Surat Thani Airport is located 25 kilometres west of downtown Surat and is serviced by more than a dozen daily flights to/from Bangkok with Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile and Thai Lion Air.
Departing after every arriving flight, buses operated by Phantip Travel shuttle passengers from the airport to downtown Surat for 100 baht per person. Tickets can be purchased at a clearly marked desk in the arrivals area, where private taxis can also be arranged. If you know where you’re staying in downtown Surat, the bus driver can drop you at or near your hotel.
The same buses run back to the airport before every scheduled departing flight; catch them in front of the Phantip office, located between the two Talad Kaset bus stations on the south side of Talad Mai Road. Departure times are posted on Phantip’s website.
Flying directly into Ko Samui's airport would be more fun if you’re heading to the islands, but you can save significant cash by flying into Surat Thani. Air Asia, Nok Air and Thai Smile offer all-in “fly and ferry” services to Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan via Surat Thani (also offered for Ko Tao but via Chumphon's airport). Phantip Travel also offers direct airport-to-islands transfers that can be booked online, or you could book a direct transfer from one of the ferry company desks in the airport arrivals area.
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Surat Thani's train station is actually located in the town of Phun Phin, some 13 kilometres west of downtown Surat. Orange local buses depart frequently from Talad Kaset 1 Station and can take you straight to the train station for 15 baht; you can also flag them down as they head west along Talad Mai Road. The same local buses pick up in front of the train station, or you can give in to taxi drivers who will ask for at least 300 baht to downtown Surat.
Trains depart for Bangkok at 10:40 in the morning and then 10 times from 16:45 to midnight, stopping at Chumphon, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Hua Hin and Phetchaburi (among others) along the way. From Bangkok, there are 10 departures from 00:20 to 08:05 and another at 16:45. A number of different fares are available, including around 250 baht for a soft seat in second class, around 800 baht for a sleeper and up to 1,800 baht for a private cabin.
Heading south, trains depart for Trang at 06:30 and 16:30. There are seven departures to Phatthalung from 00:20 to 09:45; the trains that leave at 06:00 and 07:15 stop in Nakhon Si Thammarat, while those departing at 00:25, 02:00 and 06:00 carry onto the Malaysia border at Sungai Kolok.
You’re best off stopping by the train station a day in advance to get up-to-date departure info and the lowest fares. If that’s not possible, travel agents will arrange tickets for a commission.
Surat Thani has three bus stations. Located off the north side of Talad Mai Road between Soi 8 and Soi 10, the local bus station is known as Talad Kaset 1, with an English sign that says “Downtown Transportation Hub 1”. It services local orange buses that run frequently to/from the train station (15 baht) and long-distance bus terminal (10 baht) from 07:00 to 18:00. It also services provincial songthaews, including an orange one running to/from Don Sak.
Almost directly across Talad Mai Road from Talad Kaset 1, between Soi 31 and Soi 33, is Talad Kaset 2, or “Downtown Transportation Hub 2”. This is a larger station servicing regional minibuses along with a few regular buses. Fares include:
Chaiya: Minibuses depart every 20 minutes from 07:00 to 17:00 for 50 baht and take about an hour.
Chumphon: Minibuses depart hourly from 07:00 to 17:00 for 170 baht and take 2.5 hours.
Khanom: Minibuses depart every 45 minutes from 07:00 to 18:00 for 100 baht and take a little over an hour.
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Minibuses depart every 30 minutes from 06:00 to 18:00 for 120 baht and take around two hours.
Phatthalung: Minibuses depart every two hours from 08:00 to 16:00 for 180 baht and take 3.5 hours.
Hat Yai: Minibuses depart hourly from 05:00 to 17:00 for 235 baht and take around five hours.
Krabi: Minibuses depart at least once per hour from 06:00 to 18:30 for 170 baht and take just over two hours. Regular buses depart every 1.5 hours in the same timeframe for 150 baht.
Phuket: Minibuses depart hourly from 08:00 to 18:00 for 200 baht and take over three hours, stopping in Phang Nga town for the same price.
Khao Lak: Regular buses depart at 05:30, 08:30, 10:50, 11:40, 13:00, 14:00 and 16:00, cost 170 baht and take close to four hours. These also service Khao Sok National Park for 120 baht, Takua Pa for 140 baht and Phuket for 250 baht.
Trang: Minibuses depart hourly from 07:00 to 17:00 for 160 baht and take around four hours.
Ranong: Minibuses depart hourly from 06:00 to 15:00 for 190 baht and take around four hours.
Surat’s long-distance bus terminal, known locally as Bor Kor Sor Mai, is located seven kilometres west of downtown off Route 401. If arriving here you can take a white songthaew for 15 baht or orange local bus for 10 baht for the ride to downtown Surat. While some regional minibuses such as Phuket and Hat Yai stop here, this station is mainly for travel to Bangkok and beyond. Fares include:
Bangkok: Around a dozen buses run by the 999 government service and private companies depart from 07:30 to 10:45, and again from 18:00 to 20:30. Tickets cost from 470 to 550 baht for first class, up to 731 baht for VIP. All stop at Bangkok’s Tai Mai (Southern) Terminal and many also run to Morchit (Northern) Terminal. Many also service Hua Hin. The trip to Bangkok takes around 10 hours.
Rayong: Departs at 16:30 and 19:30 for 728 baht, takes around 13 hours and also services Hua Hin and Pattaya.
Phitsanulok: One first-class bus and one VIP bus depart at 16:00 for 861 baht and 1,148 baht. The ride takes around 16 hours.
Chiang Mai: A VIP bus departs at 16:00 for 1,459 baht and takes around 20 hours.
Five companies run ferries to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao from a few different piers in Surat Thani province. Most depart from Don Sak, 60 kilometres east of Surat town, but there are exceptions.
Lomprayah is arguably the most reputable ferry company. All-inclusive bus/ferry transfers depart Surat town for Ko Samui (450 baht) and Ko Pha Ngan (550 baht) at 09:00, 11:10 and 14:30, and the trip takes around 2.5 hours to Samui and three hours to Pha Ngan. Transfers for Ko Tao depart Surat town at 09:00 and 14:30, cost 700 baht and take over four hours. Lomprayah boats depart from a pier on Laem Thuat, a few kilometres west of the Seatran and Raja ferry piers in Don Sak. Tickets can be purchased directly from Lomprayah offices at the airport, near the train station, near the long-distance bus terminal, and online at www.lomprayah.com.
Seatran operates car/passenger ferries to Ko Samui via a pier in Don Sak, with transfers departing Surat town hourly from 05:30 to 17:30. The cost is around 200 baht per person. The same company also runs Seatran Discovery, a faster passenger-only ferry with transfers departing Surat town at 09:30 and 12:30, and arriving at Ko Samui (550 baht), Ko Pha Ngan (600 baht) and Ko Tao (900 baht) three to six hours later. Tickets can be purchased directly at the main Seatran office just east of the City Pillar Shrine on Talad Mai Road, or at the airport. More info at www.seatranferry.com and
Raja runs car/passenger ferries from the same pier as Seatran in Don Sak and is generally considered to be the slowest and least reliable. Ferries depart Don Sak hourly from 05:00 to 19:00, but transfers from Surat town are available to Ko Samui (240 baht) and Ko Pha Ngan (310 baht) only at 05:30, 08:00, 11:00, 14:00 and 16:30, and Ko Tao only at 05:30, 08:00 and 11:00. The whole trip is supposed to take three hours to Samui, four hours to Pha Ngan and five hours to Tao, but often takes longer. Tickets can be purchased directly at the airport and ferry pier; otherwise you’ll be at the mercy of travel agents.
Songserm offers transfers to a passenger-only express boat to Ko Samui (350 baht), Ko Pha Ngan (450 baht) and Ko Tao (750 baht) via Tha Thong Pier, located around eight kilometres east of downtown Surat. These pick up in Surat town at 07:30 and 14:30 and, as far as we could tell, can only be purchased through travel agents unless you head to the pier on your own by songthaew. More info at www.songserm-expressboat.com.
If you arrive late and don’t want to sleep in Surat town, a Night Boat departs for Ko Samui (400 baht), Ko Pha Ngan (500 baht) and Ko Tao (650 baht) at 23:00 from Bandon Pier in downtown Surat. This boat is geared more towards carrying freight and won’t be the comfiest option.
Surat Thani is one of the most frustrating places in Thailand when it comes to touts and travel agents who mislead and overcharge travellers. If you take a motorbike taxi or tuk tuk while carrying luggage, expect the “helpful” driver to ask where you’re going and then drop you at a travel office where they’ll get a commission if you make a purchase. They’ll often imply that there’s only one option for booking the ticket you need. Keep calm and remember that there are loads of different ways to arrange tickets in Surat -- it’s your choice.
For transfers to the islands, we recommend buying tickets directly through the ferry companies whenever possible. Otherwise, you can expect fair prices and service at My Place Hotel; Pha Ngan Travel (between Talad Mai Soi 27 and Soi 29); Thum Thong Tour (a bit north of Pha Ngan Travel on Talad Mai Road) and the larger Phantip Travel (between Talad Kaset 1 and 2 stations on Talad Mai Road). We’re not saying that these are the only reputable agents in town, but we’ve had good experiences with them.
Be wary of some (not all) travel offices immediately surrounding the bus stations, which are marked by English signs advertising a bunch of different destinations. We’ve also heard troubling reports about the travel desk at Thairungruang Hotel. In addition to selling tickets at higher rates than normal, scamming travel agents sell “island transfers” for 300 to 400 baht (typical rates to Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan that would normally cover the bus and boat), but upon reaching the pier, travellers are told that these tickets only cover the bus.
At the bus stations, tickets to most destinations are sold directly from the bus companies within the actual roofed terminals. Head to where buses and minibuses are parked and look for desks (at Talad Kaset 2) or windows (at the long-distance bus terminal) marked by signs (some only in Thai) and often some seats for waiting customers. Most are clustered along the southwest side of Talad Kaset 2 Station, and at the southern end of the long-distance terminal.
There are exceptions. The official ticket office for minibuses to Nakhon Si Thammarat is located in a shophouse office across from the northeast corner of Talad Kaset 2 station. The ticket office for Chiang Mai is found across the car park from the east side of the long-distance bus terminal. When walking around the peripheries of both stations, ignore the touts who shout, “where you go?”
Also avoid the 700-baht “tourist buses” that run direct from Surat to Khao San Road in Bangkok and are only available through certain travel agents. Many travellers have reported thefts and other problems on these buses.
Surat is a fairly easy city to walk around in, with the Ban Don riverfront area being especially conducive to leisurely strolls. Otherwise you can hop on a motorbike taxi, four-wheel tuk tuk, or one of the blue or white songthaews that cruise up and down Talad Mai Road and charge 10- to 15-baht per person. Regular meter taxis can be arranged through hotels. If heading to/from the train station or long-distance bus terminal, a white songthaew or orange local bus (catch them at Talad Kaset 1) will be the cheapest option.
Bicycles can be rented at My Place Hotel for 100 baht per day. Motorbike rental is available at a shop directly across the street from the east side of the City Pillar Shrine, between Talad Mai and Bandon roads; the English-speaking owner (T: 081 164 6865) can also deliver. Alternately, head to X Rentals and Service (T: 083 968 7298) towards the south side of town off Karunrat Road. Several car rental companies have booths at the airport.