When you procrastinate doing something for years, not months, and it finally comes – it’s usually good. It was amazing! We finally did the Khao Sok independently, as tours usually suck. And it had been on our bucket list for three years. There are a few things to bear in mind though.

Very expensive, but there’s a way…

You’ve probably googled a thing or two about Khao Sok national park, but you’re not happy with the pricing. For ONE NIGHT tours you can pay anything from 1,800 to 18,000 baht per person (yes, that’s 500 USD for one night). Where are all these cheap Thai bungalows everyone’s boasting about online then?

You’ve probably also looked into the cheaper Khao Sok National Park (DNP) housing options, but couldn’t understand how to book them, or whether they actually exist. Well, we stayed at DNP bungalows, and we can happily confirm – THEY DO!

National Park accommodation BOOKING:

Book in advance on the National Park’s website, but it’s not “Khao Sok Accommodation“. Their official DNP website is HERE . There’s a nice running deer in the foreground, this cutie disappears after a while, and you can start your booking. Select English, find Khao Sok National Park, then select the place you want. We went for Zone 5 (Krai Son) because it was the furthest from the pier.

You’ll need your passport number when registering, and when you book the bungalows are reserved for something like 24 hours. *I think* you can only pay by going to a bank, because we couldn’t process the payment online with our Thai accounts. Anyway, we just printed the booking, went to the closest Kasikorn branch, paid, and kept the receipt (to show at the property). Easy peesy lemon squeezy, non-thai account non-breezy.

National Park accommodation PRICE:

We selected 2 bungalows for 2 nights (2 people in each) which showed 1,600 baht. A 240 baht online discount was applied totally randomly. The total for 4 people, 2 bungalows for 2 nights was 1,360 baht, meaning per night, per person it was 170 baht. *pinch me* but the quality matched the price (we were glad we had brought our mosquito net with us!).

Important accommodation NOTE:

It’s close to impossible to book the following two things: 1) accommodation only; 2) National Park accommodation in person. Why is that?

1) Private companies own all the Khao Sok rafthouses and they don’t make enough money just from accommodation. What they do is bundle up some things to make a package: meals, activities, wildlife spotting, boat service, etc. Even if you manage to book a bungalow, you need to pay a lot for the longtail boat drivers to get you there (and back). For you nutcrackers out there: swimming is not an option.

2) National Park has some sort of deal where a couple of rafthouses have a few bungalows set aside just for them, which you can book online. If you DO NOT book online, I can’t see a way of booking it in person. Let’s say you pay a few thousand baht to hire a boat. Then you manage to convince them to take you to the NDP bungalows. Then, you try to book a bungalow once you get there. Most likely the answer from the “officials” working there would be “no have”, and you’d end up paying whatever they feel like charging.

Other accommodation (95%) :

Unfortunately there is only one alternative – tour companies. Google is your friend, and you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Booked via DNP. How to get there:

So you physically went to a bank in Bangkok and paid for your bungalow, took a train/bus/plane to Surat Thani, and made your way to the Ratchaprapha Pier in Khao Sok. Do yourself a favour and take the van from Surat Thani for 250 baht directly to the pier. 50 baht saving is not really worth the hassle of going to Ban Ta Khun for 100, and then trying to find any transport going from Ban Ta Khun to the Pier for another 100. If you did so, well done and welcome to the experience-not-worth-the-hassle club. There should be a badge for this.

At the Ratchaprapha pier you have two options:

1) At the pier, talk to one of the men lurking around and arrange a private boat to take you to your bungalow. He won’t be very happy because you’re doing something different, and he’s not going to earn the usual hefty sum from a foreigner.

2) Go back in time, find a Thai friend and get them to arrange a boat in advance. No joke. There is a foreign price, and a Thai price. We had to speak our broken Thai to the organizer, and to the driver, the chefs, basically everyone. All the other tour groups that came and went had a Thai-speaking guide, or were married to Thais. At Khao Sok there was little English heard, even less than you can think of, considering it’s not even that common in Bangkok! However, if you don’t speak a word of Thai you could still get by using monkey language. We’ve all done it at some point, just get your friend to organise the boat for you.

The system is very straightforward though. You pay the tour operator (a.k.a, the boss) the whole lot, and he then distributes the money. There are a lot of people involved: the boat driver, bungalow staff, chefs, etc. The range is amazing, you can get half-day tours, 1-night, 2-night, sinking-bungalows or luxury packages.

Private boat PRICE:

If you do the Khao Sok National Park independently, make sure you agree on the itinerary and the price beforehand. Depending on your arrangement, you may be able to get away without meals at the bungalows. HOWEVER, when booking with the Thai boss, we were kindly asked whether we will eat there and how many times specifically. Fearing the danger of rejection we said maybe 2-3 times.

We had booked 2 nights via DNP, but since we arrived a day early, we asked him to arrange an extra night somewhere on the lake. It was fairly close to the pier, yet very secluded, for 900 baht per person. The offer included bungalows, and 3 meals.

But they can’t be arranged individually, you have to speak to the boss. These bungalows were amazing, all new with turquoise water seen from outside the window, car tyre tubes for swimming. If you’re a photographer – you’d have to arrange for the boat guy to take you to the other side for sunrise though. At NDP bungalows at Krai Son you can admire the nature’s show right from your doorstep (last photo).

We paid 8,500 baht for the boat, which included a return journey, some small trips, and a funghi, his name is Pieaw. Get it, fun-guy? Seriously, he was really cool. Since we like taking photos we asked for a quick stop at Guilin, sunrise trips 2 mornings, 2 sunset trips, and a random de-tour somewhere in Khao Sok. In reality, even if you pay the big boss for a return journey only, you can ask the boat driver to take you around the lake. They can go to some viewpoints, or waterfalls, for an extra charge. Actually he would probably benefit more financially in this way, who knows how much he gets paid after all the ‘admin’ overheads.

Private boat ITINERARY:

Please see our separate post on where we went HERE (link coming soon).

Eating at the bungalows:

After our first (big) lunch at the bungalows we asked the chefs how much we’ll have to pay, to which the answer was 200 baht each. Wowza, it wasn’t THAT tasty, and we left half the stuff anyway. At that moment we agreed to have just fried rice, small portions, and no breakfast onwards. The price dropped to 80 baht per meal. It seemed as if the “boat people” solely lived off their restaurant earnings. Whan can you do, we eat like chickens, so it’s not logical for us to spend 3 times more cash on food. Food that is thrown away later, or fed to the fish of Khao Sok.

Getting back:

We checked out of Krai Son bungalows at like 6 AM, paid the money for all meals (no random extra charges!) and stopped at a few spots on our way back to the pier. That was it for our amazing Khao Sok experience. We actually had a very smooth of a trip considering we weren’t ripped off anywhere along the way.