Never thought I'd say this, but it is easier, more convenient and less expensive to catch a bus from the KSR area to Koh Chang (and the other islands in the area) than it is to do is on one's own.
An all-inclusive price is available from KSR straight to the island, and this includes the cost of the ferry. If one is going to another island (for example, Koh Mak or Koh Kut), the difference in cost is worked out and the price adjusted accordingly. The price in January, 2007, to be plunked down on the island was around B350.
Having been a bit of a regular on Koh Mak for many years now, I always found that it was nicer and less expensive to make my own way. However, this time I found that it was not only more expensive, but much slower going it alone. This time we were on a bit of a time budget and were cabbing around rather than taking city buses.
Our costs covered 1) cab to Ekamai (B90), 2) bus to Trat (B200), songthaew to Trat market (B15), songthaew to Laem Ngop. Ferry to Koh Wai was B250.
- Most of the buses that go from Bangkok to Trat make regular stops along the way. If you are in a hurry and don't have time or patience for stops, then take a tourist bus. We took approximately 90 minutes just to get out of Bangkok due to all the stops along the way.
- For anyone used to getting dropped off at the Trat market, note that Trat has a brand spanking new bus station (about 1 year old) and all buses arrive and stop there. If you want to go into town you'll have to go by songthaew unless you really want to walk. From this station you can also catch a bus straight to Laem Ngop and the Had Lek (the Cambodian border), so there's really no need to go into town now unless you really want to.
- When returning from the islands, you can hop on the tourist bus that leaves from the Laem Ngop pier and avoid having to go back into Trat and/or the bus station (though, I must say that Trat is a great spot for one night).
- In Trat there is a bus company with a ticket booth (near a pretty good little coffee bar) across from the market that advertises buses FROM the market and NO stops along the way (B237). It is the only one in the area. Be warned that if you are in a hurry and need to get back to Bangkok sooner in the day rather than later (like, if it's Friday and you want to avoid the late afternoon traffic) and if you are lead to believe that this would be a faster way of making the trip, IT IS NOT. What really happens is this; you go from this stand to the Trat bus station by minivan where you board the bus. The bus makes several stops along the way (in Trat, Chantaburi, and Chonburi), including an unannounced 20-30 min. lunch stop partway. The 5 hour trip is stretched into approximately 6 1/2 hours. If time is an issue, you'd be far better off getting to the Trat bus station early in the morning and catching the first bus leaving. The first departure time for the company selling tickets in town is 10:30 am.
We just returned from Ko Chang and can endorse the above. Having experienced the VIP coach from Ban PHe to Ko Chang (same company as go to Bangkok) however, I have some reservations. We had to sit in the sleeping area behind the driver (four people!) as there were no seats left, despite having a booking. This made a three hour trip uncomfortable & scary (you could see how he was driving! No speedo, no hands, mobile!!). We booked our return from Ko Chang by private car which collected us from the hotel, took us on the new ferry to centre peir and drove to Bangkok airport (4hrs total). Cost 3500 bht but would be more economical if more people. Also meant that we did not leave beaches until 18.30pm whereas all the other minibus, coaches had to leave by 12.00 latest (most were 10am). Travelled in less heat, air con, comfort no stops except as requested. Great for us as our flight was early on Saturday morning so did not lose a day travelling.