Going from the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to the island of Koh Phangan in the country's southeast is a long 912-mile (1,468-kilometer) journey, but travelers are rewarded with gorgeous beaches and waterfalls upon arrival. Adventurers may not mind an approximately 23-hour journey by bus or train. Alternatively, you can fly the distance in under two hours and then get a boat, which costs more but saves a lot of time. No matter what mode of transport you use to get to the island, you will need to also catch a ferry to Koh Phangan's Thong Sala Pier.
|Plane/Ferry||5.5 hours||From $130||Traveling on a time crunch|
|Train/Ferry||23 hours||From $34||A budget trip|
|Bus/Ferry||23 hours||From $74||Those up for an adventure|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan?
The least expensive option for getting from Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan is by train with State Railway of Thailand, starting around $34. A roughly 23-hour journey begins with a 10-hour train leaving every four hours from Chiang Mai to Bang Sue Junction. Passengers then head on an eight hour, 20-minute train to Surat Thani Train Station. The final step is to catch a two hour, 30-minute ferry with the company Lomprayah at 9:45 a.m. from Surat Thani Airport or an 11 a.m. ferry from Tapee Pier in Surat Thani.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan?
Flying is the quickest and simplest way between the two places, but since there is no airport on Koh Phangan, travelers can take a plane to Koh Samui—a large island to the south—or Surat Thani, a city on the mainland. However, flying is also the most expensive mode of travel. Prices start at $130 for the five hour, 30-minute trip, which includes a roughly one hour, 45-minute flight from Chiang Mai International Airport to Ko Samui, a transfer, and a 30-minute ferry with one of a few companies. Bangkok Airways operates direct flights between Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, starting at $100 and taking around one hour, 45 minutes. As an alternative, Thai AirAsia's nonstop flights (from $49) last about four hours between Chiang Mai and Surat Thani.
Seatran Discovery ferries (from $9) depart Bangrak Pier on Koh Samui at 8 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. for Thong Sala Pier on Koh Phangan. You can also take a Lomprayah ferry (from $9) leaving Koh Samui's Maenam Pier at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. or Nathon Pier at 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. If you are coming from Surat Thani, Lomprayah operates a two hour, 30-minute ferry (starting at $20) at 9:45 a.m. from Surat Thani Airport or from Tapee Pier at 11 a.m.
Is There a Bus That Goes From Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan?
Another way to get between the two destinations is by bus and ferry; it's a long trip of around 23 hours like the train. Costs with the ferry included begin at $74. The Sombat Tour bus leaves three times a day, heading from Chiang Mai to Hua Hin and taking about 14 hours (including a transfer of approximately one hour). A seven hour, 40-minute Lomprayah bus/ferry journey to Ko Phangan is the final leg. People making the trip by bus from Surat Thani can grab a four-hour Seatran Discovery ferry (from $22) at 12:30 p.m. on Talad Mai Road in town.
How Do the Ferries Work?
Buying ferry tickets in advance is helpful, either online or at the pier you plan to leave from. To avoid long wait times or hassles, it is a good idea to coordinate ferry times with your other transport schedules. Combination tickets that include bus transportation to the ferry terminals and boat tickets can be booked online at the same time as your flight. Otherwise, approach one of the airport counters selling combination tickets, a much safer (and cheaper) method than making your own way to the ferry terminals by taxi.
Note that in some of these Thailand locations, there are various departure and arrival points for local ferries and other forms of transport, so plan carefully. For example, on Koh Samui, there are four piers to choose from; it works best to select the one that is most convenient for you. Nathon is the main pier, and the others are Lipa Noi Pier, Bangrak Pier, and Maenam Pier.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Koh Phangan?
If you don't mind the crowds of peak season and would prefer less heat, visit in the cool season spanning from late December through March, which offers clear skies and plenty of chances to enjoy the beach. From April to June is the hot season, when you will find the ocean's temperatures quite warm but fewer crowds and better prices on the island. Plus, you can cool off with plenty of water splashing at Songkran—the Thai New Year and the country's biggest celebration in April.
What Is There to Do in Koh Phangan?
Thong Sala is the biggest town featuring major shopping, beautiful white sandy beaches, and lovely waterfalls like Namtok Phang and Namtok Than Sadet. The monthly Full Moon Party in Haad Rin, about a 30-minute drive from Thong Sala south, is a popular event. Transportation to Koh Phangan can often be sold out the week before and after the popular beach party during high-season months. If you intend to enjoy the Full Moon Party, get to the island early. Otherwise, check dates for the bash and stay away from the island when the moon is nearly full.