Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui are two infamous Thai islands that I was aware of before I set my foot on Thailand. Honestly, I didn't bother reading blog posts or reviews about the island before I decided to travel from Krabi Town to Koh Phi Phi by the public ferry. The famous name Koh Phi Phi was reason enough to give it a try. In hindsight, I wish I had informed myself, because I cannot recommend visiting this place at all.
What follows are four reasons why you probably should not include Koh Phi Phi as a destination in your journey.
1. Koh Phi Phi is polluted and the beaches are dirty
Koh Phi Phi has a notorious waste problem. The very first thing every unsuspecting visitor is commanded to do after arriving on the island, is to spend 20 baht towards a common fund that goes to a waste disposal company that is supposed to get rid of the trash that quickly accumulates on the island.
However, it seems that the company doesn't do a perfect job. There is trash to be seen everywhere on the island. It would be too far stretched to speak of trash island, but Koh Phi Phi definitely has a problem with waste on the beach and illegal waste dumps in the nature. The pictures below unfortunately prove my point:
2. Koh Phi Phi is heavily overcrowded and way too touristy
The small sand strip of the island where you actually are allowed to freely move is packed with thousands of shops that sell unnecessary stuff. Countless tourists from all over the world stay in the many hundreds of hotels and resorts on the small sand strip named Tonsai Bay. In the evening, there is a horrific party with comically bad and way too loud music with young people drinking their expensive buckets.
The very first thing you see when you arrive on the island is a Burger King and Mac Donald's. It requires a significant effort in evilness to plant those fast food chains directly on the arriving peer.
When you walk through the narrow streets on Koh Phi Phi, you have countless of opportunities to waste your money. The vendors constantly harass you and try to alleviate you from the heavy burden that your money seems to pose.
3. You are imprisoned in Tonsai Bay
Koh Phi Phi consists of two mountainous parts which are connected by a roughly 1km long flat sand bank. This sand bank named Tonsai Bay harbors almost all hostels and hotels from the island. There is no real possibility to discover the large other parts of the island. There are no trails or paths that lead to the hilly and rain-forested area of the island.
Put differently, there is no realistic way to flee the heavily populated main town of the island - other than by paying an expensive taxi long-tail boat.
For instance, in order to visit Monkey Beach, the taxi boats charges between 600 and 700 baht for two persons, which equals roughly 12$ per person. This boat drive costs way too much. In comparison, the price to go from Ao Nang Beach to Railay Beach in Krabi costs you only 100 baht, while both tours are more or less the same distance.
Therefore, if you are not willed to pay a large fee to visit all the other small islands around Tonsai Bay, you are basically imprisoned on Koh Phi Phi. It wouldn't have been straightforward to create a trail into the hilly Koh Phi Phi island, but it certainly isn't impossible. But then, there wouldn't be a way to overcharge the tourists so effortlessly. So there's that. Don't visit Koh Phi Phi if you are not willed to pay large amounts of money for transportation by water.
4. Everything is too expensive on Koh Phi phi
I do understand that Koh Phi Phi must be more expensive compared to the main land and that there is no way to realistically change this, but if you are traveling on a low budget, you should definitely not go to Koh Phi Phi. It's not worth the money. For example, a 1.5l bottle of water costs 28 baht in Tonsai bay compared to a 18 baht on the main land.
Accommodation is nearly double the price compared to other islands. Ko Tao is roughly the same size as Koh Phi Phi, but has way more moderate prices. We were lucky that we visited the island in the off-season, otherwise we would have needed to continue our trip on a diet of bread and water and without accommodation.
The good things on Koh Phi Phi
Let's try to be not so negative for once.
Of course Koh Phi Phi is still a beautiful island after all. For example, the sunset from the view point is definitely worth to have experienced.
The very best thing on Koh Phi Phi is an abundance of cats that live on the island. Almost any Thai family owns a cat and they are treated very well. I petted around 20 cats during my one and a half day on the island and it was worth every single pet.
Furthermore, on a more personal note, I met a lot of friendly and amazing people on the island. The Thai inhabitants are relaxed and always friendly and helpful. We met a french couple that was traveling since years. They were extremely likable and I realized then and there how traveling can transform you into a better version of yourself.