Thailand’s Gulf Islands | How to get to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui

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Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are the most popular Thai islands on the east coast

Getting to these islands from mainland Thailand is usually by ferry; either from Chumphon where the boat will first reach Koh Tao, then Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. Or from Surat Thani where the boat trip is in reverse, starting off at Koh Samui, then Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. 

It follows that getting from one island to the next, that is, from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan or from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, is also by boat. The boat type options are speedboat or catamaran/ferry. Lomprayah, Songserm and Seatran Discovery are the boat companies (in order of popularity) operating between the islands

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What to Expect on Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui

Here’s the highlights of a visit to these Thai islands.

Koh Tao

Out of the three islands, Koh Tao is the smallest and the first if heading down from Bangkok

Koh Tao is known for its thriving underwater life, amazing viewpoints, great nightlife and laid back lifestyle

As the island is so small it is very easily explored. And for those looking to get scuba diving certification, dozens of cheap dive schools are found all over the island.

Koh Phangan

Second is Koh Phangan, infamous for the Full Moon Party held every 4 weeks. 

Landscape and beaches around Koh Phangan are similar to Koh Tao but on a larger scale

Around party dates, the island gets a little busy but nothing to worry about. Overall Ko Phangan is quiet and a perfect exotic island destination. 

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is the largest and most developed

The island is also accessible by air allowing easier access, therefore, making it the busiest island especially around peak season, which runs from January to March. 

Chaweng is the heart of Koh Samui and will cater to all of your needs. Clubs, bars, high end restaurants, 5 star hotels and large shopping malls are found all along the streets in Chaweng

Ko Samui’s turqoise waters with white sandy beach lined with coconut palms are what make this one of Thailand’s top choices for a tropical island holiday. 

How to get to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui from Bangkok

Getting to the islands has 3 options; 

1. Land + ferry

2. Air + ferry, or 

3. Directly by air (but this only applies for Koh Samui). 

The ferry piers from mainland Thailand to the islands are located in Chumphon and Surat Thani.

>> We’ve written guides on things to do in Chumphon and Surat Thani which are perfect if planning a stay of some days either before getting to the islands or after.

# Bangkok to Koh Samui by Air

Koh Samui is the only island with an airport. 

The downside is flight prices are on the high side considering the short distance travelling. 

Check airlines operating from Samui airport (which is mainly Bangkok Airways) and destinations from where direct flights to Koh Samui are available here.

# Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani by air and ferry to the islands

Another option is a flight either to Chumphon airport (which serves only flights from Bangkok) or Surat Thani airport (check airlines operating from this airport and destinations here), depending on which island you are headed to. 

Chumphon is closest to Koh Tao, while Surat Thani is closest to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

Airports in Chumphon and Surat Thani are far from the piers which link to the islands. But it is possible to buy joint bus and ferry tickets to the islands from desks at the airports.

More recently, Lomprayah started operating trips from a pier located closer to Surat Thani airport. Therefore if in Surat Thani and planning on taking the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan, Lomprayah is the best option compared to other ferry companies because traveling time to the pier is shorter.   

  • How far is the airport in Chumphon and Surat Thani from the pier?

1. Chumphon  

  • Songserm – Matapon pier in Chumphon is 50 km from the airport 
  • Lomprayah – Pier in Chumphon is 60 km from the airport

2. Surat Thani

  • Songserm – Donsak Pier is 90 km from the airport
  • Lomprayah – Tapee Pier is 30 km from the airport

# From Bangkok to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui by Bus and ferry

Buses leave daily from Bangkok southern bus terminal (Sai Tai Mai) to the south of Thailand. This article provides information on how to get to the southern bus terminal from Khao San Road in Bangkok. 

From Bangkok southern bus terminal take a bus / minivan to Chumphon. The bus / minivan will take you to Chumphon’s city centre. From here you will have to make your way to the pier which is 15km / 25km (depending on the ferry company you choose) from the city centre.

We spent a couple of days in Chumphon and bought the ferry tickets to Koh Tao from Songserm office the day before. Pick-up from the hotel was included with the ticket purchase. 

Another option is getting a joint ticket. Joint tickets include a direct bus from Bangkok to the pier and a ferry to the island. Tickets can be easily bought online.

Both Lomprayah and Songserm offer join tickets from Bangkok to the islands. The journey is long with the fastest trip taking around 9 hours to get to Koh Tao. Prices start from 900 Baht ($30). 

TIP: We always made use of Songserm as we found the service good for a cheaper price.

Do be cautious with Songserm joint tickets as there have been complaints of valuables being stolen out of luggage while stowed away in the luggage compartment. 

Personally, we never had a problem but were cautious and kept all valuables with us at all times. 

# From Bangkok to Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao by Train and ferry

Trains from Hua Lamphong, Bangkok’s main train station, operate on a daily basis to the south of Thailand. Tickets can also be pre booked on the web. 

From the train station in Chumphon which is located in the city centre, you will need to make your way to the pier.

Travel to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Koh Tao – 12go Asia

Transport to the islands from mainland Thailand or from one island to the other such as from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui, or from Koh Samui to Koh Tao can be pre-booked online.

12Go Asia is a reputable company with a fast and easy booking process.

Say you want to go to Koh Phangan from Koh Samui, 12go Asia provides a list of ferries to Koh Phangan from Koh Samui including the ferry trip duration, ferry times and ferry company review score. You can also filter by your preferred departure time.

Check here for more information.

Also, say you’re wondering how to get to Koh Samui. 12go Asia provides a list of the different transport options (though not exhaustive) to get to Koh Samui which is of great help while planning your holiday.

Check here for more information.

TIP: The point of departure can be changed to other locations in the link above.

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