The ultimate guide to getting to and around Koh Samui

Once a sleepy fisherman island, Koh Samui is well-known for its palm-fringed shores, breezy nightlife, and posh spas. But there’s much more to Koh Samui, and there are several ways to tour this paradise island in the Gulf of Thailand.

But how to travel to Koh Samui? Whether you intend to head from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Ao Nang to Koh Samui, or other destinations, we break down all your options and give you a flavor of what transportation is like on this 25km-long and 21km-wide island.

General information on Koh Samui

Just as popular as Phuket, Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island. Even so, most journeys around this place are fairly short. Featuring a decent infrastructure, it caters to both backpackers and the affluent. 

While Koh Samui sees tourism all year, the masses thin out in the rainy season typically from late October to mid-December. The best time to go to Koh Samui is in the dry season between mid-December and February. Needless to say, this period comes with peak-season prices. While heavy rains are a deal-breaker for some, others are fine with spending time indoors every so often. Tropical storms are generally short, and every season in Koh Samui has its own appeal.

Traveling on a shoestring? Do crowds put you off? Then the off-season is for you. Want to jump in the ocean, explore the surrounding islands, then get back from Koh Phangan to Koh Samui? You get the picture; catching rays is best in the high season because rainfall is scarce.

So how to get to Koh Samui? Here’s a rundown of the most popular routes and the best transport options for them.

Popular routes to Koh Samui

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

While most travelers do the three islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao, you can of course enjoy the crystal waters of Thailand’s Andaman Sea and then get from Phuket to Koh Samui. Or what about following in DiCaprio’s footsteps in Koh Phi Phi and then get from Koh Phi Phi to Koh Samui? Koh Phi Phi Ley’s legendary Maya Bay, made famous in the movie “The Beach,” might open in 2021.

Looking for the ultimate place for self-reflection? 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 Samui via bus or minivan before hopping on a ferry. Koh Lanta is only a stone’s throw from Koh Phi Phi.

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 Samui.

Here are the most popular routes to Samui at a glance:

RouteTransport optionsDepartures per day
Bangkok to Koh SamuiBus + ferry, minivan + ferry, train (plus bus or minivan and ferry), flightApproximately 20 per day
Koh Phangan to Koh SamuiFerryApproximately 10 per day
Krabi to Koh SamuiBus + ferry, minivan + ferry, private ride + ferryApproximately 5 per day
Don Sak to Koh SamuiFerryApproximately 20 per day

Taking a flight to Koh Samui

Many travelers are wondering how to get to Koh Samui from Bangkok in no time. Of course, the obvious answer is by flying direct. The thing is, Bangkok Airways has a monopoly on flights to Koh Samui, and that means there’s a scarcity of cheap flights to Koh Samui. 

Don’t be surprised if they cost more than double what you’d pay for a route of a similar distance in the region. Well, Thai Airways gained landing rights in 2008, but the days when this airline flew to USM, Samui airport’s three-letter code, are over.

Bangkok Airways built Samui’s small airport in 1989 and has run it ever since. Barely double the size of a bamboo shack, and with its lack of gates and buses, Samui’s airport is considered by many to be the cutest in the world. The guys pick you up from the plane in a sea life-themed sightseeing cart, making sure you’re in a holiday mood.

Transiting at USM is hardly possible these days. There used to be flights from many destinations, such as Phuket to Koh Samui and back, but due to COVID, you can only fly to Koh Samui from Bangkok and Chiang Mai for the time being.

Taking a bus or train (plus bus and ferry) to Koh Samui

Taking a bus to Koh Samui from Bangkok is possible and definitely cheaper than a direct 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 14.5-hour 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 rest. Buses usually leave from Sai Tai Mai, Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal.

If you’re a rail buff, you can also ride the train from Bangkok to Suratthani and then catch a bus. Bangkok’s iconic Hua Lamphong station is still operating, though it will be closed down later this year. The new train station will be Bang Sue Grand Station.

You’ve already made your way down to the south? There’s also a bus to Koh Samui from Phuket.

Taking a minivan or private ride to Koh Samui

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

Minivans have space for about eleven people, but most minibus rides to Samui aren’t available yet.

Taking a ferry to Koh Samui

If you consider a private ride and wonder how to get to Koh Samui from Krabi, rest assured, there is a car ferry to Koh Samui.

There are currently four rides per day with Raja Ferry. The journey from Don Sak Pier takes about 1.5 hours – plenty of time to enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and islets rolling past.

Getting around in Koh Samui

An hour’s flight south from vibrant Bangkok, or an adventurous bus ride away, getting to Koh Samui is undoubtedly part of the fun. Now that you’ve made it to Koh Samui, you can look forward to exploring the island’s multicultural influences, chilling out with piglets at nearby Koh Madsum, or watching trendy fire spinning shows.

Apart from meandering through stalls, a fresh coconut juice in hand, you can get around the island in different ways. What you won’t find are public buses or tuk-tuks, Thailand’s renowned, three-wheeled motor vehicles. Instead, you can hop on a songthaew, a covered pickup truck with two benches in the back, rumored to be Thailand’s cheapest mode of transport. Or you can hail a cab or ride a motorbike taxi. Alternatively, rental cars, motorbikes, and scooters are available as well.

Whichever way suits your fancy and budget, you can be sure to find a ride for any journey.

Want to travel across the land and sea?

Get inspired with more stories by travelers, for travelers