The closest airport is Krabi International (KBV), located around 70 km north of Ko Lanta off busy Highway 4 on the way to Krabi town. It's serviced from Bangkok by Thai Airways, Nok Air, Bangkok Airways and Air Asia.
Shared minibuses from the airport to Ko Lanta cost 400 baht and pick up hourly from 07:00 to 15:00; we did not notice a booth at the airport but tickets can be booked online. Carriers such as Air Asia and Nok Air sell all-in tickets from Bangkok to Ko Lanta, which include flight, minibus (van) and ferry.
Otherwise you could book a private taxi at the airport for 2,300 baht, pre-arrange a van/speedboat transfer for 2,045 baht per adult, which is the fastest way, or backtrack on an airport shuttle bus to Krabi town for 90 baht and then catch a public ferry or minibus to Lanta—that is the slow way but we enjoy a night in Krabi.
Krabi-bound minibuses stop at the airport, making it easy to get there from Lanta.
Alternately you could fly from Bangkok to Trang’s small airport and take a public minibus to the bus station for a cheap transfer to Ko Lanta (see below). Private transfers to Lanta are available from there and Phuket International as well.
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Hourly public minibuses run year round from Krabi bus station all the way to Ko Lanta Yai from 07:00 to 17:00 for 250 baht and take two hours, possibly more if there’s a car ferry queue. Travel agents in Krabi will arrange pick up at guesthouses for a fee.
Going from Ko Lanta to Krabi, the same minibuses pick travellers up at west-coast lodgings from Khlong Nin to Saladan, a service typically included in the ticket. While you can drop by the minibus office on the main drag south of Khlong Khong and buy tickets in person, nearly all travellers arrange them through travel agents for 300 to 400 baht.
Minibuses also run direct between Trang town and Ko Lanta, departing Trang bus station at least four times from 09:00 to 16:00 for 250 baht and taking two to three hours. From Lanta they return to Trang at 08:00, 09:00 and 12:00, and a travel agent quoted us 350 baht, hotel pick up included.
These direct minibuses between Ko Lanta and the well-equipped bus stations in Krabi and Trang make it smart to book only a single ticket off the island and then sort out onward mainland transport on your own. However, travel agents on Lanta do sell all-in transfers to a number of destinations, requiring you to change minibuses along the way. If you’re okay with that, fares include:
Ao Nang and Railay: Departs at 08:00, 12:00 and 13:00 for 400 to 500 baht and includes a transfer to one of the local ferries for those heading to Railay. At any time you can take a minibus to Krabi town and switch to a white songthaew bound for Ao Nang and either of two local piers for Railay.
Bangkok: A minibus followed by a regular bus to Khao San Road departs at 12:00 for 1,200 baht and takes 14 hours. We’d skip this and take a public minibus to Krabi bus station, where a number of cheaper, better-quality night buses depart from 16:00 to 19:00 and run to both Sai Tai Mai (Southern) and Morchit (Northern) terminals in Bangkok.
Hat Yai: Departs at 08:00, 09:00 and 12:00 for 700 baht and takes five hours.
Khao Lak and Khao Sok National Park: Departs at 08:30 for 600 baht (same price for either destination) and takes five to seven hours.
Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao: Departs at 08:00, 09:00 and 13:00 for 700 to 1,300 baht, depending on which island you’re heading to. These tickets also include the slow ferry ride to each island—that is after a two-hour minibus ride to Krabi town and then a four-hour minibus ride to the piers in Don Sak. Bring snacks.
Pakbara (pier for Ko Lipe, Ko Bulon Lae and Ko Tarutao): Departs at 08:00 for 600 baht and takes four to five hours.
Phuket: Departs every two hours from 08:00 to 15:00 for 500 baht and takes four hours.
Surat Thani: Departs at 08:00 and 12:00 for 650 baht and takes five hours, dropping off at the train station and Talad Kaset 2 minibus station.
Travellers coming to Ko Lanta by public minibus or private car or bike will take the car ferry at Hua Hin Pier in Khlong Thom district, 70 km south of Krabi town. The ferry costs 23 baht per person, plus 90 baht for a car. The passenger fee is usually included in the cost of a minibus ticket between Ko Lanta and Krabi town. Once across the river it’s an eight-km ride through the north part of Ko Lanta Noi and over the newly built bridge to Saladan in the north of Ko Lanta Yai. If you get dropped at Hua Hin Pier with only your two feet, expect to hitch or pay around 300 baht for a sidecar motorbike taxi ride to Lanta Yai.
Various ferries and speedboats connect Ko Lanta directly to other islands and some mainland points throughout the central to southern portion of Thailand’s Andaman Sea, and even into Malaysia. The majority run only in high season from around 1st November to 30th March (exact dates vary by company), but ferries to/from Phuket and Ko Phi Phi operate year round. They all board and disembark at the bustling Saladan Pier on Ko Lanta. Tickets usually include pick up at your hotel and can be booked through any travel agent.
While on ferries to Ko Lanta, ignore the boat staffers who try to sell overpriced transfers to your hotel upon arrival. Saladan always has loads of waiting taxis and there is no need to pay for one before you arrive.
North of Ko Lanta
Ao Nang and Railay: In high season only, a ferry departs Ko Lanta at 13:30 for 550 baht and takes two to three hours, dropping passengers at Railay and Noppharat Thara Pier near Ao Nang. Going to Ko Lanta, the ferry departs Haad Noppharat Thara at 10:30, picking up on Railay an hour later.
Ko Phi Phi and Phuket: Year-round slow ferries depart Ko Lanta at 08:00 and 13:00 and cost 450 baht to Phi Phi or 800 baht to Phuket. In high season, a couple of speedboats depart at 13:00 for 800 baht to Phi Phi and 1,500 to Phuket, while the Tigerline ferry picks up on Lanta at 15:30 and costs about the same as speedboats. From Phuket, the slow ferry departs at 08:00, a Tigerline ferry at the same time, and speedboats at 10:30 and 11:15, and they all pick on Phi Phi shortly thereafter.
Ko Yao Noi / Ko Yao Yai: In high season, a Tigerline ferry departs Ko Lanta at 12:30 for 1,500 baht. From the Yao islands, the ferry runs back to Lanta at 08:30. In low season, head to Krabi town or Phuket for a transfer.
Krabi town and Ko Jum (aka Ko Pu): In high season, ferries depart for Ko Lanta from Khlong Jilad Pier in Krabi town at 11:30 for 400 baht and take two hours, returning from Ko Lanta at 08:30. For the same price you can be dropped at Ko Jum along the way. In low season, take a public minibus towards Krabi and if heading to Jum, jump out in Nua Khlong and look for a songthaew to the local pier in Laem Kruat.
South of Ko Lanta
Three companies—Bundhaya, Satun Pakbara Speedboat Club and Tigerline—run high-season island hopping routes from Ko Lanta south. Don’t expect punctuality from any of them.
Using speedboats, Bundhaya and Satun Pakbara both depart Ko Lanta at 10:30 and run to Ko Ngai for 650 baht; Ko Muk for 900 baht; Ko Kradan for 1,150 baht; Ko Bulon Lae for 1,600 baht; and Ko Lipe for 1,900 baht. From Ko Lipe they shove off at 09:00 and stop at each of these islands on the way north, picking up on Muk at around 11:00 and arriving at Lanta an hour later.
The Tigerline ferry departs Ko Lanta at 10:30 and stops at all of the islands mentioned above, plus Ko Libong and Ko Lao Liang (both new stops for 2019) before terminating at Langkawi Island in Malaysia at around 18:00. Tigerline’s prices are a little higher than the speedboats for these routes.
In low season, take a minibus to Trang to arrange local ferries to Ko Ngai, Ko Muk, Ko Kradan and Ko Libong; or Pakbara for a transfer to Ko Lipe.
Ko Lanta’s large size means that most visitors either hire taxis or rent a vehicle to explore. Taxis include sidecar motorbikes, four-wheel tuk tuks and unmarked cars and minibuses. Prices start at 100 baht for a sidecar motorbike taxi from Saladan to Khlong Dao and go up sharply from there. Tuk tuks are more expensive, making Lanta pricey to get around without a vehicle.
On the main drag in central Haad Phra Ae, Mr Chai Tour and Lanta E-Bike Tours both rent out solid mountain bikes starting at 150 baht per day, and pushbikes for less. Quite a few resorts also provide bicycles.
Motorbike rental is widely available on Lanta for 150 to 250 baht. If you don’t mind riding with your pack, skip the taxis and rent near the pier in Saladan, where we’ve had good luck with Max Travel and Tour on several occasions.
Car and van rental can be arranged through most travel agents or in person at local agencies, such as Lanta Sky Car and Motorbike Rental on the main drag in Haad Phra Ae. Economy cars start at around 1,100 baht per day. Alternately you could rent a car upon arrival at Krabi Airport and drive to Lanta yourself.
Many of Lanta's roads are dangerous and full of potholes with inadequate space allocated to pedestrians. Don’t walk at night on parts of the main drag without a torch, please don’t ride a motorbike if you don’t know how, and read this first if you’re thinking of riding unlicensed.