Dec 15 2012
The only difficult thing about getting to Ko Tao from Bangkok is choosing from the myriad options available. What you choose will ultimately depend on your budget and how much time you have.
The first is catching an overnight train from Hualamphong station. Trains leave between mid afternoon and early evening. Seats will be converted into curtained-off bunk beds, which should mean that you can catch a few hours of sleep in relative comfort. Each bunk has a small reading light and you will have a fresh pillow and blankets too. Lower beds are larger than upper beds and while the air-con carriages are in better condition, they can be really cold so keep a sweater to hand just incase. Luggage is stored on racks very close to or next to your bunk and there is seemingly no enforced limit as to what you can bring. This is the most comfortable option if you don’t have the budget to fly, but pre-booking tickets online can be a little problematic. If you are staying in Bangkok for a few days to explore then I would recommend a quick trip to the train station to book your tickets on your first day. You can book your ferry ticket at the station in Bangkok or Chumphon when you arrive. At busy times I would recommend getting your ticket in Bangkok. You will be met at the station and transferred to the pier.
A day train leaves at 08:00 and gets in to Chumphon around 14:30. Unless however you want to stay overnight and catch the early ferry the next day, your only other option is to jump on the overnight boat to Ko Tao. Night boats from Chumphon are significantly better than the old wooden boats with mattresses on the floor. They do still carry both cargo and vehicles but the passenger rooms and beds are separate and furnished with individual bunks. They are no longer drafty and are a lot more comfortable than the night boats of years ago. Tickets can be booked at both Fame Tours and Farang Bar in Chumphon and they will take you to the pier too. This service does arrive early before most places on Ko Tao are open — so do check with your hotel. If you have to wait, simply head up the main road away from the pier and past the 7-eleven, where you will find Cappuccino Bistro and Zest on your left hand side. These bakeries will be open and serving food and coffee.
Lomprayah high speed catamarans ply the waters in between Chumphon and Ko Tao and also run a bus service from Bangkok too; these are the most comfortable, safe and reliable buses running this route, and in seven years I have not heard about one single incident of theft from luggage by passengers using this service. That said, whenever you are travelling by bus it’s prudent to keep your valuables in your hand luggage rather than stowed luggage. They have 06:00 and 22:00 departures daily and as you might expect, they do connect with the ferry to Ko Tao. These can be booked online and at busy times should be. This is your best budget option.
You can fly to Ko Tao (almost) from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport with either Nok Air (08:30) or Solar Air (10:00). Both companies fly once a day and both connect with a ferry departure to the island, which you can book online with either company. Do remember though that connection times between Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s main international airport, and Don Muang can take anywhere between 45 minutes and two hours depending on the traffic.
If you don’t fancy the airport connection or the times simply don’t suit then you can fly with Bangkok Airways to Ko Samui and then take a ferry to Ko Tao from there. This is your most expensive option but arguably the least hassle if you are arriving on an international flight and want to get straight to the beach. Do remember though that the last Lomprayah service departs at 14:15 and the last Seatran service at 13:30. If you arrive after this then you’ll have to spend a night in Ko Samui and hop on a ferry the next day.
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