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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.

En Route to the Full Moon PartyCalm before the storm…

Bucket String Lights, Full Moon Party

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.

Buckets for Sale, Full Moon Party

Buckets for Sale, Full Moon Party

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.

Body Painting, Full Moon Party

Buckets at the Full Moon Party

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.

Dancing at the Full Moon Party

Dancing at the Full Moon Party

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.

Koh Phangan Full Moon Party

Dancing at the Full Moon Party

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.

Koh Phangan Full Moon Party

Fire at Full Moon Party

Have you been to the Full Moon Party? Would you go?

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105 Comments...
  • Skúli
    April 14 2013

    Great post Alex!
    I’m going to Full Moon Party for the first time on the 25th of May, can’t wait!
    Skúli recently posted..The amazing Thailand adventure

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Have a great time — it will be hard not to!

  • Looks like fun!!!

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      It certainly is Andi 🙂

  • memographer
    April 14 2013

    Fuuuuuuun! I’ve never been to Full Moons. Sure, would go. Great pics, Alex! Go Wild!
    memographer recently posted..Hiking Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Thanks! I did 🙂 And probably will again someday…

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    April 14 2013

    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!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..Day Off

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Of course my definition of “young” is growing all the time! But yes, get there soon 🙂

  • Preeti
    April 14 2013

    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.
    Preeti recently posted..Where Am I Now and What’s Next?

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Wow Preeti, that is REALLY lucky considering that is peak season in Thailand! You must have good luck following you 🙂

  • Brittany
    April 14 2013

    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?

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Well, can you make time for Bangkok at the end of the trip? If so, why not?! It’s a pretty epic party 🙂

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    April 14 2013

    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!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Under the sea is where I’ll be.

    • Alex
      April 15 2013

      Ha that’s sweet of you to look out for them Rika 🙂

  • Ayngelina
    April 15 2013

    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.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Tampere Graffiti

    • Alex
      April 16 2013

      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!
    Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com recently posted..Teil 1: Ich lebe meine Träume, und du?

    • Alex
      April 16 2013

      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.

  • Ash
    April 19 2013

    Most Freakish Full Moon Fun Giving Frolicking Party Ever….!LOL..You look like Real Bunny !

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam
    April 19 2013

    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.
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Stop and…Eat the Roses?

    • Alex
      April 19 2013

      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.

  • Abby
    April 20 2013

    Survival guide for anything involving fun: bring Lindsay!! You two girls together spells trouble!
    Abby recently posted..Daydream of the Week: Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur

    • Alex
      April 22 2013

      Oh my God, Abby…. we had too much fun together! We ended up spending nearly two weeks together, I love that chica!

  • Erica
    April 25 2013

    I plan on going at least once. If I can do Burning Man, one night of this should be alright… right? 😛
    Erica recently posted..I’m On A Boat (Sitting Gig)!

    • Alex
      April 26 2013

      Heck yes! I’m going to Burning Man for the first time this year…. I can’t wait!!!

  • Frank
    April 26 2013

    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!
    Frank recently posted..Getting along while traveling

    • Alex
      April 28 2013

      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 🙂

  • Emily in Chile
    April 28 2013

    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!
    Emily in Chile recently posted..The Cathedral of Christ the Savior

    • Alex
      May 1 2013

      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 🙂

  • Gemma
    July 24 2013

    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
    Gemma recently posted..Wishbone Review

    • Alex
      July 26 2013

      Hey Gemma, glad this post was useful! Enjoy the Full Moon Party… it’s epic 🙂

  • AsiaSouthEast.com
    August 5 2013

    I think that we must have attended the Full Moon Party a month before you. This is our video of it:
    http://www.asiasoutheast.com/thailand/full-moon-party-video/

    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).
    AsiaSouthEast.com recently posted..Halong Bay Day Trip

    • Alex
      August 5 2013

      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.

  • outforfun
    August 9 2013

    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?

    • Alex
      August 9 2013

      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!

      • outforfun
        August 10 2013

        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!

  • Fitri Amir
    September 3 2013

    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?

    • Alex
      September 5 2013

      While I think chances are slim, you might get lucky. Best of luck!

  • Zeeshan
    September 10 2013

    Hey I will be going for the FMP on this 19th.. Thanks for the review and tips Alex!

    • Alex
      September 11 2013

      You’re welcome Zeeshan! Good luck and have a great time 🙂

  • Zeeshan
    September 10 2013

    I will be going alone. It would be great if there’s anyone willing to join me for the party..

  • Shiv
    September 13 2013

    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.

    • Alex
      September 13 2013

      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!

  • Rashaad
    November 21 2013

    I went to the Full Moon Party nine years ago, and I had a blast. I would certainly go again.
    Rashaad recently posted..The Abbey Dash

    • Alex
      November 21 2013

      I ended up going a few times 🙂 Awesome party!

  • Selina
    March 7 2014

    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?

    • Alex
      March 8 2014

      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! 🙂

  • Jimmy Johns
    March 16 2014

    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.

    Thanks

    • Alex
      March 16 2014

      Enjoy the party, Jimmy Johns! Have a great time 🙂

  • Jay
    March 16 2014

    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? 🙂

    • Alex
      March 16 2014

      I think I’ll be back towards the end of the year 🙂 Can’t wait!

  • Baz
    May 22 2014

    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!

    • Alex
      May 25 2014

      Enjoy, Baz! You’ll have a great time. Wish I could join!

  • francesca
    May 28 2014

    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 🙂

    • Alex
      May 29 2014

      Well, I can’t argue with that assessment 🙂 Glad you ticked it off your list!

  • Matt
    July 8 2014

    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)!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8PDn87CGRg
    Matt recently posted..Cenote Angelita, one of the world’s most amazing (and creepy) dive spots

    • Alex
      July 9 2014

      Yikes! Glad she escaped relatively okay…

  • Russel Blue
    July 29 2014

    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!
    Russel Blue recently posted..Bodyweight Exercise Goals

    • Alex
      July 30 2014

      Ha! That’s one way to save money and make friends 🙂 Glad you had a good time Russel!

  • Strayyyyya
    August 24 2014

    OMG Im going there in December, I needed to get some tips about this party. Thank you so muuuch

    • Alex
      August 25 2014

      You are so welcome! Enjoy the party!

  • lucila
    September 30 2014

    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!