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Astana, Kazakhstan • 23 August 2022

How to Hide from Winter Colds in Thailand

A detailed winter stay guide from an Almaty family in Koh Samui

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Finding a perfect spot

"Why Samui? It has a mild climate and very good weather to spend the winter months. There is no prominent season when you can't be here, no special rainy season. There are times - October, November, and December - when the weather can be a little worse than usual, but in any case, it is suitable to rest. It is always warm here, the average temperature on the island is +27°C (about 80 °F). And, conveniently, the time zone difference is only an hour."

All tourists are welcome

"Initially, we were going to stay for three months. But after two months we realized that we wanted to stay longer. And as Thailand currently has "visa amnesty", we can extend our three-month visa for another 60 days as simply as getting a passport stamp without leaving the island. We decided to take this opportunity since work and school allow us to do so. The amnesty has already been extended several times. That’s how we stayed for two more months, and then for another two months. It is worth noting that the visa exemption is only for the pandemic period due to restrictive measures. So far, the visa amnesty has been extended until March 25."

Cutting down the costs

"Accommodation becomes cheaper in the fall and spring. If your stay is longer than 15 days, it makes sense to consider apartments or villas, which can be rented monthly. It will be cheaper than staying in a hotel with comparable conditions. Such apartments can be located directly on the beach or overlook the sea. The prices are also varied, ranging from 5-10 thousand baht (65-130 thousand tenge, or 125-250 USD). This rate is for the most basic apartments. The rates for a comfortable accommodation on Koh Samui start at 700 USD (a little over 350,000 tenge) a month with additional utility bills – usually water – of another 50 USD (around 25,000 tenge). That rate is for two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a pool on the territory. It is better to come here, rent a hotel room for 3-4 days and during this time find yourself a house on the island. It's time-consuming, of course, but if you want to save money, it really works."

"Regarding tickets, we try to always take a direct flight. But because of the pandemic, there was no direct Almaty-Bangkok flight; the only available option was Almaty-Phuket, but it required another 7 days in quarantine in Phuket. This time we traveled with a connection in Dubai. It took 30 hours to get there, but the price was lower. Also, to get to Samui from Bangkok or Phuket, you need either a flight – obviously, a more expensive option – or a cheaper ferry. You can also take a bus and a ferry."

Lots of greens, no horse meat

"You can also eat at home. Here, they sell the same groceries as in Kazakhstan. Some are more expensive, some are cheaper. For example, greens are in abundance here, they are cheaper than at home. Chicken is very tasty and costs the same as in Almaty. Beef is expensive, The Thai do not eat it, good beef costs 4500 tenge. Buckwheat is available but costs 2,000 tenge per pack. The island offers Thai and Italian cuisine. There are four Russian cafes that I know. They sell frozen food, that is, such as dumplings, curd fritters, cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt. We have adapted to the food and learned how to find certain groceries. When you know it all, it's easy to plan your budget for groceries and cook at home. The only thing I haven't seen here is kazy and horse meat. We miss Kazakh chocolate, so we always try to take it with us, and we miss beshbarmak, of course. You can cook it here too though, just without horse meat."

Two wheels are better than three

"A passenger cab costs five times more than in Almaty. That's why it's better to rent either a bike or a car here. It's much more affordable. Renting a car costs about 500-600 USD per month (217-260 thousand tenge). A Bike is much cheaper, about 100-150 USD per month (43-65 thousand tenge). Therefore, tourists very rarely use public transport on Samui."

"The island is like one big village. It is quite a safe place, you can go for a walk here even late at night, at least we have never heard of anything dangerous happening. The ecology here is very good, fresh air, a lot of greenery, and there are no factories. There is no need to wear warm clothes. You can wear just your shoes, shorts, and a T-shirt. The humidity here is high, almost no one has allergies, cold-related diseases are less frequent."

Health and restrictions

"This is a mosquito-borne fever, which acts like bad flu with high body temperature and intoxication. You will have to go to the hospital. We had this fever in 2017. We were treated at an international hospital according to our insurance. It was very expensive, but the attitude of the staff was good. In general, the prices of medical services here are very high, even for locals, but I'm talking about Samui. In Bangkok, of course, medicine is better."

"For example, those vaccinated with Sputnik will have to go through a seven-day quarantine. You will wait for your PCR test results without leaving the hotel for a day, and then if the test is negative, you can move around the city, but you have to stay in the same hotel for the whole period. And starting February 1, they are introducing a program for the vaccinated called Test & Go. It means that you can book a hotel for one day, take a PCR test there, and if it is negative, you are free to move around and stay at other hotels, but on the fifth day, you have to take another PCR test. If any person has a positive PCR test result, then all the contacts are quarantined at their own expense."

No sunbathing at work

"It is impossible to do any work under a palm tree. First of all, the temperature is +30 °C (86°F), the heat, the scorching sun. It's hot for both the person and the computer. Secondly, because of the sunlight, you can't see anything on the screen. And lastly, there's sand everywhere which can get into the computer. Working with a computer under a palm tree on the sand is an emergency if you have nowhere else to go.
We work like all normal people, sitting in a cabin at a desk with the air conditioning on. A lot of people who live here for a long time usually work Monday through Friday, and on weekends they go to the sea and enjoy all the delights of life in the tropics. Otherwise, it's just like working in the office. The only difference is that in the evening you can go for a walk, have a good meal."
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