Other than flying, the only way to get to Ko Samui is by boat. If you don’t have your own (sigh), that means a ferry from either the mainland or a neighbouring island. Here we give you the low down on your options.
Two operators transport cars, trucks and buses to the island, their cavernous bellies swallowing vehicles like Moby Dick before spewing them out again at their destination. The Raja ferry departs from its own port in Lipa Noi, just south of Nathon on the west coast of Samui, and the Seatran leaves from a pier at the island’s capital of Nathon. Both ferries deliver passengers to Donsak on the mainland, with their ports there only a few kilometres from each other. It is not possible to take a car ferry the short distance from Ko Samui to Ko Pha Ngan, so if you are travelling with a car, this will involve two trips – one from Samui to Donsak on the mainland, and a second then on to Ko Pha Ngan.
Both car ferries are equal in quality, service and price. The price at time of writing to take a car on board is 450 baht, and 175 baht per person, the driver of the car is free. The journey from the mainland is 1.5 hours, with comfortable seating, and snacks and drinks available. Ferries run on the hour, from 05:00 until 19:00. A connection is available to Surat Thani airport or railway station – a cheaper option than flying from Samui. See www.rajaferryport.com and www.seatranferry.com.
The Seatran Discovery Link has a second route arriving and departing from the Bang Rak pier, 300 metres before the entrance to Big Buddha, and the end of Bang Rak. This ferry leaves Samui and travels to Ko Pha Ngan, then onwards to Ko Tao. It departs daily at 08:00 and 13:30 and takes 30 minute to get to Ko Pha Ngan and 90 minutes to Ko Tao. See www.seatrandiscovery.com.
The Lomprayah high speed catamaran leaves from its own pier in Mae Nam, and travels the same route as the Seatran above, but goes onward to Bangkok. From Ko Tao, it arrives at the mainland town of Chumphon, where passengers board a bus to Hua Hin and finally to Bangkok. This is a reasonably priced alternative to flying between Bangkok and Samui, with the trip lasting approximately 12 hours, ferry and bus included, and costing around 1,300 baht one way. It leaves twice daily, at 08:00 and 12:30. The shorter trip to Ko Pha Ngan costs 300 baht, lasting only 20 minutes, and to Ko Tao, it costs 600 baht, lasting 1 hour 45 minutes. The Lomprayah also offers routes inclusive of bus, leaving from Nathon pier, and going to the Andaman coast. See www.lomprayah.com.
The Thong Nai Pan Express is a small boat that sets off from Thong Nai Pan Noi on Ko Pha Ngan and visits Thong Nai Pan Yai, Haad Thien, Than Sadet and Haad Rin before going on to Mae Nam on Ko Samui. The journey from Thong Nai Pan to Ko Samui is long, noisy, smells of diesel and costs 300 baht. It is the only scheduled boat service to Thong Nai Pan; but be warned, you often have to wade into the sea up to your waist to get on and off the boat and it doesn’t run during the monsoon, from mid October to mid December. There’s no website or phone number you can use to contact the Thong Nai Pan Express so don’t rely on it if you have an important travel connection to make.
The Haad Rin Queen is the only ferry from Samui to Pha Ngan that docks at Haad Rin — the others all disembark at Thong Sala. The journey lasts 50 minutes, and costs 200 baht. The Haad Rin Queen leaves from the Big Buddha pier, in the centre of Bang Rak beach, a rather rickety wooden pier just next to the new Petcharat pier. For details telephone (077) 484 668.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 10th July, 2012.