Khao Lak is located 800 km south of Bangkok. It is nothing more than an approximately 20 km stretch of picturesque beaches and resorts along the Andaman Coast. There are no world-scale attractions around – apart from Similan Islands, easily reachable from Khao Lak – but regardless the increasing numbers of tourists coming along, the region manages to retain its natural beauty and somewhat ‘far-from-it-all’ feel. Direct buses take over 16 hours to bring you to Khao Lak. There is no railway line in Khao Lak, the most handy train station being Suratthani train station in the town of Phun Phin. Whichever means of transport you choose, travelling to Khao Lak you will inevitably pass via Suratthani – and it is a good idea to make a stop there to savour the atmosphere of this southern Thailand town. If you do not want to waste your time on overland travel, consider flying from Bangkok to Phuket or Krabi and then taking a bus or van to Khao Lak.
From Bangkok to Khao Lak by direct bus
One of the operators to recommend which provide direct service between Bangkok and Khao Lak, is Paradive Travel. They have one daily bus departing from near Hua Lamphon train station in Bangkok at 7pm and bringing you to Khao Lak before noon the next morning. Tickets cost THB1050 one-way.
From Bangkok to Khao Lak via Krabi or Phuket
For the fastest hop from Bangkok to Khao Lak consider travelling via Krabi or Phuket. Flights from the capital to either of the destinations take less than 1½ hour with over a dozen daily flights both from Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. Several low-cost airlines – Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air included – serve the route from Don Mueang airport, and you are almost always can grab a one-way ticket for about THB1000; often even cheaper (from THB500).
Note that AirAsia does not include checked luggage into their ticket price while Lion Air does. Thai Smile, which is an affiliate of the national carrier Thai Airways, is normally more expensive than the rest, but it operates from Suvarnabhumi airport and may come handier if you land there and want to continue your journey immediately.
It is 90 km from Phuket and 125 km from Krabi to Khao Lak, easily covered in two hours, if you order a private transfer. Check Ground Business and Andaman Taxis for best offers from Krabi (THB3000) and PGS – for rides from Phuket airport (THB2700).
Tip: Always inquire about the rate for a 9 pax vehicle. Price difference between an ordinary car and a van is usually insignificant or non-existent, but in a bigger vehicle you can travel with more comfort.
Private companies offer van rides from Phuket and Krabi airport to Khao Lak. You can spot their counters in the arrival halls.
Tip: If you have already booked your hotel in Khao Lak, inquire with your host about the transfer from the airport. Some of the resorts can provide their own transport at reasonable rates. Normally they would advise you to fly to Phuket, not Krabi. Prices depend on where in Khao Lak your hotel is located but expect to pay from THB600 per seat.
From Bangkok to Khao Lak via Suratthani
When you travel from Bangkok to Khao Lak overland, you will anyway pass via Suratthani. It can be a good idea to get off at Suratthani and spend a day in the town just to make your long trip less tiring.
The second reason for travelling via Suratthani is that you can reach it from Bangkok by train. There is a choice of southbound trains passing through the town, many of which depart from Bangkok in the evening bringing you to Suratthani early the next morning. You then can hop onto an orange songthaew to town, spend a couple of hours tasting the flavours of the South, take a short stroll around the market and then catch a minibus heading to Khao Lak.
There is no big bus station in Khao Lak and you are most likely to be dropped off at Nang Thong Supermarket.
Why go to Khao Lak
Imagine mighty mountains covered by lush green jungle coming down to beautiful uncrowded beaches kissed by transparent emerald waters of the Andaman Sea; national parks teeming with wildlife and bustling with biodiversity; great off-shore diving sites within an easy reach; decent choice of accommodation catering for all budgets; and all that relatively peacefully co-existing with usual Thai daily life and traditions not yet too much ruined with package tourism craze – and you easily understand the appeal of Khao Lak. Khao Lak is a good alternative to much more popular beaches of Phuket, and if you are not after a vibrant nightlife, glittering modern shopping malls and inflated prices of the largest of the Thai islands, head to Khao Lak instead. It is a perfect hideaway place for a quiet holiday by the sea – stay close to nature, enjoy unspoiled beaches, spend time with your kids and explore endless trails in national parks. The wettest months are from April to November and during this period life pace slows even more in Khao Lak giving way to a kind of autumn spleen, Thai style.
Where to stay in Khao Lak
Khuk Khak is the most promising area from the point of view of the cheapies. More upscale accommodation is found in Bang La On with Bang Niang offering something in between. World chain resorts have established their headquarters in the northern part of Khao Lak – this is where you find Marriott or Le Meridien. If planning to stay out of the main drag, remember that public transport is next to non-existent in Khao Lak and if you do not have your own wheels, you will be bound to rely on taxis which are, though rather inexpensive, will cost you a real fortune at the end of the day.
Things to do in Khao Lak
Lovely sand beaches are the main draw of Khao Lak for many travellers. Apart from just spending lazy days on the beach, you can get acquainted with the underwater world just off-shore diving or snorkelling or take a day trip to the cult Similan islands which offer arguably the most amazing diving opportunities in the whole country. If you are not short of time, consider live abroad ships which make a tour around the islands of the Andaman.
Lam Ru Khao Lak National Park features a couple of spectacular waterfalls along with a picturesque white sand beach easily explored as a day tour, though camping within the park is also available.
Some 30 km north of Khao Lak lies Takua Pa town, which makes for a nice stroll along the narrow streets flanked with quaint shops and colonial Sino-Portuguese mansions.
Khao Sok National Park, one of the most scenic and diverse national parks in Thailand with a large stretch of virgin rain forest is just 70 km north of Khao Lak. It can be visited as a day tour from Khao Lak, though spending at least one night at Cheow Lan Lake within the park boundaries is an unforgettable experience. For more detailed information about Khao Sok check our Bangkok¬¬–Khao Sok page.
Onward travel from Khao Lak
Khao Lak sits on National Route #4. Following it down south you can reach Phuket (100 km); or, proceeding further along the Andaman Coast, pass through Phang Nga (70 km; 1½ hour), Krabi (135 km; 2½ hours) and Trang (360 km; 4 hours). All the above mentioned destinations can be reached rather by van than by an ordinary bus.
You get take a van heading to Khao Sok National Park via Route 401 (70 km and 1½ hour), too, and after spending a couple of hours or days there proceed to Suratthani (130 km; 2½ hours).
Buses from Phuket to Bangkok and vice versa can be flagged down at Khao Lak, but if your destination is not on their route or you are after a higher level of comfort, consider ordering a taxi. PGS, Ground Business or Phantip Charter all serve Khao Lak and offer three pax cars or 9 pax vans for travel around the region at reasonable prices.