Cheap Scuba Diving In Asia

Scuba diving is not the cheapest of sports to pursue, but if you’re diving in Asia, there are plenty of great dive spots that won’t break the bank to explore in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines

Harlequin Shrimp at Koh Lanta
Harlequin Shrimp at Koh Lanta

I’ve dived a lot around South East Asia over the last five years, and I’ve often been surprised at how cheap the diving can be here. If, like me, you like to dive often and travel specifically for the chance to dive, then there are plenty of opportunities to do so without having to spend a huge amount of cash. Indeed, with the cheap flights provided by AirAsia and other budget carriers in Asia, it’s possible to dive in several countries within the space of a few weeks and still not break the bank. (Search on Skyscanner to compare AirAsia flights with other airlines).

As such, I thought I would start a list here on Divehappy of cheap places to dive in South East Asia. The list below is by no means definitive and I welcome suggestions in the comments of other places to add to it. I have stuck with places and dive operators that I have personally visited and dived with.

The benchmark I’ve used is the cost of a one or two fun dives (ie assuming you’re already certified to dive) including all scuba gear. Virtually all operators offer package deals which make dives cheaper, so this is just a rough benchmark to help comparisons.

A tiny cuttlefish attempts to spear its prey
A tiny cuttlefish attempts to spear its prey

Thailand:
Koh Tao

Koh Tao is the most popular place to get certified as a diver in Asia Pacific outside of Cairns and it’s a renown backpacker destination.

Price: Fun Dives are 850 Baht each on Koh Tao. So two dives is 1700 Baht = $50 US approx. See Learn To Dive On Koh Tao for pricing and also my article Koh Tao: An Introduction

Koh Lanta
Located on the West Coast, Koh Lanta is Koh Phi Phi’s sleepy neighbour and much more relaxed as a result. Lanta has access to some of Thailand’s best dive sites – Koh Haa, Hin Daeng/Hin Muang and Koh Bida.

Price: 2 dives are twice the price of Koh Tao – 3700 Baht or $110 US approx – because the dive sites are much further away – and you get breakfast and lunch included. The diving here is pretty amazing because the sites are so remote. See AmazingLanta.com for pricing. You can also do liveaboards from Koh Lanta that can help you save on accommodation and food costs.

See my article on diving Koh Lanta.

Khao Lak: Similan Islands Liveaboard
The Similan Islands are widely regarded as Thailand’s best dive spot and are extremely popular. You can do day trips by speedboat but the best way to see them is on a liveaboard.

Price: A 4 Day / 4 night Similan Island liveaboard costs 19400 Baht all inclusive which is around $560. You get 14 dives, which is 1385 Baht a dive – but you’re also getting 4 nights free accommodation and all your food too. To get maximum dive bang for your buck, liveaboards are hard to beat. See the Phuket Diving Safaris site for a good example of an established budget Similan liveaboard and my Similan Liveaboard report for more info.

Spearing Mantis Shrimp at Lembeh
Spearing Mantis Shrimp at Lembeh

Indonesia:
Bali – Tulamben
The world famous wreck of the USS Liberty lies just off Tulamben Beach, a sleepy village in northern Bali that has some amazing diving. Great place for beginners to get lots of dives in.

Price: $30 US a dive – $100 for unlimited dives during one day (5 is probably most you could do) as offered by Tulamben Wreck Divers.

See also my guide to diving the USS Liberty and Tulamben

Lembeh
If you like seeing weird and wonderful underwater creatures, this is the place to come. Lembeh has an amazing array of marine life and is very affordable too.

Price: NAD Lembeh resort offers $399 for 8 dives and four nights accommodation and all meals – so that works out as $50 a dive, but you need to factor in the accomm and meals as part of that – see NAD Lembeh’s rates page.

See also my trip report on visiting NAD Lembeh resort and I went back again, and got some even better photos, diving Lembeh Strait in March 2011.

Palau Weh
A remote spot at the northern-western tip of Indonesia, Palau Weh is a superb location for doing lots of cheap dives on the huge house reef right in front of the resort, as well as taking a boat to explore further afield. Full details in the Palau Weh trip report.

Perhentian Islands Malaysia - Dive boats on the beach

Malaysia

Perhentian Islands
The Perhentians have long been a backpacker haven, two small islands with nothing but beach – no roads, no traffic. There’s some nice diving around the area too and a good variety of fish life.

Price: 80 Malaysian Ringgit – around $21 a dive – see Turtle Bay Divers and look under the Price List link.

See also my Scuba Diving the Perhentian Islands: A Quick Guide and my Perhentian Islands article for Asian Diver.

Vietnam:
Nha Trang
Despite having a huge coastline, Vietnam doesn’t get much dive attention. There are some interesting spots to explore but the main area is Nha Trang.

Price: $40 for one dive in Nha Trang, $60 for 2 dives. You can read my Nha Trang report for more info.

Philippines:
Sogod Bay
Sogod is a hidden gem in the Philippines, pristine reefs and annual visits by whale sharks.

Price: 1500 Pesos per dive – $31 US at Sogod Bay Scuba Resort. Read my trip report from Sogod about being In The Water With The Biggest Fish In The World

Davao
In Davao in the southern Philippines, it’s even cheaper – 1150 Pesos per dive – $26 US at WindAndWaveDavao.com. Davao is a little known macro heaven – I wrote a full article about Davao for Scuba Diver AustralAsia magazine a while ago.

There are loads of other places in the Philippines to go diving from the beach (eg Anilao, Puerto Galera, MoalBoal, Apo Island etc) and they won’t be that much more expensive (or much cheaper) than these places. See my Best Scuba Diving In The Philippines article for a rundown of what’s great about each of these places.

That is a quick rundown of places I’ve been too that are cheap to dive – I know there are many more (for example, Tioman and Redang in Malaysia, Sihanoukville in Cambodia, etc). If you have suggestions of other cheap places to dive, please leave a comment and include a specific dive operator you recommend so I can check their prices. Thanks!

Book Your Thailand Liveaboard


MV Flying Seahorse: 7 Day Liveaboard to Similan Islands and Hin Daeng. Best of Thailand's Diving. Departs Koh Lanta Click here for more information.

MV Dolphin Queen: Budget 4 Days / 4 Nights Similan Islands Liveaboard. From $US600 (approx) per person Click here for more information.

White Manta Thailand Liveaboard
White Manta: 4 Day / 4 Night Similan Island liveaboards from $US 850 per person (approx) Click here for more information.

Comments

  1. Jeremy Martin says:

    Great article! I got my beginners open water in Hondurus last year but am looking to pursue further levels and possibly possibly a dive master. Im planning a trip through south east asia and am wondering the best/cheapest place for training. Ive heard the Philippines is a good spot but i am sure there are many. Thanks for the info!

  2. Hi, Enjoyed reading this article, very useful suggestions as we are looking for good diving that won’t break the bank. We suspect we might be a little difficult to please having done a lot of diving in the Andaman islands. Difficult to get to but the diving is relatively cheap (£15 a dive or therebouts but you can stay in banana leaf huts for less than £5 per night and eat very cheaply whilst there) and was really fantastic the first time we went in 2006 years ago. Not so good in 2009 (due, we think to increases in water acidity and temp) but still excellent. Very keen to see The Banda Islands next so will read your piece on there with great interest. Thanks for your info.

  3. Hi Hanna, thanks for the note and glad you found the story useful. The Andaman islands is on my wishlist – hope I will get out there one day. Banda Islands are fantastic, well worth seeing especially if part of a Banda Sea trip.

  4. Thank you!

    I’m planning to go from nothing to divemaster after some snorkeling, probably gonna do that somewhere in asia rather than in expensive australia!

    thanks again!

  5. Davin McDevitt says:

    Wow! Fantastic lineup – easy to navigate – had a video – and above all, the information is top notch!

    Your deserve a handshake and a beer sir!

    Thanks!

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