With so many lovely islands, Thailand relies on ferries for locals and tourists to reach some of its offshore beauty spots. For some islands like Phi Phi, Koh Pha Ngan or Koh Tao, ferries are the only way of getting there. In general, all major tourist islands are well served by ferries, and even the smaller ones will have at least one ferry service a day.
Ferries are privately run on concession and tend to be fairly slow but do leave reliably and arrive on time. They can get extremely full during the high season and places on ferry are sometimes given on a first-come-first-served basis, even if you ave a ticket. With the exception of ferries to Samui, they aren’t very big, nor offer any particular comforts.
Ferries from Phuket and Krabi
Both these popular Andaman coast centres have regular ferries to service islands nearby. From Phuket there are two ferries a day to both Phi Phi island and Ao Nang in Krabi from its main ferry terminal, taking roughly one-and-a-half hours.
Other private companies offer speed boat transfers with around five ferries per day leave from the small pier at Baan Rong in the northeast of the island to the Yao islands. Ferries to the Similan islands leave from Thap Lamu Pier, north up the coast towards Takua Pa (One hour’s drive away). More on ferries from Phuket.
Several ferries a day leave for Phi Phi from Ao Nang in Krabi (one hour or 90 minutes) and also for Koh Lanta from Krabi town (two hours, 30 minutes). There are also two ferries a day from Phi Phi to Koh Lanta (around an hour). It is also possible to drive down the coast southwards and catch pontoon ferries to Lanta (90 minutes minimum, including waiting time). These are convenient as minibuses will normally drop you directly to your chosen guesthouse without multiple transfers. More on ferries from Krabi.
Ferries to Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao
You can fly to Samui or catch a ferry from one of three piers in Surat Thani. Usually you will be sold a ticket by a travel agent which includes the bus/train, a transfer and the ferry with a meet and greet person plus lots of waiting around.
Ferries generally depart from Don Sak pier to Na Thon on Samui every hour, taking 90 minutes, and several times a day to Koh Phan Ngan and onwards to Koh Tao, taking 90 minutes and three hours respectively. Some ferries stop at Samui first making it a lengthy journey, but offering extra options from Na Thon to these two smaller islands. There are also hourly ferries from Samui’s Big Buddha beach to Haad Rin in Koh Phan Ngan taking 45 minutes.
A high speed catamaran ferry also runs between Samui, Koh Phan Ngan, Koh Tao and Chumphon on the isthmus part of the coast, nearer to Bangkok. Provided adverse weather hasn’t cancelled sailings it can be a far quicker way to ferry and bus it to and from Bangkok, it also offers quicker routes between the three islands. More on ferries to Samui.
Koh Chang and Koh Samet ferries
These two popular islands on the southeast coast of the Gulf of Thailand are near enough to the mainland that ferries run almost every hour, taking no more than 45 minutes. You simply arrive by bus in the local town and take a taxi transfer, and wait for the next ferry, enjoying the onsite restaurants.