Where to get scuba certified

By Julius
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Where to get scuba certified

Where to get scuba certified is a question most beginners ask themselves before doing their first course.

And are those who do their Open Water Diver course at home better divers than vacation divers?

Both options have pros and cons so let’s find out what’s better for your situation.

Getting scuba certified at home or on vacation?

Getting certified at home allows you to learn to dive in your local language, spend more time on vacation just diving, and to explore diving in your local area. Getting your certification on vacation often offers better diving conditions, longer dive times, and sometimes cheaper prices. No matter where you do it, the certification will be the same.

Getting scuba certified is the first step to exploring the underwater world and you are probably here because that is your plan!

It’s fun, doesn’t take long, and opens up a world of opportunities.

No matter where you get scuba certified, you will receive the same Open Water Diver certification. Therefore, the differences are small.

Most people just get certified wherever they first get exposed to diving and do the course there.

Sometimes, however, you might be in a situation where you have both options available to you.

There are pros and cons to both getting scuba certified at home and on vacation so let’s compare them in more detail:

Diving course at homeDiving course on vacation
Scuba skillsIdenticalIdentical
BuoyancyOften slightly betterGood
PriceDepends on locationCan be pricey
Dive timesOfter shorter due to temperaturesFull dives each time
VisibilityOften poorUsually good
LogisticsVariesDepends on
LanguageLocal languageUsually English
Students per courseFewOften bigger groups
Comparison between learning to dive at home vs on vacation.

Which you choose will mostly depend on your budget, travel plans, and whether you have access to a dive school close to your home.

More important than anything else besides perhaps the price is the instructor teaching the course!

The instructor matters

Remember: The quality of your diving course is all about the instructor!

How to decide where to get certified

Before deciding on the location of your diving course, ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Who is getting certified?
  • Is there a reputable dive school nearby?
  • What’s the price difference?
  • How is the teaching quality?
  • Where are you traveling to?
  • Do you have a flexible travel schedule?
  • How do you want to spend your vacation?

Who is getting certified?

Are you getting certified yourself or are you looking for a diving course for your kids, friends, or significant other?

If it’s just you, you are usually free to do whatever you like. However, with kids, they might feel more comfortable at home or at places they already know.

Turtle following group of divers underwater
You’ll usually see more things underwater in the sea.

Is there a reputable dive school nearby?

Depending on your location there might not be many dive schools close by. In that case, learning to dive on vacation has clear advantages as logistics are easier.

On the other hand, diving at home can have logistical advantages, like your own car, help with childcare or pick-ups, and dive schools right around the corner.

Last but not least, ensure to pick a reputable dive school that is an RSTC (Recreation Scuba Training Council) member, as well as EUF certified.

What’s the price difference?

Price matters and there is a certain cost to scuba diving. Some countries like Thailand or Honduras are super cheap diving destinations and courses there are much more affordable than at a luxury resort in the Maldives.

On the other hand, diving locally can save you some money if you do it with a club, for example.

How is the teaching quality?

Let me stress this again: It’s all about the teaching quality!

The better the instructor, the better and more fun your course will be. And you will arguably save some money, too, because you won’t need to redo the course somewhere else because you didn’t learn much.

This also includes the quality of the scuba gear used for rentals. While you don’t need the best of the best to enjoy your course, it helps to not have to worry about poor-quality equipment during a dive.

Where are you traveling to?

Some places are great for learning to dive, while others are best left for those who already know how to dive.

For example, diving in Iceland is great for exploring the Silfra fissure in a drysuit. However, there are definitely better spots to learn to dive for the first time.

Scuba divers in Silfra rift
Silfra is great…but get some experience first!

Do you have a flexible travel schedule?

A diving course will take between 3-5 days in total, including theory lessons, pool sessions, and 4-5 open water dives.

Check beforehand whether your travel schedule allows for at least that amount of time to be spent on learning to dive.

Also, remember there is a so-called no-flight time of at least 24 hours between a dive and taking a plane back home!

How do you want to spend your vacation?

Do you want to spend time doing theory lessons, pool sessions, or beginner open water dives during your vacation?

While many scuba training organizations offer e-learning for self-study, others still require classroom sessions. Not everyone wants to spend their precious days off work with learning something new and potentially even a bit stressful.

Are those who learn to dive in a lake better divers?

Neither those who learn to dive in a lake nor those who took their diving course in the sea are better than the others and it all depends on individual skills and the instructor. Lake divers often display better buoyancy and navigation skills, while ocean divers usually have longer dive times during the course and therefore more experience.

I see these questions come up on social media and scuba forums all the time.

Is it better to get certified in a lake or in the sea? and Are those who learn to dive in freshwater better than those who did their course in saltwater?

Honest answer #1

The honest answer is: From a skill perspective, it doesn’t matter. Period.

Just looking at the skills of freshly certified Open Water Divers, both diving environments fulfill the same criteria. Courses always include similar sets of skills and mask drills, octopus sharing, and buoyancy control, and the rest are usually identical.

So overall you can get certified wherever you like and not have any disadvantages from either option.

Scuba diver with fish underwater
It honestly doesn’t matter much skill-wise where you learn to dive.

Honest answer #2

Here is my purely personal opinion which is equally as true: It does make a difference where you get certified, but what’s better completely depends on the instructor.

After working with hundreds of students at Social Diving and thousands of divers around the world, I can:

  • Often tell whether people learned to dive in freshwater or the sea.
  • Usually tell if they have freshwater/saltwater experience
  • Always tell whether they had a good instructor

Freshwater divers who dive in lakes are often used to poor visibility and cold temperatures. Therefore, they are very easygoing when diving in warmer places as almost any other environment offers better conditions.

Tech diver in lake using flutter kick
Lake divers often feel more comfortable in harsher diving environments.

Ocean divers in return usually have more experience as they have longer dive times under their belts and they know better how to manage their air and decompression times.

This means they are often (not always!) overwhelmed by diving in freshwater lakes for the first time, while this is not the case the other way around.

Therefore, remember:

A good instructor matters more than where you get certified!


No matter where you learn to dive you will always end up with an Open Water Diver certification.

In this regard, you can learn to dive wherever you like and there is no difference in the outcome usually.

However, do you want to spend your limited vacation time learning to dive or get to a place already certified?

While there are some who claim those who dive at home are better scuba divers, in the end, this completely depends on the individual, and most importantly on the instructor.

Now go learn to dive!

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

©2024 Social Diving. All rights reserved. The content presented here is the exclusive property of Social Diving and may not be copied or distributed, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Social Diving.

Social Diving is your #1 online source for scuba diving, scuba travel, water sports, learning, and having fun in and under water. We have scuba online articles, review plenty of (scuba) gear, and regularly post travel guides around the world.


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