So you’re done with the temples and it’s time for some serious beach time. Where better to head than the glorious islands in Thailand’s Trat province? Afterall the pier at Laem Ngop is just a share taxi, tuk tuk, bus, another bus and a songtheaw ride away. Then from there you just need to settle on which island — Ko Chang, Ko Maak, Ko Kut, Ko Wai — oh decisions decisions. Read on for the inside line on how to get between the two — and yes, it is possible to leave Siem Reap after breakfast (not brunch!) and be on the island in time for a before-dinner dip.
You can get there three different ways: one, by tackling the notorious border crossing at Poipet/Aranyaprathet; two, by taking the more adventurous but quieter and scam-free crossing at Pailin, and; three, avoiding all that by flying to Bangkok and catching the bus from there. For the first two, the journeys can be tackled either by minibus, share taxi or private taxi.
If you have the money, the easiest, most comfortable and quickest way is to take a private taxi all the way to Trat, which can be done in an air-conditioned Lexus for about $140 one-way. Provided there are no obstructions, you could in theory make the whole trip in around eight hours (presuming it takes an hour to get through the border).
A little more cheaply, you can book a bus direct from Siem Reap to Trat for $13, which involves taking a bus from Siem Reap to Poipet, and on the other side of the border you’ll be put on a mini-van for That. The bus leaves Siem Reap at 08:00 and should get you to Trat in around 10 hours. It is more likely to take a little longer.
From Siem Reap to Poipet
We cover this extensively in our “How do I get from Bangkok to Siem Reap“, but there are three main ways to do this. By bus ($5), mini-van ($6), or taxi ($45-$50). The bus and mini-van should take about three hours, but can take longer, while the taxi should be able to do the journey on the now sealed road within two and a half hours.
At the border
We recommend leaving Siem Reap no later that 08:00 as you otherwise risk getting caught up in the midday crush at immigration control at the border and losing lots of precious time. A crossing can take as little as ten minutes or as long as three hours — this can be a real wild card when it comes to doing the ruins to beach run in a day.
The most important piece of advice is to ignore all touts — ALL of them. Just walk on by.
From Aranyaprathet to Trat
If you wish to take a taxi from the border to Trat, you will find the stands about 50 metres along the road from the exit from Thai immigration control. A taxi to Trat should cost about $70 (2,200 Baht), and take roughly four and a half to five hours, depending on stops and traffic.
If there’s a group of you, you can hire a private minivan that seats up to six people to take you from Aranyaprathet to Koh Chang for 4,000 Baht including the cost of four adult ferry tickets, which works out at about $20 per person.
To take the bus, once you’re through both sides of immigration, continue on to the market and take a tuk tuk to the government bus station in Aranyprathet (6km away).
Aranyprathet bus station
Aranyprathet bus station has buses to both Bangkok and Chanthaburi, but there are no direct buses to Trat. Instead, you need to catch a bus to Chanthaburi and then change buses there. The bus to Chanthaburi should take around four hours.
There’s no need to leave the bus station as buses to Trat leave from the same terminal you’ll be dropped at coming from Aranyprathet. The bus to Trat should take between 1.5 to two hours.
Take a plane, or two
You can avoid all of the above if you like by catching a flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok and from there to Trat. The earliest flight leaves at 09:45, with Bangkok Airways, and arrives at 11:00. Assuming you won’t make the 11:40 to Trat, there is another flight at 17:10.
Once you are in Trat, you need to get a songtheaw to one of the three piers that serve the Ko Chang island group. All three piers are around an hour from Trat by songtheaw.
Laem Ngop to Ko Chang
There are three piers that send boats to Ko Chang. The main Laem Ngop pier, Centrepoint Pier, 3.5km north and Thammachart Pier some 9km from Laem Ngop, which is aimed primarily at travellers with cars. The later two both double as car ferries and while Thammachart drops you at Ao Sapparot on Ko Chang, the other two, Laem Ngop and Centrepoint, will drop you at Dan Kao, which is a little further from the main beaches.
Ferries leave Laem Ngop nine times a day between 07:00 and 17:00 (on the hour except for 08:00 and 16:00), take an hour and cost 50B. From Thammachart, ferries leave every 90 minutes nine times daily between 07:00 and 19:00 and take just 30 minutes, costing 100B. From Centrepoint departures start at 06:00, and are then every hour from 07:30 until 19:30, take around 45 minutes and cost 80B.
All of the ferries are met on Ko Chang by songtheaws which will transport you to your beach of choice.
Laem Ngop to Ko Wai, Ko Maak and Ko Kham
A speed boat takes passengers from Laem Ngop to Ko Wai and Ko Maak with the last daily departure leaving at 16:00, and costing 450 Baht. It takes about half an hour to get to Ko Wai, and 45 minutes to an hour for Koh Mak.
Laem Sok to Ko Kut
The Laem Sok ferry pier is about 30km away from Trat and serves the Ko Kut Express ferry service, which leaves at 12:30 each day, costing 350 Baht, and arrives 75 minutes later. As it leaves early, you’ll need to overnight in Trat to catch this.
Overall trip time:
Siem Reap to border: 3 – 4 hours by share taxi
Border clearance: 1 – 3 hours
Tuk tuk to Aranyprathet bus station: 15 minutes
Bus to Chanthaburi: 4-4½ hours by bus
Chanthaburi to Trat: 1.5 – 2 hours by bus
Trat to Laem Ngop: 1 hour by songtheaw
Laem Ngop to Ko Chang: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Laem Ngop to Ko Wai: 30 minutes
Laem Ngop to Ko Maak: 45-60 minutes
Laem Ngop to Ko Kut: 1¼ hours
Sam Soeun (taxi Siem Reap to Koh Chang – speaks excellent English)
T: (012) 212 165
Koh Chang Minibus
T: (08) 7785 7695 ; (080 4524 4321
Ko Kut Express
T: (09) 0506 0020 ;(08) 4524 4321
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.