If you’ve been planning an itinerary for your next trip to Thailand, Suratthani (also known as Surat Thani) may be a destination you’ve come across during your research. It may not appear in the list of popular tourist destinations like Phuket or Chiang Mai, but Suratthani has a very important place in your itinerary, especially if you’re keen to explore southern Thailand.
A bit about Suratthani
Suratthani is the transportation hub that connects travelers to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand from the mainland. Strategically located in the south of Thailand on the east coast, Suratthani is one place you can’t avoid visiting if you want to explore the islands in this part of the country. Suratthani may sound like an obscure name to those visiting Thailand for the first time, but it is very well known in and connected to the rest of the country. If you are entering Thailand through Bangkok, to get to Suratthani, you can either take a bus or a train directly from Bangkok.
Ticket prices start from as low as USD 20 per person and the journey typically takes 10 to 13 hours depending on which bus or train you choose. Alternatively, you can also travel to Suratthani from other places in Thailand if your itinerary demands so. For example, Ao Nang to Suratthani is an easy 2.5-hour trip in a car or minivan, while the route from Phuket to Suratthani takes 5 hours.
Now that you’ve gotten to Suratthani, the big question is where do you go from there. You may be surprised to hear this, but this little coastal town opens up tons of travel opportunities with easy access to the southern region and the Gulf of Thailand. Here are some of our favorite destinations to visit from Suratthani to get your travel plans going.
Spend your idyllic beach holidays in Koh Samui
White sandy beaches that your dreams are made of, coupled with the luxurious and laidback island lifestyle straight out of glossy magazines and a nightlife worthy of ditching your sleep – Koh Samui is all this and so much more! If you are visiting Thailand and have just enough time to visit only one island, we say you make it to Koh Samui. Offering almost every kind of experience a traveler may want, this stunning island in the Gulf of Thailand is easily one of the best places you can visit from Suratthani.
Given that Koh Samui is one of the nearest islands to Suratthani, the travel time between them is only around 2-3 hours. You can either take a ferry directly from the pier in Suratthani to Koh Samui, or you can even opt for a pickup from the Suratthani airport to take you to the pier on a bus and then take the ferry ride. The latter option is convenient for those of you who don’t want to spend time in the city and just straightaway head off to Koh Samui. The ticket prices range from USD 10 to USD 24 per person depending on which tour operator and transport package you choose.
Thrill, adventure and adrenaline at Koh Phangan
Located very close to Koh Samui and Thailand’s east coast, Koh Phangan is an island that holds its own amongst thousands of others in the region. Known for its lush tropical forest cover and hilly terrain interspersed with pristine beaches, Koh Phangan first shot to fame for its iconic “Full Moon Parties” that now attract thousands of people from all over the globe.
Similar to Koh Samui, you can choose to travel from Suratthani to Koh Phangan either from the airport or train station, or directly from the Suratthani pier. If opting for the first option, your travel will involve a bus ride, followed by a ferry ride to Koh Phangan. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. However, if you’re already in Suratthani city, you can head to the pier and just hop on a high-speed ferry that will transport you to Koh Phangan in 3.5 hours.
While you’ll see there are multiple operators that provide the bus plus ferry option, there’s only one company operating high-speed ferry on this route. Hence the price of just a ferry ride (USD 27) is more than what it would cost you to take the other alternative. Having said that, don’t just go with the prices alone when choosing your mode of transport. Keep in mind your itinerary, pick up and drop points as well.
Escape to a tropical wonderland at Khao Sok National Park
Located in Southern Thailand, the rainforest in Khao Sok National Park is considered to be one of the oldest in the world that still remains almost untouched by commercial activities. Rocky limestone peaks, wild animals, a turquoise blue lake and magical waterfalls, all create some sort of a mysterious and fascinating environment. If you’re looking to take a break from all the island and beach hopping in Thailand, Khao Sok National Park should definitely be on your list of must-visit destinations from Suratthani.
Cars and minivans are the most popular and easily available modes of transport from Suratthani to Khao Sok. With a distance of roughly 186 Km to cover between the two places, it typically takes 2 to 2.5 hours to complete the drive. While minivans that are shared with other passengers cost as low as USD 9 per person, a private minivan or car can cost upwards of USD 70. So if you’re a solo or couple traveler, it would probably make sense to opt for a shared minivan especially if you’re looking to keep expenses low. However, if traveling in a bigger group, the private vehicle may turn out to be more economical.
Suratthani may not have been on your travel radar until now, but we hope you can see how a stopover in this town can take you to some of the most beautiful destinations in Thailand. On your next trip to this diverse country, we say ditch the flights, take the scenic route and see where it takes you!