Yes, Koh Lanta is an island, you get it right; but in the same manner as in case with Phuket it is possible to take a direct bus from Bangkok to Koh Lanta – though it will not be quick. If you are against long haul non-stop journeys, you may want to consider combination trips via Suratthani or via Krabi. For the fastest hop, fly from Bangkok to Krabi and then take a van to Koh Lanta. Suratthani comes handy if you prefer to cover long distances by train – there is a choice of night departures from Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok which all pair perfectly with the onward transfer from Suratthani train station or Suratthani bus station to Koh Lanta. You can opt for a ferry departing from Krabi or Phuket, too, but it takes longer than an overland journey and costs more.
From Bangkok to Koh Lanta by bus
Several operators provide direct bus service from Bangkok to Koh Lanta. The journey takes about 18 hours in average but you cover the main part of the distance by night what also allows you to save on accommodation. Buses make several stops on the way, and there are toilets on board, too. Blankets and snacks may or may not be provided – check before buying your ticket with the operator. Tickets cost anywhere from THB800 to THB1300 and in general travelling by bus is the most budget-friendly way to get from Bangkok to Koh Lanta. There are departures from Khao San Road and Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok among others.
On Koh Lanta, buses normally bring you to Ban Saladan, the main village on Koh Lanta where the largest island pier is located. Ban Saladan is a good area to search for cheapies, but if you want to stay close to the beach, it is not the right place to dig for accommodation.
Tip:Beware unscrupulous operators! Many of the bus services originating from Khao San Road are infamous for en route theft, so choose your bus company carefully: speak to your fellow travellers or study other travellers’ reviews in the web.
From Bangkok to Koh Lanta via Suratthani
If a direct 18-hour travel from Bangkok to Koh Lanta looks too tiring, consider splitting the route in two parts. One of the possible ways to do it – and probably the most convenient one – is to get from Bangkok to Suratthani first and then reach Koh Lanta from Suratthani.
There is a choice of bus and train departures from Bangkok to Suratthani, including night ones which do not steal precious daytime from your holidays. Suratthani-bound buses leave from Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok and take around 10 hours to get to the town (THB600 for a VIP bus); trains originate from Hua Lamphong train station and need a couple of hours more to get to Suratthani train station located in the town of Phun Phin, but offer acceptable second class fan and AC berths as well as first class sleepers if you are after a higher level of comfort (THB800/THB1000/THB1600 respectively).
If you want to proceed to Koh Lanta immediately after you reach Suratthani – what actually does not make much sense – choose a train that arrives to Suratthani not later than 7am. The best ones include #173, #167 and #85, all leaving Bangkok between 5.30pm and 7.30pm. There is a direct transfer from Suratthani train station to Koh Lanta at 8am daily with Phantip. It costs THB600 and takes 4 hours to reach the island.
If you decide to make a stopover in Suratthani, then you can hop onto a bus to Koh Lanta the next morning. Several bus companies operate from Suratthani bus station near Talat Kaset 1 between 7am and 11.30am with Phantip buses offering the most budget service (THB550).
From Bangkok to Koh Lanta via Krabi or Phuket
There is no airport on Koh Lanta and if you want to cover a part of the distance by air, check Krabi, the nearest airport for onward trips to Koh Lanta. Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air fly to Krabi from Don Mueang airport in Bangkok while Thai Smile takes off from Suvarnabhumi. You can sometimes get air tickets from Bangkok to Krabi (1½ hour) for as low as THB500 with some checked luggage included into the fair; and for most dates you will be in any case paying under THB1000 for a one-way ticket. There is over a dozen daily flights from the capital to Krabi any time of the day.
On arrival to Krabi airport you will be inevitably met by van operators offering trips to the most popular destinations throughout the province, Koh Lanta included (THB600). In April 2016 a bridge between Koh Lanta Noi and Koh Lanta Yai was opened and now Koh Lanta (Yai) can be reached overland – you do not need to take a ferry which used to be the case prior to the bridge opening. Tigerline Ferry operates combination trips from Krabi airport which include a van ride to the pier in Krabi Town and then a high-speed ferry transfer to Saladan pier on Koh Lanta. It costs more and takes more than an ordinary van ride, but makes for a pleasant sea journey (THB1100; 5 hours).
Take a note of Andaman Taxis’ offer for transfer between Krabi airport and Koh Lanta. They have 9 pax vans for THB1800, which is a fantastic deal if you are travelling as a group of 4 or more fellows.
There is absolutely no need to go to the town from Krabi airport first in a hope to catch a cheaper transport: you will lose more time and end up paying more or less the same.
If there are no cheap air tickets from Bangkok to Krabi, check Phuket (1½ hour) – there is even wider choice of flights from Bangkok to Phuket. To get from Phuket to Koh Lanta, take a ferry. It takes just two hours, but is rather costly (THB1200-THB1500). On the pro side of this rather an expensive trip are extraordinarily beautiful marine panoramas.
Why go to Koh Lanta
Part of Krabi province, Koh Lanta Yai is the largest island of the namesake archipelago which also includes uninhabited Koh Lanta Noi. Condé Nast Traveller list Koh Lanta in their top-10 Thai islands along with Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui or Koh Lipe, and while the flow of tourists to Koh Lanta grows year after year, it remains a relatively quiet and tranquil place. Sweeping Lanta beaches are so long that never feel too crowded, even during the high season when many accommodations are full. Backpackers who were the first to discover the island back in 80s, give way to package European tourists, and simple beach huts are difficult to come across in a growing community of midrange-to-luxury resorts. That said, Koh Lanta still welcomes travellers of all budgets luring them with secluded beaches, lazy days spent with a book in a hammock, amazing dive sites within an easy reach of the island and mouth-watering southern Thai flavours dished out by the members of large Lanta’s Muslim community.
Things to do on Koh Lanta
Even if the main reason for visiting Koh Lanta is the beach and all other sea-related activities like snorkelling, diving, kayaking, SUP or just touring the neighbouring islands, take some rest from the sea-sand-sun combo and go explore the inner part of Koh Lanta.
The Old Town is an absolute Koh Lanta’s must visit. It is a small village which once used to be the municipal centre of the island but nowadays provides a picturesque setting for a stroll along narrow streets oozing old Lanta’s charm infused on a mix of different cultures: Chinese, Southern Thai and Muslim. Seafood restaurants with breezy terraces hide behind inconspicuous house doors and serve the catch of the day.
Mu Koh Lanta National Park sits on the southern tip of the island and boasts idyllic beaches. There are some hiking opportunities as well as spectacular panoramas from a rocky cliff, a lighthouse and lazy monkeys frolicking around. The park can be reached by motorbike or, if you do not rent one, negotiate a round trip with a songthaew driver from any of the beaches.
Thung Yee Peng Mangrove Forest is a great destination for a half-day walk or kayaking. If you are lucky enough, you can spot fiddler crabs, mudskippers or cranes. A day in the mangrove forest can be complemented with a visit the namesake village where there is a butterfly and orchid farm.
Onward travel from Koh Lanta
Any travel agency on Koh Lanta advertises at least a couple of dozens destinations you can reach from the island. Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Trang islands are all in the route lists. In reality travellers heading to different places are often put onto one and the same big boat and then transferred to their final destinations by longtail boats which you have to board at some point in the middle of the sea. It is the case with e.g. the cheapest tickets to Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Railey Beach and Phuket.
Pricier speedboats provide direct transfer from Koh Lanta almost to all the major islands of the Andaman Sea in Thailand including Koh Lipe, Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai, Koh Muk and Koh Libong as well as Langkawi island in Malaysia and mainland destinations like Krabi or Trang. For the best deals check Tigerline Ferry.