Aside from the stunning beaches, rich culture, and globally-renowned food, Thailand will always stand out for its iconic party scene that’s steeped in tradition itself. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll likely have heard of Thailand’s decades-old event that rivals California’s Coachella and Ibiza’s beach clubs in partying notoriety.
Of course, we’re talking about the Full Moon Party, the all-night rave that put the beautiful island of Koh Phangan on the map. Millions of revelers flock to southern Thailand to party under the full yellow moon every year, and it’s backpackers’ must-do, but how did it start? And why is it so popular?
Well, we’re here to find out, and we’re taking you along for the ride, from the impressive Thai moons that started it all to all our tips and tricks if you’re heading to Thailand to party yourself. Our complete guide to Koh Phangan’s Full Moon Party covers everything, so let’s get into it.
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How did the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Begin?
Thailand emerged as the go-to spot for backpacker travel in the early 1980s. When a group of tourists grew tired of the commercialized party scene on the mainland, they set sail for the then-sleepy island of Koh Phangan to escape the crowds and party on their own terms.
As legend has it, they noticed that Koh Phangan had the most beautiful moon they’d ever seen, and so the full moon night became the perfect time to celebrate. It is also alleged that one member of the group had their birthday the same day, so they organized a beach party with dancing and singing all night long. The golden sands, rows of palm trees, and unique crescent shape of the bay made Haad Rin beach the ideal location. Soon, people came from worldwide for a slice of this paradise party life for themselves.
Once a small beach party consisting of a few hippies drinking beers and playing guitar, the Full Moon Party now sees 10,000 to 30,000 people head to Koh Phangan every month to dance the night away. It may be considered the epitome of commercialized party life today, but the roots of the tradition are still alive and well, and the Full Moon Party remains a critical part of Thai party culture.
What Happens at the Full Moon Party Thailand?
At dusk, the night begins when the full yellow moon appears over Haad Rin beach. Business owners and organizers line small tables along the beach, and thousands of traditional Thai lanterns are lit to commemorate the event’s start. The Full Moon Party is a group effort, and restaurant owners, bars, and the local Full Moon Party authority chip in to make sure everything runs smoothly.
The event has expanded since it started, and the Full Moon is celebrated all over the island. If you’re staying outside Haad Rin, it’s likely your night will begin at your hotel or hostel, where games and drinks are organized to kick things off. The party is an informal event, and it’s not uncommon for attendees to turn up wearing next to nothing. Yet, neon tends to be the overarching theme of the event, and face paint, glow sticks and luminescent clothing are all part of the signature attire.
You’ll find other stretches of beach in Koh Phangan, which will erupt with all-night music and dancing on the night of the Full Moon, especially the neighboring Rin Nai Beach across the bay, which the party spills onto. But Haad Rin is where it all begins, and you should head here as your starting point for an authentic taste of Full Moon mayhem.
As the evening proceeds, MCs take to their decks, with different stages and areas catering to all music tastes. There is something for everyone, but the dominating genres are techno, trance, drum and bass, reggae, and electronic music. There’s no shortage of beach traders selling Thailand’s notorious “buckets” of cheap alcohol and cocktails while food vendors wait for intoxicated revelers in need of a bite.
Fire eaters, dancers, and jugglers entertain the crowds, and party-goers are encouraged to participate in massive organized games like limbo and fire rope jumping tournaments but do so at your own peril. The Full Moon party ends when the last few stragglers take themselves to bed, well into the early hours, but the night is for dancing away with no inhibitions, so you enjoy yourself as long as you can manage.
Koh Phangan Full Moon Party Dates 2022
The Full Moon Party is on the night of, before, or after the full moon every month in Thailand. This means the event typically takes place every 29 days, and it’s been running non-stop for almost 30 years, with the exception of the nine months pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But party goers and travel lovers will be happy to hear that the party is back in full swing and has been since January 2021.
The dates for the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party are always decided far in advance, giving local businesses and travelers enough time to prepare. The dates for the Full Moon Party in 2022 are as follows:
- Monday, 17th January 2022
- Thursday, 17 February 2022
- Thursday, 17 March 2022
- Saturday, 16 Apil 2022
- Monday, 16 May 2022
- Tuesday, 14 June 2022
- Friday, 15 July 2022
- Saturday, 13 August 2022
- Saturday, 10 September
- Tuesday, 11 October
- Tuesday, 8 November
- Thursday, 8 December
If you can’t make any of these dates, there’s also the less famous Half Moon, Quarter Moon, and Black Moon parties that take place in between these dates, albeit with half the crowds but the same great energy.
It’s also important to note, Thailand is a majoritively Buddhist country, and most religious festivals fall on the 1st or 15th of the lunar month. If the Full Moon party falls on a Buddhist holiday, it’s not uncommon for the date to be changed as consuming alcohol is forbidden on these days in the whole of Thailand.
To respect tradition, the party committee will usually postpone the event by a day, but tourists in Koh Phangan and business owners will be informed weeks before the event. This is also why the party might not take place on the actual full moon night, as four religious holy days in Thailand also fall on full moon day every year.
How Much is the Full Moon Party?
To contribute to the high cleaning costs and potential damage every month, there is a 100 baht entry fee, which is around $3, that everyone has to pay to get their Full Moon Party wristband. Reasonable right? But don’t be fooled. The costs can add up, and where you stay and travel can affect how much the night costs you.
Many tour companies offer Full Moon Party packages where you and your group, and sometimes other travelers, can be taken to and from the Full Moon Party. These packages often include your entry and wristband and can cost upwards of 600 baht per person, which is just under $20. But they will usually be worth it, as unbooked taxis are not only hard to find but will charge exorbitant prices to transport unorganized party-goers, and it is easy to get scammed.
If you’re staying on the neighboring island of Koh Samui but still want a piece of the Koh Phangan party action, you can also organize speed boat transfers to and from Haad Rin and arrive in style. These will cost around 2000 baht for a round trip, or $60, and are great if you don’t want to stay right in the action on Koh Phangan.
Ask your hotel or hostel for reliable Full Moon Party packages. They might have their own organized transport service for guests.
Where to Stay for the Koh Phangan Full Moon Party
If you’re in Koh Phangan to party, the nearer you stay to Haad Rin, the better. This will place you right in the middle of the action and save you money on taxi rides and tour guides. But Haad Rin is a bustling party haven no matter the time of year. If you want to be slightly removed from the pounding bass and crowds of intoxicated tourists every other night of the month, there are some tremendous neighboring areas you can stay in.
House of Sanskara ($) – Situated right on the edge of Haad Rin beach, this stylish backpacker accommodation has a rustic vibe, spacious rooms, and an in-house restaurant, bar, and lounge. Sanskara also organizes great inclusive Full Moon party packages, and their rooms start at just $15 a night. The beach bungalows are a keen favorite of visitors, and the location is unmatched for Full Moon Party access.
Echo Beach Hostel ($) – For the whole backpacker experience, a hostel is the only way to go. With its own party atmosphere, in the equally vibrant area of Ban Tai, Echo Beach is just a 15-minute drive from Haad Rin, and they offer free transfers to the Full Moon party for guests. What more could you want? Dorms start at only $12 a night, and the private beach, complete with bohemian hammocks and palms, comes free of charge.
Phangan Bayshore Resort Koh Phangan ($$) – Located on Haad Rin Nok and with its own 100 yard stretch of private beachfront, Bayshore resort is the perfect balance between island escape and social party heaven. The white sands can enjoy kayaking and beach volleyball by day and join the Full Moon Party scenes by night once a month. Better yet, you can enjoy freshly brewed cafes at the beachfront restaurant from their own plantation to get you through those hangover mornings.
Princess Paradise Koh Phangan ($$$) – Who said that the Full Moon Party is only for backpackers? If you’re after accommodation with an upscale feel, but without having to leave the Full Moon mecca, check out Princess Paradise hotel. Located just a five-minute drive from Haad Rin but with all the luxuries of a secluded island escape, Princess Paradise starts at $110 a night. The price includes a fabulous breakfast, sea view room, terrace balcony, and access to the beachfront infinity pool on the private cove. It might not target partygoers, but it’s ideally located if you want your slice of the Full Moon action without ever leaving the lap of luxury.
7 Survival Tips for the Full Moon Party
So you’ve journeyed to Koh Phangan and found somewhere to stay. You’re all ready to dance the night away, but you want to have the best time possible and hopefully make it until sunrise. To survive the Full Moon Party and have the best night of your life, follow these seven essential tips:
- Have a nap – You’ve got a long night ahead, and you don’t want tiredness to be what defeats you. Get a good night’s sleep the day before the party. You want to avoid traveling to make sure you’ve arrived in Koh Phangan a few days early, and consider having a length afternoon nap, so you’re ready to dance all night.
- Be organized – Being left without transport could seriously ruin your night. With tens of thousands of people flocking to the same beach, you need to book your taxi far in advance to make sure you’re not left without a route there or home from the Full Moon. Make sure you also bring enough cash for your entry and drinks for the night, as ATMs and card machines can be hard to come by on the beach.
- Know your limits – Thailand serves alcohol by the bucket-load, literally. It can be easy to peak early, even if you think you know your limits, so make sure you pace yourself to stay safe and not hit the sack prematurely.
- Stick with friends – It can be easy to get lost with vast crowds of people to navigate. Spending the night alone or trying to find people could distract from your enjoyment. Find a friend to stick with all night and arrange meeting points if you get lost.
- Get involved but stay safe – From shooting hoops to dance-offs and arm wrestling, the entertainment at a Full Moon Party is a great way to meet people and win prizes. But it’s best to stay away from any of the fire games, especially if you’re drinking because you can get badly burnt. And if a local challenges you to a game of Connect Four, don’t bet any money because you will not win.
- Keep belongings safe – With so many people and so much dancing, it’s easy to lose your belonging. Keep a charged phone to stay in contact with friends and enough cash for the night, but try to bring little else with you and keep these things close to your body in a zipped pouch.
- Travel the length of the beach – Haad Rin might be small, but there’s a lot to see, and it’s easy to dance in the same spot for hours. Make sure you get the full party experience and try traveling the whole strip to find the best music, dance floors, and DJs before you call it a night.