Getting to Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is most easily accessed via Koh Samui Airport though it is slightly cheaper to fly to the regional transport hub of Suratthani. From Koh Samui a fast boat takes only 25 minutes whereas the journey from the mainland takes around eight times longer. If you come overland, the overnight train is the best option with a first class sleeper carriage ideal for families. Buses are the most economic choice with a trip from Bangkok costing only around 650 Baht, all the way to Koh Phangan. Ferry services are more or less hourly throughout the day from Koh Samui and every couple of hours from the mainland; several boats also go regularly from Koh Tao.
Most travel agencies will be able to sell an all-in-one ticket from Bangkok to Koh Phangan which includes the bus and ferry ticket for about 650 Baht per person. The price is low because the journey takes all night and is the least comfortable way to travel. Buses depart from Bangkok around 7pm, arriving early morning in Suratthani in time for the first ferry to the islands. Coming back, there are numerous ferries, but for the bus you will need to depart no later than 1pm. Usually a shuttle bus will drop passengers off in Suratthani to wait until about 7pm at which time the bus will depart from Bangkok. As a more convenient option consider buying a ticket on the well-organised Government Bus which actually goes on the Raja Ferry and saves time and discomfort changing modes of transport – although it is more expensive and will set you back up to 1000 Baht. There are also several other bus routes (most via mini0bus) linking Suratthani with other major destinations.
Second Class (Air Con or Fan) Sleeper trains are the best as you get a table and sofa that turns into fairly spacious beds; the lower bunk is bigger so best. The best of course if First Class with a sink and double bunks in each room, good if you are travelling with a lot of stuff. It is worth booking ahead with a travel agent as the train is a popular choice of transport and fills up quickly during peak periods. All trains for Phangan stop at Suratthani railway station which is a few miles out of town, so if you have to stay in Suratthani, it is cheapest to lodge near the station otherwise you must rent a Songthaew taxi. Most trains arrive in the morning and guides take you to buses which transport to the ferry port, approximately a 1 hour drive away.
If you arrive at the train station without an onward ferry ticket there are plenty of travel offices opposite the railway station, any of which can arrange the transfer to the pier. Hotline: 1690 Tel: 02-220-4444 www.railway.co.th
Koh Samui Airport is the most convenient airport, with Bangkok Airways flying in over 40 times in a day from Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket, Pattaya, Singapore, Penang, Kula Lumpur or Hong Kong. The last boat leaves for Koh Phangan from Big Buddha Pier at 6.30pm, so for flights arriving later than 5pm you may have to hire a private speedboat or stay in Koh Samui; during FMP there are boats all night from Samui from 300 Baht per person. It is cheaper to fly from Bangkok to the government airport at Suratthani where a couple of budget airlines are now operating from, especially as Air Asia fights often run special promotions making flight available at much cheaper rates, though taxi fares and journey time tend to negate savings.
It takes a minimum of 5 hours to get to Koh Phangan from Suratthani Airport at a cost of around 450 Baht which includes bus transfer and boat ticket, while the jouney is just a minimum of 1 hour from Koh Samui Airport, where you can also buy a convenient mini-bus and boat joint ticket from around 300 Baht up.
Ferry & Speed Boat
If you are coming to Koh Phangan from the mainland, buses, trains and planes all stop around Suratthani where you will be transferred to either a Suratthani jetty for the Songserm Ferry Service (3 and half hours to Koh Phangan) or to Donsak which is a 50 minute bus ride away. If you stay overnigght in Suratthani, the hotel can book you a ferry, or alternatively head for Phangan Tour as they are the main agent for bus transfers to Koh Phangan. From Donsak, Raja (3hours) car ferry has five services a day. From Koh Samui the shortest crossing point is from the Boput and Mae Nam area where several services run to Koh Tao via the main Thongsala pier on Koh Phangan: Lomprayah Catamaran (25mins) and Seatran Discovery (25mins). The only service direct to Haad Rin is the Haad Rin Queen (50mins) which also runs the most frequent service and also has a last boat at 6.30pm if you fly in late. Songserm Express (45mins) also runs to/from the main port of Nathon on Koh Samui.
If you are in a hurry or arrivine too late for any of the regular ferry services then a speedboat may be a good option from Koh Samui, arriving in only 15 minutes it is the fastest way to travel between the two islands. The Jet Express Speedboat runs between Baan Tai (Koh Phangan) and Bang Rak (Koh Samui) piers and is available for private booking at short notice. While coming from Suratthani the Night Boat departs at 10pm which may be able to help out if you don't want to spend the night in a hotel there.
Departing Phangan at 10pm, the Night Boat arrives at 4am and is a popular choice for quick VISA trips to Ranong (Burma) as you can return the same day. On arrival at Suratthani you'll find travel agents offering the return minibus service at a cost of around 1,500 Baht per person which will include boat transfer to and from the border. This service should have you back at the pier by around 4pm at the latest.