When travelling from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang, only a bus-ferry combo will be a viable transport option. This journey is quite long, but no need to fret, as both vehicles are equipped with air conditioning. There's a bathroom on board the ferry, but the bus makes rest stops on the way to the port transfer.
They say the further north you travel in Thailand, the broader the smile. If you’ve been staying in the walled city of Chiang Mai, you may well have experienced this adage yourself, but when you’re ready to go island-hopping, you gotta go down south.
Leaving the north of Thailand, and heading to one of the country’s southern islands, is no mean feat. For example, it takes approximately 18 hours to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang overland, traveling a distance of 1,024 kilometers (636 miles).
It’s a long-haul experience, whichever way you cut it. However, you can piece-meal legs together to make it a quicker journey.
You can take the train to Bangkok, but you still need to travel a further 693 kilometers (430 miles) to get to Koh Chang by flight and ferry.
Or you could fly to Bangkok with Thai AirAsia or Thai VietJet, and then take another flight to Trat Airport with Bangkok Airways. However, there’s only one flight per day to Trat from Bangkok, and you can’t guarantee this will coincide with the flight from Chiang Mai. This means you might have to spend a night in the capital before flying the next day.
For budget travelers, the best way to travel from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang is to take the overnight bus followed by the ferry from Thammachat Pier. This route takes you via Bangkok but doesn’t stop for very long—it’s just a stop to pick up more passengers.
Buying a combined bus/ferry ticket is certainly a good idea. Seat prices are usually no more than US$42 per person. This is for a one-way ticket with Thai Sriram. They’re a reputable local company, so you’re in good hands.
Buses for this journey will be air-conditioned and will have reclining seats. The opening stretch will usually be made at night, so you’ll have plenty of time to shut your eyes and maybe grab some sleep before you arrive in the bright lights of Bangkok.
There won’t usually be a washroom onboard the bus, but the driver will make stops along the way so passengers can stretch their legs and use the facilities. Don’t forget to bring your own bottled water and snacks.
The ferry portion of your transport from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang is over before you know it. It’s a 45-minute ride to the island from Thammachat Pier. Just enough time to enjoy a spot of sunbathing or continue your snoozing down below in the air-conditioned cabin. There are bathrooms on the ferry.
This is the best way to travel if you want to save your Thai Baht for something more exciting. Sitting on a bus for 15 hours might not seem like fun, but you might be surprised at how much rest you can get on a reclining seat.
Even though the bus/ferry is the longest journey, it's the most seamless. The other options are viable in a Planes, Trains, and Automobiles kind of way. It could be a brain drain to organize, but it might be worth it if you’re short on time.
As it’s a fair distance from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang, there’s going to be plenty to see along the way. First, as you leave the urban outskirts, you can expect to see lots more of the surrounding mountains and bamboo forests.
It’s a great way to start the trip, so try to stay awake before you get onto the main highway heading south. Other things to watch out your window for are rural roadside villages and the sprawling paddy fields plowed by oxen.
The approach to Bangkok is always exciting but bear in mind that some of these locals live in extreme poverty. Try to remain humble rather than embarking upon a voyeuristic experience.
Once you’re on the road again, there will be a much more laid-back vibe taking place, especially as you approach the Gulf of Thailand. So keep your eyes peeled for the first glimpse of the sea, which is absolutely stunning if seen at sunrise.
On board the ferry heading to Koh Chang, you should keep your eyes peeled for fishermen and maybe the odd flying fish appearing out of the water. The coral around these parts is some of the best in Thailand, so make sure you take note of any tiny offshore islands before you finally arrive at the Center Ferry Point.
Taking a bus/ferry from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang
If you’re asking, How do I get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang as simply as possible? The answer is to take a bus followed by a ferry. Combo bus/ferry tickets are very affordable and also save you money on overnight accommodation. The whole process is very straightforward.
Taking a flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang
If you’re asking, How do I get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang as quickly as possible? The answer is by flying.
There are no direct flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang. To fly, you’ll need to stop over in Bangkok before taking a plane to Trat. It will cost around US$100. Then take a 30-minute taxi ride (US$13) from Trat Airport to Thammachat Pier, followed by the ferry (US$3) to the island.
And that’s how to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang with the minimum of fuss! Enjoy the ride.