Affectionately referred to as KohSam by locals, Koh Samui Island is the country’s second largest after Phuket.
Known for its white-sand beaches and luxury resorts sitting atop the Gulf of Thailand, the island give travelers the option of a short-flight breakaway from the bustle of Bangkok.
Koh Samui is budget-diverse and offers options for budget travelers, backpackers and luxury tourists.
From simple bungalows and huts to extravagant resorts and villas, the range of accommodation found on the island caters to all.
There are over 15 beaches in various shapes and sizes, coupled with peaceful temples, serene villages, stunning waterfalls, nightlife in numerous guises, and, although not quite as good as Bangkok, night markets and other shopping opportunities.
If you have that tropical itch and want to get your feet wet a trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui is very easy, due to various modes of transportation.
Samui is approximately 700 kilometres from Bangkok. So if you want the easiest and fastest way to travel and don't mind a splurge, flying to Koh Samui is your best bet.
Book early and you might catch an airfare deal that isn’t as expensive, but be prepared to pay a lot more than what you're accustomed to for domestic flights.
The flight from the capital to the island takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. One airline flies from Bangkok to Koh Samui, and that's Bangkok Airways. However, you can book tickets through the Thai Airways site too but you'll notice that the small print says “operated by Bangkok Airways).
1. Bangkok Airways
The Koh Samui airport is owed and operated by Bangkok Airways. This is why prices are inflated and why the airline had a direct flight monopoly between the two points until the codeshare alliance with Thai Airways.
They have 20 flights per day, which means that they depart almost every hour every day.
A ticket usually costs around 3,200 baht, but this can rise to as much as 5,000 Baht+ in high season– a generally expensive price if we’re talking normal Thai standard domestic flights.
The good news is that you don’t need to take a ferry to get to the island; you’ll disembark on the island and be at your hotel in under 40 minutes (usually).
2. Other Airlines
Several low-cost carriers such as Nok Air and AirAsia provide flights between Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok and Surat Thani Airport or Chumphon Airport.
These airports are both located on the mainland, so expect to take a bus or taxi to the ferry terminal, which will then take you from the mainland to the island.
Flights usually start at 1,500 baht. If you like to experience new things and don’t mind the extra time and ferry journey, this route will save you money.
Bear in mind that the ferry arrives at a port located on a side of the island that isn't close to the main tourist areas of Chaweng and Lamai, so expect a 40 minute journey from ferry to hotel.
By Train and Ferry
If you’re not into flying, traveling by land and water is your next option. There are three ways to do this: by train and ferry, by bus and ferry, and by private car or taxi and ferry.
Traveling via the train-ferry combo from Hualamphong station in Bangkok will take between 8 ½ to 12 hours. The availability of train-ferry or bus-ferry tickets makes the trip pretty hassle-free.
A train journey from Bangkok to the Koh Samui costs around 1,400 Baht.
You can buy a ticket directly from Hualamphong station or purchase an overnight train ticket combo online.
If you decide to go by overnight train, book a ticket days in advance, especially during holidays and peak season.
See the form below for train ticket prices:
You will arrive at Surat Thani train station, where you board a bus that goes to Donsak ferry terminal. This takes approximately an hour.
From the ferry terminal, travel time to the island of Samui takes another 2 hours. And after 12 to 15 hours of adventure, you can finally say ‘Hello, Samui!’ as you arrive at Nathon Pier.
For the trip from Donsak to Koh Samui, expect to pay 150 Baht for a passenger and 470 Baht for a car and driver.
By Bus and Ferry
Personal Tip: If you’re deciding whether to take the train or a bus, I'd advise taking the former – it’s much easier.
But if you love a road trip, by all means take the bus.
From Bangkok, buses take at least 10 to 12 hours to Surat Thani. You'll then take the 2-hour ferry ride to Samui.
You can choose from these two types of Bangkok-Koh Samui buses:
1. Public Bus
These buses leave Sai Tai Mai terminal (Bangkok Southern terminal) between 5 AM and 8 PM.
There are three options to choose from: VIP, air-conditioned, and non-air-conditioned buses.
VIP and air-conditioned buses are equipped with reclining seats, toilets and air-conditioning and are clean and modern. Public buses are considered more reliable and safe than private mini-vans.
Combo tickets start as low as 650 baht.
Leaving from Khao San Road, mini-vans are commonly used by tourists to travel to various places in Thailand. So if you’re close this road, you may find a mini-van more convenient.
But don’t expect too much, as they are typically small and can be uncomfortable. They notoriously drive too fast – because the drivers are on a schedule – and therefore don't have a good safety record.
A van-ferry ticket costs upwards of 800 Baht.
Don’t want the hassle of public transportation? You have the option to take a taxi from Bangkok to Koh Samui.
The journey takes approximately 12 hours and costs around 13,000 Baht (economy car). If you’re traveling with your family or friends, chartering a taxi is one of the most convenient ways to get from point A to point B.
However, sitting in a taxi for that long – even with breaks – is not fun. So how about renting a car instead and making a stopover?
Renting a car is a great option for a road trip, and gives you the option of making a halfway stopover. Stick to well known hire companies like Sixt, Thai Rentacar, Avis, Happycar, etc.
Typically, the rental company will ask for your license and passport and take photocopies of these documents. Renting a car costs upwards of 700 Baht a day and depending on the type of car, etc.
Insurance is included in the daily rental price but you will be offered an upgrade to lower or remove the excess threshold. A safety deposit is usually requested by credit card, and may be as much as 20,000 Baht.
When driving to Samui, a road map or sat nav is your best friend. From Bangkok, it’s basically just a straight road out of Bangkok going South.
The most challenging part is driving your way out of the capital because of traffic, so you may want to start the journey early in the morning before roads gets busy.
Continue to drive south past Phetchaburi, Khiri Khan, and Chumphon. When you get to Phunphin, drive past the Air Force Base, then turn left to Surat Thani.
From there, you can follow the road signs to Nakon Si Thamarat, and then to Donsak ferry terminal.
Although the journey is pretty straightforward, remember to drive carefully, especially if you’re not so familiar with Thai roads.
Traveling to Samui, In Summary
Koh Samui is a beautiful island. It is one of my favourite places in Thailand.
Although it is fairly built up now, there are still pockets of the island which remain untouched and where it is impossible to build property and therefore the landscape remains intact.
There is nothing more blissful than riding a moped along the coastline of Samui, and looking out over the sea at Lamai viewpoint as the sun goes down.
Often people ask me which island they should visit, Samui or Phuket. My first answer is both, if possible.
But if you only have time to do one, I would suggest Samui. Koh Samui is much smaller than Phuket, which is more like a big city with beach resort areas. You can see the entire island by moped in one day and experience so much in just a few days.
Personally, I would recommend you fly there – if you have the budget. The airport itself is a unique experience, as it is very small and boutique-like. It is very informal and really quite welcoming and pretty.
Since this post is about the best way to travel from Bangkok to Koh Samui, it is worth mentioning that unless you have your own car you will need to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel.
Unlike taxis in Bangkok you will pay a fixed fee for the journey. This fee can be up to 800 Baht, depending on the taxi and how far you have to go. This is excessive, particularly since many journeys are quite short.
To avoid this, check with your hotel and see if they do a transfer service that is cheaper than a taxi. Many of the high-end hotels do free transfers.
Lastly, without wanting to sound like an overbearing parent, do take care on the roads in Samui.
By nature the island is a tad lawless, and the smaller dirt roads can be hazardous. Locals often drive too fast and those who are inexperienced on mopeds may find the roads challenging. You can safely get around on on a moped by going slowly and being cautious.
Do wear a helmet at all times.