Koh Tao was my very first stop when I left the States to embark on the digital nomad lifestyle. I chose the island because I had visited it before and the energy there resonated with me. I liked the idea of moving somewhere I was already familiar with as my first experiment in this alternative lifestyle as well.
I ended up living there for 10 months and have returned for 2 non-consecutive months since then. I can’t hide it: I love this island.
But is Koh Tao a good place to live as a digital nomad??
Here I’ll review the island in terms of liveability for people who work online. I’ll evaluate it based on the following categories:
- DN Community
- WIFI and workspaces
- Cost of living, and
- Activities and social life
Each category will get a rating out of 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst.
Koh Tao digital nomad life: Lehgo!
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Digital Nomad Community: 2/5
Koh Tao is not on the top of most digital nomads’ bucket lists, though I don’t really get why. In my time living there, I only met 3 other people doing the #digitalnomad thing.
BUT TO BE FAIR I didn’t spend a lot of time on my laptop in coffee shops and I never worked from the island’s coworking space Tao Hub. (Missed opportunity not calling it Tao KohWorking amirite?)
I get the sense digital nomads based elsewhere (e.g. Chiang Mai) go down to Tao during smoky season or on holiday but don’t stay long-term.
There is however a very dense expat community. They are mostly scuba diving professionals.
Divers are cool folks: easygoing, always up for a good time, SUPER passionate about the ocean and marine life…I enjoyed being surrounded by diving culture and even partaking in some dives myself.
If you’re a digital nomad with a diving hobby on the side, this could be a really great place to park yourself for a while. In terms of community in general (not limited to digital nomads), Tao gets a 5/5 for sure.
WIFI and workspaces: 3/5
There are a handful of spots you could go to during the day to get work done, but I would think after a while you might feel kinda weird doing it. Like I said, there aren’t a lot of other nomads there so you might be the only one going in every day to sit on your laptop for hours. I tended to just work from my room.
As for WIFI, it wasn’t great where I lived so I got an unlimited data plan from AIS and hotspotted off my phone a lot of the time.
The WIFI at the cafes I went to sometimes was fine for me, but I was never doing anything with heavy files or videos.
There’s one coworking space in Mae Haad (near the pier) called Tao Hub. I checked it out and felt it didn’t offer good value at all. The workspace wasn’t air-conditioned and the fee was 500 baht/day. Crazypants IMO.
Places I worked:
Cafe Culture- It’s outdoor seating only but right by the sea so there’s a sea breeze. I loved working here and being able to take breaks by dipping in the ocean. Their food is really good too – I recommend a panini and raspberry fruit shake!
The Coffee House – I used to work here a ton because they have air conditioning! I’ve linked the one in Mae Haad but I frequented the one in Sairee at the end of the main street where Chopper’s is. Not very good food options but they have drinks and there are tons of restaurants just outside.
Coconut Monkey- This one’s a fan favorite. Seating is outside but it’s shaded and right on the beach so you get a sea breeze. Fantastic western-style veggie (and meat!) meals. Try the lemon or caramel cheesecake! So good.
Other spots around the island that seem like places you could work if you wanted to:
Through the Looking Glass
The Factory Cafe
Big Tree Cafe
Cost of living: 3/5
It’s affordable to live on Koh Tao when you compare to the cost of living in most Western cities, however, it can be more expensive to live here compared to living in, say, Chiang Mai or Bangkok. So if reducing your living expenses to a bare minimum is your goal, Koh Tao probably isn’t the best spot for you.
Here were some average costs for me (and note I was NOT trying to squeeze by on the cheapest lifestyle possible – I want to be able to enjoy myself and not be on a strict budget all the time like when I was younger and backpacking):
Rent: 12,000THB ($378)/month for A/C room with hot water, basic kitchen, private bathroom, balcony, including all utilities and WIFI
Food: 100THB ($3.15) average meal (I eat a variety of things both Western and Thai)
Yoga: 2500THB ($79) for 10-class pass
Laundry: 40THB ($1.26)/kilo (I do my laundry about once every week or week and a half)
Drinking water: 55THB ($1.73)/6 liters (I buy one of these once every 3 or 4 days)
I calculated it and I spent $820 a month on average in my first 6 months living on the island. This is consistent with the cost of living listed on Nomad List.
Looking for a place to live on Koh Tao?
Tao has a lot of monthly rental options, mainly marketed towards the farang diver community. You can find all types of places, from super cheap fan-and-cold-water-only rooms to luxury villas perched on the hillside with private pools and ocean views.
A great place to start your search is the Koh Tao Rooms for Rent Facebook group.
And here are some specific digital nomad accommodation recommendations:
Koh Tao Heights Exclusive Apartments – A digital nomad friend stayed here and said it was one of the best places he stayed in all of Asia. He said the WIFI was great for working as well.
Mon Apartment – We found this place when looking and thought it looked great. It’s in a quiet part of Jitsin, near Sairee.
Activities and social life: 5/5
Remember what I said about value? Activities, social life, and island beauty is where you’re really winning in terms of living on Koh Tao.
There is SO much to do there: diving, snorkeling, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, partying, driving around…
I mean no, it’s not the most cultural place to live. There are no museums or even movie theaters. Thai culture is even hard to find. But if you love being outside and near the sea, then you’ll find a lot to do.
It’s also a really social place. It’s super easy to meet people.
The consensus: Is Koh Tao a good place to live as a digital nomad?
It really depends what you’re looking for. Koh Tao can be a lot of things: a peaceful luxury getaway, a party island, an ocean lover’s dream…But what it struggles to be is a place to sit still and work on a computer.
If you want to prioritize work over play then I would steer clear of Tao. But if you’re looking for a healthy balance (or you want to play more than work) then it’s an excellent spot.
Like I said, I lived there for nearly a year. It’s an easy place to meet people and feel like you’re a part of a community. You’re surrounded by natural beauty, and there are tons of outdoor activities to keep you busy.
If you’re comparing it to a place like Koh Lanta, which I haven’t been to yet but have heard is a good spot for doing the digital nomad thing, I’d say Tao is much livelier. And if you’re comparing it to Koh Phangan, it’s a much smaller island.
Have you ever done the digital nomad thing on Koh Tao? What was your experience like?
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Totally nailed it chick.
I did the digital nomad thing for about 6 months on Tao, and overall, it was okay. I only left because of the crackdown on diving freelancers, as I’m also a dive instructor (but will be back for a month soon!).
Issue I had was everywhere I went to work I’d bump into people, and they’d ‘join me’ for a chat! Con of a tiny island I guess. Trying to explain that Coconut Monkey was actually my office was always met with blank stares haha.
Hey Nikita! Wait it’s so cool to hear from you! I never meet other dn’s here AT ALL. I really wish our time here could overlap but I’m afraid I’ll be gone when you come back for a month. Where has been the best place you’ve lived for this type of lifestyle so far?
Agh I hear you about Coconut Monkey! I was just there today ha.
I never met one either! Damnnnnn. Feel like it would have made it easier to have a little dn community.
KT’s the first place I really tried it, but off to the US & Canada in July so will see how it goes there!
In Tao Hub you can find other digital nomads. You didn’t try there?
Their day rate is 500 baht. I pay 150 as a day rate at a coworking space in Chiang Mai; even the bougiest coworking space in Chiang Mai is less than 300 baht a day. It’s just an insane fee for a space that doesn’t even have aircon. That’s why I never went there.