If you’re reading this you have probably heard about the amazing and affordable beach life that Thailand has to offer. Pale sand is so fine that it almost feels like golden dust. Gorgeous sunsets, cheap food, and drinks. The good life.

However, you may have also heard about how the beaches are trashed. Some of that is true. Many of the beaches are a great way for the locals to cash in on the tourist craze. Just notice the lack of locals swimming around you. And this is part of the problem. The infrastructure to handle large amounts of trash is not there. In Tonsai, much of the trash just gets dumped into the surrounding jungle and inevitably ends up on the beaches.

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Dirty Beach in Thailand
The sad truth about dirty beaches in Thailand
Trash at Tonsai Beach
Trash at Tonsai Beach

Copious Use of Plastic. Everywhere.

Another part of the problem is the amount of plastic that gets used. Every time you order an item you get at least 2 plastic bags. One bag that contains your food. One bag that contains your bag of food. Bags are given for disposable drink cups. Bags are given for Styrofoam food containers. So the lack of infrastructure mixed with all this plastic creates the perfect storm.

Plastic Bags and Styrofoam are the norm for any outing.
Plastic bags and Styrofoam are the norms for any outing.

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Careless Tourists Add to the Problem

The problem is made worse by careless tourists. Many people come to Thailand to relax and unwind from their busy and hectic lives. And they should, it’s an awesome place! So they live in the moment. Not caring about dates, schedules, timetables, plans. This “living in the moment” also breeds carelessness. Too many tourists will leave their empty plastic bags/trash where they last sat on the beach. Assuming someone will pick it up. They won’t. Others will just carelessly toss trash on a trail or the street. Then fellow tourists will follow suit thinking it’s a trash pile; which it is but no one picks it up.

Is It Worth Visiting Thai Beaches Given the Trash?

YES! Absolutely. Definitely. Thailand’s beaches are popular for a reason. Gorgeous. Warm. Inexpensive. There is plenty of beauty to see. Cool people to meet. And epic beaches to chill out on. You will have the time of your life.

Klong Kong Beach in Koh Lanta Island. Definitely go to Thailand!
Klong Kong Beach in Koh Lanta Island. Definitely go to Thailand!

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4 Simple Steps YOU Can Take to Help the Problem

There’s plenty you can do to help…

  1. Minimize the trash you create.  If you have the means, bring a plastic container (a nice one with clasps) with you.  Use it to for all your take out food.  This way you will avoid Styrofoam and plastic. If you don’t have a reusable container, ask if you can borrow one for a deposit, and bring it back.
  2. Dine in the restaurant and avoid takeaway. Do this as much as possible. Almost all places that give you the option of taking away have a place to sit. It’s perfect because you’re on vacation. So sit down and relax. You will not create any trash because the restaurant will give you plates and glasses.
  3. Get water from the dispenser (self-serve refill stations that charge 1 THB/liter)  or buy a 20L cistern.
  4. Become part of the solution. Pick up trash that you see and place it in a trash bin. Make comments to your hotel/hostel and the locals. Ko Phi Phi requires a 20 THB “environmental fee”; about $0.75; this is a good step.  If beaches get trashed no one will want to come. Educate other travelers. Be polite and tell them that they should be responsible for not creating and picking up trash. Picking up their trash within eyesight sends a strong message!

So, yes there are problems with Thai beaches. But you should go, it’s amazing. And having a conscious person such as you stay at home will only make the problem worse. Tourists created this problem and travelers can also fix it.