Koh Samui is reachable via a one hour plane ride from Bangkok or a two hour ferry ride from Surat Thani, which itself is eight hours drive from the capital or two hours from Phuket. Most visitors fly in, with several flights a day monopolised by Bangkok Airways (which owns the airport) therefore don’t expect any real budget flights. Ferries also connect the island with Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao.
Koh Samui Airport and flights
Bangkok Airways has reasonably priced flights from Bangkok roughly every hour from 06:00 until 22:00. There are several flights a week from Chiang Mai (midday except Mondays and Wednesdays).
Internet booking is recommended as these are how the cheapest deals are found. Bangkok Airways also links Samui with Hong Kong, Phuket, Pattaya (U Tapao), Krabi, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Unfortunately AirAsia does not yet fly here from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, though Firefly from KL and Silk Air from Singapore are alternatives.
In addition, Thai Airways and Orient Thai Airways (One-Two-Go) fly to Surat Thani, from where you can then take a boat to Samui. More on Samui airport.
Samui ferry transportation
There are four ferry ports on the mainland and three on Samui, and the travel times varies from two hours 30 minutes to six hours depending on which boat you take. Don Sak is the busiest port and closest to Samui, but there are also boats from Ao Ban Don and Tha Thong. Khanom is a rarely used port. The night ferry takes six hours, and others generally take around two-and-a-half hours.
Almost all ferries arrive at Na Thon on the island’s west side and there are plenty of transport options here, including numerous ferries each day to Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. When you disembark, there is invariably a scrum of taxi drivers hoping to pile you into their vans and transfer you to the resorts on the east and north sides of the island. There is a second ferry terminal at Big Buddha beach where regular ferries depart for Had Rin on Koh Pha Ngan, an hour–long journey. More on Samui ferry timetables.
Samui Bus transportation
The bus is the cheapest but least comfortable option, and the journey from Bangkok’s southern bus terminal takes around 12 to 13 hours. As with the train, it is possible to buy a combination ticket and these will save a lot of hassle. It is worth paying the few baht extra for the VIP bus to make your journey a bit more comfortable. Note that buses in Thailand can be very noisy with videos playing, but the overnight buses are usually quieter. Once on the island there are only songtheaw shared taxis. More on Samui bus travel.
Train transportation to Surat Thani
Taking the train to Surat Thani, with onward minibus and then a boat to Samui, is a popular budget option, and it is possible to buy a combination ticket that will include transfers and boat tickets. There are 10 trains daily from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong Station and the journey takes around 11 to 12 hours, so the overnight sleeper is far more popular and comfortable. The trains stop at Phun Phin which is 10kms west of Surat Thani. If you don’t have a combination ticket then there are always plenty of taxis here to take you to Don Sak pier. More on trains to Koh Samui.
Transportation on Samui
Once on Samui, you are at the mercy of a rather unscrupulous taxi mafia who seldom use their meters and usually overcharge, although it will still seem a reasonable fee relative to Europe or the US. Journeys from the airport are a particular rip-off since taxi is the only option. There are so–called metered taxis on call or cruising around, while public transport is provided by the ubiquitous songthaew minibuses which come by every few minutes, particularly on the main trunk road the circumnavigates the island. These charge roughly 20 to 50 baht depending on the distance and stop anywhere, anytime. They are quite suitable although less convenient. If you are the only passenger, you can negotiate for a direct journey. More on getting around Samui.
Bike and car hire on Samui
Hiring a motorbike is a popular choice on the island for getting around from one beach to the next, especially if your resort is somewhat remote. The traffic on the ring road can be a little overwhelming and tends to move at high speeds, and there are the steep curved passes between Lamai and Chaweng, and in a few other spots. Accidents are common, with riders going bare-chested and without helmets, yet unfamiliar with the terrain and the bike. A car might be a more sensible idea, though you might not get much use out of it. Bicycles can be fun, but it gets hot and some of the hills might get to you.