Chumphon is the transit point to the diving Mecca of Koh Tao, as well as the gateway to the south of Thailand, including both Ranong and Phuket. The overwhelming majority of the tour agencies and guesthouses in the city are geared towards providing travellers with onward ferry and transfer tickets. But besides giving you access to the islands of the gulf, Chumphon serves as a nice pit stop for backpackers who want to take a break from travelling. While there is actually not much to see and to do in the city itself, there are some pleasant and quiet beaches nearby, including Hat Sai Ree (20 km on 4119 and 4098) and a famous Hat Thung Wua Laen (16 km on 3108). The city is also a good spot for sightseeing with Chumphon National Museum displaying prehistorical artefacts found in the province and a handful of historical temples including Wat Pradoen and Wat Chao Fa Sala Loi. The nearby islands of Koh Maprao (permit for visiting is required), Koh Lava, Koh Thalu and the like which are great spots for diving and snorkelling close to coral reefs are not not be disregarded either.
Getting to Chumphon
Getting to Chumphon from Bangkok can be done easiest by bus or train. Either way the trip takes between five and six hours and will cost you not more than 1400 THB per person, depending on the class of the travel ticket you choose. The state bus companies and railways are the cheapest way of travelling between cities in Thailand which still offers comfort and some degree of privacy.
From Bangkok to Chumphon by bus
Bus tickets to Chumphon can be booked from Bangkok through the Suwannatee tour company at Sai Tai Mai bus station, the Southern bus terminal in Bangkok. Currently, there are six buses leaving daily. There are five express buses leaving daily from Sai Tai Mai at 9am, 12pm, 2pm, 8pm and 9pm; and tickets cost 382 THB. A VIP bus leaves the same station at 10pm for 438 THB, but it takes roughly the same amount of time to get to Chumphon on either bus (just under 7 hours).
From Bangkok to Chumphon by train
Trains from Bangkok to Chumphon leave from Hua Lamphong Station throughout the day. They offer the most comfortable ride, depending on which ticket you book. First class sleepers get you and a partner (or if you're lucky, just you) a private cabin which is air conditioned and suitable for a comfortable nights sleep if you take any of the night trains. These tickets will cost 1434 THB, but you get all the comfort that you pay for. Second class sleepers are also air-conditioned and provide beds that fold out of your seating upon request or in the evening. These tickets cost from 870 THB to 970 THB, and while they may not be as private as 1st class, they are still very comfortable. There are ladies’ only carriages introduced recently, and for solo female travellers it is a really good option at 930 THB. The fan sleeper carriage works pretty much the same as a normal sleeper but excludes air conditioning and gives you an arguable opportunity to take in countryside smells along the trip. Fan sleepers cost only 650 THB per person.
Second class seats cost about 500 THB per person, but ensure first that your small back is ready for a 8+ journey.
Trains depart throughout the day. They leave at 8.05am, 1pm, 2.45pm, 3.10pm, 3.35pm, 7.05pm, 5.35pm, 6.30pm, 7.30pm and 10.50pm. If you want to take in the scenery, the day trains are your best options, since the evening trains arrive before the light hours. If you want to sleep the trip away then the 7.30pm and 10.50pm trains are your best option, although they both arrive in Chumphon very early in the morning. The trip takes between 7 and 9 hours to complete, marginally longer than if you take the bus, but the trains offer much more comfort.
Chumpon has two train staitions. Chumphon Train Station is in the center of Chumphon town and the other station, Pathio, is located in the northern area, near the provincial airport.
From Chumphon to the islands of the Gulf
The fastest ferry operator bringing travellers from Chumphon to the islands of the Gulf is Lomprayah. The ferry travel to Koh Tao takes around 1½ hours; if you arrive by train, there is a bus+ferry option by the same operator. Book your Chumphon–Koh Tao travel with Lomprayah here. The cost is between 650 THB and 750 THB per person. After calling to Koh Tao, the same ferry proceeds to the further islands of the Gulf: Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, with prices ranging from 1000 THB to 1100 THB and 1100 THB and 1200 THB correspondingly. There are two ferries leaving Chumphon at 7.30am and 1pm.
**Tip: If your are prone to seasickness, get the necessary medicine at hand.
Getting around in Chumphon
There are a few ways to get around easily in Chumphon depending on what you want to do, see and spend money on.
Motorbikes and Scooters are probably the easiest and cheapest way to get around. They give you the freedom to explore the area at your own pace. Renting a scooter should only cost around 200 THB per day and you will likely be expected to give up your passport upon hiring it.
Renting a car is also an option and will give you both freedom and safety. A car can usually be hired for around 1000 THB per day, and just as with the bikes, you'll probably have to give up your passport as a deposit.
Taxis are convenient, safe and easy, but they will definitely cost you a lot if you are moving around. Taxis, tuk-tuks, songthaews and motorbike taxis can be rented from just about anywhere in the city, and prices will have to be negotiated with the driver.
Where to stay
The majority of backpackers’ guesthouses are located on and in the vicinity of Thanon Tha Thapao. All of them priced very moderately, and normally offer only fan rooms. Be ready, though, that you will not be welcome to some of the places if not showing intentions to by onward tickets to the islands with the guesthouse. If failing to find any other accommodation, head to Farang Bar, which will not most probably ask you about your further travel plans proving a room without any problem. It can be quite noisy there, though.