For those travelling between the mainland and islands in Thailand by car or motorbike, Raja Ferry is a lifesaver. Founded in 1981 (and known by its current name since 2011), this company has over 35 years of service and offers visitors the easiest way to travel to the tourist hotspot of Koh Samui from the mainland.
Routes serviced by Raja Ferry
Raja Ferry services three main routes with a fleet of 13 ferries running between Donsak, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. These ferries are the largest servicing this route and capable of carrying 400 passengers and up to 70 cars.
Donsak (Suratthani) – Koh Samui
The most popular route that Raja Ferry offers is the Donsak – Koh Samui – Donsak line which offers 30 services every day (15 in each direction) between 5am and 7pm, with the journey lasting approximately 90 minutes.
Ferries depart every hour, except the final ferry from Donsak which leaves at 7.30pm, 1 ½ hours after the previous ferry at 6pm. Adult and child tickets cost THB130 and THB65 respectively, with prices for bikes starting from THB180 and cars from THB420.
Donsak (Suratthani) – Koh Phangan
Ferries also run from Donsak to Koh Phangan and back again, with the trip lasting around 2 ½ hours. There are 7 services on this route each way per day, departing every two hours throughout the day between 5am–6pm. Prices are fixed at THB210 for adults and THB110 for children but, as with all ferries, vehicles do cost more with prices starting from THB260 for bikes and THB550 for cars.
Koh Samui–Koh Phangan
The third and final route that offered is the shuttle between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, there are 3 ferries per day departing each island between 7am-6pm with a journey time of around 90 minutes. Prices are similar to the Donsak – Koh Samui service with tickets at THB150 and THB75 for adults and children respectively (bikes and cars from THB200 and THB470 on top of this).
For those planning on island-hopping between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, before heading back to Donsak, Raja Ferry offer an excellent value package with 3 trips starting at THB350 per person. This includes your ferries from Donsak – Koh Samui – Koh Phangan – Donsak, and is far better value than purchasing individual tickets so definitely an option to consider if this route is on the cards.
The biggest draw for visitors is that Raja Ferry offers the cheapest route to travel between Donsak and the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. If you're travelling on a budget then this really is the best option for your trip, plus you'll certainly meet other backpackers on the ferry so you might even be able to save some money in a taxi when you arrive at your destination!
Aside from the ferry service itself, Raja Ferry also offers good value transfer packages taking you from Suratthani or Nakhon Si Thammarat airports direct to your hotel on either Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. Although this might work out slightly more expensive than arranging the individual steps of the journey yourself, it's a lot less hassle, saving you from haggling and can often cut down on travel time as well. Prices depend on the number of people travelling so it's best to contact them in advance for a quote.
Another advantage of using Raja Ferry is the frequent service they run. Missing your ferry with some other companies will result in delays of several hours, or in a worst-case scenario you'll have to find somewhere to stay overnight. However, with hourly services on offer between Donsak – Koh Samui, you'll rarely have to wait long to jump on the next ferry!
Finally, the fact that all of the ferries on these routes transport cars means that Raja Ferry has the largest boats around. This means that the trips are often less rough than those of their competitors, great news if you suffer from seasickness!
The biggest issue when travelling using Raja Ferry is that the cheap price attracts many customers, so these services can get very busy. It's always best to arrive in plenty of time to ensure you get a seat!
Unfortunately, many of the ferries in service are fairly old so the quality of air conditioning can sometimes become an issue. There's not much that can really be done to combat this, except get there early to bag a seat as close to the a/c as possible!
Finally, as is the case throughout Thailand and South East Asia in general, delays are fairly common. It's always best to allow an extra hour or so when travelling just in case there is a delay. This is especially important if you are headed to the airport, it would be sensible to leave a few hours earlier than necessary to ensure you make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Keep in mind
There's plenty of ways to book a ticket on one of their ferries. It's possible to pay online, over the phone or in person at one of the counters at the piers at Donsak, Koh Samui or Koh Phangan, as well as at counters in Suratthani and Nakhon Si Thammarat airports.
Like all the ferry companies in the area, Raja Ferry do not run services at night. Although as sea conditions can be fairly rough during the day, you might not want to travel at night even if you could.
As you'd expect from the budget option, most reviews comment positively on the price comparing it favourably to its competitors. Other positive feedback includes the frequency of service and therefore not having to wait too long if you miss a ferry, especially on the popular Donsak – Koh Samui route.
The ease of booking tickets also pleases customers, with reviews mentioning efficient service when booking online or in person.
Negative reviews tend to focus on delays to services, unfortunately something which is commonplace in Thailand and an issue with all transport providers. The biggest issue is usually overcrowding on the services, with passengers complaining about not getting a seat making for an uncomfortable journey. Again, this is something best combatted by arriving in plenty of time to make sure you get on early and secure yourself a seat!