The ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi: A traveler review

Looking for a ferry ride from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi? Read on, experience the joys of traveling on this trip and find out everything you need to know.

Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

There’s a good reason why more than 1.65 million tourists keep flocking to Koh Phi Phi every year, despite the temporary ban on visiting movie location “Maya Bay”.

The pier and ferry to Koh Phi Phi

The green-tinted waters, the fine white-sand beaches, the ethereal views of the giant limestone rocks – Koh Phi Phi is just too magnificent to be skipped. Those jungle-swathed cliffs in the east of the island are so grounded in the place, it almost appears as if they served as an outrigger, preventing the masses from tipping Koh Phi Phi over.

I couldn’t get that outrigger shape of Koh Phi Phi’s eastern part out of my mind. Rather than trying to find a direct ferry from Koh Lanta to Krabi, I decided to stop in Koh Phi Phi for a few hours. This would allow me to admire the staggering sight of the huge karst peaks one more time before heading back to the mainland on the same day.

I’d booked my trip from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi online, which was hassle-free, and now I was ready to walk to the pier. 

Traveling solo comes with certain joys

Baan Mook Anda Hostel, where I was staying, is within spitting distance of the dock, but apparently, some guys couldn’t spit that far. Rather than traipsing those 100 meters – or 150 perhaps – they preferred to hop on one of the funny-looking tuk-tuks and get the pleasure of a 10-second ride.

Joking aside, I couldn’t tell whether those buddies were just bone-idle or attracted by rickshaws painted in Swedish colors or quirkily designed as minion or Hello Kitty vehicles. Tuk-tuks and hotel shuttle buses are the most common form of transport for those staying further away from the pier that I was about to reach.

Some 50 meters away from the jetty, there was a desk where people checked in. The employee, a young head-scarved Thai woman, got suspicious because my voucher looked different, as she said. I’d just shown her both the screenshot of the booking confirmation and the voucher I’d received by email but that prompted her to show me how Bookaway vouchers “normally” look.

I was disconcerted; I didn’t know how to react. After all, I’d shown her everything I had. We stared at each other for a moment, but I knew she was going to win out and shrugged. Then, she gave somebody a buzz, and while she was phoning, I fidgeted. It was only minutes before 8am, the time my ferry to Koh Phi Phi was supposed to leave. 

I heard her say, “Dai?” (Okay?) after what I assumed was the end of the discussion. I found that a bit overcautious, but mai pen rai (it doesn’t matter), as the Thais like to say to avoid a problem. I got my ticket in the end, and besides, that wasn’t the only thing that cheered me up.

One of the joys of traveling solo is the freedom to do exactly as you choose. It would’ve been tempting to linger on the pier for a while. The little village was sleeping, and there was hardly a soul in sight. 

Quiet pier in Koh Lanta

It was peacefully quiet, and I would’ve loved watching the calm, sheepish sea lapping the shore. I didn’t feel hot at this juvenile time of the day; I felt cozily warm and regretted not having got up earlier to experience the beauty of that moment. On the other hand, had I been there early, I likely wouldn’t have been virtually alone.

Experiencing the sense of déjà vu is amusing

To get on my ferry, I had to cross several other boats. Not all of them were connected by gangplanks. While it’s easy for us young people, the elderly or those lugging large, heavy suitcases might not find this very funny.

Boarding the ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi

Having boarded, I thought to myself, “This is probably the same boat I was on yesterday on my trip to Koh Lanta.” Chureang Travel’s boat looked as old as yesterday’s boat did, and in the upper deck there was no air conditioning again; there were only fans.

I don’t know whether or not you remember the movie “Groundhog Day”, but I did get that déjà vu feeling Bill Murray experienced in Groundhog Day. As if caught in a time loop, I was reliving the same day. Unlike Bill Murray, I didn’t mind. 

Upper deck of the ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi

Once more, the seats in the lower deck were much comfier than the ridden-out ones in the upper deck. There were also more people upstairs, so I took a seat in the air-conditioned lower deck and enjoyed the decent proportion of privacy anew. Again, peeps had probably assumed it wasn’t worth climbing down the steep stairs and checking whether or not the room was air-conditioned.

Lower deck of the ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi

The restrooms were the same ones I’d encountered on the previous day when I was traveling to Koh Lanta. There was a western toilet with a loo roll rather than a bum gun. Also on board was a small snack bar in the upper deck, and plenty of life jackets, still piled up behind the last row of seats in the lower deck.

The fire extinguisher I’d spotted yesterday was still there too. And close to the air conditioner that read “26 degrees” and felt like 19 degrees (Celsius), I instantly recognized the crack in the window the shape of a spider. Priceless! I really was on the very same boat.

At 08:08am, the engines were revving up, billowing black clouds of diesel exhaust that I couldn’t smell thank heavens.

As the ship was pulling out of the harbor, I looked at the casuarina forest that lined the deserted shoreline and daydreamed of lounging on a quiet beach like this one.

Further out at sea, I enjoyed studying the mainland and some unknown islands on the horizon. The landscape I saw was mountainous, and millions of acres of casuarina forests were stretching away as far as the eyes could see.

Today, there were no salt sprays splashing against the windows, covering the view; the ride was smooth. So smooth in fact that the few families sitting in the lower deck had drifted off. They were resting in funny positions with their legs comfortably tucked between the seats in front of them or with their feet against the wall like a frog before it jumps.

It was fairly quiet, until all of a sudden, a Thai woman wearing a headscarf shouted at the top of her voice, “Phi Phi stay here; Phuket change the boat!”

It was 9:19am when the boat stopped some 300 meters from Koh Phi Phi’s pier to let those people heading for Phuket change the boat, and about 70-80% of the passengers left.

A couple of minutes later, that woman showed up again, looking in a military fashion at two travelers in their mid-twenties. Once she spotted the Phuket-sticker on their tees, she barked, “Phuket, please! Hurry up, hurry up!”

Once they had left, some Russian fathers enjoyed the near-empty deck and started to play soccer with a balloon. Laughing heartily, they were clearly having fun.

Limestone rocks, Koh Phi Phi

At 9:30am, the ferry headed for the pier in Koh Phi Phi. Why they didn’t let everyone get off the boat at Koh Phi Phi’s Ton Sai Bay first was beyond me. Changing the boat would certainly have been possible there too.

Before getting off the ferry, I took a few pictures of the amazing karst peak scenery. Passing the captain’s cabin, I caught the coconut scent of a tree-shaped air freshener people usually hang up in their cars. That pleasant smell coupled with the sight of the gigantic limestone rocks reminded me that life is just a sweet dream.

Posted February 13, 2020
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Philipp Meier
Philipp Meier is a Phuket-based travel writer passionate about Thai culture and wandering off Thailand’s well-trodden tourist trail. His work has been published on the Nat Geo Traveller India, South China Morning Post, Culture Trip, BootsnAll, GoNOMAD, and elsewhere. You can find him at Writer Philipp Meier and LinkedIn.
image of blog writer Phil