Koh Samui Christmas: Your total guide
A new and improved white Christmas? With some planning and a measure of good cheer, a Koh Samui Christmas could become your family's default holiday preference.
Christmas on Koh Samui
Breakfast on the beach, followed by presents? A perfect day together, then Christmas dinner - that someone else cooks and cleans up? If you distil 'the important bits' – whatever that might be to your family – you can have your Christmas pudding and eat it too. Here's why a Koh Samui Christmas is my favourite kind…
What to expect from a Koh Samui Christmas?
I'm that Christmas-obsessive who thinks 'Love Actually' solves everything. With a major thing for Koh Samui, too ... I can't think of anything better than my favourite holiday in my favourite place. There's much to love about a Koh Samui Christmas. Here's what to expect (and why to get *really* excited)...
Where to stay for Christmas on Koh Samui?
My pick: Centara Reserve
Tip: If you haven’t yet booked your Koh Samui Christmas accommodation, I recommend you ‘drop what you’re doing and click now’. Every year I get panicked emails from readers in mid-December: "Do you know a secret Samui peninsula with available hotels?!? Everything in our budget is booked". Um ... I can tell you where to get mince pies...?
More hotel ideas
Given that Christmas and New Year on Koh Samui is one of the (probably THE) busiest times on the island, I’d be better off telling those asking: “No! It’s horrible! Stay away!” But that wouldn’t be true, nor quite in keeping with the season’s ethos, ‘goodwill to mankind’.
What are hotel rates like on Koh Samui at Christmas?
I can't sugar-coat this one: Samui's hotel and villa rental rates peak for the two weeks over Christmas and New Year's Eve. Confused and need to start from scratch? No problem – let's get to know Samui with a beach-by-beach guide. See where to stay on Samui.
Last-minute Koh Samui Christmas?
Avoiding an obvious Mary/Joseph/manger pun, hotels book up quickly for Christmas on Samui. By late November, availability shrinks quickly. Closer still to Christmas, plan to make quick decisions. If you see something that looks good, grab it.
- Where to stay on Koh Samui with kids
- Koh Samui’s best private pool villas
- How to find Samui’s best hotel deals
More planning questions?
No matter what stage of holiday planning you’re in (whether you’re deciding on Koh Samui as a destination or are sitting on packed suitcases), The Koh Samui Guide puts everything you need to know in one tidy place.
What to pack for Christmas
What to bring with you?
If you've never travelled over Christmas, or never had a tropical Christmas, you might be concerned that it becomes an anti-climactic non-event. Not so. It just takes a little planning and a tiny bit of luggage space. Other than what's necessary, and any sneaky presents, you might amp up the Christmassy-ness with some favourite food and drink brought from home (discussed below).
1. Bring back-up for a rainy day
As there's a decent chance of a rainy day at this time of year, I recommend bringing some games or activities to ensure the party stays in full swing. Whether a fully stocked Kindle, an easily packed card game (Cards Against Humanity?) or kids' crafts – bring a rainy day Plan B to ensure you get nothing but sunshine.
Note that Netflix in Thailand has different content than at home – there are some Hollywood movies, but many are Thai. As the power (and WiFi) will often go out during storms, it's best to have a few books or movies downloaded to your device just in case you need the entertainment.
2. What Christmas food and drink should you bring to Koh Samui?
Perhaps bring from home any particular Christmas foods that you can't live without (if they’re transportable) – whatever your "crucial" Christmas food might be. I distill my Koh Samui Christmases to (easily transportable) sights, sounds and smells. I’m greedy, love Christmas, and pack the following:
- After Eights
- Christmas pudding
- Cranberry sauce
- Mulled wine spices
Keep all chocolate in the fridge, “Thai After Eights” ooze rather quickly. Yes, the Christmas pudding takes a full pound of luggage space but it's long gone for the return journey. If you won't have access to a microwave, kindly ask if your hotel can help in warming it for you. Wrap all glass jars in bubble wrap for transit. As for the mulled wine, a hotel room kettle can work magic. And, of course, bring any edible traditions particular to your family. Mine are pretty tasty, but you might know better.
Tip: Double-check customs allowances if in doubt and never pack any meat, dairy, fruit or veggie products. All foods should be packaged, unopened & clearly labelled. Check any alcohol in your luggage.
3. Koh Samui Christmas drinks (BYO bubbles)
Ready to celebrate? First and most crucial fact – wine, champagne and top-shelf liquor are extremely expensive in Thailand (due to government import tariffs). While Thai beer, local liquor and cheapy basics are easily funded, expect Thai champagne prices to bring you to tears.
Koh Samui champagne prices? Compared to Amazon UK, Koh Samui champagne costs between 200% to 300% more. If you need bubbles, a decent red or quality port for Christmas to be Christmas – pack the bottle/s in your suitcase and bring it from home.
Buying alcohol on Koh Samui: You’ll need to know where and when to buy your Christmas alcohol on Koh Samui. Both champagne and port are available on Koh Samui, but at a steeeep island price. Lotus, Tops, and other island supermarkets are usually well-stocked (except when they're not – actual island reality) – but go in the morning. You can’t buy alcohol between 2 pm and 5 pm at Thai supermarkets, or after midnight. (Also on religious days and Thai national holidays - though this is not the case with Christmas). Confused? It's all explained in The Koh Samui Guide – charts and graphs and everything.
Tip: Don't buy duty-free alcohol: If you can spare the weight in your suitcase, any alcohol is best brought yourself to Koh Samui (wrapped well in lots of bubble wrap and checked as luggage). If you're connecting flights in Bangkok, avoid buying bottles duty-free – they'll be confiscated. Official reason? Sealed or not, they're over 100ml. Actual reason? Think a few cynical thoughts…
4. Koh Samui Christmas presents?
Does a tropical Christmas still require presents? Tell your family how lucky they are to be on holiday in such a nice place – see how that goes.
Tip: Packing your family's presents? Leave presents unwrapped in your suitcase (in case customs has a look), then pop them in Christmas gift bags with festive tissue paper on arrival – no need to find tape or scissors. Clever, right? On Samui, gift-wrapping is available through Christmas Day or Boxing Day at Lotus and, likely, at Central Festival mall. You can usually choose between "festooned with bunnies" or "festooned with rainbows and puppies". If artful wrapping is your thing – bring supplies from home.
5. Don't forget Santa hats
I bring a dozen santa hats from home (they’re probably available somewhere on the island, but I’d rather not spend time looking). Wearing Santa hats, we take a tacky family photo on the beach on Christmas Day (usually emailed to friends instead of the Christmas card that organised people would send).
Koh Samui Christmas Events
Christmas at SALA Samui Chaweng
Koh Samui Christmas Parties
Let’s face it, there’s nothing normal about eating Christmas turkey on a (mainly Buddhist) tropical island. Yet Koh Samui’s hospitality industry is ever-obliging, so whether you want mince pies in Maenam or cranberries in Choeng Mon (see what I did there) … your carbs await! So let’s get the sanuk (Thai for fun/joy) started...
Where to find Christmas events?
To find a variety of Koh Samui Christmas events, I recommend making a short list of hotels and restaurants (see my favourites in The Koh Samui Guide) and then checking their Instagram or Facebook pages. At the time of writing, hotels are just starting to publish their Christmas menus and they look tasty. For families with children, many events offer children’s pricing and drinks packages are usually available for adults. As mentioned, this is peak season on the island so advanced reservations are crucial – choose your feasts and book ASAP.
Can you eat a traditional Christmas dinner on Koh Samui?
Yes. At every budget, island hotels and Western restaurants offer a full Christmas dinner – some go all out with homemade eggnog and brandy butter. The Koh Samui Guide offers dozens of restaurant suggestions for all budgets (I eat like a piggy to ensure thorough and totally honest research). This is a very busy time of year on the island, so I recommend making reservations for your Christmas lunch or dinner as soon as possible. Whether you want to eat your turkey with your feet in the sand, or dress to the nines and enjoy an ocean view – there's a great variety of dining options.
What to wear to Koh Samui Christmas dinner?
For a total head-to-toe Thailand dress code primer, whether you’re eating casually or getting dressed up, see:
- What to wear in Thailand at night
- How to prevent mosquito bites
- The best makeup for tropical climates
What are the Christmas gala dinners like at Koh Samui hotels?
If you’re staying in a hotel or resort, you'll likely be invited to its Christmas gala dinner (often included in your reservation). Koh Samui resorts do a nice job of decorating for Christmas – they look great. The gala dinner formula tends to be an enormous buffet, with Thai cultural performances, flowing drinks and a Thai or Filipino band. Verdict? Pretty decent if you like drinking and/or other people’s children. Otherwise, with a group, Christmas is a very popular time of year for villa rentals on Koh Samui (typically with prices to match).
Do we need to book our Christmas dinner in advance?
With a few exceptions, you can reserve your Christmas dinner at many hotel restaurants whether or not you’re a guest – but you must book in advance. Turkeys and roast potatoes are by no means a natural phenomenon on Koh Samui, so you need to stake your claim.
Net? Gross? Plus-Plus?
When booking, check whether tax and service charges are included. Typical rates are a 10% service charge and 7% government tax. Some establishments include them in the price; some don’t.
Koh Samui Christmas weather
A coconut Christmas tree at Anantara Bophut
Most readers’ questions regard the weather: Is it still rainy season at Christmas? Will it be sunny enough? Is it warm enough to swim in the ocean? With equal parts anecdotal evidence and a decade of weather statistics, here's what to know...
Will it rain over Christmas?
If you’ve heard any dissuading remarks about Koh Samui Christmases, they were probably about the weather. Let’s clear up the confusion: November is the centre of Koh Samui's rainy season, which can run into December. However, by the end of the month, Koh Samui's Christmas weather should be hot days and lots of sun. "Should be". Always expect some rain on Koh Samui – it's a tropical climate.
Recent Christmas Day weather:
- (Year A) Rough seas and a big breeze – no swimming off the mince pies.
- (Year B) Perfect blue skies.
- (Year C) Lovely day with a light breeze, not too hot – ‘turkey temperature’.
Koh Samui's average Christmas Day temperature is between 25.5°C to 29°C (78°F to 84°F). Chance of rain? 37% chance of some precipitation (most likely ‘slight rain’). If you've come from somewhere cold, you might not care – even "bad" weather in Samui still means shorts and T-shirts.
What is there to do on Koh Samui at Christmas?
Perhaps you can already gauge my enthusiasm for the subject – but I've literally written the guidebook on how to have the time of your life on Koh Samui. Dive into Koh Samui’s best – The Koh Samui Guide gives you the total sum of my nearly 20 years of Samui expertise. Use it to jump into the island's very best food, drink and things to do, plus get perfect preparation and crucial safety tips.
Does Santa visit Koh Samui?
Santa hats pop up on unlikely heads and Santa arrives (in broad daylight) in some unconventional ways. In past years he's arrived ...
- On a jet-ski at InterContinental
- By parasail at Four Seasons Resort
- Atop an elephant at Anantara Bophut
Do Thai people celebrate Christmas?
Not as such, but where there's a good time to be had – Thai people are in. Compared to New Year's Eve, Christmas on Koh Samui is fairly tame. Though low-key, no one does merry like Thai people and you're assured of big smiles and an inclusive attitude, however you like to celebrate.
What is Koh Samui like during Christmas?
Is Christmas a holiday in Thailand? While Christmas is embraced as a good time in tourist areas of Thailand, it's not an official holiday. Shops, restaurants and attractions (unless expat-owned) remain open as usual.
But is it ... "Christmassy"?
This might be where First World Problems get the better of us. If you love the lead-up to Christmas – and become a walking/talking Love Actually montage – twinkly shops, red Starbucks cups, glittery dresses... fill up on that atmosphere at home and arrive at a tropical version the weekend of the 25th. Plan to import a lot of your own Crucial Christmas Kit – see tips above.
Is Christmas a good time on Koh Samui?
It's popular on Koh Samui at Christmas, and for good reason. As most villas and many resorts require a minimum stay over the holiday period, you can’t help but settle in and relax in full. Arrive, unpack, and soon your only focus is enjoying time with your family (and eating non-stop). There are no distractions (and certainly no turkey curry). Once you’re on the island, there’s no stress to be found – someone else deals with the Christmas tree, too.
What about New Year’s Eve on Koh Samui?
If you're lucky enough to be staying on Koh Samui through the entire holiday period, take a look at what to expect on New Year's Eve.
How popular is Christmas on Koh Samui?
Very. Christmas and New Year are peak season on the island. Make sure to book your flights well in advance as everything typically sells out – you’ll have to find a willing donkey to get you there (one that can swim).
What time are Christmas sunrise and sunset?
Time your Christmas morning coffee, and sunset champagne, just right:
- Christmas Day sunrise: 6:32 am
- Christmas Day sunset: 6:07 pm
Plenty of daylight to enjoy the day however you like.
Koh Samui Christmas
A Koh Samui Christmas will be different, memorable and – I hope – your best yet. Find out everything else you’re wondering – or worried – about in The Koh Samui Guide. Arrive better prepared, and make sure you enjoy every minute. Merry – Koh Samui – Christmas.