To actually get to the island, one can only arrive via ferry. To my knowledge, there is no way via plane to arrive here and many people usually take the ferry from Surat Thani on the mainland, or neighbouring island Koh Phangan / Koh Samui. However, there are 3 main ways to make it to the ports that ferries leave from.
I actually made my way here from Bangkok. It was a night bus. To break it down, the ride was comfortable, the bus had a toilet, and it was amazingly punctual. Lomprayah, which was the bus company I used, is the biggest transportation company in Thailand and coordinates both bus, ferry, minivan and other transport options really well.
The ride was also well worth the 1100 THB which I paid. I purchased the tickets in advance, but I realised that you can actually buy the tickets at the office itself, located in Khao San Road (backpacker’s district) in person a day before your departure (unless you’re going on a really busy date [eg: day before the Full Moon Party etc.]
Tip: To check the availability of the night bus tickets to Koh Tao (from Bangkok), use 12go Asia’s website and input your starting destination as Bangkok, and end-point as Koh Tao, click on Lomprayah’s night bus option and click check out. This page will tell you the number of available seats left on the bus. There should be 50 places normally. If there are 47 seats available, it means 3 people have already pre-booked their seats. You can also use this same trick for the rest of Lomprayah’s routes, or any companies on 12goAsia really.
It was my first ever night bus in Thailand. Boy, was I worried. I did not know how it would be like, whether there would be a toilet on board, or the general conditions and methods of boarding. I tried googling, but the information online about travel experiences on Lomprayah’s night bus from Bangkok to Koh Tao were sparse. At best, I gleaned the price and the timings from them. On hindsight, I should have asked the Lomprayah office staff about these. Either way, I would still have to go on the bus as I had booked it in advance.
At around 1930, you meet at the front of Lomprayah’s office for registration. Do bring along your printed ticket (if it had been booked in advance), or your receipt (if you had done a direct purchase in person). They will be exchanged for a few things.
After collecting your items and registering, the staff will tell you to come back at 2030 to board the bus leaving for Surat Thani’s pier.
The bus was really comfy. Lomprayah has such good amentities. Each person was handed a thick blanket which shielded us from the air-conditioning. Coupled with my jacket, it was an interrupted but still a decent’s night sleep.
One thing that I really liked about the bus was the cleanliness. It was so clean, it made me so happy paying the price. (It was the most expensive night bus option, you see.)
Of course, the toilet was a true blessing as well. Squeaky clean (and equipped with toilet paper), it was quite a bizarre experience going to the toilet early in the morning, as there is a little slit at eye’s level in which you can view the night traffic along the road. Together with the shaking from the moving bus, it just strikes me as quite bizarre.
At around 0000-0100, there is one rest stop for 15 minutes in which you can go to the toilet (perhaps you can’t go to the toilet when its a moving vehicle?), buy some snacks and just stretch your legs in general. Please do remember to come back on time. I am quite sure that Lomprayah, as good of a company it is, will be happy leaving you in the little rest stop if you’re slow.
At the rest stop
You will arrive at the pier in Surat Thani at around 0500-0600 in the morning. The ferry leaves for Koh Tao at 0700, so be sure to have some method to while your time away. There is a little non-AC cafe that opens at 0600 so you can purchase some food here. Otherwise, you can sit down at the many available seats around the pier to wait for the ferry.
Be sure to stamp your ferry ticket as well! I suggest to wait till the hordes of ferry goers finish, before getting your ticket stamped
Duration: 8-9 hours
Tip: If you book as a solo traveller, there is a high possibility of you getting 2 seats all to yourself! Such a good and spacious experience, really.
Tip: I recommend you to go take a massage (preferably a foot massage) while waiting for the bus if its within your budget, just to while the time away in bliss and comfort. There is a massage shop just beside Lomprayah’s office. You’re not only paying for a massage. You’re paying for a waiting space and air-conditioned comfort while waiting for your bus. THB 250 is gonna go a long way. I saw many other backpackers waiting it out before 1930 outside Lomprayah’s office and some of them looked sweaty and uncomfortable. Not to mention that you have to wait another hour till 2030 till you get to the bus.
Tip: If you have Google Maps /Maps.Me on your phone, you could input the end point “Lomprayah Pier Surat Thani” and check where you are on the map.
Tip: There was a couple behind me, who were debating how to get the driver to stop, as they needed to smoke. They were talking so loudly, it was so funny to hear their devious plans. Please just go up to the driver and tell him if you need a short break if the bus has not arrived near the rest stop yet.(especially a toilet break). I am quite sure that he will accommodate your request 🙂 We are humans, after all.
The ferry in December was a choppy experience. As usual, I slept through almost the entire ride. However, I do vaguely remember at some point waking up to some toddler bawling his eyes out at the front. And to quite a lot of people puking at the sides. To be fair, it was quite a bumpy ride and even I thought that I would get seasick, till I felt back asleep. Such a good talent to have.
The ferry has both an indoors as well as an outdoors component to it. I voted for indoors as it seemed less open, and I could keep my bags more securely around me.
Duration: 2 hours
Tip: When you board the ferry, do not be like the rest and throw your belongings at the front of the ferry. Keep them with you, there will be enough space, and when you reach your destination, you can be at the front of the queue victorious with your belongings! Be travel-savvy (not saying that I am, but I try to :’) !
Other bus companies that provide night buses from Bangkok to Koh Tao would be Songserm, Paradive Travel, and Jolly Travel, which are all listed in the booking website as well. I heard bad ratings about SongSerm in which your belongings get swiped and messed about with either during the bus journey itself or the rest stop. I’m not sure about the other 2 companies but I am sure that Lomprayah is the best and most established one.
There are 2 more conventional routes to get to Koh Tao.
One is the night train via Thai Railways, which I heard has been pretty decent too. I just found more positive responses for the bus so I opted for that instead. There were some travel blogs I watched of both night train & bus travel from Bangkok to Koh Tao and that was how I made up my mind.
There are some great blog posts about travel via the train which I will link here.
The other is a flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui, which will be a tad pricy. Koh Samui does not have any budget airlines that fly to it, you’ll mostly have to fly using Bangkok Airlines (Assuming that you’re flying from a hub within Thailand).
A flight from Bangkok to Koh Samui via Bangkok Airlines will set you back around THB 4250 and takes 1 hour. The ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao will cost THB 600 and takes 2 hours.
Like the rest of you, I contemplated catching a cheap flight (using Airasia) from Bangkok to Surat Thani. I was hoping to catch the early ferries (0700) from Surat Thani to Koh Tao. However, there were no flights that arrived early in the morning (0300-0500). The only options were to arrive at 0700-0800, and wait till 1300 for the afternoon Lomprayah ferry there. If there was an early morning flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani, by all means take this method because approximates around the same price as the night bus. And you get more beauty sleep at the same time.
I have realised that some people are asking about the night ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Tao, especially if they arrive in Surat Thani during the evening / early night. I thought it might be good to consolidate some information for my readers.
I personally have not considered this route until now, as I was (and still am) apprehensive about braving a night boat which will take 7-8 hours on the possibly choppy seas (based on my experience using a day ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Tao). The upside is saving a night on accommodation, albeit with the possibility of throwing up all night. Do take a Maxolon pill / Dimenhydrinate pill 30 minutes before boarding the ferry!
Price of minivan taxi from Surat Thani Airport to Surat Thani Pier: THB 100-150
Time of Departure: 2200 / 2300 (depending on company)
Price of Ferry Ride: THB 500-600
Duration of Ride: 7-8 hours
You could book the ticket on-site, as it is harder to purchase online.
The night bus / train is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. It was comfortable for me, but comfort levels differ across different people. As you can see, I really tried to consider other options before deciding on the night bus. And, if there is any outdated / incorrect info, do give me a message, will you? 🙂
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