Getting to Koh Phangan was one of the longest travel days we’ve ever had. To get to Surat Thani from Bangkok, you will likely be taking the overnight train which we wrote about here.
Once you arrive in Surat Thani, all you have to do is take a bus and then a ferry. Sounds simple enough, right?
Arriving in Surat Thani
So, you’ve arrived in Surat Thani, but likely an hour or two later than you anticipated. That’s okay, though! Once you get off the train there are at least half a dozen different travel agencies trying to sell you on their bus and ferry package.
We look into taking a taxi to the ferry terminal, but found it isn’t really cost effective. You will be best off purchasing tickets for a bus and ferry together.
It seem all these agencies and ferry operators are in it together, so if you have time and are looking for a good deal, it’s probably best to walk around for a few minutes to find the best price.
Finding a Bus
The first thing you’ll notice is that “island time” begins in Surat Thani. There are technically timetables for buses, but it really doesn’t seem like they are followed very strictly. It’s best to choose an operator, stick with them, and try to not be frustrated by the lack of schedule. You can also find buses to other destinations such as Khao Sok, Krabi, and Phuket.
While you wait, there are cafes that have surprisingly good Wi-Fi and some food and drink options too.
We went with Phantip, which is more of a travel agency or tour company. They have their own bus fleet, but sell tickets to the ferries of other operators. We chose them because they were the cheapest option at 400 Baht per person. We bought our tickets online ahead of time but the price is the same in person.
The fastest option, but also most expensive, is with Lomproyah. They have their own bus fleet and their own fleet of high-speed catamarans. Tickets on Lomproyah run at 750 Baht per person.
Regardless of the company you go with, the bus ride from the Surat Thani Train Station to Donsak Pier is about an hour and a half. It’s a scenic drive and the bus we were on with Phantip was comfortable too.
It’s also important to note that because there are a few different ferry operators, it can feel a little shady going with a company like Phantip, rather than a company that runs both the bus and ferry. We got dropped off at one terminal without any directions while our fellow bus-mates going to Koh Samui carried on to another terminal. It made us wonder if we got short-changed.
Waiting for the Ferry
We were dropped off at the ferry terminal without any directions. Now what? Phantip dropped us off and essentially said “good luck” and left us on our own.
After a few minutes, a man in a crank-steered cart gave us a lift to the queuing area which thankfully had an information booth and some restaurants.
After we spoke to the kind ladies at the information booth, we found out our ferry didn’t leave for over two hours. Thanks Phantip!
We killed time by having lunch at the Don & Sam Restaurant, which is located conveniently right at the pier. It was affordable, pretty tasty, and had free Wi-Fi. They also had a few outlets so we could charge our laptops and phones.
This was the part of the trip that made us wish we had booked directly with a company that runs both the bus and the ferry. We paid the cheapest price we could and the customer service we got reflected that.
Taking the Ferry
Since we took Raja Ferry, we can only comment on that experience. We boarded the ferry and found two levels of open seating that was surprisingly comfortable. There wasn’t air-conditioning but since the seating was open-air there was enough of a breeze to make it bearable.
Onboard, there is a small shop that sells anything a small convenience store would. You can buy water, tea, and snacks.
There are bathrooms onboard too, but they aren’t the cleanest. At least there was soap and water.
The ferry ride itself took two and a half hours. On a sunny day, you’ll get some great views of the blue waters Thailand is famous for.
If you book with Lomproyah, the ferry ride takes an hour and a half.
Arriving on Koh Phangan
After getting off the ferry on Koh Phangan it seems like there are a hundred people ready to give you a ride on a taxi motorcycle. For us, a motorcycle wasn’t an option because we had our suitcases.
The guys that run the pickup truck taxis are definitely going to try to rip you off. They wanted 100 Baht each for a 5 minute drive to our hostel. We settled on 100 baht total but after waiting around in the back of a pickup truck for 5 minutes without moving and our driver nowhere in sight we grabbed our suitcases and started walking.
Regardless of where you’re going on Koh Phangan and how you’re getting there, be prepared to bargain.
So what’s the best way to get to Koh Phangan?
Well, this really depends on your budget and your patience.
If you’re high on budget and low on patience, then it’s definitely recommended to go with Lomproyah since they have their own buses and ferries. You’ll spend about $10-15 USD more per person, but you’ll arrive at least an hour sooner.
If you’re low on budget and high on patience, then see who the cheapest option is. It’s probably Phantip. Just be prepared to be on island time from the get go. From our experience, we arrived in Surat Thani at 9:20 AM and didn’t make it onto Koh Phangan until nearly 5:00 PM.
Once you’re on the island, remember to negotiate with your “taxi” driver. They are all in the business of making money and rightfully or not, you’ll be seen as another farang with a fat wallet.
The roads are walkable enough that if you’re staying within half an hour of the pier it might be best to walk.