In a nutshell
Koh Phangan is a stunning island off the east coast of Thailand renowned for its world-famous Full Moon parties.
Why go to Koh Phangan
Although these wild parties are the main draw for travellers coming to the island, there are still nooks and crannies around the coast that are secluded and paradisiacal; perfect for those looking to relax. Whether you want to seek out pool parties in the day for a fun-filled extravaganza or would rather just kick-back with a smoothie by the beach to freshen up, Koh Phangan can be the island to fit the bill.
As with any island off Thailand’s east coast, Koh Phangan is home to white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters and friendly locals – what’s not to love?! If you want to simply relax on the beach, this is the place to come. However, if you need a bit more action involved in your holiday, Koh Phangan also offers PADI diving sites, horse riding, waterfall treks and much more.
If you’ve come to party, you’re in the right place! With the famed Full Moon parties occurring once a month, plus Half Moon, Black Moon and Jungle parties in between there is always something going on. These guys sure know how to throw a party; with fire dancers, body paint, buckets galore and great music you’re sure to have a night to remember!
Tip With the infamous drinking buckets, make sure you watch the vendor pour your drinks in to the bucket in front of you so that they are not switching out the bottles shown for cheaper alternatives and ensure all bottle tops have not been tampered with before accepting to buy the drink.
When to go to Koh Phangan
Attr: Phuketian.S (cc by)
Koh Phangan lies around 55km from the mainland of Thailand but it is fairly sheltered by the hook of land that is the Surat Thani province. The island therefore enjoys great weather for the majority of the year.
Officially there are two monsoon seasons that affect Thailand’s coastline, however, you can essentially visit Koh Phangan year-round and have at least a few sunny days! If there is rain it is likely to fall between October and December. We recommend travelling between January to August, with February boasting the lowest rainfall and highest amount of sun per day.
Tip If you want to travel over the Full Moon party, make sure you book your accommodation in advance as many of the hotels along Haad Rin beach can get fully booked.
Where to stay on Koh Phangan
When deciding on where to stay on Koh Phangan, you need to choose whether you want to be right in the centre of all the party action, or whether you would prefer to be away from the hub-bub of the full moon parties during the day but still be within reaching distance of the parties at night.
If you’re a full-on party-goer, Haad Rin is the location for you. This is the main beach where the Full Moon party takes place and there are plenty of hotels and guesthouses along the strip which cater to backpacker and travellers looking for a good time. Although the hotels aren’t the most luxurious, it’s unlikely you’ll be spending too much time in your room.
If you want something a little quieter, you might prefer to stay on Baan Tai or even Haad Yao. As the island’s perimeter is only around 40km, you can easily get a tuk-tuk around the island if you want to explore.
Where to eat in Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan offers a huge range of cuisine options, with street food vendors located in many of the main towns. Most of the resorts have restaurants on site, too, which offer freshly-cooked meals throughout the day. From breakfast smoothies to delicious pad thai you’re unlikely to go hungry when staying on Koh Phangan.
How to get around Koh Phangan
The best and easiest way to get around Koh Phangan is by tuk-tuk or songthaew.
Tuk-tuks are readily available and are great if you are travelling in a small group of two or three. If there are more in your group or you are a solo traveller, a songthaew is a group taxi service that come in the form of a long pick-up truck. These are reliable services that offer fixed-price travel and can often be arranged by your hotel or guesthouse.
If you want to hire a moped, this can easily be arranged and there are a few main roads around the island which makes driving easy. Be sure not to drive when drinking and never take a motorbike-taxi home from any of the parties on your own.
How to get to and from Koh Phangan
You can travel by ferry, speedboat or catamaran and you can choose the best option for you based on the length of time you have travelling. Lomprayah is the most frequently used operator, with daily services throughout the peak season. You can book online and in travel agents across the islands and can choose if you just want the boat crossing or whether you want to combine with travel to Bangkok or another major destination.
Coming from Bangkok, most travellers choose to take a night bus or train down to the coast of Thailand to Surat Thani (from THB500; 10 hours), before meeting a boat to take them across to the Koh Phangan. There are combination tickets on offer from 1,300THB one way.
The journey from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan takes around three hours (from THB400 one way) and includes transportation from Surat Thani airport, train station or the town itself to the pier in Donsak plus the ferry ride. So if you make your own way to the port at Surat Thani this can be a cheaper option.
If you are travelling to/from Koh Tao from Koh Phangan the journey takes around 1h10-1h15 and costs about THB500-600 one-way.
If you want to travel to Koh Samui it takes between 20-30 minutes (depending on which pier you travel from on Koh Samui) and costs THB300-THB450 one way. There are a number of operators (other than Lomprayah) that will offer services between the islands, but be aware of scams and dodgy operators that claim to offer services that seem much quicker or cheaper than the above.
If you don’t have much time to explore Thailand, you may want to opt for a flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani instead of the overnight bus. This is a much quicker alternative, but obviously costs more, too. An internal flight from Bangkok Don Muang airport to Surat Thani and costs between THB1000-2000 depending on how far in advance you book. From Surat Thani, take a bus to the port and connect with a boat to the islands or opt for a combination ticket.
From Chumphon, further up the east coast of the mainland, you can take a Lomprayah service direct to Koh Phangan. This takes between three and four hours and costs THB1000 one way.
Is Koh Phangan safe?
As Koh Phangan is a popular tourist destination, it is likely that there will always be someone around to help if you get into trouble. However, it is best to be aware of any possible dangers so that you can avoid these before they happen. Do not take motor-taxis alone, keep an eye on your drinks at all times, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home and remember, if something sounds like a deal that is too good to be true, it probably is!
Koh Phangan station guide
Koh Phangan - Bus
Buses for the party island of Koh Pha Ngan depart from the Southern bus terminal in Bangkok (Sai Tai Taling Chan). Both government and private buses ply the route. Overall journey time is between 13 and 18 hours. The easiest way to make the long journey is by purchasing a combination bus-ferry ticket.
Koh Pha Ngan’s bus terminal is located in Ban Tai on South Shore, just outside the island’s main port Thong Sala. From here you can catch buses to Bangkok and other destinations on the mainland as well as transportation to destinations across the island.
With a bus-ferry ticket, you are taken from the bus station to the Raja ferry terminal from where you catch the ferry to Surat Thani via Donsak (two hours by fast ferry, three hours by slow one) or Chumphon (ferry times vary according to company).
On arrival on the mainland, you board the bus again and continue the journey to Bangkok. Don’t forget to pre-book your ticket online to avoid disappointment, particularly in the run-up to the famous full moon party each month.
VIP buses for Bangkok also leave directly from Koh Pha Ngan’s Raja ferry pier in Thong Sala at 17:00 each day. Another option for reaching Bangkok is to take the ferry from Thong Sala to Donsak then catch the shuttle bus to Surat Thani. From there you can take an overnight train to Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong station; it leaves at 20:45 each night and both 1st and 2nd class sleeper services are available.
In and around the bus terminal travellers can find a basic range of places to buy food such as street vendors selling snacks, restaurants, a supermarket and shops.
From Thong Sala buses and other forms of shared public transport such as songthaews and pick-ups operate to all the main beach resorts around the island.