Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
Updated on 22nd January, 2013. First published 29th June, 2006
The Bangkok to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao route is one of the most common paths taken by travellers and tourists on their holidays in Thailand. Here's a blow by blow summary of the ins and outs of getting to and from Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand islands.
While the distance are substantial, Thailand's rail, bus and ferry networks are well developed, pretty reliable and in the scheme of things, inexpensive. In all cases you can get from Bangkok to any of the Gulf of Thailand islands via a straightforward combination of land and water transport.
Heading from Bangkok southwards, it is 460km to Chumphon and Ko Tao is 75km offshore from Chumphon. Staying among the islands, it is another 50km from Ko Tao to Ko Pha Ngan and a further 12km on to Ko Samui. From Ko Samui back to the mainland at Surat Thani it is 75km and from Surat Thani back to Bangkok it is 650km.
Basically, the fastest (and, not suprisingly most expensive) way to get to the islands from Bangkok is to fly from Bangkok to Ko Samui and then take a ferry to the island of your choice. The slowest (and cheapest) is to take a bus from Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani and then take the night boat from there. If you're going to Ko Tao, make your ferry connection at Chumphon. For Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, go to Surat Thani. Below are some other pointers;
- Bangkok and Ko Samui have international airports and there are regular flights between the two. Surat Thani has a domestic airport.
- Bangkok and Chumphon have train stations on the main north-south line and the closest station to Surat Thani is at Phun Phin, seven kilometres from Surat Thani.
- Bangkok, Chumphon and Surat Thani are all connected by both public and private buses.
- Ferries to Ko Tao leave from a pier just to the south of Chumphon and ferries to all three islands leave from Surat Thani and three other piers near Surat Thani.
- Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao are inter-connected by ferries.
If you fly, you have two options -- flying to Ko Samui or flying to Surat Thani and then connecting by bus and ferry to the islands.
Flying to Ko Samui
While flying to Ko Samui is preferable, the island's airport is owned by Bangkok Airways and until quite recently they were the only airline that flys there. Now THAI and Bangkok Airways fly the route but fares remain artificially high and, if you're flying out of Ko Samui, there is a 300B domestic departure tax -- the highest domestic departure tax in Thailand. Bangkok Airways runs almost 20 flights a day between Bangkok and Ko Samui. The cheapest fares are on the first and last flight of the day and go for 2,000B one way, fares through the rest of the day can be as high as 3,480B (all fares above are before the various taxes, fuel surcharges and insurance surcharge which airlines don't deem to include in the fare, along with the 300B departure fee gouge). Flight time is 60 to 90 minutes depending on the aircraft used (prop or jet). The airport is located a 20 minute drive from Chaweng Beach and a five minute drive from Big Buddha Beach. Full fare and timetable information is available on the Bangkok Airways website and the THAI website.
Flying to Surat Thani
Surat Thani airport is served by THAI and Thai AirAsia, with the later having more affordable rates (starting at 800B, but watch out for the plethora of "fees" that get added to this base rate). The flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani takes 70 minutes. Surat Thani airport is around 30km north of Surat Thani town, so you'll need to transfer into Surat Thani and then arrange onwards bus and boat connections to the island of your choice. Full fare and timetable information is avaiable on the THAI website and the Thai AirAsia website.
The train system in Thailand is safe, affordable and tends to arrive roughly on time. There are 11 trains a day that leave Bangkok heading south and all of these stop at both Chumphon and Phun Phin (for Surat Thani).
The main dilemma regards taking a night or day train. If you've never done the trip before, try to do at least one way on a day-train as the scenery is pretty, however if you've done the trip before, take the night train -- the sleepers, while certainly not luxurious, are more than adequate.
Bear in mind that if you take the day train to Chumphon or Surat Thani, you will miss the last day ferry and your only option will be the night ferries to Ko Tao and Ko Pha Ngan respectively. The train station in Chumphon is in the centre of town, while at Surat Thani it is at Phun Phin, some 7km from central Surat Thani -- public transport between the two is affordable and frequent.
The Thai train system has three classes -- first, second and third. First and second class have sleepers, third does not. Within first and second class you can choose between fan and air-con (we prefer fan) and also an upper or lower berth. If you opt for fan, we'd recommend going for a lower berth as you're then able to re-open the window behind the shutter, giving you a cooling breeze through the night (the attendant will close it when they make the bed). Lower berths cost more than upper berths. On night trains, bags are stowed in racks near your berth (within arms reach). We'd suggest chaining your bag to this rack and keeping valuables (passport, credit cards and so on) on your person. While theft is nowhere near as common on the trains as it is on the bus, it does happen, so be careful.
There are a range of trains that run this route, from "Rapid" through to "Special Express Diesel Railcars" and the general rule is, the faster it is, the pricier the ticket. Full fare and timetable information is available on the State Railways of Thailand website.
Which night train?
If you're aiming for Ko Tao, the express #85 is an option -- it gets you into Chumphon at around 04:00 (leaving Bangkok at 19:15 the previous night) which leaves you at Chumphon three hours before the Lomprayah ferry leaves for Ko Tao. The later (and far more popular) Express Special Diesel #39 leaves Bangkok at 22:50 and gets into Chumphon at 05:52 the following morning -- this leaves you an hour to get to the ferry, which is more than adequate time, BUT if the train is delayed (not unheard of) you will miss the ferry and will have to take the afternoon boat.
If you're heading to Ko Samui which night train you take doesn't matter so much as there are far more frequent ferry connections out to Ko Samui from around Surat Thani. Despite these frequent ferry departures, the Express Special Diesel #39 from Bangkok remains by far the most popular choice.
There is a very simple rule to be followed if you're planning on heading from Bangkok to Surat Thani or Chumphon by bus. DO NOT and we repeat DO NOT, take one of the private buses that can be organised from Khao San Road as theft on these buses is endemic. Spend the extra money, go out to Sai Tai Mai (the southern bus terminal) and get a ticket on a public bus down to either destination. We are not kidding when we say theft is a major problem on the private buses -- generally a thief gets in the luggage section with your bags and goes through them during the trip, alighting with all your goodies before reaching Chumphon. If you insist on catching one of these buses do not leave anything more valuable than a bag of soiled underwear in your pack.
You have been warned!
The buses are the cheapest way to get down to Chumphon or Surat Thani and while there are departures throughout the day, the night buses are the most popular with travellers. The time taken is comparable to the train.
So you've got to Chumphon or Surat Thani, now what?
To Ko Tao you have the following options, the Lomprayah high-speed catamaran (leaves Chumphon at 07:00 and 13:00) costing 550B and takes 90 minutes, and the Songserm and Seatran boats, both of which leave at 07:00, costing 650B and 450B respectively and take 2.5-3 hours. The Lomprayah service is worth the extra money. The night ferry leaves Chumphon at 23:00 and arrives at 05:00 costing 300B.
To Ko Pha Ngan, you need to go to Surat Thani from where Raja Ferry run five boats a day from Don Sak to Ko Pha Ngan and Songsern run two. There is also the night boat which leaves Surat Thani at 23:00 for Ko Pha Ngan (taking six hours). From Ko Pha Ngan to Surat Thani, though, the boat is an hour earlier, at 22:00. Note if you miss the 07:00 direct Songserm boat to Ko Pha Ngan, you may be able to go to Ko Samui, then grab an afternoon boat from there to Ko Pha Ngan.
To Ko Samui, there are ferries on the hour from Don Sak to Lipa Noi on Ko Samui and seven a day to Nathon -- these are all run by Raja Ferry. Seatran runs three ferries a day from Ban Don to Nathon on Ko Samui and Songserm run one a day (08:00) from Ban Don to Nathon.
The map below summarises the main ferry routes.
Then there's the inter island ferries:
- Songserm run two ferries a day between Nathon and Thongsala and one a day between Thongsala and Ko Tao
- Seatran runs two ferries between Nathon on Ko Samui and Thongsala on Ko Pha Ngan
- Lomprayah run four ferries a day between Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan, two of which continue to Ko Tao
- The Haad Rin Queen runs four ferries a day from Big Buddha Beach on Ko Samui to Haad Rin on Ko Pha Ngan
Related readingWhat is the best beach on Ko Tao?
Become a dive instructor on Ko Tao
Ko Tao for non-divers guide
What is the best island in Thailand?
Should I book for the full moon party?
What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
Dive Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan & Ko Tao
Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
Read 101 comment(s)
Add your comment
Feature story quicklinks
- Giving back in Southeast Asia (12)
- All stories
- COPE: Helping people move on
- Epic Arts
- Helping Phuket's children in need
- Helping Siem Reap's rubbish dump families
- Helping Singapore's transient workers
- Helping the Karen of Burma
- Humanitarian Services for Children of Vietnam
- Lifestart Foundation, Hoi An
- Swim Vietnam
- Thai Freedom House, Chiang Mai
- The Samui Prison Project
- The SET Foundation
- Burma (8)
- Cambodia (22)
- All stories
- A Cambodian Eco-lodge
- A honeymoon in Cambodia
- Angkorian traffic woes
- Battambang weekend
- Elephant riding in Cambodia: Should you?
- Great places to stay in Siem Reap
- Is Preah Vihear safe to visit?
- Koh Rong: Trouble in paradise?
- Kompong Cham escape
- Northeast Cambodia in photos
- Oh Poipet!
- PEPY:Sustainable Cambodian tourism
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Refuge
- Sihanoukville beaches lure expats
- Spas, shopping & seers in Siem Reap
- The best islands in Cambodia
- The best places to stay on Cambodia's islands
- The Death Highway
- Trekking in Virachey National Park
- Trekking the Cardamoms in Cambodia
- Which Cambodian island is right for you?
- Why you should go to Cambodia
- Indonesia (13)
- All stories
- A funeral in Toraja, Sulawesi
- Climbing Rinjani
- How to hire a boat in Indonesia: Without drowning
- Learn to surf in Bali
- Medewi: A great Bali getaway
- Mountain biking in Bali: A ride in the woods
- The Gili islands: Which is the right one for you?
- Ubud bird watching: From waterhens to witchcraft
- Ubud shopping guide
- Village trekking in Tana Toraja
- Weekend in Nusa Penida
- Yogya's student scene
- Laos (16)
- All stories
- A breeze through Luang Prabang
- Best budget rooms in Luang Prabang 2013
- Elephant trekking in Laos
- Exploring Laos' Bolaven Plateau
- Huay Xai to Pak Tha by slowboat
- Is Lao Airlines safe to fly?
- Laos' vanishing elephants
- Luang Prabang escape
- Muang Ngoi Escape
- Photos of Luang Prabang, Laos
- Pi Mai Lao in Luang Prabang: In 1999
- Southern Laos by scooter
- Temples in Luang Prabang
- The Gibbon Experience
- The Phonsavan adventure
- Vientiane's Chinatown
- Malaysia (7)
- Singapore (9)
- Thailand (73)
- All stories
- 10 Bangkok galleries worth a look-see
- 10 Thai treks aside from Chiang Mai
- 24 Hours in Bangkok: Sukhumvit to Siam Square
- 31 Thai islands
- 5 Southern Thai towns to lose time in
- A Thai homestay in Ayutthaya
- A weekend in Phra Phradaeng
- A weekend on Ko Samet, Thailand
- An extra day in Krabi
- Andaman Sea island hopper
- Ayutthaya temple tour
- Bangkok for art lovers
- Bangkok's Charoen Krung Road
- Bangkok's Thonburi: exploring the west side
- Brilliant Bangkok
- Chiang Dao getaway
- Chiang Mai's temples
- Corruption in Thailand
- Eating on the edge
- Elephant's World Kanchanaburi
- Exploring Lamphun
- Exploring the Lungs of Bangkok
- Far southern Thailand: Go or not?
- Five days in Khao Lak, Thailand
- Floating markets around Bangkok
- Highlights of Chanthaburi province
- How to do Khao Yai National Park
- Khao San Road safety and scams
- Ko Mun Nork: a nearby paradise
- Ko Pha Ngan 7-day detox:Colonic fast
- Ko Pha Ngan's best beaches in 2013
- Ko Phi Phi on a budget
- Ko Tao for non-divers guide
- Ko Yao: the islands you're looking for
- Learning Muay Thai in Bangkok
- Motorcycling the Chiang Rai loop
- Narathiwat: residence of good people
- Navigating Bangkok: The BTS Skytrain
- Phuket by night
- Phuket for Kids
- Phuket heritage walk: Car parts to saris
- Phuket's secret beaches
- Planning around Thailand's civil unrest
- Roll your own Kanchanaburi
- Should I book for the full moon party?
- Should I cancel my Thai holiday? No.
- Should I cancel my trip to Thailand? No.
- Soi Thong Lo, Bangkok
- Sorting out Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Staying at a Thai monastery
- Thai islands for nature lovers
- Thai islands to lose yourself on
- Thai visa FAQ
- Thailand tsunami wrap
- Thailand's Mae Khlong market
- Thailand: Where to from here?
- The best beach on Ko Samui
- The best places to stay on Ko Kut, Thailand
- The bridge over the River Kwai festival
- The road to Sangkhlaburi
- Travelling through north-east Thailand
- Trekking in Thailand
- Trisara -- decadent luxury at its best
- Two days in Kamphaeng Phet
- What is the best beach on Ko Tao?
- What is the best island in Thailand?
- What's a good beach on Ko Pha Ngan?
- What's a good beach on Ko Samui?
- Where to stay at Railay Bay, Thailand
- Where to stay in Sukhothai?
- Where to stay on Ko Samet, Thailand
- Which beach on Ko Samui?
- Which island in Trang?
- Vietnam (31)
- All stories
- A short break in Nha Trang
- A Weekend in Can Tho
- Being fed Fido: Eating dog in Vietnam
- Buying a touring motorbike in Vietnam
- Con Dao escape
- Do nothing and see the best of Hanoi
- Doing the DMZ from Hue
- Exploring Kon Tum
- Exploring Vietnam's Mekong Delta
- Ha Long Bay conclusions
- Ha Long Bay for backpackers
- Ha Long Bay for budget-busters
- Ha Long Bay for flashpackers
- Hanoi escape
- Hanoi or Saigon?
- Hoi An -- Walking over the dragon
- How to do the Dien Bien Phu loop
- How to enjoy your time in Vietnam
- How to pick a good Ha Long Bay cruise
- Is the Hoi An culture tour worth it?
- Motorbike Vietnam's Central Highlands
- One day in Hanoi
- Responsible shopping and eating in Hoi An
- Saigon's top 10 cafés
- Sapa or Bac Ha?
- Saving Vietnam's bears
- Street food safety
- The DMZ: Traveller tactical briefing
- Travel tips for Tet in Vietnam 2013
- Two Wheels & Ricefields: A review
- Which is the best street food tour in Hanoi?
- Accommodation guides (21)
- All stories
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2005 Top guesthouses in Chiang Mai
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Hanoi
- 2006 Top guesthouses in Phnom Penh
- 2006 Top guesthouses on Ko Phi Phi
- 2006 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top Bangkok airport guesthouses
- 2008 Top Luang Prabang guesthouses
- 2008 Top spots on Phu Quoc Island
- 2009 Top guesthouses in Bangkok
- 2009 Top Phnom Penh guesthouses
- 2011 Best places to stay in Kuala Lumpur
- 2011 Best places to stay on Ko Phi Phi
- Best places to stay in Hanoi 2012
- Cheap Phuket guesthouses & hotels
- Five special hotels in Cambodia
- Ko Lipe's best budget guesthouses 2012
- The best hostels in Bangkok 2014
- The best places to stay on Ko Chang, Thailand
- The changing face of Khao San Road
- Where to stay on Koh Rong Samloem
- Travel with kids (7)
- Opinion & advice (15)
- All stories
- 10 reasons to do an adventure tour
- 10 reasons to travel independently
- A year's worth of travel for 2013
- Beach hideaways in Asia
- Christmas and New Years in Southeast Asia
- Do I need reservations for my holiday?
- Evil man of Krabi
- Fifteen tips for a great holiday in Asia
- Getting a cheap airfare to Asia
- Hotels should never charge extra for WiFi
- Long distance buses in Southeast Asia
- Mass tourism in Southeast Asia
- Nine Asian upcountry hideaways
- Planning a Gap Year? Some advice.
- Ten Southeast Asian trips for 2008
- How do I? (11)
- All stories
- Bangkok to Ko Samui, Pha Ngan & Tao
- Bangkok to Siem Reap
- Catching a train in Thailand
- Catching a train in Vietnam
- Cheap flights with Discovery Airpass
- Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
- Crossing the Cambodia Laos border
- Ko Chang to Phu Quoc Island
- Siem Reap to Ko Chang
- Stops between Bangkok & Chiang Mai
- Visa run from Thailand to Burma
- Cycling Asia (13)
- All stories
- 24 hours in Bangkok
- An Angkor cycling guide
- An introduction
- Battambang, bamboo trains & guides
- Confessions of a "cheating cyclist"
- Cycles of all sorts
- Ha Long Bay independently
- Ko Samet Vs Pattaya
- Muay Thai night
- Phonsavan and Luang Prabang
- The hills of Vietnam
- The road less travelled
- Tubing in Vang Vieng
- Health and safety (6)
- Money and finance (4)
- Diving guides (6)
- Photo essay (3)
- Guest blog (2)
- General (15)
- All stories
- 10 Christmas days in Asia we're yet to have
- 10 dumb things I've done while travelling
- 34 ways to travel greener
- Asian animal experiences
- Call me Mr Massage Magic
- Chefs Without Borders
- Flying is fun!
- Mr Golden
- On being a travel writer
- Teaching ESL in Asia
- The 211 country honeymoon
- The Boxing Day Tsunami: 5 years on.
- To Teach or Not to Teach
- Travel writing scholarship 2012
- Tuk to the Road Charity ride
- Book reviews (5)
- Interviews (8)
- Explore Bangkok by BTS (16)
- All stories
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ari
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chid Lom
- Bangkok by skytrain: Chong Nonsi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Mo Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: National Stadium
- Bangkok by skytrain: On Nut
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phaya Thai
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phloen Chit
- Bangkok by skytrain: Phrom Phong
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchadamri
- Bangkok by skytrain: Ratchathewi
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sala Daeng (S2)
- Bangkok by skytrain: Sanam Pao
- Bangkok by skytrain: Saphan Taksin
- Bangkok by skytrain: Surasak
- Bangkok by skytrain: Thong Lor
Sign up for Travelfish Burp!
Our weekly wrap on Southeast Asian travel.
Click here to see a recent newsletter.