Koh Phi Phi is arguably the most renowned dream destination among all the Thai islands. Since Alex Garland’s novel was filmed and struck the world in 2000, millions of adventure-seekers headed to the hidden gem of the Andaman to find their personal paradise on a tropic island of unparalleled beauty.
Since then Koh Phi Phi has changed a lot – mostly in the sense of numbers of tourists visiting the island every year and mushrooming modern resorts. Looming limestone cliffs, transparent turquois waters and postcard-perfect white sand beaches are still there, but the excessive development over the past decade remains a subject of heated arguments. Those who support the idea of preserving the natural character of the island and those who see only a great prospective for financial profit have not yet come to a compromise. In the meantime you can contribute to Koh Phi Phi’s preservation with your conscious behaviour and support of the operators who follow a sustainable model in providing services to tourists.
Getting to Koh Phi Phi from Phuket
Phi Phi islands are located in the bay of Phang Nga, approximately halfway between Phuket and Krabi. There is a number of daily departures from Phuket heading to Koh Phi Phi, with some of them connecting onward to other southern islands, including Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, the Trang islands, to the mainland (Krabi) and even to Langkawi island in Malaysia.
In Phuket boats for Koh Phi Phi leave from Tha Rassada pier, which is located southeast from Phuket Town. On Phi Phi, the main boat activity is on the bigger Phi Phi Don at Ao Ton Sai, but some boats from Phuket also moor at a more isolated Laem Thong pier in the northern part of the island.
From Phuket to Koh Phi Phi by ferry
The fastest service to Koh Phi Phi is offered by Chao Koh Group. They have air-conditioned cabins and are fully equipped with life vests for all the passengers. The trip from Rassada pier to Ton Sai pier takes about 1¾ hrs and costs THB 600. There are two departures a day at 11am and 3pm, with the 3pm boat being the latest boat leaving from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi during the day.
Tip: The Andaman sea is a part of the Indian Ocean, and the choppy waters are not rarely seen. If you are prone to seasickness, do not wait until it is too late and take all the necessary medicines in advance.
Andaman Wave Master offers equal service from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi, but calls to both piers, the journey taking about two hours to Ton Sai and three hours to Laem Thong. The leg between Ton Sai and Laem Thong piers is served by a shuttle boat, so note that you will have to hop from the main boat to a smaller one. There are two boats a day all year round – at 8.30am and 1.30pm – but for the high season the company sometimes adds the third departure at 11.30: check in advance if it is available for your dates. Tickets cost THB 700 to Ton Sai and THB 800 to Laem Thong. If you are staying in one of those chic and expensive 5-star resorts of Laem Thong, definitely opt for the Andaman Wave Master boats.
Note: All the passengers arriving to Ton Sai pier should pay a THB20 ‘pier’ fee which is supposed to be used on cleaning the island.
Your onward connections from Phi Phi
Thanks to Koh Phi Phi’s strategic location in the heart of the Phang Nga bay, the islands are connected to many of the southern destinations, including Krabi, Ao Nang, Railey beach, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, the Trang islands and Langkawi (Malaysia).
From Koh Phi Phi to Krabi
There are four boats a day from Koh Phi Phi to Khlong Jilard Pier in Krabi. Two of them are operated by Chao Koh Group (9am and 1.30pm, THB 600, 1 ½hrs) and two more – by Andaman Wave Master (10.30am and 3.30pm, THB 450, 2hrs).
From Koh Phi Phi to Ao Nang and Railey beach
Any of the Ao Nang-bound ferries are ok for getting to Railey, as well. Normally you will need to change to a smaller shuttle boat, though. The boat for Ao Nang depart from Koh Phi Phi at 3.30pm and costs THB 450 (from 1½ hrs to two hours).
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Lanta, the Trang islands and Koh Lipe
Ferries to Koh Lanta from Koh Phi Phi take from one to 1½ hrs to arrive to the island. Daily there are two boats at 11.30am, one at 3pm and one more at 3.30pm. Tickets cost THB 450 (Andaman Wave Master) and THB 600 (Chao Koh Group).
Getting around on Koh Phi Phi
The Phi Phi islands are 28 sq.km of forests fringed with white sand beaches in the middle of Phang Nga bay. Be ready to do a lot of walking as there are literally no paved roads (well, some are appearing at the moment, but still). You can also charter a longtail boat for short trips around Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh: there are plenty of them in and around Ao Ton Sai. In general the majority of accommodation and services – including Phi Phi Island Hospital – are found in Ton Sai Village which lies on the southern side of a narrow isthmus connecting Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh.
Some of the Koh Phi Phi beaches
Even if Ton Sai bay is the busiest part of the islands, it still remains a stunning place to enjoy the sea. A narrow path crammed with tour operator shops, restaurants and guesthouses to the east brings you to a pleasant Hat Hin Khom beach.
If you go northwards from Ton Sai bay to the other side of the isthmus, you will get to Ao Lo Dalam, which is a party animal’s paradise.
The best corals off Koh Phi Phi’s coast are found near Hat Yao (or Long Beach), which faces south and is the most swimmer-friendly among all the islands’ beaches.
Two long and picturesque eastern bays, Ao Laem Thong and Ao Lo Bakao, are the realm of high-end resorts.
Smaller bays, including Hat Phak Nam, Hat Rantee or Hat To Koh, cater for more budget travellers and offer low-key bungalows. These three beaches are much more tranquil than the overcrowded Ton Sai and Lo Dalam bays. The best way to explore them is to hire a longtail boat and organise some bay-hopping for yourself.
Tip: It is not possible to camp on Maya Beach on Phi Phi Leh (which was featured in The Beach movie) any more and you can enjoy it only during the daytime. If you want more privacy, hire a longtail boat and arrive early in the morning.
Where to stay
Rule #1: Book in advance – especially during the busy periods.
Rule #2: If you hate those pre-booked affairs, do not keep away from the touts who meet all the arriving boats. Yes, they are annoying, but they are helpful: finding an accommodation on Koh Phi Phi these days is not an easy task!
Rule #3: Budget accordingly. THB 1000 on Koh Phi Phi means a very simple, no-frills dig, in most cases in the form of a Thai bungalow with a fan and no hot water.
For an island of such a modest size Koh Phi Phi has a lot of things to offer – and they are not at all limited to bucket drinking parties and lazy sun-bathing. If snorkelling, diving, kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking and numerous viewpoints which let you take in all that stunning beauty are not enough, enrol to a yoga-on-the-beach course or go on an evening cruise to watch bioluminescent plankton off the shores of the islands. We are sure, you will enjoy your Koh Phi Phi trip: why would you not?