Located 60 kilometres west of the ferry piers in Ban Phe, Utapao-Rayong-Pattaya Airport is serviced by AirAsia with direct flights to/from Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Hat Yai. Bangkok Air also advertises flights to Utapao but nothing turned up when we searched at research time.
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is 175 kilometres northwest of Ban Phe and at least two daily minibuses run direct between the airport’s transport centre and the Samet ferry piers.
Regular buses depart for Ban Phe from Bangkok’s Ekkamai (Eastern) Terminal every 1.5 hours from 07:00 to 17:00 for 155 baht and the ride takes three to five hours, depending on traffic. In Ban Phe these buses park at Nuan Thip Pier, where you can jump straight on a ferry to Ko Samet. The buses return to Bangkok every two hours from 05:00 to 18:00.
Hourly minibuses also run between Bangkok’s Ekkamai Station and Ban Phe from 07:00 to 18:00 for 200 baht. A few different companies have English signs and ticket desks near the ferry piers, including one at Nuan Thip Pier. It’s also possible to take a minibus from Bangkok’s Ekkamai Station or Morchit (Northern) Station to Rayong, where the last songthaew to Ban Phe departs at 18:00.
Minibus tickets for other regional destinations can also be purchased at Nuan Thip Pier and Phe Pier. Fares include:
Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi Airport): Departs at 10:00, 13:00 and 15:00 for 500 baht and takes three to four hours.
Pattaya: Departs hourly from 09:00 to 17:00 for 200 baht and takes an hour.
Ko Chang: Departs at 09:30 and 11:30 for 250 baht and takes around three hours, not including the ferry ride. Also services Chanthaburi and Trat.
If heading to Cambodia, a minibus supposedly departs Ban Phe at 09:30 and runs to the border crossings at both Had Lek and Aranyaprathet . Otherwise you could head to Rayong to catch one of the more consistent minibuses that depart for Aranyaprathet hourly in the morning hours for 300 baht, or transfer to a Had Lek-bound minibus in Trat.
Dark-blue provincial songthaews depart from a stand on the south side of the coastal road, between Nuan Thip Pier and Municipal Pier. These depart for Rayong every 20 minutes from 06:00 to 17:50 for 40 baht, and for Laem Mae Phim every 30 minutes from 06:45 to 18:15.
Make your way to Rayong for a transfer if you’re heading to North or Northeast Thailand -- see the Rayong travel section for details.
From 07:00 to 19:00 daily, hourly public ferries depart for Ko Samet from several different piers on the coastal road in Ban Phe. These disembark at Nadan Pier on the north coast of Samet after a leisurely 40-minute cruise. Pricier speedboats are available at several piers and can drop you anywhere on Samet, with prices depending on which beach you’re headed to (see below).
Beware that unscrupulous travel agents have tried to sell 200-baht “national park” tickets to travellers. This is a scam: Only buy a ticket from a park official once you’re on Ko Samet.
Nuan Thip Pier: This is probably the most widely used pier by foreigners since it’s where regular buses from Bangkok and many minibuses drop off. You can catch a large public ferry for 70 baht one-way or 100 baht roundtrip. Speedboats depart after collecting 10 passengers and run to several of the east-coast beaches on Samet, though you might be better off taking one of the more consistent speedboats departing from nearby Phe Pier. Nuan Thip Pier has several eateries, coffee shops and travel agencies, but no public parking.
Phe Pier: Located a short walk west of Nuan Thip Pier, Phe Pier (the sign says “Tarua Phe”) also services large ferries but is best known as the base of the White Shark and Black Pearl speedboat companies. White Shark departs for Samet at 10:00, 12:00 and 14:00, while Black Pearl departs at 09:00 and 13:00. Expect to pay 200 baht to Haad Sai Kaew; 250 baht to Ao Tubtim; 300 baht to Ao Wong Duean; and 400 baht to Ao Wai. These are examples; the speedboats can stop at any beach. Both offices are located just past the ticket booth for the large ferry if heading towards the water. Phe Pier also has a few eateries and limited parking.
Municipal Pier: If you arrive in Ban Phe late and don’t want to spend the night there, head to Municipal Pier (Tha Ruea Thesaban), located a short walk east of Nuan Thip Pier. Several travel agents stay open late and can arrange private speedboat transfers to Ko Samet at any hour, or so we were told. A travel agent quoted us 2,500 baht for a one-way private transfer to Nadan Pier. White Shark advertises the same private transfer from Phe Pier for just 1,600 baht, but it doesn’t stay open late. Municipal Pier has a large car park across the street.
Chokkrisda Pier and Sri Ban Phe Pier: Located further west down the coastal road from the above piers, both of these piers offer hourly large ferries for 100 baht roundtrip along with some speedboats. Both are popular with Thais thanks to secure roofed car parks situated near the ticket windows.
Sadet Pier: Located in the heart of town, this pier is the exclusive domain of the Samed Resorts group, which runs eight upscale resorts on Ko Samet. Free boat transfer should be included in the rate if you book a room directly.
Private cars and vans with drivers can be arranged in Ban Phe for transfers to Ko Chang, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Bangkok and elsewhere. Expect to pay a minimum of 1,500 baht per car.
While not exactly the Champs Elysees, Ban Phe’s main coastal drag is fairly compact and has decent footpaths for walking around. There are no regular taxis and few tuk tuks, but orange-vested motorbike taxis can be found near the piers. If you want your own wheels, motorbikes can be rented at Christie’s and I Na Seaview Hostel for 250 baht per day.