Do you want to get your PADI certification and become a scuba diver but have no idea how to go about it? No worries, you are not alone, and I am here to help you.
Taking scuba lessons may just become a life-changing experience but it can be daunting to wiggle your way through the information that is out there: what scuba courses are right for beginners, where to find a good instructor or dive center, and how much is it going to cost?
Let’s break it down, shall we?!
How to get your PADI certification
Where to get your PADI certification?
Most new divers will either get their scuba certification at a dive center close to where they live or do it during a holiday in one of many great diving destinations. Which option you choose may depend on where you live, how much time you have, and how much money you can spend.
Remember that you can scuba in a lake, a quarry, or the sea…so even if you live landlocked chances are there are bodies of water and dive centers in your region. How to get a scuba certification near me? Easy as you can search on the PADI website to find a dive center and instructors in your region.
The advantages of getting your cert close to home:
- Usually, courses are a bit more spread out which gives you more time to develop the necessary skills in order to get certified. Chances are you will spend a couple of weekends or evenings in the water so you can learn how to dive even while you are working.
- If you are getting certified at home, you might also be able to find a dive club or group that you can go diving with afterward – a great way to practice your skills and meet new dive buddies.
- And last but not least, you can do your academics in your own time and definitely won’t have to ‘waste’ any of your precious vacation time on studying!
The advantages of getting your cert on holiday:
- Most dive centers in popular holiday destinations offer great package deals for free accommodation when you get a scuba certification.
- Depending on where you go chances are your Open Water certification will be less expensive than doing it at home in the US or Europe.
- In many diving holiday destinations courses are scheduled to be quite compact. While you will learn exactly the same in any PADI open water course, chances are your course will only run over 3 or 4 days and then you will be free to enjoy your holiday above for below the surface.
My tip: If you choose to do your PADI certification during your holiday do your academics with e-learning beforehand. This way your instructor will only have to review any chapters you may have not understood but otherwise, you won’t have to sit in a classroom.
- And let’s be honest – yes, you can learn how to dive in a quarry or the Baltic Sea but it is a lot nicer and easier if you are going for a warm ocean with good visibility and some Nemos to admire while you are at it.
Which PADI certification do I need to get first?
PADI has come up with a pretty neat chart that gives you an overview of all their certifications and how they relate to each other. But honestly, even that chart can be a bit confusing for a new diver even if you are just looking to the columns for recreational divers.
So here is how it goes:*
*Most other agencies like SSI, SDI, or NAUI have a similar order for courses though they might have a slightly different name and different prerequisites.
And yes, as a recreational diver you don’t have to stick with one agency and can cross over in between courses. I always like to remind divers: the instructor matters more than the agency!
Open Water Scuba Certification
When a new diver declares they want to ‘get their PADI’ they usually mean their Open Water certification. Getting this cert will enable you to go diving with a buddy without an instructor present.
Advanced Open Water Diver
The PADI advanced is a great certification to have if you want to expand your skills and be allowed to dive to 30 m. Many liveaboards and more challenging dive sites will require you to have an AOW so it is a very useful cert to get.
PADI Rescue Diver
Next up is the PADI Rescue Diver, a challenging but great certification to have as it will give you the tools to help a swimmer or diver on and below the surface. At the same time, you will gain more confidence in your own diving abilities and learn how to get out of a sticky situation.
Enriched Air Diver
While technically a specialty course I think every diver should have the Enriched Air Diver certification which we like to refer to as “Nitrox”. It will increase your no-stop bottom time when you can dive on Nitrox instead of air, and overall make diving a bit easier on your body and thus safer.
Nice-to-have PADI scuba certifications
Discover Scuba Diving
Not sure yet if diving is for you? Go for a DSD – Discover Scuba Diving. This is an experience that will allow you to dip your toes in the water and get a first idea of what diving is all about.
PADI Scuba Diver
The PADI Scuba Diver is basically half of your Open Water course and it can be credited towards your Open Water. However, you don’t have to as this certification will also allow you to dive with an instructor to 12 m depth afterward.
The Adventure Diver is a step below the PADI Advanced and includes 3 so-called Adventure Dives. This cert is a great starting point to find out what different specialties are about and you can also use it towards your AOW. If you include a Deep Adventure Dive you will also be allowed to dive to 30 m afterward.
Master Scuba Diver
The PADI Master Scuba Diver seems a bit like the holy grail of certifications for a recreational diver but to be very honest I am not a fan. In order to get the title, you will need to be an Advanced Diver, a Rescue Diver, and have completed 5 specialties as well as 50 logged dives. Now don’t get me wrong – to have all of this is a great achievement but personally, I would not pay extra just to get the rating of a Master Scuba Diver.
If you are already a PADI Scuba Diver (at a minimum) the ReActivate program is great if you have not been diving for a while. You will review some fundamentals and skills, and go on a dive with a professional so you can find your feet underwater again.
Specialty courses are a great way to deepen your knowledge and increase your skills in a special area of diving. PADI offers quite a list of courses that you can sign up for depending on your current certification level, interest, and where you want to dive next. The drysuit specialty might be a good option for someone who dives in the UK but not really necessary if you live in Indonesia. On the other hand, you may not need a Boat Diver specialty if you have already done a few boat dives while doing your Open Water.
Check the list and see what tickles your fancy – there are also plenty of courses that you can do ‘dry’ as they don’t involve any mandatory dives. A PADI dive center can also tell you if there are pre-requisites for any given specialty such as an OW or AOW or a minimum number of logged dives.
My favorite PADI specialties by far are (and in no apparent order): Deep Diver, Self-Reliant, Sidemount, and Wreck Diver.
How much does it cost to become a certified PADI diver?
Prices for a PADI Open Water course and other certifications vary around the world. The price consists of a fee for PADI e-learning materials, the certification cost, the instructor’s salary, and fees for the dive center including rental gear and insurance. In many locations, you will be quoted one price that includes all of these costs.
However, you can also pay for your academic materials for any given course online on the PADI website before doing your confined and open water session with an instructor. However, this might make it a little pricier overall as dive centers have the option to buy bundles at discounted rates for their courses.
How much is a PADI certification? You can get your Open Water for less than 300 EUR in places like Thailand at the moment. However, do remember that diving is an extreme sport and you should not compromise on safety when it comes to your scuba certification. Meet a potential instructor beforehand, read some online reviews, and make sure that their gear is well-maintained before signing up!