for Thailand). Because they’re cheap the tendency is to buy too many of them. If you’re sharing, it can be hard to keep track of just how much alcohol you’ve had.

Nikki Scott, of southeastasiabackpacker.com, an expat living in Thailand, put it this way: "After just one, heaven forbid, two of these notorious buckets, chances are you won't remember what happened during the course of the evening, never mind your name or where you came from!"

Skip the Burning Rope

If you decide to party hard regardless, fair enough, we’re here for a good time not a long time. Unfortunately lots of people leave the party early and after having had a bad time.

The day after the party you’ll see people with bandaged hands, legs and feet. They’ve either cut themselves on broken glass that litters the beach (tip: wear closed in shoes – not flip flops), or they’ve had an encounter with the flaming skipping rope or limbo stick. The idea is to get as many people as possible jumping the rope, and spin it so fast the flames go out. It doesn’t always work out and injuries from a kerosene soaked flaming rope can be pretty nasty.

Theft of Valuables and Cash

Lots of people want to capture this great party in pictures or video and there are hundreds and hundreds of clips on YouTube. But hang on tight to the phone or camera as valuable electronics have a habit of “disappearing”. Gang members come for the party, follow drunk revellers around and wait for an opportunity to take phones or cameras.

Take enough cash for the evening and it’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport details just in case you need ID. But leave the valuable and important stuff locked up back at the hotel (and ask them for a receipt when they put it in their safe).

Party Transport

Plan your escape carefully.

Scooter Accidents

Don’t take your moped. Even if you’re not too “tired and emotional” to ride, others might be. There are plenty of taxis operating all night.

Speaking of mopeds and motorscooters, do you need a license to ride in Thailand and what happens if you don't have one?

Overcrowded Boats

If you’ve caught a speedboat to the island for the day and want to get back to Koh Samui, take it easy. Stephen Ryder from ensureasia.com (he deals with ex-pats living in Thailand) says the speedboats don't have a great safety record, and crew have often been drinking as hard as the party-goers!

Not always, but sometimes after a really busy party there’s a rush of people who have peaked too early and have had enough by about 3 or 4 in the morning. You can get scores of people all vying for the half dozen places on each boat that arrives. The boats get rushed when they beach, so the next time they hang back a little. After a while you have a mob of drunk, desperate people wading/swimming out to boats. It’s like Lord of the Flies! The skippers get worried they’ll be swamped as people clamber aboard, so they grab a few passengers and push the rest back into the water then roar off with throttles wide open. 

If you have overindulged too early, sleep it off on the beach and wait for the first scheduled ferry service at 7am – but, never wander off alone down the beach. Stick with your friends or you’ll wake up to find your money and valuables gone.

Party Rules

Most of you will have been to a dance party or rave before and know the unwritten rules. Always take care of each other. Just because this is a beach party a long way from home it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.

Most people walk away from the FMP having had a thoroughly good time, but bad stuff happens quite often. So often, that your travel insurer might ask a few hard questions about what you were doing.

Travel insurance is not a license to be stupid, you need to act responsibly at all times, which pretty much rules out everything discussed so far. How do you think your claim will go when you tell them you were injured while trying to jump over a burning rope after having a few buckets with 20,000 of your closest friends? Hmmmm.

A serious injury can be expensive and if your insurance doesn’t cover it, you’ll have to spend your travel savings and kiss goodbye to the rest of the trip.

Skip the skipping rope, drink responsibly and leave the valuables at home. Then you’ll be around to come back to the best beach party in the world again and again.

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5 Comments

  • AMS said

    Depressing reading. I went to one of these in 1994 when they were still relatively new, small and swet. Sad that the party-goers and organisers have polluted the beach and that criminals and other unsavoury elements ruined what used to be a beautiful experience. Tourists should stop going until this is stopped.

  • Tom said

    Ive never been to one but reguarly see the impact they have on the surrounding area. Good info tho. Great article

  • The big Lebowski said

    The full moon party (as Khaosod San Rd. and some other places in Thailand) is one of this activity to be avoided especially if you looking for fun or drugs, in a few words the shittiest party in Europe or North America is just far far far better than this shit. I appreciate the effort of the writer to try to make Koh Phangan look like an exotic 'remote island' reality is far away from this, pile of trash are all around in the island and most of the garbage produced by th F.M.P. is going straight into the ocean between the time the party get started and when the organizers begin the beach clean up, during the party the 20.000+ people are pissing and shitting in the ocean and they looking for recreational drugs... OMG weed that is just shit and ridiculously expansive compared to the European standards, MDMA pills that are coming directly from Cambodia where some guy tested it on a rat and see if they were working. Point is as I said, any shitty party (also the one organized by the priest of the local church) is better than this, you'll find better drugs, better drinks and better people and a safer environment.

  • Amy said

    Well, thank you for the article, I, however, unlike you oldies, have been planning my first solo trip to Thailand, and was really looking forward to this, because I like to dance, and this is like listening to some old fart warning me about the dangers of the war. The writer seems to assume the worst of people, the worst case scenario, oh a broken boat, lets, instead of showing photos of happy party goers- show that broken boat. That broken little boat which had nothing to do with the party as it is a fishing boat. But for effect.
    Comments are all negative, how old are you people now? 40? Feels like the music in any dance club is too loud nowdays, yeah? In my experience, having travelled more than 50 countries, even in places where the mafia was so mafia they had to make the hotel we walked into, into a hotel on the spot -- find, most people are good, most people don't buy drugs from the mafia, most people have read all these warnings, like it's CNN news, and maybe the good party goers are skipping the FMP because of all these warnings, and we are left with the fire-rope skippers, because I was WARNED "the island would be full", book ahead! And it's really not. And I for one will be safe because I am an intelligent person, who had trouble spelling intelligent, but still! I shall dance.

  • Rosa said

    Hi!

    The article was very helpful for planning my trip to Full Moon party 2019/Feb 20.
    Everything went good. Me and my friend had good vibes.
    The only thing that I wish were added to the article, to 'Scooter Accidents' part is about the road to the party beach and bikes. I mean, that the way might be too difficult if you have weak bike or not fantastic driving skills.

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