With 40 or more scuba diving liveaboard boats currently active in the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock, there is naturally a wide range of prices. The upper limit is as high as guests are prepared to pay, because there are several private yachts available for charter. However, at the other end of the price scale, there is obviously a limit. Dive centres & boat operators need to cover their costs, make a profit, and still offer safe diving trips. At the lower end of the price range for Similan island liveaboard trips competition is intense. Many dive centres co-operate with one another but there are also several who see their neighbours in a very different way.
What is the cheapest Similan Island liveaboard boat?
This question is quite easy to answer, because there is no option less expensive that MV Nangnuan. Nangnuan is very much a back-to-basics backpacker experience, but still very popular and for good reason. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, and guests know what to expect. This simple boat is smaller than other Similan liveaboards but it only takes 8 guests & 2 staff. Everyone sleeps undercover on mattresses on top of the boat. There are no cabins, or electricity at night. But the food, dive equipment, service and the diving are all comparable with what you may expect from a trip that costs 2 or 3 times more. Nangnuan’s 3D2N trips visit The Similans and Koh Bon. Depending if you include dive equipment and park fees, the prices are $300-375 for a very enjoyable trip.
But I want my own bed, in an air-conditioned cabin
- This is normal. Other than MV Nangnuan, all of our boats offer air conditioned accommodation and proper beds. At the budget end of the price range, it’s too much to expect a private bathroom in your cabin. But all of the boats have proper bathrooms with hot & cold fresh water showers and western toilets. So, with the criteria of a budget price and a bunk bed in an air-conditioned cabin, what’s to choose from?
- MV Dolphin Queen is a boat we have been offering for longer than any other. Dolphin Queen is a very popular option for divers who prefer service and great diving over parquet floors and shiny offices. The boat isn’t new, and the interior décor is not to everyone’s taste, but the experience our divers have on Dolphin Queen is always excellent. The team who run Dolphin Queen trips are very experienced, professional and friendly. Also, they don’t push the sales of courses or merchandise trying to earn commission. The boat has a selection of cabins, which includes 4-bunk shared cabins, a twin bunk cabin, and 4 double-bed cabins. Dolphin Queen itineraries vary from one season to the next, but most Similan trips are 4D4N in length, and there are also several cruises into Myanmar.
- MV Andaman has a steel hull, which isn’t common for boats offering Similan liveaboard trips at this price range. The cabin choice is bunk beds in 6-berth shared cabins, plus two options of double beds. In fact, there are two double cabins with private bathrooms. These are the best-value cabins with en suite facilities. MV Andaman is a very well-run boat with a friendly and experienced crew. Nitrox is not available, and we feel that if Andaman had Nitrox available it would be even more popular.
- Manta Queen 5 is unbeatable value if you want a twin bed cabin. The boat has 11 cabins which are all for no more than 2 guests. The trips go to The Similans and Koh Bon for 3D3N and 11 dives. Nitrox is available, and divers who are only Open Water certified can join the trips without the need for deeper certification.
- MV Nemo 1 is a brand-new boat that has incredibly well-organised trips and at very good rates. Guests can choose to stay on board for 2D1N, 3D2N or 4D3N because Nemo uses a speedboat to transfer guests out to the main ship. Prices are very competitive, and that makes Nemo one of our most popular boats every year. Cabin choice is 4-bunk or double.
What about shared bathroom facilities?
On boats, space is always at a premium. Rooms need to be small, and the more people who can pay to join a trip the better for business purposes. This is part of the reason why private bathrooms are not common on some liveaboard diving boats. In addition, it’s important to consider the design of the boat with regards to plumbing. If every cabin on every deck has its own bathroom, there’s a lot more to design and more possibilities of leaks. From a design and cost point of view, the fewer bathrooms the better. And having them located on lower decks and near the rear of the boat is even better still. Therefore, most liveaboard boats at the budget level do not offer private bathrooms at all, and some boats do but only in certain cabins.
Shared bathrooms are not as bad as many people first fear. It’s important to remember that once on a scuba diving liveaboard guests worry a lot less about how many showers they need per day and how long to spend in the bathroom. Reasons for this include ‘it’s not long until the next dive, so there’s no need for a proper shower’ and ‘everyone has seen me wet & without my make up, so why worry how I look for the rest of the day.’
Divers rarely have a shower in the morning of a liveaboard trip. This is because in most cases the first dive is at 7.00 or 7.30am then there are up to four dives during the day, with normally less than 2 or 3 hours between each dive. Soon after the final dive of the day dinner is served. Divers tend to be hungry and don’t want to miss out on the buffet meals. Also, nearly everyone is already tired. Therefore, the time spent in bathrooms is not like in a hotel or at home.
Using the toilet is a very personal experience, and many people prefer not to be heard. They often can’t relax if they know someone is outside and may hear the activity. Shared bathrooms are nearly always near the dive deck and compressor. Therefore there’s always enough ambient noise outside to ensure that you can relax and let things happen safe in the knowledge that nobody can hear.
Queues for the shared bathrooms are not normally a problem. Each boat has 3 or more communal bathrooms, and anyone waiting simply goes in the first one that becomes available. It’s not often that all bathrooms are being used by guests who want to spend a long time inside.
Is everything included in the price? I am on a budget
Included in the price of all our Similian liveaboard diving trips is full-board accommodation, weights, tanks & guided diving.
- Food & Drink: All meals are included and they’re served buffet style. In addition, fruits snacks, tea, coffee & drinking water are always available for free. Most boats charge a nominal amount for soft drinks & beer. Prices are a little higher than from local franchised convenience stores, but a lot less than in bars.
- Basic equipment: Tanks, weights & weightbelts are always stored on board and available for free. These items are too heavy & cumbersome to expect guests to bring their own. If divers want or need a larger tank, then it’s good to let the team know in advance. There is usually a small fee for the use of larger-than-standard tanks. In Thailand, 12-litre aluminium tanks are standard. Some boats use DIN valves and others INT.
- Guided diving: All of our Similan diving boats have professional diving staff, made up of Divemaster guides and instructors. Their services are included in the rates, where a guide will lead up to 4 or 5 guests around the dive site. This is standard procedure, and even guests who are professional divers who want to go off alone are normally not permitted to do so. This is not any judgement on their diving ability, but purely standard procedure for safety, logistical & insurance reasons.
What’s extra to pay for on top of the price I see?
Depending on which price you’re looking at and which of our ‘website filters’ you have selected, there may be some optional and mandatory extra fees. Although we would like to display ‘all inclusive’ prices, this is not as easy as it may seem. For example, some divers have all their own gear so they want to see the basic price. And many of our guests are locals (and some are children) who pay reduced national park fees.
- Equipment rental: There are five main items of scuba diving gear which are regarded as personal to each diver. These are mask, fins, wetsuit, BCD & regs. Some guests have partial or complete sets of their own gear and therefore pay the basic price for the trip. Guests who have none of those items, or only mask & fins, need to pay to rent what they need from the dive centre or boat operator. In addition to these five main items, night-diving torches and/or dive computers may be optional or mandatory, included or extra.
- National Park Fees: To protect the national marine parks, the local authorities charge entry & diving fees for each guest. The exact price depends on the length of the trip & how many parks are entered. Children pay less than adults, and locals pay less than foreigners. Also, snorkel guests pay less than divers. The current national park fees are displayed on every boat’s page.
- Extra food & drinks: Chargeable food and drinks is usually limited to beer, soft drinks and maybe ice cream.
- Tips: It’s quite normal for employees in the tourist industry to work for a low salary and to be tipped by happy guests. However, it is not expected or mandatory. In general, North Americans are not comfortable unless they pay a good tip, but many people from Asian cultures feel the opposite. Europeans tend to fall somewhere in between. Each boat has its own way of asking for and dividing the tips. Some just mention it and say no more. Others like to talk at length and in detail about how hard the team work and how little they get paid. Most boats will share the crew tips between the captain, boat boys & kitchen staff. Some boats also share the ‘diving staff’ tips, whereas other boats suggest that divers tip his or her own dive guide directly.
So, now you know more about our budget Similan liveaboard diving options, check out our page of boats that are popular with guests who don’t want to waste money on unnecessary luxuries. Every year the range expands, and some boats may change their itineraries, prices and even facilities. Therefore, it’s good to check back if you haven’t visited us for a while.