By now I have done quite a bit of traveling in Thailand and one of my frequent trips takes me from Bangkok to Koh Tao. As much as I love the city sometimes a girl needs a little bit of island R&R.
Since I usually travel to Koh Tao for scuba diving I have my dive gear in tow – never fun especially as a solo traveler. With or without dive gear, there are a few ways to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao to choose from.
As the name implies Koh Tao is an island so there is no way around taking the ferry for part of the way but depending on the connection and combination this can be quick and painless or a rather lengthy process.
With that said, it will depend on your budget, on how much time you have, and as I recently discovered on how old you are – certain journeys are simply not necessary anymore once you hit a certain age…
How to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao? I tell you the 3 ways depending on travel time and budget.
Bangkok to Koh Tao – For Fat Cats
Needless to say, the fastest way to get to Koh Tao from Bangkok is to fly. Unless you take a private helicopter, an option I have not researched yet, you will have to take a regular plane from Bangkok to Koh Samui and take the ferry to Koh Tao from there.
Since Bangkok Airways has a bit of a monopoly for domestic flights on this route this is also the most expensive albeit fastest option. Flights leave from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and take 1h10 to Samui. Prices vary depending on season and time of the day you fly but they start at EUR 65 for a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Koh Samui. The nice thing is that a 20kg checked luggage allowance is included in the price.
If you choose this option make sure to select your travel time wisely unless you want to spend the night on Koh Samui.
Read More: Exploring Koh Samui with Tongsai Bay Hotel.
There are many flights throughout the day so you can time it to connect with the ferry to Koh Tao. Two ferry companies are well-known and well regarded: Lomprayah and Seatran.
Lomprayah departs from both Pralarn and Nathon Pier on Koh Samui. From Pralarn Pier the trip takes1h30 and goes via Koh Phangan for THB 600 (plus transfer from the airport to the pier). From Nathon Pier, the ferry sometimes has a longer stopover in Koh Phangan. The Nathon Pier is a little further from the airport. For both routes, you can buy your ticket with transfer to the pier when you arrive at Samui airport. However, if you are traveling during peak season I would recommend booking your ticket in advance. You can do that via the Lomprahay website and pay with your credit card.
Seatran leaves from Bangrak Pier and you can book your tickets including airport transfer on their website. One way from Koh Samui to Koh Tao cost THB 750 and they will advise on departure times so you can time your plane arrival accordingly. The Seatran ferry takes 2 hours.
I have traveled on both ferries and felt safe as well as comfortable each time. Your luggage gets a tag according to your destination and the staff will stow it in the bow for the trip. It will wait for you on the jetty once you arrive. Inside there is a snack bar and toilets and they also have a VIP area you can book for a little bit extra.
Bangkok to Koh Tao – For Backpackers on a Budget
The cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao is by bus and ferry, an option also offered by Lomprayah (Seatran only offers a bus/ferry combo from Phuket to Koh Tao).
On my most recent trip to the island, I chose this option to come back to Bangkok because I was on a budget and I wasn’t in a hurry. I also remembered the seats on the bus to be comfy and big, with outlets, and a free lunch. I had remembered incorrectly – those are the busses from Bangkok to Phuket and Khao Lak.
The bus/ferry combo from Bangkok to Koh Tao departs on Khao San Road making it the perfect way to travel for backpackers. Traveling to Koh Tao from Bangkok you will leave at 9 pm and arrive at 8.45 am the next morning with various stops on the way. A one-way ticket cost THB 1,100 making this the cheapest option to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao.
There are a few busses to come back to town but regardless it is a long bus ride and you will rejoice once you board the ferry in Chumphon.
Make sure to check exact departure times as they may change depending on the season.
The buses are comfortable enough, have a toilet on board, and a separate compartment for your suitcase or big backpack. However, seats are small and they recline. Which depending on where you sit or how tall you are can be a blessing or your demise for the next 7 hours. They make one longer stop when you can stretch your legs, use a regular toilet, and buy food as well as some time before you board the ferry.
Honestly, with this transfer I am unsure what to tell you – I recently did it, I survived but I realized there definitely comes a time when you are too old for this shit just like sharing a hostel room or getting drunk on fishbowl.
Read more: Confessions of a Hostel Virgin.
Needless to say, if you dare to brave this version make sure to pack enough snacks, a refillable water bottle, have all your electronics charged, and ask for a seat upfront so you don’t have to battle with someone who reclines in front of you!
Bangkok to Koh Tao – The Golden Middle
If you are not on the tightest budget and don’t want to sit on a bus enjoying the Thailand countryside for hours on end, I recommend you book a ticket with Nok Air or Air Asia to get you from Bangkok to Koh Tao. With a fly & ferry ticket, you will fly to Bangkok Don Mueang airport to Surat Thani, take a short bus ride from here to the pier and then head towards Koh Tao.
While this sounds the most complicated it is actually a rather easy option as you have your entire journey on one ticket and are thus not liable for delays. And while the whole trip takes at least 8 hours it also means very little time spent on a bus (as you have realized by now I am not a fan of those bus trips anymore) but a quick flight and then a comfortable ferry ride. Prices with Nok Air and Air Asia start at THB 2000 for a one-way ticket, an inexpensive option if you are traveling with hand luggage only.
For me the perfect way to travel as I like how the long journey is broken up, it is not too pricey, and I am booked on one ticket from Bangkok to Koh Tao!