A few years ago I attended Sunjam in Utila, Honduras — an intimate rave on a deserted Central American island. In light of the serious dearth of information available ahead of time, I wrote a Surviving Sunjam survival guide. While the Full Moon Party in Thailand is much more heavily documented, my recent return to Southeast Asia’s most infamous lunar blowout inspired me to revive the series.
Calm before the storm…
What: Oh, Full Moon Party. This monthly rave makes other wild parties around the world weep with envy. Picture a white sand beach, an endless row of palm trees, and a calm cove of blue green water. Then take several thousand neon-clad partiers from around the world washing down MDMA with alcohol out of plastic pails while techno beats compete for attention; blend thoroughly. For many, it’s a non-negotiable stop on the Southeast Asia party circuit.
There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the Full Moon Party these days, both from original devotees who claim the celebration has become far too commercialized since its origins in the late 1980’s, and from those who think it’s a shameless example of tourists behaving badly. While I can empathize with those opinions, I’ve had a pretty rocking good time dancing till sunrise at every moon party I’ve attended.
Who: Estimates for Full Moon Party attendance range from 20,000 – 40,000 backpackers, bucket guzzlers, and connoisseurs of neon body paint. While the crowd is mostly made up of young travelers, I’ve also spotted families and those old enough to be my grandparents — so don’t worry about being out of place!
Where: Sunrise Beach of Haad Rin, on the idyllic island of Koh Phangan, Thailand
When: There is a Full Moon Party every month on the night of the full moon, unless it is moved one day in either direction as to not overlap with Buddhist holidays. There are also bonus parties on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Pre-parties in the days before are lauded by some as better than the actual event. A list of official dates can be found here.
Cost: The Full Moon Party is expensive to do right! I spent 830 Baht ($27) to get to and from the Koh Phangan (I stayed on Koh Tao, more info below) and 2,000 Baht ($65) once I was there on alcohol, food, an outfit, bathroom admission, etc. Buckets of alcohol will cost anywhere from 180 baht off the beach to 300 baht for fancier cocktail mixes on the beach. Make sure to bring small change as all bathrooms charge 5-10 baht.
Getting There: Getting to Koh Phangan involves taking a ferry from either the neighboring islands of Koh Samui or Koh Tao or from the mainland ports of Chumphon or Surat Thani. There is no airport on the island.
Getting to the party once you’re in Koh Phangan is a mission in itself. The road into Haad Rin is windy and steep and boat taxis are often dangerously overcrowded, which is reason enough to stay in Haad Rin or nearby Ban Tai. For those looking for some peace and quiet, other areas of the island are completely unaffected by Full Moon madness and can offer a welcome respite after the party. However, accommodation fills up quickly before the party and you should arrive several days in advance to avoid paying an inflated price online or being shut out entirely. Personally, I usually take the afternoon boat over from Koh Tao and take the boat back in the morning, which saves me from the whole “where to sleep” dilemma. Answer: the sand.
Staying Alive: The Full Moon party is pretty full on, and there are as many ways to ruin your trip as there are to have a crazy good time.
Drugs are a big party of the Full Moon Party experience for many, but they carry obvious risks. Rumor has it that the psych ward in the closest mainland hospital prepared extra beds around the full moon to accommodate for the number of travelers who lose it while experimenting with psychotropic drugs. And even the best trip can be ruined by undercover police giving you a choice between Thai prison or budget-devastating bribes. Trip with caution.
While I loved dipping in the water between sets at Sunjam, I wouldn’t dream of doing the same at the Full Moon Party. With so many people in such a small bay the once-idyllic waters are quickly transformed into a cesspool of urine, discarded beer bottles and zombie-like partiers gone too far. Speaking of discarded beer bottles, keep those flip flops firmly on your feet — it’s a glass shard beach come morning.
Be careful with entertainment in the form of fire jump ropes and hard waterslides. I’m not going to tell you not to do them, because after a few buckets I am straight down that slide with the best of them. I am happy just to watch the professional fire dancers though — I’ve seen too many horrific burns resulting from the fire jump roping to entertain that idea.
If you chose to stay on Koh Phangan, take care of your things. Everyone on the island is aware that every tourist is heading to the party, and that makes it a great night for petty burglary! Consider buying a Pacsafe to store valuables. Don’t bring anything out with you that you can’t afford to lose.
Alex in Wanderland’s Full Moon Party Tips
1. Don’t Be a Sucker
Every moon party I’ve been to I see some poor sorry fools walking around with laminated “VIP” badges that they surely purchased for a small fortune somewhere on Khao San Road back in Bangkok. While there is technically a rarely enforced 100 baht ($3) entry fee to the party, there is absolutely no need for a pass of any kind, especially one that you wear on a lanyard around your neck.
2. It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Every party I see people passed out on the sand like logs before the clock strikes midnight. Not only do they become a tripping hazard for everyone around them, they miss the whole party! Make sure to intersperse your buckets with water and eat a good dinner ahead of time.
3. Consider Staying on Another Island
This was always a no-brainer for me, as I was living on Koh Tao for all but this most recent party I attended. While you’ll have to book a ferry to and from the party, you’ll save on inflated accommodation and won’t have to arrive days ahead of time to find it. Also, I always find returning to the relative peace and quiet of my bed in Koh Tao to be such a relief after all the madness.
4. Dress the part!
Oh come on, it’s all part of the fun. When else can you have an excuse to go head-to-toe neon? I’ve always enjoyed the pre-party ritual of combing the shops of Haad Rin for the perfect party shirt and accessories. Also, though I strongly resisted at first, I’ve accepted that the blinking bunny ears (I’m wearing them two photos up) are the best way to keep a big group together. When moving locations, switch on the ears and lead your crew through the human traffic jam!
5. Post Full Moon Survival
Make sure you either have a ferry booked off the island or a place to lay your head. Make a plan to meet up with group members you may be separated from. And considering stopping by one of the infamous after-parties before turning in! But most importantly, don’t plan to do much of anything the day after (or even two days after) the party, other than maybe get a massage.
6. Most Important: Go Wild
You’re only young once (or forever, if you’re Jay Z), so party like you mean it! Bond with new friends over buckets, dance on speakers, watch the sun rise from Mushroom Mountain, paint your face neon orange, sing till you lose your voice, and fall asleep in the sand. Squeeze as much euphoria as possible out of every moment.
Have you been to the Full Moon Party? Would you go?
Great post Alex!
I’m going to Full Moon Party for the first time on the 25th of May, can’t wait!
Have a great time — it will be hard not to!
Looks like fun!!!
It certainly is Andi 🙂
Fuuuuuuun! I’ve never been to Full Moons. Sure, would go. Great pics, Alex! Go Wild!
Thanks! I did 🙂 And probably will again someday…
Great pictures and advice! I can’t wait to go in the fall. And yes, you’re only young once- hence why I need to finally go!
Of course my definition of “young” is growing all the time! But yes, get there soon 🙂
I was there for Christmas last year. I expected it to be busy so I booked accommodation in advance in Haad Rin. When I got there I was lucky enough to find a bungalow for 400 baht a night. It was close enough to walk to the beach and not too noisy! Next time, I won’t book in advance.
Wow Preeti, that is REALLY lucky considering that is peak season in Thailand! You must have good luck following you 🙂
It’s funny that you posted this today, as I was having a discussion with my boyfriend earlier about whether we are going to try to make the full moon party during our two weeks in Thailand or not. I get into Bangkok on the morning of June 21st, and the party is on the 23rd and we can’t quite decide if it will be worth rushing out of Bangkok or not. Do you think it’s a must see if possible?
Well, can you make time for Bangkok at the end of the trip? If so, why not?! It’s a pretty epic party 🙂
Sending this to the 20 year olds from my shop that just left to Koh Tao… they are heading to the party on May 25th and I’m a little worried about them haha!
Ha that’s sweet of you to look out for them Rika 🙂
I have heard the parties are fantastic but I have also heard a few horror stories as well of people who took things too far. Good sound advice.
Yup, sadly there are those people in every situation, aren’t there. They ruin it for themselves obviously, but eventually they manage to ruin a lot of things for everyone. Shame!
Great Post Alex. I also wrote a loooong survial guide for the full moon party. I got robbed there and had to spend the night sleeping on the beach… If people follow your advice they should be fine though!
Thanks Sebastian! Sorry to hear of your troubles, though it sounds like you channeled them into some good advice for others! I’ve been lucky to be incident free for all the various moon parties I’ve attended though I’m sure a fair amount of luck is involved as well.
Most Freakish Full Moon Fun Giving Frolicking Party Ever….!LOL..You look like Real Bunny !
I was in Koh Phangan two years ago while there was a full moon party and purposely didn’t attend it. I met a couple of Australian girls who had been at the party the month before, and saw the body of a backpacker floating in the water the morning after. Guess he was one of those “logs in the sand” that you referred to.
The Full Moon Party definitely isn’t for everyone and I’m glad you were able to enjoy Koh Pha Ngan without it, if it’s just not your thing. It’s a sad fact that tourists do get injured or even killed every month, and that’s a horrific and gruesome anecdote you have to prove it. While I may have been attempting humor in this post I wasn’t going for insensitivity — I was definitely referring to people who were temporarily passed out from drinking too much, not dead.
Survival guide for anything involving fun: bring Lindsay!! You two girls together spells trouble!
Oh my God, Abby…. we had too much fun together! We ended up spending nearly two weeks together, I love that chica!
I plan on going at least once. If I can do Burning Man, one night of this should be alright… right? 😛
Heck yes! I’m going to Burning Man for the first time this year…. I can’t wait!!!
I’m still mixed about attending one of these. I don’t party like I used to (getting old, boooo) and as a DJ in a nightclub I see firsthand every weekend what kind of bad decisions and trainwrecks can happen when people get too out of control.
On the OTHER hand, obviously (what with being a DJ) I love being around that kind of atmosphere and it does seem like loads of fun, it’s just the hangover I’d be dreading.
Oh who am I kidding, I’ll probably go!
I think you should definitely go experience it once. If you decide it’s not for you, then you’ve ticked the box and can move on! If you decide it is… then it’s a short ferry ride away from Koh Tao every month 🙂
In the perfect mood, this sounds AWESOME. In anything else, it sounds like my worst nightmare. But who knows, maybe someday I’ll find myself nearby in a good mood right around the full moon and give it a try!
I know how you feel. I actually can’t stand most of the music that is played at the Full Moon Party… so to withstand it at that volume for so many hours requires a certain degree of inebriation 🙂
This is such a useful post. I’m heading to Thailand at the end of the year and will no doubt be going to the Full Moon Party- feel like you’ve given me all I need to know. x
Hey Gemma, glad this post was useful! Enjoy the Full Moon Party… it’s epic 🙂
I think that we must have attended the Full Moon Party a month before you. This is our video of it:
We’re currently in Koh Tao and planning to visit Whitening tomorrow (thanks for the great restuarant tips). Also planning to visit that yellow rice and chicken stand that you recommend (I’ve walked by it every day for three weeks now).
Enjoy the Whitening, it’s my favorite! Also, just a tip — I really recommend you use your real name when publishing comments on travel blogs. I published your comment using your website name, but I know many, many bloggers who will send it to trash for that alone.
that was a good review on FMP! intriguing indeed! in your opinion , are the crowd open to strangers or prefer to keep things to themselves?
Thanks! I think it depends, there are definitely crowds of solo travelers looking to socialize but also bit groups of friends that tend to keep to themselves. If you are worried about having people to party with I recommend getting to Koh Pha Ngan a few days early and finding a hostel. Good luck!
huh.. than i will be there 2 days early to look up for hostels. will be heading to FMP on November 17 2013. expecting a good crowd! hope nothing less compared to previous FMPs.
* Not a solo traveller. i am an asian and never been with europians in a party before! that’s why am curious on the way they party up!
I’m going on this 19th September.Unfortunately I arrived on the day of full moon party. Is it possible for me to get a room in Haad Rin simply by walk in?
While I think chances are slim, you might get lucky. Best of luck!
Hey I will be going for the FMP on this 19th.. Thanks for the review and tips Alex!
You’re welcome Zeeshan! Good luck and have a great time 🙂
I will be going alone. It would be great if there’s anyone willing to join me for the party..
I fly into bangkok january 11th and the full moon party that month is on the 15th..i’m thinking about flying straight down and settling into the island on the 11th before the full moon party to get my bearings and hopefully meet some people.
What do you think?
Also, i’m concerned about the safety of my belongings! can you recommend any decent hostels that are bit safer?
or just put my valuables in a safe.
Sounds like a great plan, timing wise! Sadly I can’t recommend any hostels as I’ve never actually stayed in one on Koh Pha Ngan — I always ferried over from Koh Tao or stayed with friends. I do recommend a Pacsafe for security wherever you are — check my Gear and Products page!
I went to the Full Moon Party nine years ago, and I had a blast. I would certainly go again.
I ended up going a few times 🙂 Awesome party!
Hey! Nice post! I’m thinking of going to the next party on the 15th of March, but it’s so last minute! I’ve never been to Thailand and I haven’t a clue where to stay or how to get places. I’m in Cambodia at the moment. I’ll also be going on my own, do you have any advice?
Hey Selina, I’d recommend getting there ASAP so you can get a room at a hostel and make some friends ahead of time. Enjoy! 🙂
Great! This is definitely an event that would be much more enjoyable when you know all of the details to keep safe AND have fun.
Enjoy the party, Jimmy Johns! Have a great time 🙂
I was there in 2013.. How I miss it. I lived on Koh PhanGan for 2months and them headed to the other islands. Amazing island and so much to see and do. I want chicken on a stick.. NOW!!
Let’s head back for summer 2014? 🙂
I think I’ll be back towards the end of the year 🙂 Can’t wait!
Can’t wait for my first ever FMP! Flying to Thailand on December 7th so will be there for the big one on NYE! Excited isn’t the word!
Enjoy, Baz! You’ll have a great time. Wish I could join!
I attended a full moon party in 2009 and was in total awe the first few hours. but after that it was mayhem – and not the cool kind. People barfing into the sea where – meters away- people were sexing in the sea. people totally out of their minds… and a taxi ride to the other side where we were staying meant getting back was a pain the ass. nice to do once, but christ, what a shit show 🙂
Well, I can’t argue with that assessment 🙂 Glad you ticked it off your list!
Haha definitely a good idea to warn others about the flaming jump ropes.. after a few buckets they can mistakenly seem like the greatest idea in the world… check out this video of my friend who got some 3rd degree burns to her wrist(thankfully that was all)!
Yikes! Glad she escaped relatively okay…
Tidy write up Alex! Just got back from Thailand and the July Full Moon party. Despite its over commercialization it really is next to impossible to have a banging night if you’ve got your head screwed on! Memories of walking around with just a straw and hijacking peoples buckets, everyones in the spirit!
Ha! That’s one way to save money and make friends 🙂 Glad you had a good time Russel!
OMG Im going there in December, I needed to get some tips about this party. Thank you so muuuch
You are so welcome! Enjoy the party!
Alex, i will attempt a Full Moon in march 15. I will travel alone. Do you recomened me staying in Koh Pha Ngan? since i was told the island is beautifull apart from the party. So would you recomend me staying in Koh Tao? Thanks!
Hey Lucila! Koh Pha Ngan is indeed beautiful. Either island is a great choice! If you want to stay on Koh Pha Ngan, just make sure to arrive with plenty of time to find accommodation. The earlier before the party, the better!
Any recommendations on accommodations while attending the party? We’re headed there in November. Really enjoyed reading your blog.
I’ve never actually stayed on Koh Pha Ngan for the party, Jason! I always return to Koh Tao early the next morning. Sorry I can’t be of more help.
I am attending The Full Moon Party for NYE 2015. During your stay at hotels on neighboring islands either Koh Tao or Koh Samui did you hear of any THEFT at the hotels itself?
I actually was usually just staying in my own apartment, but nope, haven’t heard specifically of theft in hotels on Koh Tao or Koh Samui during the Full Moon Party — only in Koh Pha Ngan. Be safe and enjoy the party!
Hi! Kind of off topic but I was wondering where your friend bought her utility belt / hip pack that’s she’s wearing in your photos? I’ve been looking for one like that and I’m just curious to know if she got it over there or it’s something she brought from home. Thanks in advance!
Hey Ashley! I believe she bought it at one of the markets but I’ll text her and tell her to check this post and see if she can give ya any more details 🙂
Thanks I appreciate it! I’m heading to Thailand next week so I figured I should do some research on the Full Moon parties I’ve heard so much about. I’m still undecided about whether I’ll end up going to one, I’m not a big party person, but at least I’ll know what to expect now if I do decide to go!
I am planning to go for full moon party on 27th October 2015…. Heard about magic mushroom shake a lot… I quit alcohol … Should I try that shake?
Hi Imran, I’m not sure if you’re joking or not but in case you’re serious: You do know that those shakes contain hallucinogenic mushrooms, right? I’m not sure your reason for quitting drinking alcohol, but just be aware that those shakes are also a mind-altering experience. Be safe however you choose to enjoy your night 🙂
Hi alex, i’m excited read your articles, my party is going to on this november, but i’m afraid because must go by alone,because my friends canceled already, i want to try drink shroom shake, hope not be passed out, you have anything advise for me? To be save because i’m travel alone
Hi Ozzy, I wouldn’t advise trying any drugs, mushroom shakes or otherwise, when you are traveling alone. That sets off all kinds of alarm bells for me! You’ll enjoy the party without anyway 🙂 Enjoy!
What area would you reccomend staying in if you want to go to the party but still get a good nights sleep? Is there an area nearby You can can back to? Thanks!
Baan Tai might be a good choice, Nate. You’ll have to take cabs to and from the party but you’ll be close to the ferry pier and have a bit of peace and quiet before and after. Can’t say for sure as I’ve never done it, though 🙂
Is june a good season to attend the full moon party? I’m worried about the rain.
Hey Harry! Koh Phangan is in the tropics so rain can strike anytime of year. That said, November is typically monsoon month. Outside of then, you just have to cross your fingers. Good luck!
Hey Alex! I have a few questions about the full moon party (and Thailand travel in general).
I was planning on going next April 2017 for Songkran, and doing a 3 week trip. I wanted to start off with a couple days in Bangkok to adjust to the jet lag, then head up to Chiang Mai a few days before Songkran to adjust to the surroundings. Spend all 3 days of Songkran in Chiang Mai (so April 13, 14, 15), then head to Cambodia and spend a week split between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Then after that, I was going to head down to the Thai islands (Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, probably) for about a week of relaxation and fun before heading back up to Bangkok for my flight home.
However, I just realized the FMP would be around April 10. Do you think I should switch up my itinerary to try and attend it? I really wanted to start my trip out by celebrating Songkran, and end it relaxing on the islands, but maybe instead I could start off with Cambodia, make sure I’m in the islands for FMP, and end the trip in Chiang Mai for Songkran? Or do you think I should just try and get to the FMP next time I go?
Hey Maddie! Honestly, it’s a really personal decision — whether or not someone will find the Full Moon Party “worth it” is totally dependent on their personality, travel experiences, the weather, etc. Personally I wouldn’t make a huge fuss to get there, but it’s hard to know what I’d say if I hadn’t already been three times. Plus your original itinerary sounds awesome! Sorry I can’t be of more help — the good news is you can’t go wrong!
Great post Alex! I am not a big party person but I’ve decided to add the Full Moon Party to my Thailand itinerary this year thanks to your post! There’s only one thing that concerns me…. My scuba diving course will be finishing at 1pm and I want to go to Koh Nangyuan and spend the afternoon before heading to Full Moon party in the evening. Is there a transportation available from Koh Tao to Koh Pangan in the evening let’s say….around 7~8pm? I know it’s a tight schedule but really don’t want to miss any of them.
Hey Lilly! To be totally honest… I think you’ll have a really hard time squeezing all that in. There MAY be special late boats going to Phangan that day — depends on the time of year, but you can check upon arrival — but even so, you’d not have much time on Nangyuan before having to turn around and get ready for the party, and you’d probably be exhausted by the time you got there. But it all hinges on the special boats, so just check as soon as you arrive on the island if any will be running 🙂 Good luck!
Appreciate the post Alex. Good info. I’m traveling to Thailand solo for my job and I am considering taking some extra time to hit the FMP in a couple weeks. Any thoughts on going to FMP solo?
I’d check into a hostel a couple days ahead of time to make some buddies pre-party. It might be kind of hard to break into a group once things get hopping. Enjoy!
Im going for Full moon party in upcoming May 21st Will you be there? And i actually want to know is there will be rain or storm at that time? And What about ferry from Koh samui to Koh Phangan going and back time is it on time or too rush?
Hey Jacklin! No, I won’t be there. No way to predict the weather but it rarely rains in May. You should be good. Not sure about the ferries between Samui and Phangan but I would assume they leave on time (I think that’s what you were asking?)
I am trying to book for the Half Moon Party now, how do I go about getting tickets to it? IT seems like the only options available to book are packages that include other events?
Hey Chelsea, just show up on Koh Phangan and you can buy a ticket at the door. Absolutely no need to do so ahead!
Hi, just wondering which ferry do you suggest for getting there from Koh Tao? Hoping to get there after 6 and get the first ferry back.
Thank you for the article!!
That sounds like a good plan — time to watch sunset, buy some neon, grab dinner, and have a good time!
You mentioned you had a place in Koh Tao and took the ferry there and back the day of and after the party. What was the timeframe and cost of that. I am traveling there in September and will be spending a few days on Koh Tao before the party and would prefer to not have to deal with finding a new place to stay.
Hey JP! Tickets are usually 500B each way, if I recall correctly. You can check schedules and fees on the Lomprayah website, though there are occasionally special boats added for the party. If you do decide to spend the night, you might want to check out the place I recommend in this post. Enjoy, you’ll have a blast!
Alex your written experience is a great deal for the first timmers. I have been to many islands in Thailand. But i love Koh Chang for its calmness n traquility. Enjoyed playing Songkran in Pattaya that is fun on April 18 n 19 always. I will next year plan to Full Moon Party sure. Thanks for guiding all. God bless u.
I’d love to go to Koh Chang someday! I still have so many islands left to visit in Thailand.
I’m heading to Thailand next month as a solo traveler and wanted your opinion. Will I be okay attending the full moon party as a solo female traveler? Also, what are your thoughts on the full moon party packages. Like the ones where you stay for 4 nights with an organized group? There’s a package where you stay away from the craziness of the party beach and just get transported there for the party. I thought it might be an easy way to stay safer and meet others. Thoughts? Thanks!!!
Hey Alana! Yes, I definitely think you’ll be okay attending as a solo female traveler though as at any event or evening involving alcohol I’d be even more vigilant than usual if traveling alone. I’ve never found those kind of packages to be a great value but if budget isn’t a concern go for it! You might also look into Good Time Adventures Koh Phangan… they purchased the guesthouse/hostel I stayed at on my last trip to the island and it was the perfect base to meet people and also shuttle to and from the party. Enjoy!
Hey Alex, I was planning to attend the June 9th Full moon party, however I have to leave on the 10th. Does the party start on the 8th to 9th morning or it starts on the listed date June 9th till june 10th? Thank you in advance
Hi Eli, the party starts on the night of June 9th. Enjoy!
I think that Full moon parties are nice but Half moon are truly awesome. These parties in Koh Phangan are in the jungle so this is a really extraordinary experience. I am working for an events start-up in London that lists many events related to trips / travel so this is how I get inspired when it comes to finding cool things to do on my journeys.
I’ve been to one Half Moon party and had a blast! Definitely a very cool experience, partying all night in the jungle.