Is Koh Samui Safe? How to Stay Out of Trouble in Thailand

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Laid-back tropical island by day and party zone by night, Koh Samui is an exciting travel destination. While visitors should feel generally safe, you should keep an eye out for these scams and potential dangers.


A boat floating on the water in Koh Samui at sunset Photo © iStock/tropicalpixsingapore

Scams in Koh Samui

Jet ski mafia

On the beaches of Chaweng and Lamai, the ‘Jet Ski Mafia‘ is on the prowl for gullible tourists who love water sports. Hre's how it works: you hire a jet ski on the beach, you have your fun on the water and then return the jet ski to the vendor. The vendor then claims that it has been damaged. A disagreement between you and vendor erupts (and with the help of the vendor's friends) you are bullied into paying for damages that already existed. Vendors can become very threatening and aggressive towards customers - so beware!

"Ah ha!" you think "I'll take photos of the jet ski before I take it out to record existing damage". That doesn't work either, because the vendor may cover up the damage with water-based paint. The paint washes off when you use the jet ski. Your photos may actually prove you're responsible for the damage.

Connect four

Many of the popular beach spots in Koh Samui are also home to groups of young children, sometimes no older than five or six years old. Everyone loves a game of Connect Four with kids, but this challenge will end up being a little worse on your wallet! The kids will often bet 100 or 200 baht per begin with. And they will even let you win the first couple of games. But be warned - these kids are highly skilled at this game and they know how to hustle! They play it for hours on end and know every combination imaginable, so no matter how skilled you think you are - give in! Your wallet will thank us later.

There are so many scams in Thailand, you can read about the bulk of them in our guide to the most common scams in Thailand.

Koh Samui driving safety

Many roads on Koh Samui are in poor condition, including parts of the island's main coastal ring road.

These road conditions, combined with the general bad driving habits of the local drivers, can make hitting the road on the Koh Samui nerve-racking and unsafe for the inexperienced.

Look out for the local water buffalo which saunter across the road occasionally. Not something you want to meet while speeding along on your scooter!

The majority of locals who travel around the island on motorcycles, often with their wife and kids along for the ride, don't wear helmets and often travel at high speeds These factors that have resulted in Koh Samui having one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents in Thailand. If you aren't an experienced scooter rider, it's probably a good idea to avoid it all together. If you are, proceed with care and wear a helmet!

However, if you decide you want to bike it around on your own, check out our article on licenses in Thailand before you ride, and find out why you definitely need a license to ride in Thailand.

Drugs and drinking on Koh Samui

You can find plenty of drugs on Koh Samui, especially marijuana, and you‘ll be offered drugs often; walking to lunch, walking along the beach, hanging out by your hotel pool... just don‘t do it. Drugs are illegal in Thailand. Update: as of June 2022, private recreational use of cannabis is legal if THC content is below 0.2% by weight, but cannabis use in public places remains illegal.

What also happens frequently is dealers will sell you drugs, then report you to the police who will come and arrest you. To get out, you might have to pay a large bribe. Avoid the situation altogether and don‘t do drugs.

Also, be careful when ordering drinks at a bar. If you‘re in touristy areas or places that are a bit seedy, keep an eye on who is making your drinks. There have been many reports of travelers being drugged and robbed in popular destinations. Be especially careful if you‘re traveling on your own.

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  • Tomas Whelan said

    Very helpful
    Dont do drugs kids !!!

  • ThaiFarang said

    I live in Thailand. Flee the jet ski hire as it is all run by a bunch of criminals with the local mafia. Do not expect any...any help for the highly corrupt and dishonest Thai Police as the Thailand Police there get their piece of money in each of the jet ski rip off...

  • Ray Patton said

    How do I chane my policy dates with world nomads?

  • Amelia Brady said

    Hi Ray,

    This article should help you change the dates in your policy via your membership if your start date hasn't begun:

    Otherwise, you will need to contact World Nomads for more information:

    Amelia, World Nomads

  • jacques auff said

    As of June 2022, weed has been decriminalized in Thailand and it can be bought in dispensaries.

  • Ellen Hall said

    Hi Jacques,
    Yes, but it's important to know that smoking marijuana in public is still illegal and punishable by prison and a fine. It's also illegal to sell marijuana to people under age 20.

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