Should I take the PADI course in Thailand or New Zealand?
February 19, 2009 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Should I get my PADI certification now in New Zealand or next month when I'm on vacation in Thailand?

I am living in New Zealand, and am going on a three week vacation to Thailand at the end of March.

Before coming to New Zealand, I did an introductory scuba dive (I don't have the full open-water PADI certification) in Fiji and absolutely loved it. I want to get my open water certification now and do more diving whenever I can.

The vacation in Thailand is very loosely planned at the moment, but we will be spending lots of time at beachy places and are pretty much free to go wherever.

For those who have done the PADI open water course -- should I get it over and done with now, here in Wellington, NZ (where the visibility will not be great, but it could be slightly cheaper -- $400NZD)

Or should I wait and do it somewhere in Thailand while on vacation?

Thanks for your help!
posted by Flying Squirrel to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
 
If it's cheaper to do it in NZ, do it there. The PADI course is not particularly hard, but it is time consuming. Besides the dives you have a lot of classroom lectures and quizzes and whatnot. If your time in Thailand is limited, you want to spend as much time actually doing vacation stuff (you'll only get 2 good dives out of the open water course).

The first few times you dive, having mediocre visability is okay, because the experience is so novel. It's nice to have something to look forward to. I've been diving several times in Thailand, lots of great places to dive.
posted by bluejayk at 4:17 PM on February 19, 2009


I agree with bluejayk. Go where it's cheaper. Great visibility isn't critical while you are getting certified, especially since there are so few dives. Save the money and use it for some nice trips once you are in Thailand.

While I was getting certified, the very best visibility we had was 12'. It's a completely different experience than diving in Thailand (which I've also done), but the purpose of getting certified is learning to dive, not sight seeing.
posted by NormandyJack at 4:31 PM on February 19, 2009


Forget the cost, the place to get it is whoever has the best instructors. Plus who wants to spend their time in Thailand in a PADI lecture. Get 'er done in NZ.
posted by troy at 4:36 PM on February 19, 2009


It sounds from your post that you aren't traveling solo ( we will be spending lots of time at beachy places) so my question to you is this: is your traveling partner certified already, or not planning to dive at all?

I did my open water certification in Belize. It was completely fine as a process, but mr. ambrosia was already certified, so while I was sitting in a room watching a DVD lecture on PADI stuff he was out diving, and then we would meet up in the hotel after and he would tell me all about his fabulous dive, and I had nothing to share on my end. I couldn't tag along diving with him until my certification was finished. That was not the end of the world, but less than ideal, so I'd factor your traveling companions when you make your decision.

Some PADI schools allow you to split your course, i.e., do all the classroom work and tests at home, and then do the certifying dives at your destination. You could get the grunt stuff out of the way in NZ and do the fun part in Thailand.
posted by ambrosia at 4:50 PM on February 19, 2009


Yeah, definitely get certified before you go on the trip. Although they have pared down the classroom sections significantly since I was certified 17+ years ago it still takes away valuable vacation time.

Getting certified in low visibility area is actually a benefit IMO (I was certified in Long Island Sound, NY, maximum visibility 8'.) The purpose of your first open water dives is to test whether properly implement the skills that you learned confined water setting, during these dives your instructor will be asking you to focus on your gear and your skills more than the scenery around you. Also if you are comfortable and can avoid anxiety/panic in less than ideal conditions (low viz, colder, etc) you will be better equipped for the amazing conditions in Thailand.

When I'm diving I always try to remember the wise words of the Bene Gesserit "Fear is the mind killer." As long as you don't panic there is never an insolvable problem underwater.

You are going to one of the top diving destinations in the world enjoy it! /jealous
posted by Bango Skank at 4:51 PM on February 19, 2009


Go before your trip. Get. It. Out. Of. The. Way.

Just get it out of the way, and then use the knowledge you get on your trip. That's the place you want to have a relaxing, wonderful time with lasting memories.

Have fun. I wish I could dive more often.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 5:40 PM on February 19, 2009


The low visibility in NZ will make your Thailand dives even more amazing in comparison, you will save money, and you will have more freedom in how to spend your vacation time.
posted by yohko at 6:39 PM on February 19, 2009


I've had friends that have done their certification at Spash Gordon's on the coast between Island Bay & Owhiro Bay - they rated it.

The other benefit there, is that if you're doing it in a nor' wester, there's a good chance you'll probably get a dive on the HMNZS Wellington as part of your certification, which wouldn't be all together bad.

I am not affiliated with Splash's, although I did grow up in Island Bay
posted by MatJ at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2009


Do it before. We went to Fiji last summer and considered doing the split course (class time and pool dives at home, open water dives in Fiji), and our instructor said it'd be fine either way, but recommended doing everything with him as a way to reduce paperwork. The conditions were pretty bad here, but that just made us more confident when it came time to do the fun diving in amazing conditions.

Some places offer courses that squeeze everything into one weekend, which I think would be the way to go if you really wanted to do it in Thailand, but I'd rather have the time spread out to let everything sink in.

If you're at all nervous about diving, make sure your dive masters in Thailand know you're a new diver (especially if your buddy is as well). That way, they can keep an eye on you. There was one dive we did with more experienced divers, and two or three guys went down with us -- one for the more experienced couple, and the others for the rest of us, so we didn't slow anyone down.
posted by natabat at 7:03 PM on February 19, 2009


While I (mostly) agree with everyone about getting it done before you go, my wife and I did ours while vacationing in the Maldives. Sure, we had to spend a little time in a classroom watching videos and a little time lying around in beachfront hammocks studying, but our "pool" instruction was done right in the lagoon and we were out on our first dive on day 2.

If anything the only negative has been that not many sites compare to the Maldives.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:24 PM on February 19, 2009


If you've got the time, I'd get it now, and improve on it there. I got my open water in Michigan, and then while on vacation in Thailand did an overnight dive trip where I picked up my advanced open water certificate.

And if you make it to Phuket, I recommend Calypso Divers.
posted by vagabond at 11:39 PM on February 19, 2009


Some PADI schools allow you to split your course, i.e., do all the classroom work and tests at home, and then do the certifying dives at your destination. You could get the grunt stuff out of the way in NZ and do the fun part in Thailand.

This is the best answer if you can arrange it. Find a local PADI operation that will do the classroom/book segments and give you those exams (and possibly do the pool training as well) and then do your certification dives on your trip. It's not a particularly unusual scenario, and you should be able to get it squared away now with an hour or two on the phone.

From the OP:
I want to get my open water certification now and do more diving whenever I can.

The vacation in Thailand is very loosely planned at the moment, but we will be spending lots of time at beachy places and are pretty much free to go wherever.


I'm not sure what your intentions are, but even once certified I would suggest you dive with a qualified divemaster until you have a good amount of experience--ideally until you've received additional training (such as advanced open water and medic first aid/rescue diver.) There's nothing magical about getting the basic open water certification, the training needs to be tourist friendly and easy to complete on a brief vacation after all--it's really aimed at making people comfortable and competent on smallish guided boat dives beyond the limited "intro" or "rec dive" profiles, and to a lesser extent "cattle call" tour operations. I'd be careful about doing your own shore dives from unfamiliar beaches with nothing but a newly minted certification and good intentions.
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:01 AM on February 20, 2009


Thanks a lot for your help! I'm going to do the theory and pool dates next weekend, then decide if I want to complete the ocean dive part the following weekend here in Wellington, or in Thailand. Might just get it all out of the way.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:29 PM on February 21, 2009


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