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When to Go to the Gulf Coast Beaches
December to March is the best time to visit the Eastern Gulf: the seas are mostly calm and the skies mostly clear. Pattaya and Koh Samet are year-round destinations. Many places used to close down in the rainy season in Koh Chang and other islands in its archipelago, however the advent of the tourist boom and infrastructure development have given Koh Chang and its surroundings a more year-round tourist trade. The big car ferries continue to run during the rainy season on a limited schedule, and larger resorts and many hotels stay open and offer cheaper rates.
On the Western Gulf side the monsoon season runs from late October through December; prices can be halved (except between Christmas and New Year's). Peak season in the Western Gulf runs from January through early July. But even during the off-season flying to Koh Samui is still convenient, and the island is beautiful even with cloudiness and rain. Cha-Am and Hua Hin are busy year-round, particularly Hua Hin, a historic city that has more to offer than just the beach.
The peak season on the Andaman Coast is November through April. The monsoon season is May through October, during which high seas can make beaches unsafe for swimming (a number of tourist deaths are registered each year in the treacherous monsoon waters) though hotel prices are considerably lower.
Health and Safety
Malaria is very rare but not unheard of in Thailand's southeast. Health authorities have done a great job controlling mosquitoes around the southern resorts, but you'll still need a good supply of repellent.
Be careful at the beach, as the sun is stronger than you think. Wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen. Protective clothing while diving or snorkeling is a good idea, as accidentally brushing against or stepping on coral can be painful. Keep an eye out for dangerous creatures like jellyfish, especially during the monsoon season, and sea urchins. If you are stung, seek medical attention immediately.
Strong undertows often develop during monsoon season, especially along the west coast. Pay attention to posted warnings and listen if locals tell you not to swim.
Condoms are available in southern Thailand; not all brands are equally reliable, so it may be simpler to bring any you'll need.
Hotel prices in beach areas are generally lower than what you'd pay in Bangkok but higher than in other parts of the country. There are budget bungalows and guesthouses everywhere, though many aren't air-conditioned. At the other end of the spectrum are upscale resorts that run over $1,000 a night—though they are some of the most luxurious resorts in the world.
Banks and ATMs are becoming increasingly numerous, but it's still always a good idea to carry some extra cash. Remote islands do not widely accept credit cards, but have many eager currency exchangers. Some places add a small service charge, typically 3%, when you pay with a credit card.
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