The Ultimate Guide to Getting to & Around Koh Tao

Find the ride you need in

Going to Koh Tao? Here’s a rundown of the most popular routes and best transportation options, from flights to buses, minivans and ferries.

drone of Koh Tao and islet

Dive shops cluster in Koh Tao or Turtle Island. Villas dot palm-fringed beaches. And Koh Nang Yuan, the neighboring islet, beckons with amazonite waters and hilltop views. It is well-known for its crystal sea and once-in-a-lifetime dives. Aside from various rays, green and hawksbill turtles call the island’s tropical coral reef home, and with a bit of luck, you may spot a whale shark.

Whether you head down from Bangkok or travel from nearby shores, we break down all your options to get to Koh Tao. In addition, we’ll give you a flavor of what transportation is like on this small island.

Where is Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao is off the east coast of Thailand, in the Gulf of Thailand. Take a look at this map so you can envision just how easy it will be to get there.

When is the best time to go? 

bent palm and boats in clear water of Thailand

Koh Tao sees tourism all year, but the masses thin out in the rainy season, typically from late October to mid-December. While heavy rains are a deal-breaker for some, others are fine with spending time indoors every so often. Traveling on a shoestring? Do crowds put you off? Then, the off-season is for you. 

After all, every season in Koh Tao has its own appeal. Mid-December to February is dry, so expect peak-season prices. However, catching rays is best in the high season because rainfall is rare.

What’s the best way to get to Koh Tao? 

boats docked in Koh Tao

That depends on where you are traveling from and how quickly you want to get there. There are buses, minivans, ferries and flights to choose from.


aerial view of boat and palms on the coast of Koh Tao

Flying is how to get there from Bangkok if you’re in a hurry. You’ve already seen Thailand’s capital, marveled at the glittering temples, and witnessed the backpacker haven of Khao San Road. But since there’s no airport on the island, you’ll have to fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui or Suratthani first and then hop on a bus or ferry.

The thing is, Bangkok Airways has a monopoly on flights to Koh Samui, and that means cheap flights are scarce. Don’t be surprised if they cost more than double what you’d pay for a route of a similar distance in the region. 

Riding a bus (plus bus and ferry) to Koh Tao

aerial view of boat and palms on the coast of Koh Tao

Riding a bus to Koh Tao from Bangkok is possible and cheaper than a flight to Koh Samui. 

You can recline your seat, sit back, watch the scenery roll past, and then drift off to sleep, as it’s usually a journey overnight. You’ll get a snuggly blanket, and there’s a TV and toilet onboard the air-conditioned coach. Also, there will be stops for a total of two hours so you can stretch your legs and rest. 

Buses usually leave from Sai Tai Mai, Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal.

Taking a minivan or private ride to Koh Tao

sunset in Koh Tao

Need some privacy and don’t mind shelling out some cash? A private ride comes with benefits: no rushing to the bus station, no pesky music, no arctic air-conditioning, and stops whenever you need them.

Minivans have space for eleven people.

Taking a ferry ride

ferry boat to Koh Tao

Wondering how to get there from Koh Samui? Or from Suratthani? It’s a no-brainer. You can choose from several ferry operators multiple times a day, even in the off-season.

Also, while there are ferries from Suratthani to Koh Tao, no car ferry is available. The ferry ride takes about four hours and 30 minutes.

 You can also get from Chumphon to Koh Tao by taking a ferry ride.

Popular routes to Koh Tao

stilt house and ocean in Koh Tao

Here’s a rundown of the most popular routes and the best transport options.

The most favored routes include Koh Samui to Koh Tao and Suratthani to Koh Tao. Of course, you can also explore the area of Suratthani and do a once-in-a-lifetime jungle tour, then hop on a bus and get from Khao Sok to Koh Tao.

While most travelers visit the three islands in the Gulf of Thailand (Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao), don’t forget about all the things to do in Phuket. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to get to Koh Tao from Phuket.

Or what about following in DiCaprio’s footsteps in Koh Phi Phi and then getting from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Tao

Looking for the ultimate place for self-reflection? Koh Lanta is only a stone’s throw from Koh Phi Phi. You can also visit Koh Lanta and lounge on long, secluded beaches that stretch along the West Coast as far as the eyes can see. Then, get from Koh Lanta to Koh Tao via bus or minivan before hopping on a ferry. 

Similarly, you can unwind in Hua Hin, Thai people’s beloved beach location close to Bangkok, and then jump on a bus from Hua Hin to Koh Tao.

Other popular routes include: 

Getting around in Koh Tao

getting around in Thailand by scooter

Now that you’ve made it to the island, you can explore the its multicultural influences, chill out with piglets at nearby Koh Madsum, watch trendy fire-spinning shows, and, of course, dive until your heart’s content.

Aside from meandering through stalls, a fresh coconut juice in hand, you can get around the island in different ways. You can hop on a songthaew, a covered pickup truck with two benches in the back, Thailand’s cheapest mode of transport. 

Or you can hail a cab or ride a motorbike taxi. Alternatively, rent a scooter and explore the island on two wheels by yourself.

Whichever way suits your fancy and budget, you’ll find a ride for any journey.


What is the best month to go to Koh Tao?

January is a great time for long sunny days with no rain.

How many days should I stay in Koh Tao?

It’s a small island so you could spend 3-4 days and explore it all.

What is the closest airport to Koh Tao?

There is no airport on Koh Tao, but next door Koh Samui as one.

Posted March 5, 2024
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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