Thailand is home to some of the prettiest islands in SE Asia. Not only that, Thailand has become one of the world’s top destinations for backpackers. Because of this, island hopping has become a major source of getting around this beautiful country. You have to be careful of scams and getting overcharged from tourist companies and locals trying to rip you off. Sometimes it’s really annoying all the people trying to get you to buy ferry tickets and package deals.
I remember when I first visited Thailand back in 2012, it wasn’t near as bad as it is now. After visiting again 5 years later, I realized how much it has changed and how it use to be so easy without all the extra companies trying to rack on extra charges. I’ll say it again and again, I do not like booking through third parties, only under certain circumstances. Its my main guide to budget traveling. Third parties always take a cut. It’s always cheaper to go straight to the source. With that being said, Ill discuss how I island hopped in Thailand.
Bangkok —> Koh Pha Ngan
Thousands of people flock to this island once month for the world-famous full moon party. If you’re in Thailand when one is taking place, it’s definitely worth a visit, that’s if you can find accomodation and transportation there. There are many ways to get to Koh PhaNgan depending on where you’re at. I was in Bangkok looking for the cheapest way to get there. I found two options:
- Buy a joint bus/ferry ticket from Bangkok. After researching multiple joint ferry tickets and reviews, Lomprayah high-speed ferries seems to be your best bet. They offer a bus/ferry ticket from Koh San Road in Bangkok all the way to Koh PhaNgan pier for 1,300B ($38 usd ). It says it will take around 8 hours for the entire trip, but you can never be so sure. You can visit their site here for bookings. They also offer ferry and bus routes from all over Thailand from different locations.
- Book a flight from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang Airport (DMK) to Surat Thani (URT) and hope to find a cheap flight. Sometimes you can get lucky booking a week or so in advance and find flights for under $50 usd on AirAsia, NOK air, or Thai Lion airways. Once you land at the airport, there will be a a blue sign that says Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh PhaNgan. You can buy your ferry tickets there. You need to make sure your flight lands in Surat Thani before 4pm. The last bus to Koh PhaNgan leaves around 4:05. There are 3 different ferries that operate out of Surant Thani airport to Thong Sala Pier. All three companies have different bus/ferry times and prices ranging from $12-$20. The bus ride to Donsak Pier is around an hour drive.
- Raja Ferry
- Ferry Samui
- Lomprayah High Speed
Raja ferry has a massive car ferry that can hold an undetermined amount of people. However, do not be shocked if you show up on the boat and you do not have a seat and have to set outside on the ground. They do not have near enough seats to accommodate the amount of people they can fit on this boat. And with that being said, it’s obviously a lot slower to get to Koh PhaNgan than the high-speed ferry.
Koh Tao <–> Koh PhaNgan <–> Koh Samui
Getting to these three islands isn’t difficult. They make it pretty simple for you to book and arrange your ferry tickets. I never bought roundtrip ferry tickets, just for the fact that you never know what can change. You might want to stay longer, or you might want to leave sooner. On Koh Tao, Lomprayah, Ferry Samui, and Seaatran operates the ferries that goes to Koh Samui and Koh PhaNgan, along with other options available. They have multiple times a day that you can go ranging from $12-$20. Right when you get off the pier at Mae Haad in Koh Tao you will see the timetables and prices to book your ticket. Make sure when you book your ferry to Koh Samui, you check and make sure what pier they are going to. There are three piers on Koh Samui, and based on where your staying on the island, will be the best pier to try to dock at.
Koh Samui –> Phuket
When I did this route, I booked my bus/ferry ticket through my hostel I was staying at. Just for the fact that I wasn’t near the ferry dock to buy the ticket directly from the company. And after some research I realized the hostel only charged couple bucks more to book through them and it included transpiration to the pier Koh Samui. I paid about $9 (300B) more once I got back on land to have the shuttle take me straight to my hostel in Phuket. It takes around 9 hours to make this trip and don’t expect a big bus. The company I used, they crammed us in like sardines in a small van with all our luggage basically on top of us!
There are tons of bus/ferry routes you can take that will cover every island in Thailand. A helpful website that I use to give me an idea of what companies travel to which islands is here. This website is extremely helpful when planning your trip to just about anywhere. They usually don’t tack on a third-party charges like most websites. But it will give you an idea of what companies travel to which islands along with the time and price, and then you can go directly to their website and book your tickets.
If your interested in going off the beaten path to more secluded islands, check out Koh Lipe, Koh Mak, Koh Muk, and Koh Lanta.