How to Get From Bangkok to the Koh Chang Islands

Looking for a Thai island holiday? As unexcited by the resorts of Phuket and the partying of Koh Phi Phi as I am? The islands off the coast of Trat are a great alternative.

I spent a couple of weeks island-hopping around the Koh Chang island group earlier this year, and loved it. Koh Chang, Koh Wai, Koh Mak, and Koh Kood are all a bit different, but have something in common: beautiful beaches, warm seas, and a chilled-out vibe.

Getting to any of these islands from Bangkok isn’t particularly difficult, but unless you’re flying, you’ll need to do some planning. This is the second time I’ve made the trip there, so figured it would be worth putting a little guide together.

I hope you find it useful.

How to Get From Bangkok to Koh Chang

From Bangkok, you’ve got various options for getting to Koh Chang. The best choice will likely depend on your budget, and whether you’re starting your journey from downtown Bangkok or the airport.

Flying

Trat airport

Flying from Bangkok to Trat (the nearest town to Koh Chang) is the fastest and most expensive option.

Bangkok Airways owns the airport and is the only carrier that flies there, four times a day. Shockingly enough, that means prices are high. One-way flights cost over $100, even several months in advance, and are rarely discounted.

It’s a cute, tiny airport (I flew into there a few years ago, enroute to Cambodia), so you’ll be in and out in a few minutes. Onward transport options are limited, though. If you haven’t arranged a private transfer or car rental, a few minivans and taxis are your only options for getting to Koh Chang.

It’s about ten miles from the airport to either of the Koh Chang ferry terminals. A combined ticket for the minivan and ferry costs 550 baht (~$17). This gets you from the airport to most of the hotels and guesthouses on the western side of Koh Chang.

That western coastline is where you’ll find most of the accommodation on the island. If you’re staying in a resort on the eastern side, arrange a pickup from the Koh Chang pier instead.

As pricey as it is, this is definitely the best option if you’re short on time.

Bus or Minivan

If, like me, you’re more of a masochist/budget traveler (is there a difference?), the alternative to flying is taking a bus or minivan. There are no trains to that part of Thailand.

For those already in the city, buses and minivans depart Bangkok for Koh Chang from both Ekamai and Morchit bus stations. The government-run 999 buses leave Ekamai at 7:45am and 9:00am, calling at Suvarnabhumi Airport along the way (more on that below), and take about five hours.

Other services leave from these stations throughout the day. Some go directly to the ferry piers, while others head to Trat town. They all cost around 300 baht. Since the town is a fair distance from the piers, most of the Trat-bound buses will stop at the highway intersection to let out passengers bound for Koh Chang.

You’ll then need to jump on one of the waiting songthaews (pickup trucks) to get to the ferry. It’s not covered in your ticket price, but should only cost a few dollars.

There are also various minivan services from downtown Bangkok to Koh Chang, plus at least one full-sized bus that runs from Khao San Road early in the morning. You can see all of the options here.

Getting hold of a ticket isn’t difficult. If you want to have everything arranged ahead of time, you can buy tickets in advance through the above link. Your hotel or guesthouse, travel agents, and every second tout on the street will also be happy to do it for a small commission.

If you’re going from one of the bus stations, you can also just show up half an hour before you want to leave and find a ticket desk. Outside peak travel season and local holidays, you should be able to get on the next van or bus without too many problems.

Bus or Minivan from Bangkok Airport to Koh Chang

Suvarnabhumi Airport gate

The 999 bus stops at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) around half an hour after leaving Ekami. That’s roughly 8:15am and 9:30am, depending on traffic. There’s a free shuttle from the arrival terminal to the airport bus station (called the “Transportation Terminal” on the signage.)

The wonderfully-named Suvarnabhumiburupha bus company also runs a full-sized bus directly from the airport, at 7:50am. It leaves from outside door eight, on level one of the main terminal building. The doors are clearly marked, but walking the length of the terminal takes a while.

If you arrive at the airport too late to catch any of the buses, the same company also runs air-conditioned minivans at 11:00am and 2:00pm. We took the late-morning option.

If you’re hungry, the nearby food court has easily the cheapest and best options at Bangkok Airport. Note the price of whatever you like the look of, return to the counter at the entrance to exchange cash for tokens of the same value, then head back and order your meal. 

The ticket (which takes you all the way to your west coast accommodation on Koh Chang) costs 600 baht one way, or 900 baht return. By the time it got close to 11am, there was a long line of people waiting to board. The van was full when we got on.

I’m fairly certain the company puts on additional vans if there’s enough demand. Still, if you want to be sure of your departure, buy your ticket from the booth in front of the door as soon as you get there, or do it online in advance.

When I took it, the ride was typically cramped and uneventful. It took a little over four hours to get from Bangkok airport to Centrepoint ferry pier. That included the obligatory short stop for lunch at a mediocre roadside restaurant around the halfway mark. Other than the last few minutes, it’s all on the highway, so there wasn’t much in the way of views.

Koh Chang ferry, mainland side

We arrived just as a ferry was pulling away, so had to wait the better part of an hour before our van drove on board. The ride over to Koh Chang takes around twenty minutes. There are toilets on board, plus a kiosk selling snacks and drinks. That includes beer, if you just can’t wait to get your vacation started.

The time passed quickly, as did the trip from the pier to Klong Prao. This small settlement, around a third the way down the island, would be our home for the next five nights. The van dropped us off on the main road, a minute’s walk from our accommodation.

Spending a Night in Trat

The last ferries to Koh Chang leave at 7:00pm, so bear that in mind when deciding when to leave Bangkok. If you won’t make it in time, the alternative is spending a night in Trat and taking a ferry across in the morning.

I did that once, several years ago, having taken a late-afternoon bus from Bangkok. There are some accommodation options close to the station, or you can head into town for better food and hotels.

Either way, if you’re arriving after dark, I’d recommend booking something in advance instead of stumbling around for an hour trying to find a somewhere to sleep like I did.

Having spent a couple of nights in Trat over the years, it’s fair to say there isn’t much to hold the attention of most tourists. Still, there’s a good-sized night market with some decent cheap eats, and some attractive wooden buildings and murals in the downtown area.

Your accommodation should be able to arrange a ferry ticket for the next morning, including the transfer from town. You might save a very small amount by sorting out your own transport to either of the ferry piers and buying a ticket there (they’re 80 baht each), but it’s unlikely to be worth the hassle.

Once you arrive at the pier in Koh Chang, you’ll need to find transport if you haven’t arranged a pickup. When I did it, songthaews were waiting nearby for exactly that purpose. Although the drive was bumpy, with a minor risk of falling out the back on the steep hills, the trip cost very little.

How to Get From Bangkok to Koh Mak or Koh Kood

If you want to go directly to Koh Mak or Koh Kood from the mainland, rather than island-hopping your way via Koh Chang, you can. The process is fairly similar to getting to Koh Chang, but there are some differences due to fewer ferry services and the use of different piers.

Koh Mak

Koh Mak beach

Most boats leave from Laem Ngop pier (also known as Krom Luang). Some of the bus and minivan services from Bangkok go directly to this pier (including the 999 bus mentioned earlier), which makes life easier.

For those that stop at a different ferry port or go to Trat town, you’ll need to take a taxi or songthaew to the Laem Ngop pier. A shared ride shouldn’t cost more than 100 baht per person.

Either way you’ll need to leave Bangkok in the morning to be sure of catching a ferry to Koh Mak the same day. Four companies run daily services from Laem Ngop pier to Koh Mak, from 10:30am until 5:00pm in high season. You can find exact timetables here.

If you’re staying in the Khao San Road area of Bangkok, an alternative option is taking the Boonsiri catamaran. The company runs a minivan or bus from Khao San Road to connect with its Koh Mak and Koh Kood services.

Again, it’s an early morning departure (5:00am or 7:30am) from Bangkok. Because it’s all run by the same company, though, there’s no hassle and you won’t miss the ferry!

If you’re flying into Trat airport on the morning or lunchtime flight, getting to Koh Mak is much the same as getting to Koh Chang. Take a taxi or shared minivan from the airport to the Laem Ngop pier, and buy a ticket for the next ferry service when you arrive.

Koh Kood

Koh Kood beach

Getting from Bangkok to Koh Kood by bus or minivan in a day is possible, but your choices are limited. All ferries leave from Laem Sok pier, which isn’t well served by public transport.

The easiest option is the Boonsiri catamaran shuttle mentioned above. This leaves from Khao San Road at 5:00am and 7:30am, taking you to Laem Sok pier and onward to Koh Kood via the company’s catamarans.

Not staying near Khao San Road? You’ll have to take an overnight or very early morning bus to Trat from Bangkok’s Ekamai or Morchit bus stations.

Once at the Trat bus station, you’ll then need to take a taxi or songthaew to Laem Sok pier. There, you’ll buy a ticket for the next ferry to Koh Kood. Services leave between 10:45am and 3:00pm in high season. 

If you’re flying into Trat on the morning or lunchtime flight, getting to Koh Kood is much easier. Just as with to Koh Mak, take a taxi or van to the pier (Laem Sok in this case), and buy a ferry ticket to Koh Kood. You can also buy tickets for the 10:45am and 2:20pm Boonsiri services online in advance.

Transport to your accommodation is included with your ferry ticket. This will likely be by songthaew


So there you have it. Got questions or anything to add about the journey? Drop it in the comments!

Suvarnabhumi airport image via TheDigitalWay

 

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How to get from Bangkok to Koh Chang, Koh Mak, or Koh Kood

2 Responses to “How to Get From Bangkok to the Koh Chang Islands

  • Hi Dave,
    After 17 years of going to Koh Chang, big bus, mini bus and many flights….
    I now rent a rental car from Avis, Hertz or Budget and drive to the island,
    At$35 day it a great option…
    It also means I am no longer riding motor bikes on Koh Chang, and that’s got to be good for your long term health!

    • Hah, it’s funny, I’ve always felt safer riding a scooter in Thailand than driving a car — something to do with slower speeds and having more space to maneuver, I think! Still, having better brakes definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing on Koh Chang…

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