Living & Working as Digital Nomads in Koh Phangan

how to be a digital nomad in koh phangan

Koh Phangan's laidback lifestyle is slowly attracting more digital nomads and remote workers to its pristine shores.

We've been back and forth Koh Phangan for the past few years, living and working remotely from the island for months at a time. It's truly become and home away from home. In fact, we got locked down here during COVID, which you can read about here.

For a long time, Thailand's digital nomad hub has been undeniably Chiangmai, but Koh Phangan offers up something different, more beautiful, and absolutely digital nomad friendly.

 

About Koh Phangan:

best place of digital nomad lifestyle

Phangan is located in the Gulf of Thailand between Koh Samui and Koh Tao, and it has long attracted a spiritual community of expats and long-termers due to the island's spiritual roots.

This self-proclaimed conscious community has shaped the island into what it is today: a thriving island of yoga and meditation centers, unbelievable vegan restaurants, and sunset drum circles every night on the beach.

Unfortunately, a lot of people associate Koh Phangan with Fullmoon parties, which the island hosts once a month in Haad Rin. However, the island offers so much more than a booze-fueled beach party.

Visas

Koh Phangan doesn't have its own immigration office. This means visa extensions need to be done at the Koh Samui immigration office. The Samui office isn't open on weekends, which can be a pain for remote workers on a Monday to Friday schedule.

If you entered Thailand on a tourist visa or visa exemption you're entitled to a 7-day or 30-day extension depending on your passport.

64 countries qualify for the visa exemption, see if you can enter Thailand visa-free here.

The tourist visa allows holders to stay 60 days with the ability to extend, whereas those who enter the kingdom on visa exemption only get 30 days plus extension.

Many remote workers are still holding their breath when it comes to the introduction of a Thailand digital nomad visa.

 

Extending visas

I recommend heading to the Samui immigration office early to beat crowds. It can get busy especially in high season. Arriving in the afternoon might mean your extension takes more than one day to process.

Samui immigration office hours are: Monday-Friday 8.30am-12pm, 1pm-4.30pm.

You'll need the following documents:

  • 1,900 baht extension fee
  • Valid passport
  • 4cm x 6cm photo (You can get photos taken at Samui immigration office)
  • Photocopy of passport, departure card (form TM.6), and entry stamp (Can be done at Samui office)
  • Application form, which you can get a the Samui office
  • Your contact details, accommodation details, phone number, etc.

Overall, the process is pretty straightforward. There's a cafe at the front of the office with (slow) wifi, which you can work from if need be.

On average the visa process has taken between 2-4 hours for me personally. However, due to ferries and getting to and from the immigration office, the whole extension process can take most of the day.

 

Visa Runs

skyroam digital nomad wifiWhen your visa extension expires you'll need to leave and re-enter Thailand on a new tourist visa or visa exemption.

There are many ways you can go about this.

I recommend speaking with Mr. Kim who has a shop in Thong Sala. He offers numerous visa runs to the Malaysian border, including single-day runs for those who are eligible for visa exemptions. Or you can opt to get a tourist visa in Panang, Malaysia, and return in a few days.

Alternatively, you can fly out to nearby countries like Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, or Myanmar and return with a fresh stamp.

Getting Around

renting a motorbike in koh phangan

Getting to Koh Phangan:

The closest airports to Koh Phangan are Koh Samui or Surat Thani on the mainland. So, the only way to get to Koh Phangan is by ferry. You can find ferry times and prices here. Most ferries arrive into Thong Sala and a small number into Haad Rin. If you're planning on staying in the north, make sure to arrive into Thong Sala.

Getting around the island:

You need a motorbike if you're staying in Koh Phangan.

There are no tuktuks or buses on the island. The only form of public transportation are songthaews, and these will empty your pockets quickly.

Because of this, you'll either need to rent a motorbike or buy one. I have purchased a motorbike in Koh Phangan using Facebook buy and sell groups (see resources at bottom of this page for more groups). However, if I'm staying for just a couple of months, I rent from Kate Motorbike Rental in Thong Sala, which I've never had any issues with.

Roads and conditions:

Koh Phangan's roads are generally safe if you use common sense. However, some beachside roads collect a lot of sand, which can cause motorbikes to slide. Make sure to never break on soft sand, and go slow and steady.

Also be mindful that road maintenance is poor on the island and you'll encounter lots of potholes, which can catch you by surprise.

As everywhere in Thailand, bigger vehicles demand priority. Fortunately, there isn't a lot of trucks or even cars in Koh Phangan, but there are some that you'll need to be aware of.

While it is illegal to drive without a helmet in Thailand, this is rarely enforced in Koh Phangan. In our time spent on the island, we've only been stopped once for a helmet check, resulting in a fine.

Coworking

Wifi is generally good in Koh Phangan but it does vary. I highly recommend testing the wifi before agreeing on a rental property. Alternatively, you can travel with a remote digital hotspot like Skyroam, which can be a lifesaver for remote workers.

Beachub - Srithanu

coworking in koh phangan

Beachub is an iconic coworking space situated right on Zen beach. It kind of embodies the digital nomad lifestyle.

The wifi here is the strongest you'll find on the island recording at 120Mbps download.

The 24-hour open-air workspace benefits from the sea breeze, but if you're seeking air conditioning, you won't find it here. But when we visited (June), it was cool enough to not need it.

The only downside to Beachub is the price. Monthly memberships cost a whopping 6500 baht ($210USD). However, we were offered a discount to 5000 baht ($160USD), but it still seems a little steep.

 

Cospace - Baan Tai & Near Hin Kong

koh phangan's digital nomad worklife

Beachub's biggest coworking space rival and cheaper alternative is Cospace.

Cospace has two locations at La Tropicana & Baan Jai Dee resort.

The two workspaces are relatively small and connected to resorts. Memberships include the use of facilities like swimming pools etc., which is a nice touch.

Monthly price is 3000 baht ($95USD) and they offer free coworking on Mondays to trial the workspace.

 

Coworking Cafes

best cafes to work in koh phanganYou'll also find a lot of free coworking cafes in Koh Phangan. I personally work from Dots, in Thong Sala, but there's a lot of options out there.

Here are some of the most popular coworking cafes in Koh Phangan:

Note: One downside to living on a remote island is power cuts do happen. These affect some areas more than others, and while the north may be without power, the south will be running fine, and vice versa. It just means you could have to change your workplace at those times.

Cowork spaces are protected with backup generators so they are mostly unaffected.

 

Other Co-work spaces

Some other workspaces on Koh Phangan that I can't personally vouch for are:

Where to liveliving in koh phangan as digital nomads

Choosing where to live in Koh Phangan depends entirely on what you want from the island.

You'll pay a little more for a beachfront bungalow and less for a jungle bungalow.

Bungalows are advertised on roadside signs in Koh Phangan. The best way to find rentals on the island is to cruise around calling the numbers. Most homeowners are very accomodating and will show you around with little notice.

There are also a few active Facebook groups where you can find rentals advertised.

 

Koh Phangan Suburbs For Digital Nomads

 

Srithanu - Phangan's spiritual heart

Srithanu is the heartbeat of the north. This is where you'll find the famous beachfront coworking space Beachub, a huge range of restaurants, yoga centers, events, and the iconic Zen Beach.

Thong Sala - Phangan's business district

Thong Sala is the biggest and busiest town in Koh Phangan. It's not "pretty" but this is where you'll find lots of cool cafes to work from, along with local markets and supermarkets.

Chaloklum - Phangan's chilled side

In the far north, you'll find the pace slow even more. You can rent bungalows on the beach here at better rates than in other areas and there are a few cafes popping up on the main street.

Hin Kong - Phangan's sunset strip

Hin Kong is wedged between Srithanu and Thong Sala, which means it's close to everything. Enjoy incredible sunsets here and accommodation can be more affordable than nearby Srithanu.

Baan Tai - Phangan's jungle vibes

Baan Tai is further south of Thong Sala. There's plenty of cafes close by including the workspace at Casa Tropicana, however, the beaches aren't as nice down here and you'll have a 20-minute motorbike ride to the north.

Haad Rin - Phangan's backpacker hotspot 

In the far south, you'll find Haad Rin, famous for hosting monthly Fullmoon parties. There's more of a tourist-feel - almost seedy - in areas. Generally, I don't recommend Haad Rin for digital nomads as it lacks a lot of the infrastructure available in the north.

Thong Nai Pan - Phangan's other side

Thong Nai Pan feels separated from the rest of the island. It tends to attract higher-end tourists who want a more isolated island experience. It's a beautiful area, but not ideal for digital nomads unless you're willing to drive 45 minutes to Thong Sala frequently.

Cost of living

Koh Phangan isn't the cheapest place in Thailand for digital nomads, but it can still be extremely affordable.

Our average monthly expenses in Koh Phangan varied between $800-$1000 USD each per month depending on accommodation choice, amount of drinking, and splashing out on fancier foods. Living alone will be slightly more costly than this.

If you're happy eating local every night, living in a basic non-air-conditioned bungalow, and avoiding alcohol, it would be possible to survive on $700-$800 USD per month as a single person.

Below is a breakdown of our monthly expenses in Koh Phangan:

Average Monthly Costs- Two Person Breakdown

Rent: $600.00

Utilities: $60

Food: $700.00

Scooter & Gas: $100.00

Activities & Extras: $300.00

2 Person Total: $1760.00

Per Person: $880.00

*Prices are in USD

Eating in Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan has a wide range of local, international and western food options.

The island is known for its wide-range of vegan food options, which is a big drawcard for us.

chana masala koh phangan thali set
Chana Masala's Vegan Thali Set

Food prices are higher on Koh Phangan than the mainland, but it's still possible to stay on a tight budget by eating local.

The Pantip night markets in Thong Sala is a popular option for eating on a budget. You can eat Padthai, fried rice and other local meals here for as low as 50 baht ($1.60USD).

Overall, eating in Koh Phangan can be cheap or expensive depending on your choices. It is definitely not as affordable as Chiangmai, but then again it is an island.

skyroam remote wifi hotspot

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