Koh Tao is the smallest of three main islands in the Gulf of Thailand (East coast of Thailand) and is only 21km². Don’t let its tiny size fool you though, the island is packed with things to do; outdoor activites including snorkeling, hiking, rock climbing & of course relaxing on it’s beautiful beaches. Koh Tao is home to a plethora of great bars and restaurants and has accommodation that suits your average backpacker all the way to luxury 5 star resorts and private pool villas for the more pampered traveler.
With all this being said, Koh Tao has become famous for one main reason – Scuba Diving. The islands crystal clear waters are home to over 20 beautiful dive sites and more than 50 dive schools are dotted around and ready to take you Scuba Diving for a very cheap price. The ‘Open Water Diving License’ is what most travellers opt for as Koh Tao is the perfect place to learn how to dive due to the lack of currents, waves, big selection of beginner dive sites & the cheap price.
There are three airports that have frequent flights from Bangkok to nearby places to Koh Tao:
1. Bangkok to Chumphon Airport
Chumphon City is located on mainland Thailand and is one of the two gate-ways to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui).
Only one airline, Nok Air flies from Bangkok’s Don Mueng airport to Chumphon (flight duration approx. 55 minutes). The price heavily depends on the season and can range between 1,000-2,500thb (30-60USD).
The other gate-way to the islands is Surat Thani airport. This airport is larger than Chumphon and offers more flights with different airlines – which often makes it the cheapest airport to fly to out of the three. www.skyscanner.com is the easiest way to book. Flight duration is approx. 1h10m and costs between 800-1,500thb.
3. Bangkok to Koh Samui airport
The most convenient and expensive of three airports to fly to from Bangkok is Koh Samui. Koh Samui airport is privately owned making the price higher than its neighbouring airports; it is however the closest airport to Koh Tao with the ferry journey only being 1-2 hours.
Bangkok to Koh Tao by Bus or Train
The cheaper alternative is to take a bus or train and a ferry to Koh Tao after:
1. The bus and boat combination
The cheapest way to Koh Tao is with a bus and boat combo. Night busses leave Koah San road every night and arrive to Chumphon City in the early hours of the morning. After a short wait at the pier you will be on a ferry to Koh Tao.
Lomprayah high speed ferries is the safest and most reliable service to use and costs around 1,000thb. Some cheaper services are available (700-800THB) at booking offices and hostels/hotels in Bangkok but often take a little longer and are less reliable.
2. The night train
The train costs a little bit more than the bus but does give you a bit of extra comfort. Make sure you book a ‘sleeper bed’ and you will get your own small compartment in an air conditioned carriage. The train is a little bit slower than the bus but if you need that extra bit of comfort the 200-300 extra Thai baht is worth the money.
The ferry from Chuphon or Surat Thani to Koh Tao
Upon arrival to Chumphon, Surat Thani or Koh Samui airport there are a few different boat operators that can take you to Koh Tao. This can be booked in advance through the airline in a ‘Flight & Ferry’ package with Ferry Samui or arranged on arrival at one of the airports travel agents.
If you arrive in the day time we recommend the Lomprayah High Speed Ferries – it’s the fastest and most reliable ferry service to Koh Tao. For evening arrivals to either Chumphon or Surat Thani there is also the option to take the ‘Night Ferry’. These night ferries depart in the evening between 21:00 & 23:00 and arrive to Koh Tao in the early hours of the morning.
The only quick and easy way to travel this large distance is by air. Any train or bus journey will be disrupted by a stop and often long wait in Bangkok – also expect the mammoth journey to take at least 24 hours. Unless you plan on stopping in Bangkok for a night or two then it really is recommended to take a flight.
Flights can be booked through skyscanner or directly with the airline in a flight and ferry package. Air Asia are often the cheapest airline for domestic flights in Thailand. Flight duration is approx. 1h55m and the cost greatly depends on the season but expect to spend between 1,000 & 2,000thb.
There are two options when travelling from Phuket to Koh Tao. The fastest and most expensive would be a flight from Phuket airport to Koh Samui and then a ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Tao. Flight duration is around 55 minutes and cost between 2,500-4,000thb. ‘Ferry and flight’ packages can be booked directly with any of the major airlines or ferry tickets can be booked easily upon arrival at Samui airport.
Phuket to Koh Tao by Bus or Train
Cheaper but longer from Phuket to Koh Tao
If you’re on a budget booking a bus and ferry combination to Koh Tao couldn’t be easier through www.ferrysamui.com. The journey takes 9-10 hours and costs around 1,100-1,200thb.
Travelling from one of Koh Tao’s neighbouring islands Samui or Phangan couldn’t be easier. Any travel agent, hostel or hotel will be able to organise a ferry ticket and transfer to one of the islands piers. You can also book directly with the boat company www.lomprayah.com or through www.ferrysamui.com