Frequently Asked Questions

We live to answer your questions 🙂 Here are some of FAQs, in no particular order:

What is a liveaboard? Why should I book a liveaboard?

A liveaboard cruise is when you live aboard a dive boat for a period of time and basically just eat, sleep and dive all day. You do not return to land each evening, you sleep on the boat and eat your meals on the boat. Staying at sea for a longer duration allows a liveaboard dive vessel to reach more remote dive sites that the day trips can’t get to. It also allows divers to get more dives per day including early morning dives and night dives, but still have long surface intervals to off gas and go explore the islands. Liveaboard divers dive the best dive sites at the best times of day.

Thailand liveaboard diving destinations include the Similan Islands, Surin Islands (including Richelieu Rock), Hin Daeng / Muang and the Mergui archipelago (Myanmar). These islands are all uninhabited except for a few national park stations.

When is the best time to do a Thailand liveaboard?

The Similan Islands and Surin Islands national marine parks open in mid October and close in mid May and liveaboard trips run during these months. The weather and sea conditions are ideal in the  Andaman Sea from February to April so if you want calm sea, great visibility and the best chance to see pelagics like manta rays and whale sharks, then we recommend these months.

The tourist high season on the Andaman sea side of Thailand is November to May. Day trip diving is possible from Phuket all year round but liveaboards do not run from mid May to mid October and Khao Lak diving operations basically close down.

What diving certification is required to join a Thailand liveaboard?

Most Thailand liveaboards require all divers to be certified. Some boats are happy with a open water scuba license from any recognised training agency. Increasingly more dive operators are asking for advanced or deep certification as a minimum level of experience. In this case open water certified divers can complete the advanced course on board for a discounted price.

Dives are guided by experienced divemasters and divers are grouped by experience. The Similan and Surin Islands does have some deep dive sites and currents can be strong at certain dive sites.

What’s included in the price of a Similan liveaboard?

Prices typically include dive guide, 12 litre tank, weights and belt, all meals. Excluded is the marine park fees, dive equipment rental, Nitrox, alcoholic drinks.

Some liveaboards also include soft drinks and transfers to the boat.

A few boats include equipment rental in the price but most charge extra for equipment as many divers who join a liveaboard have some or all of their own equipment.

We will advise you exactly what the inclusions and exclusions are for any liveaboard we recommend to you.

What is the national park fee?

The Similan Islands and Surin Islands are both separate national parks. Koh Bon and Koh Tachai islands are within the Similan national park, Richelieu Rock is part of the Surin Islands national park. Phi Phi also resides within a national park. Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Koh Haa are in a different one. Each national park has an entrance fee (500 baht per foreigner at time of writing). Each national park also charges divers a 200 baht per day diving fee.

So for example, a day trip to the Similan Islands costs 700 baht in national park fees (500 baht entrance and 200 baht diving).
A 2 day 1 night liveaboard costs 900 baht in park fees (500 baht entrance and 200 baht x 2 days).

National park fees are collect on the boats in Thai baht cash.

The national park fees help to pay for conservation of the parks including setting mooring buoys and keeping fishing boats out.

How do I pay for my liveaboard?

We accept payment online by credit card and do not charge a card fee. We also accept American Express and paypal, or bank transfer/deposit.

Depending on which boat you book and how far in advance you book we may just collect a deposit or we may collect the full amount.

Can I learn to dive on a Thailand liveaboard?

There are a few liveaboards that teach beginner diving courses at the Similan Islands. Normally you will be required to complete the classroom and pool sections of your training before joining the boat.

Some boats will also take beginners with no experience on introductory dives called Discover Scuba Diving.

If you want to learn to dive in the Similan Islands, or if you want a liveaboard that doesn’t take beginners please ask us for our recommendations.

How far in advance should I book my Thailand liveaboard?

It really depends. The better quality and better value boats tend to fill up first. The double cabins with en-suite bathrooms fill up first. Peak holiday periods like Christmas and New year fill up months in advance.

We can often accommodate last minute bookings if you are flexible on dates and boat facilities.

Are there strong currents on Thailand dive sites?

Yes some dive sites do have strong currents at certain tides at certain times of year. Experienced dive guides know how to handle these dive sites and time swimming into a current should be minimal. Some dive sites have lines for accents and descents. Reef hooks and gloves are not required.

How deep are the dive sites at the Similan Islands?

All Similan liveaboards keep dives within recreational dive limits. Some dive sites can be enjoyed at shallow depths but some dives require going deeper than 18m (60 ft), down to about 30m (100 ft). This is why some liveaboards require advanced or deep diver certification.

How many dives on a Similan liveaboard?

Most liveaboards do 4 dives per day. Two morning dives, an afternoon dive and a sunset or night dive. There is about 3 hours surface interval between dives so plenty of off gassing time.

How many guests stay on a Similan liveaboard?

Liveaboards take anywhere from just 8 guests up to 28 guests. A couple of boats also take day trippers and are best avoided if you don’t like crowded dive sites.

I’ve lost my dive cert card, how can I still join a Thailand liveaboard?

If you have a PADI certification, we can check your details with PADI divechek, just tell us your name (including middle initial) and your date of birth. For other training organisations you should contact the certify agency, dive shop or your instructor.

I haven’t dived for years, can I still join a Thailand liveaboard?

Yes but you may need to do a refresher/scuba review before the liveaboard or as the first divve of the trip. Exact requirements will depend on the boat and your previous experience, we will advise on a case by case basis.

Can I dive solo on a liveaboard? 

Most liveaboards in Thailand do not permit solo diving. You will be buddied with a diver of similar experience. All dives are within recreational limits. Solo diving is often a request of underwater photographers. Divemasters on Thailand liveaboards are used to accommodating the needs of photographers and will dive slowly. Private dive guides can also be requested for an extra charge.

What thickness of wetsuit do I need on a liveaboard?

A 3mm shorty wetsuit is sufficient for most divers in Thailand. Rental wetsuits are 3mm shorties. Some divers are comfortable in just a lycra skinsuit or rash vest, other divers who chill more easily wear 5mm long suits. The Andaman Sea temperature is 27 to 30°C.

How can I charge my electronics on a liveaboard?

Most Thailand liveaboards have 24 hour electricity provided by generators. Most cabins have 220 volt 2 pin power sockets.

What type of tanks and valves are used in Thailand?

Standard tanks are 12 litre aluminium tanks with yoke or A-clamp international valves. If you have a DIN regulator, you should bring an adapter, if you need to rent a DIN adapter please advise us in advance. 15 litre tanks are also available for rent, please also let us know in advance.

How much is nitrox on Thailand liveaboards?

Some boats offer free nitrox to nitrox certified divers, others charge a fee which varies from boat to boat. Enriched air nitrox courses are available on board. Some of the lower budget boats do not offer nitrox fills.

How much to rent an underwater camera on a Thailand liveaboard?

Actually only a few boats rent cameras, it’s poor business because they get broken, flooded and dropped so often. Point and shoot cameras are pretty cheap and take good photos these days. Underwater housings can even be bought for iphones. So if you want to take photos we recommend getting your own camera.

Several liveaboards do have underwater photographers or videographers on board who sell photos of the trip.

What kind of food is served on a Thailand liveaboard?

Food is hugely important on a liveaboard and generally speaking food is excellent on all the boats that we offer, Thai’s take food very seriously. The exact menu depends on the boat. Usually meals are served buffet style and are a mix of Thai and international dishes.

If you have any food requirements just let us know in advance, most diets can be catered for including vegetarian, vegan and halal.

Can I buy alcohol on a liveaboard?

Yes. Cans of beer are available for sale. Some boats have wine and liquor. You can also bring your own bottles if you like.

Where should I meet the liveaboard?

In most cases we can arrange transfer from your Phuket or Khao Lak hotel to the liveaboard, it depends on the boat, the departure point and the time of departure. For evening departures we can normally also arrange transfer from Phuket airport or from Rassada pier, if you are reaching Phuket by ferry. Many boats offer free transfers by shared minivan service, or private transfers for an extra fee. We will advise you of the exact procedure for joining the boat during the booking process.

What should I take on a Thailand liveaboard?

We’ve written a whole other post about what to pack for a Thailand diving vacation: Thailand liveaboards check list

We’ve also written about the dress code on Thailand liveaboards

Will I get sea sick in the Similan Islands?

If you prone to sea sickness then the best time to visit the Similan Islands is February to April when the sea is flat.

In our experience the first evening is worst as you acclimate to life on board a boat but once you reach the islands you will be sheltered in a calm bay.

Is dive insurance included in the price of a Thailand liveaboard?

All Thailand liveaboard operators have limited basic accident insurance (pay first claim later) but we recommend that all divers purchase their own personal dive insurance, on some boats it is a mandatory requirement.

What happens if I get bent on a Thailand liveaboard?

Phuket has two recompression chambers and an evacuation procedure from the boats is in place. All boats have emergency oxygen on board.

Is Malaria a problem on a Thailand diving safari?

No. Malaria is not present in the areas where you will be diving.

Can a non-diver join a liveaboard and snorkel?

Non-diving partners are welcome on the liveaboards. Prices for non divers are usually 10-20% less than the diver price.

Most liveaboards are very diver focused and don’t cater as well as they could to snorkelers. Other boats cater equally as well to snorkelers as divers, by providing dedicated snorkeling guides and taking snorkelers to shallow reefs more suitable for snorkeling. Please ask us for our recommendations on snorkeler friendly boats. While the Similan and Surin Islands do have some nice reefs for snorkeling, some dive sites are deep. Also note that beach and island excursions are often limited. The Similan Islands has amazing beaches are a couple of view points and jungle trails. Koh Bon has no landing point, Koh Tachai is off limits and Richelieu Rock is just a rock. So non divers should expect to spend most of their time on the boat.

Can children join a Thailand liveaboard?

Most liveaboards are not keen to take children on board for insurance, safety reasons, and the comfort of other guests. We do have boats that will accept children and cater very well to families, please ask us for advice.

Can I have a private cabin on a liveaboard?

Only a few liveaboards offer single cabins, most cabins are booked on a twin share basis. It is common practice for a solo travelers to share a cabin with another guest of the same gender. If the boat isn’t full you may get lucky and have a cabin to yourself (no extra charge). But if you want to guarantee a private cabin for yourself you will have to pay a single supplement which is anywhere from 30-90% of the per person price.

What is the tipping policy on a liveaboard?

Tipping in Thailand is optional but much appreciated. Each liveaboard will have it’s own policy on how to tip and how much to tip. Most boats have a tip box for the crew, dive masters are tipped separately. The tour leader on board will include the tipping policy in his briefing.

What type of sharks will we see in Thailand?

The most common sharks seen by divers in Thailand are Leopard sharks, Black tip reef sharks, whale sharks, nurse sharks, bamboo sharks, and occasional guitar sharks.

What language is spoken on the liveaboards?

The common language is English but many of the dive staff are multi-lingual. If you have a particular language requirement please ask us in advance. The boat crews speak Thai and a few words in other languages. Being on a liveaboard is a great way to sit and speak with Thai people and the crew love to joke around with guests. Learning a few words can get you a long way. Here are few to get you started:

Hello – Sawadee (Krup / Kha)* สวัสดี ครับ / ค่ะ
How are you? – Sabai Dee Mai? สบายดีไหม
I’m well thanks – Sabai Dee (Krup / Kha)* สบายดี ครับ / ค่ะ
You – Khun คุณ
Me / I – Phom (m) / Chan (f) ผม / ฉัน
Water – Nam น้ำ
Sea – Talay ทะเล
Fish – Pla ปลา
Shark – Pla Chalam ปลาโลมา
Dolphin – Pla Loma ปลาโลมา
Turtle – Dao เต่า
Is it beautiful? – Suay Mai? สวย ไหม
It’s beautiful – Suay สวย ครับ / ค่ะ
Take a photo – Thai Roop ถ่ายภาพ
Food / Rice – Ahaan / Khao อาหาร / ข้าว
Eat food – Taan Ahaan / Gin Khao กินข้าว
Is it delicious? – Aroy Mai? อร่อย ไหม
It’s delicious – Aroy (Krup / Kha)* อร่อย ครับ / ค่ะ
Thank you – Khop Khun (Krup / Kha)* ขอบคุณ ครับ / ค่ะ
Yes – Chai ใช่
No – Mai Chai ไม่


*It is normal in polite Thai speech to add Krup (for men) or Kha (for women) after most greetings, questions or expressions. For example, a man says hello with Sawadee Krup and a woman says Sawadee Kha.

Where do Thailand liveaboards depart from?

Most liveaboards depart from Thap Lamu pier in Khao Lak which is the closed port to the Similan Islands. A few boats still depart from Phuket. Most liveaboards provide free land transfers from Phuket to Khao Lak which is about 70 minutes drive away. Burma liveaboards either depart from Khao Lak or Ranong.

Can I do day trip dives before my liveaboard? Or after my liveaboard?

Yes. You can do day trip diving from Phuket or Khao Lak. The day trips from Khao Lak are to the Similan Islands so for something different from your liveaboard dives try Phuket. Day trips to Phi Phi, Shark Point, Koh Doc Mai and the King Cruiser Wreck offer a wonderful compliment to a Similan Islands liveaboard.

How long should I spend on a Thailand liveaboard?

We have trips from one night to 6 nights in duration. A typical itinerary is 4 days 4 nights and allows enough time to dive at the Similan Islands plus Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.

How do I get to Phuket?

Fly to Phuket International Airport (HKT). Direct scheduled flights are available from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangkok. Bangkok is just one hour away with Air AsiaThai Airways and Bangkok Airways, Singapore and KL are not much further.

There is no train to Phuket but buses run from Bangkok to Phuket and take about 12 hours.

From Koh Samui either fly to Phuket get the ferry to Surat Thani and a minibus from there to Phuket.

From Krabi you can get a taxi, a bus or a ferry. From Phi Phi and Koh Lanta gget a ferry to Rassada port, Phuket Town.

How do I get from Phuket airport to Khao Lak? Is there an airport bus?

Khao Lak is about 70 minutes drive north of Phuket airport. There is no airport bus so you will need to get a taxi and we recommend booking it in advance. We can arrange it for you or ask your resort to meet you at the airport.

How do I get to the Similan Islands?

There is not a public ferry service to the Similan Islands, the only way to get there is by private boat.

Is there a dive centre at the Similan Islands?

There are no diving facilities at the Similan Islands. All diving is done by boat, either liveaboard or day trip from Khao Lak.

What can we do in Phuket when we are not diving?

One of the great things about Phuket is how much there is to do when you are not diving. There are all sorts of activities and tours, plus spas, shopping, dinner shows, elephant treks, sunset cruises and so on . We wrote a post about it here: What to do in Phuket. A top recommendation is sea kayaking in Phang Nga bay.

What is Koh Samui diving like?

Koh Samui is the largest island in the Gulf of Thailand but for diving you are better off heading to Koh Tao. Dive centres in Koh Samui run day trips to Koh Tao but it’s cheaper to stay on the small island and dive from there. Apart from a couple of very good dive sites like Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock most Koh Tao diving is not up to the standard of the Andaman sea.

What hotel do you recommend?

We have some hotels that we recommend to divers, the location is an important consideration. Have a look here: Hotel recommendations for divers in Thailand.

Is it safe to visit Thailand?

Yes. Compared to may other places around the world Thailand is a very safe country, much safer in fact than most western countries. Just exercise the normal common common sense precautions.

The most common form of accidents for foreigners in Thailand is on the roads. If you hire a motorbike wear a helmet and lay off the booze. And make sure you have accident insurance.

What are the hospitals like in Thailand

Thailand has international standard hospitals. The two international hospitals in Phuket are Bangkok International Phuket and Phuket International hospital.

Can I drink the water in Thailand?

Everyone in Thailand drinks bottled water.

For more Thailand tourist information have a look at out Thailand tourist guide.

FAQs

Similan Islands