Surat Thani Travel Guide

IMG_1811.jpg by u07ch

In a nutshell

Surat Thani is known as the gateway to the islands on the east coast of Thailand. With easy access to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, many don’t even stop to think about what Surat Thani has to offer other than its port, let alone actually stay to find out.

Why go to Surat Thani

The town has received quite a bad reputation thanks to the transport scams and ticket touts, however, if you look past that, Surat Thani has plenty to offer the intrepid traveller. Although you won’t get the golden beaches of the country’s famed islands, you’ll grasp an insight into Thai culture, explore some great national parks and dine on delicious southern cuisine!

Surat Thani is full of culture and if you need somewhere to wind down after partying on Koh Phangan we recommend staying for a few days in Surat before heading off on your next adventure. Whether you simply want to wander around Surat’s Chinese-style waterfront or head out on day trips to local national parks there are plenty of things you can do with Surat Thani as your base.

The wats or temples around Surat Thani are unusual in that they represent Srivijayan culture in Thailand. This was a centre of Buddhism that expanded across southeast Asia from Sumatra in Indonesia. It is therefore interesting to visit sites such as Wat Phra Borommathat Chaiya in Surat Thani to gain an insight into the history of Buddhism in Thailand. You can also compare and contrast these to other temples in Bangkok and Chiang Mai to see the differences between them based on when and why they were built.

When to go to Surat Thani

Surat Thani lies on the east coast of Thailand and is pleasant for the majority of the year. The only time this coastline is notably affected by the weather is during the monsoon season between October and December. Boats will still depart from Surat Thani out to the islands at this time. However, there may be fewer departures and some may be cancelled at the last minute if the weather is particularly bad. The town can be whipped by quite heavy rain at times so it’s best to head into the shops and temples during the wettest parts of the day.

If you’re looking to combine your stay in Surat Thani with a trip to the islands (as most people do) we recommend visiting between January–August.

Where to stay in Surat Thani

Most travellers bypass Surat Thani entirely on their way to the islands, and therefore the infrastructure hasn’t really expanded in the same way that is has in Koh Samui or Koh Phangan.

As a result, there is less variety when it comes to accommodation in Surat Thani than some of the other hotspots in Thailand. Rather than offering cheap backpacker hostels, mid-range hotels and flash boutique lodges, to suit all clientele, Surat Thani tries to tick every box with a few large-ish, good-value hotels with decent amenities. This means that you will get a fairly good hotel at a modest price, but don’t expect offerings at either end of the accommodation spectrum.

Where to eat in Surat Thani

On the islands, restaurants cater to all different tastes and usually present toned-down Thai flavours and western dishes. In Surat Thani, however, you can expect to find some delicious local dishes with southern Thai flavours known for having quite a kick!

Check out the street food at the night markets, fresh seafood that comes in from the Gulf each morning and any of the tasty southern curries which pack a punch. Food lovers will be able to eat their way through Surat Thani stopping at noodle joints, bakeries and street food vendors along the way.

How to get around Surat Thani

Most travellers are likely to stay in one of the centrally-located hotels in Surat Thani, in which case, you can generally walk around all the city sights on foot.

If you want to head further afield there is a frequent bus service and songthaews can often be caught along many of the main roads. Speak to your hotel to find out where the closest stop is.

If you’re going out on a day trip from Surat Thani, you’re likely to have transport provided, so hiring a car or motorbike is probably not necessary.

How to get to and from Surat Thani

Surat Thani is a transport hub on the east coast of Thailand. It is easily reached from a range of destinations across the country and is the main gateway to the islands. There are a few options of how to travel from Bangkok to Surat Thani:

If you are travelling by overnight bus from the west coast or the capital, you will have to stop in Surat Thani before changing to a catamaran or ferry to take you to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Tao, though the latter is easier reached from Chumphon. The bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani takes approximately 12 hours.

Alternatively, you can take the scenic route by train allowing you to take in the sites of the east coast as you travel down. This journey takes between 9-12 hours depending on the time of day you travel.

If you’d prefer a speedy journey from Bangkok to Surat Thani you can fly internally. You can fly with a range of airlines including Air Asia and Nok Air which takes around 1h15.

Is Surat Thani safe?

Generally, the locals in Surat Thani are known to be friendly and welcoming. In fact, the city’s name actually translates as “The City of Good People”. However, as with anywhere in the world there are some people trying to make a fast buck. When you are trying to buy ferry tickets, only purchase them from reputable travel agents or alternatively book online with Lomprayah and pick up from the ferry ticket office. Do not purchase tickets from random people on the streets as this is the easiest way to be conned!

Suratthani station guide

Suratthani - train

Suratthani is the largest among the southern provinces of Thailand. The province has its tracks railed 651 kilometers from Bangkok.

The train station was opened in 1915, and was then called Phun Phin Station. Historically, the station was used by the Imperial Japanese Army as a base for military activity during World War 2. Suratthani train station was consequently bombed by an American aircraft so the state railway had to build a second station for the province.

Unfortunately, the second station needed to be demolished shortly when Chulachonklao bridge was opened for traffic. The third reconstruction completed in 1954. In total, there are now 32 railways in Suratthani Province.

Suratthani - Bus

Suratthani is a fairly large city and the capital of the south’s largest province of the same name. It is also the launch point to some of the country’s most popular tourist islands such as Koh Pha Ngan, Koh Samui and Koh Tao.

Regular buses arrive in the city from Bangkok and other major southern towns. There are daytime and overnight buses from the capital’s Southern terminal, a 12- to 13-hour trip, with VIP, air-conditioned services on offer. Given the popularity of the route, it is highly recommended that you pre-purchase tickets online to avoid disappointment.

From the Andaman side of Thailand, buses from Phuket take around six hours. It is also possible to catch a bus from Krabi, Phang Nga, Hat Yai and many other southern towns. Flights from both Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports as well as from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, offer another option of getting to Suratthani, as does taking the train from Bangkok, although the station is 15kms outside the town at Phun Phin.

The long distance bus terminal is relatively modern and is five kilometres out of town. However, if you’re heading into town, tell the driver and he will most likely drop you off there. Otherwise tuk-tuk and other local transportation options are on hand.

Suratthani Train station - Bus

The train station serving the province of Suratthani is located on the Tapi River's east bank in Thakham city. This district is known as Phun Phin and situated 14kms west of Thailand's eighth biggest city, also called Suratthani. At least one train passes through Suratthani train station, Thai Railways Southern Line's central main rail hub, every 20 minutes.

As no third-class trains travel directly between Suratthani train station and Bangkok, many rail passengers from Thailand's national capital travel to Chumphon, then board third-class trains to Suratthani. Another option is boarding one of the many overnight trains which leave Bangkok's Hua Lumphong station, arriving at Suratthani station 12 hours later.

Suratthani train station may be a modest outdoor facility, but it still contains several travel agencies, a left luggage room, and an office especially for advance booking. The rail station is surrounded by places to buy souvenirs and eat. A total of 28 trains travel through Suratthani train station per day. Local red and orange buses travel between Phun Phin and Suratthani city centre once every 15 minutes.

One nearby place to stay, the Queen Hotel, screens films in its downstairs lounge. Most other hotels are situated a fair distance away from the station, including the O Valley Boutique Hotel, Ruenthai Rimnam Resort, and Naraya Riverside Resort.

Phrasaeng - Bus

Phrasaeng is a small town and district 700kms south of Bangkok. Khlong Phraya Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the district. The town is halfway between Krabi and Surat Thani. Although these two tourist towns are on opposite sides of the southern Thai peninsula, it is so narrow at this point that buses from either town rarely take much over one hour to get to Phrasaeng.

Highway 44 is the principal cross-country route and the frequent buses using it pick up and drop off passengers at Phrasaeng. It is possible to buy bus tickets online and reserve a seat from Bangkok’s Southern bus station all the way through, with just one change in Surat Thani.

Kanchanadit - Bus

The district of Kanchanadit covers the part of Surat Thani province between the Nakhon Si Thammarat mountain range, Tapi River valley, and the Gulf of Thailand's Bandon Bay. Kanchanadit is best known as the home of a monkey training college situated 13kms east of Surat Thani. Local orange buses travel between Kanchanadit and Surat Thani’s bus station number one. Part of Tai Rom Yen National Park is also situated in Kanchanadit.

Bangkok is best reached from Surat Thani, which boast three bus stations. Diamond Plaza, situated on Surat Thani's outer edge, is the region's most luxurious hotel. Most other places to stay are budget establishments like Tapee Hotel and Ban Don Hotel.

Suratthani Airport - Bus

Suratthani Airport serves the Thai province of Suratthani and is situated 21kms west of the provincial capital, also named Suratthani, in the Phun Phin district. Many of the more than 816,000 passengers who used Suratthani Airport in 2012 headed straight for the famous southern Thailand beach resorts in Phuket and the central Gulf coast islands.

Domestic flights are available to Hat Yai and both major Bangkok airports, while AirAsia offers flights between Suratthani Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport. International charter flight options include TransAsia Airways flights to Taipei, China Southern Airlines flights to Guangzhou, and China Eastern Airlines flights to Chengdu.

Suratthani Airport may be fairly small, but it still contains a lot of basic amenities such as clean toilets, wireless internet, public telephones, a restaurant, and even a couple of shops. Mini-bus taxis stand outside the terminal ready to make the half-hour journey between the airport and Suratthani city centre. There are also connections to Suratthani train station, also located in Phun Phin.

Many of the hotels nearest the airport, from the small Ruenthai Rimnam Resort to the more upscale Wangtai Hotel, offer shuttle services. Another popular option is the modern O Valley Boutique Hotel, while the Naraya Riverside Resort boasts its own poolside snack bar.

Ban Ta Khun - Bus

Ban Ta Khun is a small southern town in Surat Thani province, around 670kms south of Bangkok, and has its own bus station. An overnight bus leaves Bangkok’s Southern Terminal every night, arriving into the town some nine hours later. The nearby Surat Thani Airport also makes it possible to fly into the area.

Ban Ta Khun’s bus station sits on highway 401 close to Ban Ta Khun Hospital and Wat Ta Khun. Places of interest in and around the town include Ratchaprapa Dam Golf Course, Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary and Khao Sok National Park. There are also a few places to stay, such as PR Garden Hotel, Baan Darlah and Rim Khuan Resort.

Suratthani Town - Bus

Many visitors to Suratthani Town stay only long enough to board ferries, trains or buses to more well-known holiday destinations like Phuket, Phang Nga, or any of the countless islands off southern Thailand's central Gulf coast. Thailand's eighth biggest city and provincial capital of Suratthani, however, has its own hidden delights.

Suratthani contains three significant bus stations. One is situated about five kilometres outside the city centre near the intersection of four major roads. One bus arriving from the right transports passengers to the rail station, while another bus arriving from the left goes to the city centre.

The other two bus stations, Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 1 and Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 2, are situated opposite each other in the city centre. Air-conditioned blue buses depart Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 1 for Nakhon Si Thammarat once per hour.

Downtown Transportation Hub Talad Kaset 2 is where passengers board buses and mini-buses bound for Krabi, Hat Yai, Phang Nga, and Phuket. Purchasing tickets from the bus agent or aboard the buses themselves is the easiest way to avoid the many scams associated with travel agents.

Another popular scam is perpetrated by people who ask foreign bus passengers where they are going, then insist they leave the bus and take another means of transportation to the islands. These passengers are then deposited at a Suratthani travel agents office who will charge them an inflated price for transport to Koh Samui.

Bus connections are also available to the Suratthani airport and rail station, both of which are actually located west of the city in a district called Phun Phin. Fast ferries take approximately two and a half hours to travel between Suratthani and the central Gulf coast islands, while slow ferries require nine hours to make the journey.

Chaiya - train

Chaiya Railway Station is the main station serving the northern part of Surat Thani Province. The station has 2 tracks in its yard and 2 platforms but has no siding for freight carriers.

Chaiya Railway Station opened in 1915. The rising of the station made town locals move near the site which as a good consequence, formalized the location to be called "Chaiya Town".

In July of 2010, the station was reformed and became a 1st class station. The station is also connected with Chaiya Bus Service.

Phunphin - Bus

Phunphin is located in Surat Thani province in the south of Thailand, around 14kms from the provincial capital of the same name. The district is the major transportation hub in the province, with Surat Thani railway station, which serves trains from Bangkok to the south, actually located in Phunphin. Surat Thani Airport is located here too.

Asian Highway 2 (or Route 41) runs through Phunphin, with VIP, air-conditioned buses from Bangkok’s Southern terminal as well as provincial buses passing through the district throughout the day. At the terminus, you can buy food and drinks from vendors as well as catch various forms of taxi to your next destination.

Chaiya - Bus

The small southern town of Chaiya sits near the Gulf coast of Thailand in Surat Thani province, just over 500kms south of Bangkok. The town has its own bus station, with an overnight bus leaving Bangkok’s Southern terminal each night, arriving around 11 hours later. There is also a railway station in Chaiya served by the Southern Line.

An airport in Surat Thani makes it simple to arrive by air, and a taxi will connect passengers to the town, around a two-hour drive away. Local buses and minivans link Chaiya with other towns and cities in the province.

The bus station and railway station are within walking distance of each other; both are close to the intersection of highways 4011 and 4191 near the police station. There is a 7-Eleven right at the intersection and ATMs along both highways. Buses and trains can fill quickly so online booking is advisable ahead of time.

Places of interest in and around Chaiya include the historical Wat Phra Mahathat, the Chaiya Folk Museum and Wat Phra Borom That and its Srivijaya style stupa. There are a few places to stay in the area, like the Chaiya Resort, Happy House Resort, Ban Phum Riang Hotel and PV Riverside Resort.

Chai Buri - Bus

Chai Buri is located in the southern portion of Surat Thani province, just over 735kms from Bangkok and 45kms from Krabi Airport. There are no direct buses here from Bangkok, but the town can be accessed by air via Krabi or by bus via Khao Phanom, where a taxi or local bus will then take you to Chai Buri.

There is a small bus station in Chai Buri next to Chai Buri Park on route 4037 and close to a few ATMs. Places of interest nearby include Sai Sopha Hot Spring, Wat Khao Phanom and Khao Phanombencha National Park.

Phanom - Bus

Phanom district is the westernmost in Surat Thani province. It is nestled in the mountains that separate southern Thailand’s Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand shorelines. The district is the access point for Khlong Phanom National Park. Highway 401 traverses the mountain range and links Surat Thani Town to Takua Pa.

People travelling to Phanom from Bangkok need to take a bus or train to Surat Thani Town to first. Journey times for buses are 10 hours and a bit longer by train. Buses are the better option as they offer seamless onward connections. Travel time to Phanom is two hours. Tickets are available at the different bus stations or as a combined one if bought in advance on the internet.

Ban Na San - Bus

Ban Na San is a small town in Surat Thani province, some 675kms south of Bangkok, and has its own bus and railway stations. Trains that arrive here run along the Southern Line, while buses connect the town to other destinations in the province.

The railway station and bus station are within a few minutes’ walk from one another, just off of Highway 4009. There is a 7-Eleven and a market close by as well as a few hotels, including Siam City and Villa Na Khao Resort. Ban Na San is the gateway to Tai Rom Yen National Park.

Ban Na Doem - Bus

The small town of Ban Na Doem is located right in the centre of Surat Thani province, around 650kms south of Bangkok. It has its own railway station, which is serviced by the Southern Line, and is also accessible from Bangkok by air via Surat Thani Airport. From here taxis will take you to the town.

Places of interest in and around Ban Na Doem include Wat Ban Na Doem and Tai Rom Yen National Park. It is also not too far from Khao Sok National Park. There are a few places to stay in the area, such as Pittaya Inn and The Camp hotels.

Tha Chana - Bus

Situated around 30kms north of the city of Surat Thani, Tha Chana is a district that hugs the Gulf of Thailand coastline as well as features an inland national park. Route 41, which runs from the south to Chumphon before joining the main Route 4 to Bangkok, goes through the district, so many buses from south to north and vice-versa pass through on a daily basis.

Provincial buses, originating in Surat Thani, also serve Tha Chana throughout the day. Among the points of interest in the district are the mountainous Kaeng Krung National Park and the reclining Buddha statue in the Amphoe Tha Chana cave.


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