Bus transport is the same as Don Dhet: guesthouses, restaurants or travel agencies can sell bus tickets that will include shared boat transfer to Ban Nakasang on the mainland.
See the transport section for Don Dhet for details on travelling onwards from Nakasang.
From Ban Nakasang on the mainland, Don Khon can be reached by boat starting early morning. There’s plenty of boat activity before noon and service starts to taper off in the afternoon. A sign at the booth says closed at 20:00 but as night falls, the more unlikely the boat is to go. Buy a ticket at the booth (boat mafia) at Nakasang’s boat landing. It will arrive at Don Khon’s boat landing located in the middle of the tourist strip, beside Pan’s Residence. The journey takes 15-minutes anda one-way ticket costs 20,000 kip per person. After daytime hours, expect to pay extra.
The organised boat system can be random. When we first arrived, we paid the fare and were immediately whisked to Don Dhet solo. A few days later, doing the exact same journey, we were told to wait, and after 20 minutes we were told we had to pay double if we wanted to go solo. Why not tell us this 20 minutes earlier so we could have left right away? In any case, we spied the motorbike ferry about to leave and hopped on, negotiating for the regular fare.
Bringing over a bicycle or motorbike will cost a few thousand kip more. Note: getting on/off the ferry with the motorbike is difficult due to the steep ramp which doesn't meet flush with the boat. Don’t end up in the Mekong with the motorbike!
When purchasing a bus ticket to another destination such as Pakse or Cambodia, the price of the ticket usually includes the boat transfer. If leaving Don Khon independently for whatever reason (you are doing a day trip to Khone Pha Pheng, you need the ATM in Nakasang, you are arranging your own transport from Nakasang’s local bus station, etc), the most economic way is to get the boat at the wave of departures, the exodus at 08:00 for those headed to Cambodia, 11:00 for those going north to Pakse.
It’s not so common to travel from Don Khon to Don Khong by boat any more, especially now that Don Khong is connected to the mainland by a bridge. We were told a public boat sometimes departs at 08:00, you’ll have to ask around. For a private boat up, we were quoted 300,000 kip
The tourist strip, the old locomotive and Li Phi waterfall are manageable by foot. To explore further, rent a bicycle or motorbike, available at many shops. The bicycles are all the cheap variety, the ones that look like oversized children’s bikes and the motorbikes all look like they’ve been to hell and back.
The “roads” in Don Khon are no more than dirt tracks covered in golf ball-sized gravel with edges of the exact angle to send tires bouncing off into random directions. After a rain, that dirt turns to pools of water and muck. It’s not as treacherous as when early explorers had to move entire ships by train across the island, but do take care and it’s wise to be off the road by nightfall.
For excursions and exploration, it’s worth striking out early in the morning or later in the afternoon, avoiding the punishing midday sun. The village has no street lighting so a torch comes in handy at night.
In terms of paid transport, samlos (motorbike taxis with side seat) are the way to get around. It’s a bone rattling ride. A transfer between the islands costs around 25,000 kip.
Crossing the bridge between Don Dhet and Don Khone costs 35,000 kip. Admission to Li Phi waterfall is included in the price.