To get from the northern capital of Chiang Mai to the party island of Koh Phangan you will need to cover the distance of 1,450 km. There is no direct transport between the two destinations. To reach the island, you will first have to travel to either Chumphon, Suratthani, Donsak on the mainland or to Koh Samui and then take a ferry to Koh Phangan. Total travel time can be anywhere from mere 3 hours if you fly and ferry to about 30 hours if you travel completely by train or bus plus ferry. Costs vary from about THB1,800 to over THB6,000.
Flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui or Suratthani
There is no airport on Koh Phangan. The closest air haven is located on Koh Samui. You can fly to Koh Samui direct from Chiang Mai with Bangkok Airways but it does not come cheap at about THB6,000 and up one-way (1 hour 45 minutes; 2 daily flights at 9am and 12.45pm).
A more budget-friendly option is to fly from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and connect to a flight to Suratthani. There is a wide choice of daily departures from Chiang Mai to both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in Bangkok, so it pays to check if you fly in and out of one and the same airport in Bangkok.
Note that low cost airlines like Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air all operate from Don Mueang airport. Expect each segment of your ticket cost from THB1,000 depending on how lucky you are catching the best deals. Each flight takes roughly 1 hour; add a layover in Bangkok – normally between one and 5 hours at worst.
There are also direct flights from Chiang Mai to Suratthani with AirAsia. Tickets normally cost over THB2,000 and flight time is just under 2 hours.
Ferry from Koh Samui and Suratthani to Koh Phangan
If you fly to either Koh Samui or Suratthani, the best way to get to Koh Phangan from these airports is to buy a combination ticket which will include a bus ride to the pier and a ferry ride to Koh Phangan. The total travel time is generally 3 hours if you start from Koh Samui airport and 4–7 hours in case if your starting point is Suratthani airport.
From Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan by train, bus and ferry
The most economical way to travel to Koh Phangan is to combine buses and ferry or trains, bus and ferry. This journey will take you roughly 30 hours and thus is not actually recommended though possible.
Train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok takes about 13 hours with more 12 hours necessary to get from Bangkok to Suratthani, also by rail. Ticket prices depend on the class of the carriage you travel and can be as low as THB400 to as much as THB1,800 each leg.
From Suratthani railway station which is actually located in the town of Phun Phin several operators including Raja Ferry or Seatran Discovery offer joint tickets to Koh Phangan – 5 hours; from THB400-700. Otherwise you can first get to Donsak and hop onto a boat to Koh Phangan from there.
If you prefer travelling by road, you will need to follow the same route changing buses in Bangkok. Travel time and ticket prices are about 11 hours and from THB500 from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and 9 hours and from THB400 from Bangkok to Suratthani, but if you want to travel in a relative comfort (VIP or VIP24 bus), calculate at least THB800 each leg. Note though, that most probably you will also need to change bus terminals in Bangkok as buses from Chiang Mai in most cases will bring you to Morchit while southbound buses depart from Sai Tai Mai. It makes the journey longer and more complicated, though there is also a direct bus link between Chiang Mai and Suratthani operated by Greenbus (route from Chiang Mai to Phuket; 20 hours; THB1,500).
From Suratthani bus station take a combination bus and ferry ticket to Koh Phangan.
The most cost and time efficient way to get to Koh Phangan from Chiang Mai is arguably flying through Bangkok or direct to Suratthani and then taking advantage of a joint ticket from Suratthani airport to Koh Phangan.
Another good option is to get to Bangkok by plane, train or bus and to buy a fly-and-ferry deal from Bangkok to Koh Phangan offered by some of the low cost airlines.
Though travelling by trains and buses is also possible we feel like in this case it does not make much sense unless you are planning to make a longer stop en route, either in Bangkok or Suratthani.