Visiting the Full Moon Party can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It certainly is a great temptation to fully indulge in it and enjoy the unique magic of the beach happening. Just make sure your experience does not get spoiled by something unwanted. And make sure you check if your medical insurance covers you adequately, or if you need travel insurance be it your home insurance.
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Unfortunately, around every Full Moon Party, there are some incidents, which even attracted the attention of the international mainstream media. Time Magazine once famously described the party as a “backpacker rite of passage” where visitors “risk at the very least their dignity, and at most their lives”.
Now, before demonizing the Full Moon Parties in a wholesale fashion, let´s look at some of the things that can go wrong and how you can stay on the safe side of things.
General health and safety tips
Some safety tips are rather obvious, but it´s good to reiterate them because, in the turmoil of the party, common sense sometimes fails to prevail.
- The beach: There is nothing like dancing barefoot on the sand – but for the full moon nights at Haad Rin beach, skip it. It is safer to put on closed sandals or proper sneakers since there may be broken glass and other sharp objects in the sand which is hard to spot with the big crowds around.
- The booze: Full Moon Party is famous for buckets full of drinks. Enjoy, but go easy on the alcohol. If you drink too much, stay close to your friends so you can take care of each other and not end up stranded on the beach. Also, better buy closed bottles from official vendors or those that look trustworthy. And regarding illegal substances – you definitely do not want to have to deal with police so better avoid them.
- The bath: Do not go into the ocean. Alcohol and swimming in the dark open sea do not go well together, especially at Haad Rin beach, which can have tricky currents.
- The burns: Every full moon, fire performers show off some spectacular shows. Enjoy the sights, but don´t get lured into jumping a fiery rope, if you don’t want to leave the party with a burn scar as a souvenir.
Expect the unexpected: Risky encounters on Koh Phangan Roads
When you are on a tropical island on a hot day, nothing is more tempting than to have a cold beer, put on your bathing suit, jump on a scooter and drive to your favorite beach. Cruising up and down the curvy hills, feeling the wind blowing in your hair… And even if you have little hair left on your skull, it still feels so good.
It may not be very wise though.
Not to spoil the party, but according to comparative studies by the WHO, Thailand has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world: 75% of all traffic deaths are motorcycle users, 80% are male, and the age group under 30 years is especially affected, including many foreign visitors.
The Full Moon Party site of Haad Rin is embedded in some spectacular green hills. While this makes for breathtaking viewpoints, it´s a challenge for riding a motorbike. Access to Haad Rin is via narrow and steep roads, so if your hotel is outside Haad Rin, you face some difficult riding. We recommend that you get accommodation close to the party beach to avoid having to drive at night.
But also during the days before or after the party, the island streets are quite busy with motorbike traffic and you might want to think twice to rent one if you are an inexperienced driver. So, let´s look at all the crazy things that happen every day on the island roads:
Quite a few roads on the Thai Islands are in poor condition and come with uneven surfaces, potholes, and debris. And there may be a surprise around every corner:
- Sand: Sand is often found on the side of the road. Some roads shave no well build side edge, and after rainfall, sand may creep all over the road, especially on hilly tracks. Sand is the motorcyclist’s worst enemy, especially in a curve. You don´t want to break or accelerate or twist the front wheel to any side. Just glide straight forward…
- Steep and curvy roads: The roads on Koh Phangan and the other Thai island are spectacular to drive, but you want to make sure you don´t go too fast, even if it´s tempting to fly downhill in the middle of the road. And behind every corner, there may be a car, scooter, pedestrian, street vendor, or animal.
- Construction: There is not that much road repair construction on Koh Phangan, but there is quite a bit of construction activities left and right on the roads, so you may have trucks crossing or building materials piled up on the roadside.
- Weather conditions: The tropical climate in the Gulf of Thailand can cause sudden changes in weather, especially heavy rain. Roads get slippery and driving behavior changes significantly: Once some clouds come up, drivers start speeding to get to their destination before the rain starts. When the first drops start falling, some drivers accelerate or make wild turns looking for shelter, to wait out the rain, or to put on a rain cap. It´s beautiful to watch if you are inside a café overseeing the street, it´s less pretty if you are caught in the midst of it.
- Driving at night. Inadequate lighting: Riding under the light of the full moon and the stars may seem a romantic idea – but the reality is a bit bleaker: Outside of the lively villages roads on Koh Phangan are poorly lit and make it difficult to see obstacles in the dark. Also – Animals come out, so it´s best to drive very carefully.
Bad drivers and even worse driving
While the road conditions are already challenging, the drivers and their driving style make it worse.
- Inexperience: The island roads are full of inexperienced riders. There are lots of people who only ride during holidays or who are sitting on a motorbike for the first time in their life. Don´t expect anyone to have any predictable behavior, and always be prepared for the worst.
- Indicators: Few people use the turn signal. And those who do will often forget to switch it off afterward, often going for miles and sending confusing messages to other traffic participants.
- Recklessness: For some visitors, the islands seem to trigger a “Steppenwolf” mode, not only speeding but also wearing headphones, preferably on big and loud bikes.
What can you do to drive safely?
- When you rent a scooter, make sure you do a safety check: Do the tires have a profile or are they worn down? How well do the breaks work? For the time being, most Thai scooters do not have an ABS brake system (which has been a legal requirement with all motorbikes in Europe for a few years). ABS can help you make safe emergency brakes, ask the renting company if they have ABS scooters.
- Make sure your driving license is in good condition. Even if the police or the rental company do not control its validity, your health insurance most likely will in case you demand reimbursement of medical costs related to an accident.
- Ride with one or two fingers on both brake levers as much as you can and be prepared for abrupt stops
- Wear a helmet. The helmet provided by the renting company may not always be compliant with international safety standards, but it is better than no protection at all.
- Also, don´t ride barefoot or with flip-flops. Ideally, you wear sandals or shoes that allow you to put your feet onto the ground quickly in case of a risky situation. Flip-flops easily break or slip off your feet, which leaves your feet exposed and makes it harder to support your stand.
Medical Services and Medical Insurance
If you are requiring medical services, the Thai public services on the islands work relatively well. There are ambulances and public hospitals in Koh Tao, Phangan, and Samui, with Koh Samui being the biggest hospital with the most specialties and advanced equipment.
These sites are used to dealing with foreign visitors, however, you may encounter local medical personnel with different levels of English. Some of the private clinics try to differentiate their service by employing or providing a translator, but the private hospitals also tend to charge higher fees.
It is important to check with your medical insurance beforehand if it covers health incidents on travels and special activities like moped riding. Often you will be required to buy an additional plan.
When you choose travel medical insurance, make sure it covers also riding a bike, scooter, or motorcycle. One of the few medical insurance plans that include motorcycle accidents is SafetyWing. However, you must have a valid driving license and you are not covered if you ride in a state of intoxication or if you are found racing
Also, SafetyWing is our preferred choice when it comes to digital nomads or travelers with open-ended travel plans. While many insurances force you to determine the travel length beforehand SafetyWing also offers open-ended plans.