The Thai Gulf island of Koh Samui is a popular boutique holiday resort situated less than 700kms south of Bangkok and 50kms from Thailand’s east coast. Reaching the island is relatively simple with direct flights from Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Pattaya and Chiang Mai domestically as well as Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Another option is a combined bus/boat ticket to Koh Samui, which is offered from travel agents all over the Thai capital and major tourist hubs elsewhere in the Kingdom. This is the least comfortable but cheapest way of getting to Koh Samui, with buses to Surat Thani departing Bangkok’s southern Sai Tai Mai Bus Terminal and taking around 12 hours.
From Surat Thani, a minibus will (eventually!) transfer you to Don Sak Pier where after more waiting around you take a ferry for two hours to the island itself. The entire journey costs around 1,250 baht for a VIP bus/high speed catamaran and it is worth spending a little more for extra comfort on this exasperating journey. More on buses to Koh Samui.
Koh Samui boasts an award winning airport which is the best way of reaching the island, as well as the nearby party paradise of Koh Pha Ngan and scuba diving mecca of Koh Tao. Flights to Samui from Bangkok only take around an hour with several departures every day, but as Bangkok Airways owns the airport finding cheap tickets is pretty difficult.
One-way fares from Bangkok normally cost around the 4,000 baht mark, but there are also flights arriving from Phuket, Hong Kong, Pattaya and Singapore. From the airport you can take an expensive taxi or, if on a budget, wander a few metres from the terminal building where shared taxi songthaews await passengers. However, the latter is not really ideal for those arriving at Samui Airport with tonnes of luggage. More on flying to Koh Samui.
Taking a train to Koh Samui is possible in combination with a ferry, with Phun Phin Station near Surat Thani close to the pier for the boat to the island. The overnight sleeper may be more expensive and take longer than the bus, but it is much more comfortable and this remains a decent option. There are ten southbound trains leaving Bangkok’s Hualampong Station every day so finding space is rarely a problem. More on trains to Koh Samui.
Other than ferries to Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao from Surat Thani, there are high speed catamarans departing from Chumphon halfway up the coast towards Bangkok. These normally take two hours, 30 minutes and cost 200-500 baht, although there are slow boats that take six hours so buy your ticket carefully. More on ferries to Koh Samui.
Getting around Koh Samui resorts is easy on foot, while the beaches are connected by a circulating songthaew shared-taxi service. There are metered taxis available although the drivers steadfastly refuse to use their meters.
Hiring a motorbike (200-300 baht per day) is the best way of getting around due to the freedom it bestows, but be extremely cautious on the dodgy roads as Koh Samui has some of the worst fatality statistics in Thailand for road deaths (38 people die daily from motorcycle crashes across the Kingdom). More on getting around Samui.
Speedboats are put on between Koh Samui resorts and Hat Rin Beach on Koh Pha Ngan for full moon parties, although overcrowding and lack of supervisions have led to many accidents in recent years. The best advice is to use common sense before trusting your life to an unsound-appearing vessel. More on Koh Samui transportation.