From October 2018, the local authorities and Thai government have introduced new policies regarding the marine park fees for Mu Ko Similan & Mu Ko Surin National Marine Parks. The changes have been made in an attempt to better protect the reefs, marine life, & wildlife. The authorities are trying to better organise, control & limit the number & type of visitors to the Similan Islands & Surin Islands. Although this may appear an inconvenience to tourists & dive centres, if compared to the policies & fees in neighbouring Myanmar & Indonesia the new regulations in Thailand are reasonable & fair.
What has changed?
The local authorities have confirmed that the only people allowed to sleep overnight in the marine parks must do so on a liveaboard diving boat, and not the islands. And they require all liveaboard visitors to provide passport details in advance. Officially, this must be one full working day, but there is another twist.* Considering office hours, public holidays & weekends, this can cause delays.
In the past, you just arrived at the dive centre, paid your national park fees and joined the trip. But now we need your passport details or Thai ID card to apply for the park entry permit in advance.
*The added twist is that there is now a limited maximum number of tourist visitors per day. And the entry tickets are sold on a 'first come, first served' basis. Therefore, it's vital to supply your information when you book. And if you have already booked, to provide the details as soon as possible.
Has the price increased?
For divers, no. The prices are the same. 500 THB/entry & 200 THB/diving day.
For non-divers, yes. Now, all visitors (divers & snorkellers) need to pay the additional 200 THB/day, even if you’re not diving.
How does it affect me?
If you book your trip in advance, then the changes do not affect you very much. We will now require you to send us (or the dive boat operator) four pieces of information from your passport. If you haven’t already paid the park fees in your booking, then you can do it when you arrive. For new bookings, we normally need to invoice you for the park fees when you book your trip.
The following information is now required for all guests, even if they're not diving.
- Full name as printed in your passport (no nicknames)
- Date of birth DD/MM/YYYY
- Nationality (as printed in your passport)
- Passport number
If you haven’t booked your trip yet and you plan to book your trip less than 48 hours before departure, then it may be impossible. This depends on the time & day that you book. The local authorities’ limited office hours and public holidays will affect the process. And if all the tickets have been sold for your chosen day, you simply can't go to the Similan Islands.
It is not possible to change the information once the entry ticket has been bought. If you cancel, there is no refund.
Non-divers & Snorkellers
If you’re joining a trip as a non-diving guest / snorkeller, then you will still need to pay the diver fee even though you’re not diving. The ‘diver fee’ is 200 THB/day.
Effect to Boat Operators
The dive centres who own & run the boats are not very happy. They now have to pay additional fees and collect more money and information from all of their guests. They can’t control the situation and they are suffering more than we are or you (the visitors) are. Also, they are now unable to book last-minute guests who walk in and want to go diving the next day.
Can I still book a trip?
Yes. Through us, the main Similan online booking agent, you can book as normal. Unless you are already in Khao Lak and want to go diving tomorrow, the changes do not restrict or limit your ability to book a diving trip to the Similan Islands. The only difference is that we will require passport details of everyone in your group, plus the park fees paid in advance.
I have already booked a trip. Can I still join it?
Yes. Pre-booked trips are not affected, but we will still need your passport details as soon as possible. The local authorities are trying to limit the number of visitors to the parks, so please send us this info today. Then we can make sure that you don’t miss out. The entry tickets are sold on a 'first come, first served' basis and your ticket will be fixed for the day that your trip starts.
Why are the local authorities doing this?
Although it is an inconvenience to dive boat operators & visitors, this change is for a good reason. They are trying to protect the fragile and precious ecosystems and the only way that they can do this is to limit the impact of tourists & visitors. If they decided to ban all visitors, then this would cause uproar. There is so much investment from the dive centres, boat operators, & hotels, and most visitors book in advance. It would be impossible to just close the whole national marine parks, even if it’s to benefit nature.
Also, if they set a limit but didn’t ask for scans of passport pages, some big boat operators would pay for all the park fee entries in advance even before they get guests. When the visitor limit has been reached, no more park entry tickets will be available for that day. That would leave most other boat operators in a situation where they have a guest but can’t get them a ticket.
It is inconvenient, but if you think about it, it’s the best and only fair way to manage and control how many people visit the Similan & Surin Islands National Marine Parks. If you arrive in Khao Lak and want to go diving tomorrow, it’s likely that there isn’t space for you on your chosen boat anyway. So having to book in advance isn’t the end of the world, is it? For our guests, 99% book in advance by at least 3 days, and usually weeks or months before departure. So in reality, we are not affected at all. Also, because we also offer trips into Myanmar and other countries, we already have a system in place that is set up for situations like this.