The deep, calm, clear, azure waters and the seafloor that teems with life and color in every nook and cranny makes Koh Tao, Thailand a popular destination for those who want to learn how to dive. Thousands of aspiring divers go to Koh Tao every year to earn a PADI open water certification. The number is unsurprising because of the affordability of dive schools in the area. For around $250 to $315, you can get quality diving education in just four days, with accommodation to boot. In contrast, diving school costs at least $400 in Cairns, Australia, one of the world’s most popular diving school sites. When you’re looking for a dive school in Koh Tao, however, you need to consider three essential things: school size, cost of diving lessons, and quality of accommodation.
(1) Size of the diving school
There are diving schools in Koh Toh ranging from small to large sizes. You determine the size of a diving school not just by the size of its facilities but by the number of certified instructors they have. That means small-sized schools have fewer teachers while large-sized diving schools have more. The advantage of picking a large school is that it is more likely to have English-speaking dive instructors. However, if you happen to go to Koh Tao during peak season, you might find the large diving schools fully booked. If that happens, you can just find a small-sized or medium-sized school that teaches diving lessons in English.
Another upside to large-sized schools is that they may stay open even outside peak seasons (December to March and July and August) when smaller schools tend to close. Thus, when you pick a large-sized diving school in Koh Tao, you can avoid competing with crowds during peak season and focus more on learning how to dive even during the off-season months.
The problem with large diving schools is that the instructors feel relatively more aloof more than their counterparts in small-sized schools. If you want a one-on-one session with a friendly dive instructor, it may be a good idea to choose a small-sized school instead.
(2) Cost of the diving lessons
Diving lessons cost between $250 to $315 in Koh Tao (9,000 to 11,000 Baht). If you are a believer in the “you get what you pay for” principle, then it would be better to choose a diving school that doesn’t offer dirt-cheap rates. However, that doesn’t mean more expensive rates are better as you can pay $300 for a course that offers knick-knacks, instructional materials, and side-trips you don’t really need.
When looking for a dive school in Koh Tao, you need to balance cost with quality of instruction. You can compare rates, perks, and online reviews across dive schools in this area to help you narrow down your best choice. Don’t forget to ask for a breakdown of the prices so that you know what you are going to spend exactly. Remember - you are in Koh Tao to get a PADI certification or that confidence of diving in the water. You shouldn’t let dazzling promises and marketing gimmicks distract you from your goal.
(3) Quality of accommodation
Some dive school owners are resort owners as well, which means they can offer you accommodation in addition to dive lessons. Larger-sized schools are the ones that usually have accommodation, although some small-sized and medium-sized schools provide accommodation as well. If you are going to choose a dive school with accommodation facilities, compare the quality of the accommodation facilities they have and check which ones have amenities you think you’ll need, but at the same time, these facilities and needs should fit your budget.