Until Koh Phangan Airport is finished everyone arrives and departs from the island via a ferry or speed boat. Private speed boat hire for a journey between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan can cost anything between 3,000 and 30,000 Thai Baht. It depends on the operator. There are sometimes scheduled speed boats between Maenam and Baan Tai.
The main port town in Koh Phangan is Thongsala. It has 3 deep water ferry piers and can accommodate the biggest boats including the Raja Car Ferry. From Thongsala you can catch a ferry to Koh Samui, Koh Tao (and Nang Yuan) and the mainland. The fastest ferry is Lomprayah; the cheapest is Songserm. Despite spurious talk about thousands upon thousands of tourists descending on Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party you can always turn up at Thongsala and buy a ferry ticket at the pier for the same day travel.
If you are leaving Koh Phangan, it is normal to catch a morning boat so that you can make a connection on the mainland for further travel.
Lomprayah, Songserm and Seatran sell joint boat / bus tickets to Bangkok. At the pier you can also buy fly and ferry combination tickets for Bangkok that cost about $100 for one way. If you want a sleeper berth on a train to Bangkok you will need to use a travel agent in Koh Phangan. For no reason other than opportunity they raise their commissions during the full moon period for this service.
Haad Rin has a pier. The small, Haad Rin Queen regularly plies the route between Maenam in Koh Samui and Haad Rin. As you would expect, it gets full during the full moon. Don’t forget you now get charged 100 Thai Baht to arrive in Haad Rin on the day of the party.
Thong Nai Pan
The Thong Nai Pan Express plies a route daily between Thong Nai Pan Noi and Maenam in Koh Samui. It starts at Thong Nai Pan Noi at 9 am and follows the east coast down to Haad Rin. From there it goes over to Koh Samui. There are request stops at Haad Thian and Haad Yao East. The small ferry gets to Koh Samui at 11am, waits an hour and then heads back at noon. A ticket costs 500 Thai Baht. This boat only runs from April to September. Outside of these months the rough seas of the monsoon causes cancellations.
Here is a list of links for ferry timetables:
Koh Phangan Airport will be Thailand’s fourth privately owned airport. It is being constructed by Kan Air and the present completion date is September 2014. The plan is for turbo props to offer twice daily flights between Don Meung Airport in Bangkok and Koh Phangan Airport. The planes will have a capacity of 50 passengers.
Koh Phangan Airport is being built at Than Phrapad on the east coast near Than Sadet.
At present the nearest operational airport is on Koh Samui. It has lots of Bangkok Airways flights to Bangkok. There are also flights to other destinations in Thailand and in Asia.
You can save money by catching a boat and bus to Suratthani (Air Asia), Chumphon (Solar Air) and Nakhon Si Thammarat (Nok Air) and then fly to Bangkok. You save between $60 and $100 doing this but the journey time is increased by 3 or 4 hours. You can buy combined tickets to take the hassle out of finding transport links. Suratthani Airport is the closest airport on the mainland to Koh Phangan.
Buses / Trains
Most of the ferry companies offer combined bus and boat tickets to Bangkok, Hua Hin and other destinations in Thailand. It is the cheapest form of transport. The buses are air-con and have bad movies (if the DVD player works) to kill the time. The buses from Bangkok travel overnight. From the Koh Phangan you can catch a boat / bus in the morning and be in Bangkok before closing time at night. They drop off at the end of Khao San Road.
The Government 999 Bus starts at Baan Tai and goes to Bangkok. It uses the Raja Car Ferry and so you don’t have to change buses. Other than this convenience it is hard to see how it is ‘VIP’.
A second class sleeper on a train costs slightly more than the bus but potentially offers a better night’s sleep. The first class sleeper consists of a private carriage with 2 beds and a sink and an unrelenting air-con unit. You can only lock the door from the inside. There are first class toilets which are less busy than those in the second and third class carriages.
Links for Trains and Buses
Getting Around Koh Phangan
When you arrive in Koh Phangan by ferry you will be met by Thais keen to steer you to the right taxi. You don’t have to worry about being charged more for using their services.
The word ‘taxi’ can be a bit confusing as the public transport is actually a pick-up truck with 2 rows of seats in the back. The prices are fixed per person. The taxi won’t go until there are at least 4 passengers otherwise they will give you the choice of paying more or waiting for the next boat. Negotiation brings underwhelming results.
Here are some prices for taxis in Koh Phangan
- Thongsala to Haad Rin – 100 THB
- Thongsala to Haad Yao – 150 THB
- Thongsala to Thong Nai Pan – 250 THB
Koh Samui has the same type of vehicles that take fixed routes and offer a hail and ride service for a cheap fixed fee. These are called Songthaews. In Koh Samui they cost between 20 and 50 Thai Baht. They aren’t available in Koh Phangan but could be in the future when the planned island ring road is completed.
Motorbikes / Cars
Simple scooters without gears as well as bigger bikes can be rented all over the island. The price per day starts at 250 Thai Baht. You have to leave your passport as security. If the bike is returned with any type of scratch or other damage the passport is not returned until a disproportionately large sum of money is handed over.
The same is the case for car hire. You can rent cheap jeeps for 1,500 Thai Baht a day. Better 4 wheel drives cost about 2,000 Thai Baht a day. There are no Hertz or Avis outlets on the island so you can’t pre-book a car online. If you rent Sunrise Villa in Thong Nai Pan Noi they will organize car hire for you.
Although several resorts around the island offer car hire on their websites the best place to enquire about renting a car is Thongsala.
Links for Car Hire
There are plenty of mountain bikes to rent in Koh Phangan. They cost between 100 and 150 Thai Baht a day. It is fairly bad value since for $3 more you can get a motorbike.
Mountain bikes are more for recreational use than as an alternative means of transport: the sun is too hot and the terrain too hilly to make it feasible to get around using pedal power. For more about mountain biking see our blog post.
Longtail boats go around the island. They make a nice way to hop from, one beach to another. They work like taxis in the sense in that it is a fixed price per person. Until their is a minimum number of passengers they will either wait or charge you more.
Typical longtail taxi journeys are:
- Chaloklum to Bottle Beach
- Bottle Beach to Thong Nai Pan Noi
- Haad Rin to Haad Yao East