Crossing Thai waters from Koh Tao to Phuket may seem like a feat, but all stresses can be avoided by booking a bus-ferry combo. There are many departure times to chose from. There are bathrooms on board the ferry, and the bus makes rest stops in lieu of a toilet. Both vehicles are well air conditioned.
It's a very long way from Koh Tao to Phuket as you have to cross from east to west coast Thailand firstly by ferry and then by bus. Thankfully, there's a very efficient travel option if you're considering undertaking the 286 kilometer (177 miles) journey, and that's to buy a bus-ferry combination ticket.
Although you're still going to be traveling for more than ten hours, bus-ferry rides offer a seamless and stress-free experience rather than doing it all yourself. Also, as there are lots of departure times, you can choose to ride at night or during the day. Traveling at night is an excellent way to save money on accommodation whereas traveling in daylight hours gives you a chance to see parts of Thailand that are missed out if you opt to fly.
The ride itself from Koh Tao to Phuket is really straightforward. Many travelers will have spent their time enjoying the southeastern island either underwater or making the most of the white sand beaches, such as Chalok Baan Khao. Of course, late night partying is another massive draw for travelers heading to Koh Tao. Just make sure you set your alarm clock if you've got a ferry to catch and don't sleep too long in the sun if you're lucky enough to bag a seat on an open deck.
As you're going to be traveling for the best part of a day, you should really consider making the most of the adventure. You can chat to fellow travelers and get involved in games of cards or story swapping to pass the time. Alternatively, you can catch up on some sleep if you've been partying hard on Koh Tao or just lose yourself in your thoughts as classic southern Thailand scenery whizzes past your window.
The initial ferry crossing from Mae Haad Pier on Koh Tao to the Chumphon or Suratthani piers on mainland Thailand takes just under three hours. In this time, if you've managed to stay awake, you'll be able to enjoy the blue skies and seas associated with the Gulf of Thailand.
Depending on which ferry you take you could be in for a bumpy ride (the smaller speed boats bounce about a bit more) and rough seas often means that this can be quite a memorable crossing if you haven't got your sea legs. However, don't worry, daytime crossings are usually very smooth and allow you to get some sun before continuing the journey by high-speed or standard bus. Nighttime ferry crossings might even allow you to get some sleep; although all too soon you'll be clambering on board a bus, so try not to get too comfy.
Traveling from southeast to southwest Thailand by bus allows you to see much more of the land than you would by plane. In general, you're going to be passing by palm, rubber and coconut plantations as well as tiny roadside villages tucked away on the edge of forests or open fields.
Buses make frequent rest stops at designated areas which will usually have a bathroom, restaurant and gift shop. Try to avoid purchasing any souvenirs unless you're a fan of overpriced and mass produced trinkets. Phuket has plenty of authentic markets and ethically-sourced souvenir centers, as well as some of Thailand's finest restaurants and super tasty street food stalls. You'll be there before you know it.
Taking a bus\ferry
The ferry ride from Koh Tao to Phuket takes you to mainland Thailand (Chumphon or Suratthani) in around two hours and 45 minutes. Speedboats are much quicker but often much more bumpy and have far fewer amenities – they're more of a fun, fast, and expensive means of getting off Koh Tao and heading back to the mainland. Standard ferries are all fully equipped with air-conditioned cabins and onboard bathrooms.
Many ferries will also have outdoor seating to accommodate sun worshippers and anyone else who wants to breath in the salty sea air. Buses are also air-conditioned and feature reclining seats and onboard bathrooms. Buses will make regular stops throughout the seven hour overland section of the trip so you can buy food and drink, and stretch your legs.
A top tip to remember when taking the ferry and the bus from Koh Tao to Phuket is to bring along some extra layers to counteract the air conditioning. Often it's cranked up way past 11 so can get really chilly. Some buses will provide complimentary blankets but it's always wise to bring your own sweater as well as ear plugs, eye mask and neck support for extra comfort.
If you're got plans to stay awake or at least be slightly sociable for part of the journey, you're bound to find lots of fellow travelers to swap stories with and share their recommendations for things to do in Phuket. From dive and snorkel sites to the most affordable and tastiest street food stalls serving Pad Thai, you never know what you'll discover on a 10 hour overland trip.
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Bookaway's customers prefer Day Tour Bus+Ferry by Sea Angel Cruise
High Speed Bus+Ferry by Lomprayah which usually takes 8h 30m
287 Km (Air)
Day Tour Bus+Ferry by Sea Angel Cruise starting at US$34
Approximately, there are 3 departures each day.