The Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 16th, 2012

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailandWhen my friends began planning their trip to Thailand, they had one requirement: that we attend a Full Moon Party. They didn’t know a lot about the party, but they’d heard so much about it over the years, they knew they had to go. After all, the Full Moon Party is infamous. The mere mention of it conjures up images of a wild, alcohol-fueled beach party where people from around the world have a great time and dance until sunrise.

But what is this party? How did it come about? Why is it so popular? And most importantly—how can you get there yourself? I’ve been to seven Full Moon Parties over the years, and I can tell you that there’s a certain way to experience this party. You want to avoid overpaying or getting injured, find good accommodation, and make sure you’re still up at sunrise.

What is the Full Moon Party?
Legend has it that in 1987 (or maybe ‘86? or ‘88?) a group of backpackers threw a birthday party for their friend on the night of the full moon. They had such a good time that they came back the following year to do it again and then the following month and then the month after that. Word got out, and more people started coming each month.

At first, it was like a small house party on the beach—a few hippies and backpackers playing guitars, smoking weed, and having a few beers. But as word spread and more people showed up, it changed. The 1990s brought the rave scene and all the drugs that went along with it. By 2000, this party was squarely on the travel map, and hordes of young people inspired by the movie The Beach flocked to Ko Phangan, where the party is held. The Full Moon Party has only gotten bigger since then.

Now the Full Moon Party is a giant festival-like party with a lot of drinking, dancing, drugs, and sex. Each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music loudly blasting onto the beach every few feet. The beach itself is lined with people selling alcohol, fire dancers putting on shows, and little booths selling glow-in-the-dark face paint. By the end of the night, you’ll see people passed out on the beach, the odd couple having sex, and lost flip-flops littering the beach looking for new owners.

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailand

Despite the party’s obvious commercialization, it’s still a lot of fun. People come here looking for nothing but a good time. It’s rare to see any of the problems (i.e., fights) you might normally associate with 40,000 young, drunk people. People here are just looking for a good time, and the energy is very positive.

When is it?
As the name would suggest, the party is on the night of the full moon. It you miss it, there’s always the half-moon party, quarter-moon party, and black-moon party. Really, every night is a party here on Ko Phangan.

This website has the dates of all the Full Moon Parties.

Accommodation

There’s accommodation all over the island, but you’ll want to stay in Haad Rin (where the actual party is) so you can be close to the action. If you want to find accommodation, you’ll need to come here at least FOUR days before the party in order to find a cheap (and nice) place to stay. The closer you get to the actual night of the party, the more you’ll need a miracle to find something—at any price range. I’ll never understand the travelers who just show up the day of or the night before and think they’ll find a place. They never do. I’ve sat at restaurants and watched the same people wander up and down the street many times in fruitless attempts to find something.

How much does a room cost?
Here’s what you can expect to pay for your bed:

Dorm room (there are now a lot of dorms here, which wasn’t the case a few years ago): 300 baht per night
Regular room with A/C and hot water: 500–800 baht per night
Really nice room: 1,000–1,500 baht
Basic bungalow: 800 baht per night
Really nice bungalow: 2,000–3,800 baht per night

$1 USD = 30 Baht

The closer you get to the full moon, the more the prices go up. The day of or the day before the party, any accommodation left is going to be double the price listed. And if you come here for New Year’s, you can expect the price to triple, with many places also including an expensive, mandatory holiday dinner. (Just another way to get more money from you!)

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailand

My friends and I arrived five days before the full moon and found a lot of cheap accommodation still available. We settled on a room we would all share for 1,500 baht. A few days later, the cheap accommodation was gone, and only the high-end rooms that cost more than the Hilton (minus Hilton quality) were left.

Lesson: come early, get a room, enjoy the party, and say no to stress.

Should you book online in advance?
No, not even if you’re going there for New Year’s. The accommodation you’ll find online will be the most expensive on the island and require long minimum stays (sometimes as many as 10 nights). There are a lot of accommodation options in Haad Rin and most aren’t on online booking services like Hotels.com or Agoda. You’ll only find them by showing up. Just come early, and you’ll have no problem finding a room.

A good alternative to Haad Rin is Ban Tai beach. It’s the beach over from Haad Rin and is where a lot of people stay when rooms start to fill up. It’s a short and inexpensive taxi from Haad Rin. If you stay on the northern part of the island, you’ll be very, very far away from the party. Though boat taxis and normal taxis run frequently, they are expensive.

How to Get There

There’s no airport on the island, so everyone comes by ferry. You can come via Surat Thani on the mainland or from the nearby island of Ko Samui. From Surat Thani, roundtrip tickets cost 600 baht and drop you off at the main pier in Thong Sala. From there, it’s a 100-baht taxi ride to Haad Rin. From Ko Samui, boat tickets cost 200 baht and leave from Big Buddha Pier or Maenam beach. The Samui ferry will drop you off at the main dock of Thong Sala or Haad Rin, depending on time of day and ferry company. During the Full Moon Party, boats go from Ko Samui to Haad Rin every hour.

A lot of companies run overnight buses from Bangkok to Ko Phangan for 450–600 baht. This price also includes the ferry. You’ll take an overnight bus to Surat Thani, sit at the ferry terminal for a few hours, and then take the ferry to the island. It’s a long, long night/day, but it’s much cheaper than flying. (Note: Some bus companies go to Chumphon and put you on a ferry from there. Either route is still a lot of travel, but the ferry from Chumphon is usually nicer.)

If you decide to fly, flights from Surat Thani generally cost around 2,000 baht (with taxes and fees) from Bangkok on Air Asia. Flights from Ko Samui are at least 3,200 baht, since Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways keep a monopoly on the airport and see no reason to lower prices with demand so high. During the high season and around New Year’s Eve, ticket prices can get as high as 5,000 baht.

The Full Moon Party Itself

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailand
The party begins days before as people trickle onto the island. On the day of the party, you see people from the neighboring Ko Samui and Koh Tao and from other parts of the island adding to the crowd. You’ll see people start drinking in the afternoon, and most people start heading to the beach around 9pm. The crowd peaks around midnight to 2am. On New Year’s Eve, the beach will be full by 8pm.

Costs
Here’s what stuff costs on Haad Rin:

Average Thai meal: 120 baht
Average Western meal: 200 baht
Banana pancakes: 30 baht
Cheap food sold on the beach: 40–50 baht
Beer: 80–100 Baht (30 in 7-11)
Cigarettes: 80 Baht
Buckets: 200–300 baht, depending on what kind of alcohol. They can be up to 400 baht on New Year’s Eve.
Toilets: 5–10 Baht

Money-Saving Tips
Alcohol – Buy your beer at the 7-11 or buy buckets away from the beach, where they are as cheap as 180 baht.

Food – Food is expensive in Haad Rin, but there are some good budget choices. Paprika, the Israeli restaurant, offers a falafel sandwich and fruit shake combo for 100 baht. In the center of town is a parking lot, and if you walk down the street behind it, you’ll find small Thai restaurants that offer 50–60 baht meals, about half the price of most other restaurants. Across from “Planet Hollywood” (just a restaurant that ripped off the name) is another good and inexpensive Thai place.

What the F$%^$ is a bucket?
Remember when you were a kid and you built a sand castle using a little pail? Picture that pail filled with a can of Coke, Thai Red Bull, and 375 ml of alcohol. Now you have a Thai bucket. A few of these, and you’ll be having a really interesting night.

Party Survival Tips

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailand
Drugs: There are a lot of drugs here, especially during the full moon. All drugs are illegal in Thailand and punishable by time in some pretty bad prisons. Undercover police will try to sell you drugs only to arrest you. Locals will rat you out for a reward. Thais love to crack down on foreigners who are dumb enough to be doing drugs in the open. However, most cops have no real desire to lock you away for smoking a joint or doing a pill. It’s too much hassle and paperwork. They do have a real desire to take a bribe, though. Expect to pay upwards of $1,000 USD for your get-out-of-jail-free card. (Actual bribe varies depending on the cop and your ability to bargain down the bribe.)

Skip the jump rope: Picture this. We’re at bar. I turn to you and say, “Hey friend, let’s go outside. I’m going to soak a rope in gasoline, light it on fire, and then you and some drunk strangers are going to skip rope.” You’d look at me like I was crazy and tell me to get lost. But people on this island do exactly that—they jump over a rope of fire. It’s stupid. You may be the world’s best jump roper, but the drunk guy who decides to join you might not be. At my last full moon party, I saw a lot of people get burned. The rope wrapped around one guy’s arm burned all the skin off. He had to be rushed to the hospital. It was not a pretty scene. It’s not how you want to remember your holiday. Here’s a tiny example:

Buckets: They’re deadly! One, two, three, passed out on the beach! Every full moon while I eat dinner, I see newbies drinking buckets before the sun has even gone down. They’re the same people I see passed out on the beach by midnight. A few buckets will get you very, very drunk, so I have a hard-and-fast rule that I and other experienced full mooners follow: no buckets before midnight. If you want to actually see the sunrise, I’d follow it too. (Note: The Red Bull sold in Asia contains ephedra. This substance is like speed. It also negates the effect of the alcohol quickly, keeping you from feeling drunk. Be careful, and watch your consumption of both liquids.)

Hydrate: You’re going to be drinking a lot, and even though it’s night time, the weather is still hot and humid. Drink a lot of water before and during the event! It will also help your hangover the next day.

A fire dancer on Haat Rin beach in thailand

Stay out of the ocean: It may seem like a good idea to play in the ocean. It’s not. Not only do you risk drowning (there can be strong waves), but everyone uses the ocean as their personal toilet during the party. There’s a reason the water is warm, and it’s not because you’re in Thailand. Stay sanitary. Don’t go in.

Wear footwear: Partying on the beach without footwear may seem fun, but as the night goes on, broken beer bottles and other sharp objects litter the beach. I’ve had many friends slice open their feet after stepping on a bottle. You’re drunk, it’s dark, and you aren’t always looking where you are going. Avoid a foot injury and just wear something on your feet!

Personal belongings: Theft is rife during the party. Bring as little as possible. Bring enough money for drinks and your room key. You don’t really need anything else.

The Full Moon Party is one of the biggest and best-known parties in the world. The vast majority of travelers in Southeast Asia attend at some point, and I have seen people of all ages and nationalities (as well as a few families) here. The party is definitely a unique and interesting time, but if not done right, it can also be expensive and dangerous.

So party—but party smart.

Continue planning your trip to Thailand with these articles:
? Thailand Travel Guide
? How Much Does Thailand Cost?

comments 71 Comments

On the plus side -everywhere else in the nearby islands are nice and quite during the full moon party! It didn’t exist in 89 – the first time I went to Thailand. I noticed in Samui there are also 1/2 moon parties and 1/4 moon parties – so basically there’s a party every week.

Awesome post – looking forward to going to this party sometime in the future…great tips to keep in mind during the night of. Never knew about booking hotels once we were there – does that apply to all-year round and all parts of thailand, or just for new years/ko pangan?

NomadicMatt

Both. You can find rooms all year round.

Damir

Really good advice there. Well summarised.

I was with 2 other friends there once. It’s definitely the biggest and most crazy beach party I’ve been to. Do watch out for theft though. A chick (kinda lady boy looking lol) walked up to my friend and started hugging him. He was being too nice and tried to politely get away. Before you know it she was gone and so was his gold necklace.

As Matt says, only bring what you need. For guys: a shirt, shorts and thongs and somewhere to keep your money securely. That’s it.

Crazy party though :)

oh gosh it sounds like a magical party but I think that I am a bit too old for this one! Would love to see the party so that I can experience a full moon party, but I wouldn’t want all the drinks/drugs. Funny how the police will accept bribes to get you out of jail.

Cheers
Lisa

Well as a newbie to the party I’m glad I got to tag along with you for the party! I was planning on writing a “Surviving the Full Moon Party” post too. You and the copy and paste feature just saved me loads of time…

just kidding :)

jason fairhurst

Great article!

I recently spent a month in thailand with 9 friends and reading this article just took me back there.
The had rin full moon party is definitely a must although I feel there are a lot more party’s (black moon, sheva moon, jungle experience’ which could be more worth it just because they are bit smaller, less commercial and it doesn’t take the entire night looking for your friends again after you loose them.

One disappointing fact is that the name of the party has nothing to do with how the moon will look, the full moon was half, half moon has a quarter and the no moon (black moon) was almost 3 quarters.

So definitely do it but above all else I recommend you explore every inch of all the islands you can in the time you are there because at the end of the day everywhere you go you will find an amazing unique partying experience.

We did the hole of thailand but top 3 were definitely: Phi Phi, Krabi-East Railay and Koh tao

Thanks again for the read!

Great guide Matt particularly about not booking online – I know a lot of my friends got caught out on the whole ‘minimum stay’ crap!

NomadicMatt

Me too. I couldn’t imagine being on that island for 10 days! Yikes!

Anton

Best cheap investment we made for the party was one of those plastic baggy ziplock purses. Kept everything dry and it didn’t cost more than five bucks.

Wow, what a useful article! I’ve heard so much about these parties, but I’ve always thought that it would be a nightmare trying to make arrangements for one. The tip about not booking accommodation in advance is especially helpful; it’s not something I would have ever considered! Thanks!

Sounds great – good tips! Will have to look into for next visit to SE Asia! Had not heard of it before!

We will be attending our first Full Moon Party this year when we make our way to Thailand in a few months… we loved to read your rundown of the event and what to expect!

NomadicMatt

Thanks! Hope this article helps!

I’d disagree with not booking online in advance. We went to FMP back in October 2009 and booked a room in a resort a few weeks before on sunset beach using asiawebdirect.com and it was really nice and cheap. And we got an upgrade when we checked in (after they restored power, lol).

NomadicMatt

How much was your room? During New Year’s, there is nothing cheap. October is also still the off season.

Not booking online ah. Good one Matt. My parents should have this before they went. They get got up on the minimum stay thingy :)

NomadicMatt

There’s that route too.

Sounds like its a ball of a party this full moon party. 1k US for a bribe is serious man. Thats a good warning you have there since most tourists tend to forget there are laws against drugs almost anywhere in the world.

Wow, broken glass all over the beach, people being burned by a fire rope, and police posing as drug dealers … how have I been missing such fun all these years? ;) Just kidding, I actually think a beach party in Thailand would be the perfect way to ring in the new year at least once — AND what is most important is that you published this guide to how to stay safe and be prepared for such an event.

Thanks, Matt. Looking forward to hearing more about your time in Chiang Mai. Can’t wait ’til we make it to Thailand ourselves. We’re hoping this fall/winter. Thanks for sharing these tips.

NomadicMatt

There’s nothing wrong with a good party now and then if done right!

Walter

I think you can get accommodation even the day before. I was there in Dec. 2011 when there were three FMP in a week because of X-mas and NYE. I made the mistake of booking a hostel online. After two nights there I said screw it and moved to a nice bungalow for about the same price in Haad Rin. If you walk away from the main area there are tons of bungalows.

This is exactly the kind of guide I was looking for. Q & I will be doing our first full moon party this April. Anybody else going?

Great tips! This is definitely an event that would be much more enjoyable when you know all of the details to keep safe AND have fun.

Can’t wait to hit up a full moon party when I get to Thailand. Like you said, everyone I meet raves about it…and also about the pee river. But looks like an epic party! I should be headed to Thailand sometime late this year!

This so reminds me of a party that would have been featured on Wild On. Yes I am probably dating myself but oh well. Is 38 too old to go to a party like this?

NomadicMatt

I remember Wild On! (wait, does that date me too?!) but you see a lot of people older than 38 there!

Sarah

Perhaps this has been mentioned in the comments already, but it is absolutely worth noting that the water taxis that shuttle people to the beach from other parts of the island as well as other islands are often overloaded with passengers. I would be extremely wary of relying on these as transportation – you might arrive sober and able to swim, but you arrive in the dark and by the time it’s light enough to get yourself home, you’re absolutely wasted.

The island itself is quite big – I stayed at a resort on the northern side – after the party I shared a taxi and it was about a 45 minute trip. Ko Phagnan (sp) itself IS an island worth spending time on before or after the party – Haad Rin is only one small part of it.

Dave B

I’d never stay in Haad Rin itself. Lots of rooms get robbed there during full moon party.

It’s a fun event everyone should attend once but there are plenty of mishaps.

Thank you for sharing this article! I am planning on organizing an event like this in Mykonos island, great tips ;)

adora

i think its called “planet hollyfood” instead of hollywood :)

jimmyz

been there in november.. it was hektik lol thinkin about goin again in august how is it in low season dont wanna go if its deserted..

Great guide. My husband and I live in the Philippines and plan to go to the May 2012 party. We’re a bit nervous about not booking our hostel in advance – we want to get a private room (40 people per dorm room + 1 bathroom = YUCK) but also want to be in the party area. Is it really true that if we arrive 4 days early we won’t have trouble finding an affordable place like that?

NomadicMatt

I wrote it so yes it is! In 7 full moon parties, I’ve never had a problem.

OK very good to know. I will pass that info on to our friends who are joining us….and also nervous, haha! Thanks again for the great guide – really stands out from all the rest out there.

Erin

Hi,

My fiancé & I are having our honeymoon in Thailand in Sept 2012… We will be getting to Haad Rin the night before the full moon party… I don’t want to pre book and we are not looking for anything fancy, just clean with a private bathroom… Do you think we will have trouble finding a room even at that time of year?

NomadicMatt

Not at all. Just come early.

Ashley

Hey Matt!

This was a very helpful post – thanks a lot. Quick question: I am coming to Thailand from the US in July and will be in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party. We will be getting there the day of the party or the day before and there is really no way we can work around that. In our case we will have to book online before and also wont be able to meet any of the minimum day requirements. We also want a nicer place i.e. hotel instad of hostle… So assume this leaves us staying on another part of the island and probably not very close to the party? Do you know any other good areas with a nice beach and also close to nightlife that I should look at? Also, I have heard to avoid the water taxis but do you know much about cabs on the island? I just want to make sure we have a way back to our hotel when we leave the party – I doubt I’ll be there until sunrise. Thanks for any help you can offer!

NomadicMatt

Ban Tai is pretty close. July is really low season so you might not have many booking problems.

Originally it was known as the “paradise bungalow full moon party”,(still have a biz card from then) and the rest of the beach bars would all close (except for the Reggie bar). I remember telling a friend that there”must be almost 800 people here”, Then the Internet came and changed it. It will never be the same as it was but still, Should be on the Bucket list.
I think that the Black Moon parties are better now a days.

Ben

Matt,

Having just returned from Thailand I’ve loved reading this and reliving the experience. Regarding arriving on Phangan early to get accommodation, I would concur whole heartedly. Not only will you save (time, money and hassle) on finding somewhere to sleep, one of the best experiences I had of the FMP was actually the build up to the night. The bars are always open on the beach, and the atmosphere there whilst quieter was (I found) a lot easier and friendlier than on the actual night. Also having a feel for the place is priceless when it comes to trying to find your way home at 8 in the morning having consumed your own body weight in red bull and vodka.

I would suggest even to the meekest of drinkers to grab at least one bucket (though if it is just the one, wait till everyone’s drinking them). Social norms differ slightly from home, and offering a nearby stranger a taste of whatever you’re drinking can be tantamount to making a new best friend for the next half hour. Not quite the same effect if you’re drinking Chang out of the bottle…

I could actually write loads here as it all comes flooding back (even if it is quite blurry) but I won’t. Everyone reading this who hasn’t been – just go.

Cheers

spring76

I am so glad about reading these comments, i have wanted to do a full moon party for a while but was worried I was going to get murdered and cut up into little bits, god knows where this thought had come from too much media!!
I am going to attend NYE and drink the hell out of these buckets.

saskia

i am arriving at hadrin on the day of the full moon party i want to book accommodation in advance though as i know we wont get any at that sort notice so do you know any that you can check in on the day?

flyyingjimmy

So how far in advance should one arrive to get a room for New Years?

NomadicMatt

You can show up a week before and be fine.

flyyingjimmy

Well there goes my plans, i fly in on the 28th… guess I will have to find something else too do.

Shelley

Well, there goes our plans too, we fly in on the 29th to Bangkok…so I guess we should book online anyway?

Tony

We also get there on the 30th December! Do you think we will have any chance of getting a villa or bungalow or shack with 2 or 3 beds within walking distance of the party?? or would we have to book in advance you think?

NomadicMatt

Might hard on the 30th but doable if you don’t stay in Haat Rin. Anything you find on the Internet will be way more expensive than what you find walking around.

Chelle

Hi Matt, thanks for all the advice, this is by far the best blog I’ve read on Thailand yet. Definitely some things in here to take note of. Could you please email me personally there’s a few questions I have for you that I don’t particularly want to be public.

Thanks

Chelle

Nicole

Awesome blog, thanks for all the tips. Do you need to pre buy a ticket for the new years party or do you just rock up?

Alicia

Hi, Im planning on going to the full moon party for new years, however I am travelling alone, I am also female (a bit weary about this) but I have friends going over too but they haven’t booked accommodation yet and I want to book now while its still quite reasonable. Do you have any advise for me?

Gary

great post and some good info. we are going to the party of august 4th and seen on one site it was free but then in koh samui people are trying to sell us tickets for about 500 baht. sounds like another clever scam to me lol. so trying to find out for definite ?? cheers

Sandeep

Yo Matt! Keen to go with the boys for new years, quite intrigued by your idea about not booking accommodation in advance. Would you recommend this even for new years? I.e. if we turn up 4 days before new years eve, would we be ok? Thanks a lot dude

magellan

sounds like you have been many times during the year. can you/or anyone else comment on high season vs low season? what months those are and how the party is different during both seasonst?

Jess

Hey, is there anyway of coming from Koh Tao or Koh Samui on the day of the full moon and then heading back via boat the next day?? I dont have the time scale to stay on the island for 5 days… :-/ any help is muchly appreciated!! THANKS!! :)

Beth Preston

Hi, just starting to plan my first trip to Thailand for March and was wondering how long the ferry from koh samui to the party takes?

NomadicMatt

30 minutes.

Tyson

Hey Matt! Great advice now would you say taking the ferry would be a safe idea from Koh Samui? As in having nowhere to crash during the night until we catch the morning ferry? Going with a few mates and want to try and be a little sensible about the trip haha

kosta

Thanks a lot for the guide dude !!! cleared up a few doubts in my mind …

same question as Jess …

Is it feasible to stay at Koh Samui & go there for the night of the party only & come back to Samui in the early morning or is this unadvisable?

ray

Hey, as above. Arriving the day before the full moon party so staying in Koh Samui as there’s no time to find somewhere to sleep. Thinking what a lot of peeps are, stay in Koh Samui and get the ferry to the party, stay up all night then take the morning ferry back? Good idea or bad?

Thanks!

NomadicMatt

If you can stay up the whole time, fine idea.

Dmitry

Great article! A lot of helpful stuff.
What price for regular room should I expect if I get to the Koh-Phangan on December 20-23?
Thanks!

Campbelliv

Will be there for New Years Eve. Do you still have any people that I can reach out to there?

Kumar

hi all, is it safe for a newly Asian married couple or single girls. Is there any one to control a mob of hooligans or some disturbing elements.. ?

NomadicMatt

There are no mobs of hooligans.

Vivi

Hi, thanks for all the info. We are planning to spend the NYE in the FMP and I am thinking of getting to Ko Phagnan around the 26th, do you think I can get cheap accommodation without booking in advance?

Eustace

Hi Matt, very good guide, thanks! I see there is a Full Moon Party for Christmas Day – is this party on Christmas Eve, i.e. starting on 24th and going into 25th? Or does it start on 25th?

Josh G

Hey Matt thanks so much for the advice. I am going to the FMP this upcoming new years and need some advice. As of now i am staying in Koh Sumai for 2 nights and checking out on the 31st. I was planning on booking a hotel for the 31, 1, and leaving the 2nd but it is looking impossible!!! do you think i could just get there on the 31st and find a two night stay of what do you adivce?? thanks

NomadicMatt

You won’t find anything if you show up on the 31st.

David Gleason

Hey Matt i’ll make this short and sweet what airline do you use to get over there and which Airport do you fly into? I’m staying over here in LA and having my Girlfriend fly from Alaska to meet me there for 10 days. I’ll be getting there a month in Advance to explore and get to know the area any suggestions aside from the obvious?