Aug 18 2012

Can you fly from Bangkok to Ko Tao? Almost.

Published by at 1:44 am under Transport


Tired of buses? Looking for a flying adventure? Although not for the faint of heart, Solar Air offers the Bangkok to Chumphon route, which is the closest you’ll come to flying from the Thai capital to Ko Tao. Their 12-seater planes make for an exciting way to get from city to beach in a flash. We tried the return route recently.

The adventurer set out on to an empty runway before jetting into open skies.

With only the barest necessities, the adventurer set out on to an empty runway before jetting into open skies.

Solar Air is actually part of the same reputable company that operates Lomprayah bus and high speed catamaran, so after a two-hour ferry trip on rough seas (those prone to sea sickness beware) from Ko Tao to the pier near Chumphon, we were shuttled seamlessly to a minibus bound for Chumphon airport. It was a longer trip than expected — about 45 minutes from the pier — but it winds through some picturesque countryside.

Arriving at Chumphon airport, one glimpses the tourism glory once imagined for this area by long since retired Chumphon provincial officials. Although larger than other airports that see far more traffic, such as Ko Samui and Trang, Chumphon airport would now be a ghost airport if not for Solar Air’s miniscule presence.

Within minutes of reaching the airport, we strolled across the tarmac along with just three other passengers before boarding the rather funny looking plane. It was clear blue skies after lift-off, and I managed to snap a few shots of the stunning coast line from above.

f coming from Chumphon, grab a seat on the right side of the plane for an ocean view.

If coming from Chumphon, grab a seat on the right side of the plane for an ocean view.

Although the seats are comfortable enough, there’s very little space inside the plane, so don’t expect flight attendants to be dropping off cool drinks and peanuts. Like most small planes, the engine clamours loudly inside the cabin, so you might consider bringing some headphones if not wanting a constant reminder that your life hangs at the mercy of two small engines.

About 25 minutes into the flight, which lasted just over an hour in total, we entered into some devilish looking grey storm clouds. Rain soon lashed against the windows and the plane fought to steady itself in the face of some powerful winds from over the gulf. The pilot seemed to do a fine job of ascending to get us above the worst of it, but even after 30+ years of frequent flying, I was just a tad nervous.

Our plane's reflection in the open sea.

Our plane’s reflection in the open sea.

After a tense 15 minutes of battling the storm, we emerged back into clear skies. Before long, the northern Gulf of Thailand coastline and mouth of the Chao Phraya River came into view. I strained my eyes to decipher landmarks on the ground as we zoomed over Thonburi before looping around and descending into Don Muang airport.

Although the Lomprayah bus we took on the way down was fairly painless, the Solar Air flight is a good option for travellers with some cash to spend but no time to spare, and it’s almost worth it just for the adventure. The cost is currently 2,700 baht one-way, which is made more reasonable by the fact that this rate includes the cost of the Lomprayah ferry transfer to or from Ko Tao. Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan may also be reached this way for an extra couple of hundred baht.

Just a three-hour trip from Bangkok to this!

A three-hour trip from Bangkok to this.

All Solar Air flights depart from the old Don Muang airport to the north of Bangkok, and while the Chumphon route is their bread and butter, the airline also connects Chumphon to Pattaya and Pattaya to Kanchanaburi.

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7 Responses to “Can you fly from Bangkok to Ko Tao? Almost.” ...

  1. Stefanon 18 Aug 2012 at 5:35 am

    What’s roughly the difference in price between taking a bus (middle of the range) and this flight?

  2. David Luekenson 18 Aug 2012 at 5:57 am

    Hi Stefan,

    The Lomprayah bus with ferry transfer from Bangkok costs 1,050 baht one-way while the Solar Air flight with ferry transfer is 2,700 baht one-way, so you end up spending 1,650 baht in exchange for an extra half-day of beach time.

    The Lomprayah bus leaves from Khao San Road and the flight departs from Don Muang Airport, which is about a 150 baht taxi ride from Khao San.

  3. Jon 21 Apr 2013 at 3:30 am

    The solar air option is not running anymore. I just tried to book it. Now the options from Koh Tao to bangkok are…koh tao ferry to chumphon to bus….koh tao to chumphon to train..koh tao to koh samui or sarut thani airports.

  4. PMon 27 May 2013 at 11:04 am

    Nok Air fly from Chumphon to Bangkok several times a day – http://www.nokair.com/ – and seem to be pretty reasonably priced.

  5. Adam Finanon 02 Nov 2013 at 9:24 am

    I am looking to book this now and Nok Air are the best option.. I don’t see an option to book a combo ticket on there website so I will just get to Chumpon and work it from there

  6. Striateon 23 Nov 2013 at 1:18 am

    There are now many flifgts to Chumphon Airport in Pathio. Both Nok Air http://www.nokair.com and Happy Air http://www.happyair.co.th fly twice daily from Bangkok with onward flights to Ranong on some routes.
    The planes are modern SAAB 340. Chumpon Airport is now busy with ticket office for Lomprayah ferry transfer to or from Ko Tao, Ko Samui. Fame Tours also has a transit desk for transfers to Chumphon. Tere is a small coffee shop, gift shop and TAT http://www.tourismthailand.org/Chumphon operates a tourist information desk at the airport. For more details visit http://www.pathio.net/gettingthere

  7. Striateon 02 Jun 2014 at 11:38 pm

    As of May 2014 Nok Air will fly daily on larger ATR72-500 66 passenger planes.
    From September 2015 this increases to twice daily. http://Www.nokair.com
    Nok Air sells combined air and sea packages direct from its website.

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