Pak Bara is the principal port you are going to get through to the mainland after your stay on Koh Lipe. Wherever you are heading next – Trang, Krabi, Hat Yai, Phuket or else, the easiest way to get on the road is to take a speedboat from Koh Lipe to Pak Bara. During high season months, which is approximately from November through April, there are a lot of boats between Koh Lipe and the mainland. The rest of the year you can rely on one boat a day, which is sometimes cancelled if the weather is too nasty. The sea trip from Koh Lipe to Pak Bara takes from 1½ hour to two hours and can be quite bumpy if the sea is rough – take your medicine if you are prone to seasickness.
From Koh Lipe to Pak Bara by speedboat
There are a lot of operators ready to take you on board their speedboats, all offering more or less the same service, level of comfort and price. Expect to pay THB500 per person with Jolly Travel or Lipe Ferry and speed boat and up to THB700 with A Dang Adventure or Tiger Ferry. Among the above mentioned operators Tiger Ferry has the largest – and most stable – boats. Their high-speed ferries connect Koh Lipe with many islands within Tarutao Marine National Park, Koh Adang archipelago and beyond, including Krabi and Langkawi Island in Malaysia.
The first boat of the day heading to Pak Bara leaves Koh Lipe at 9am, and the last one – at 4pm, all arriving to Pak Bara Pier which can get extremely busy during the season.
Onward transport from Pak Bara
There is not much sense in making a stop in Pak Bara as the village is nothing more than a untidy scattering of shop houses, all geared towards serving the needs of the port. If you still need to stay in Pak Bara for a night, there are a couple of very simple guesthouses on the main drag.
Literary speaking, Pak Bara is a port of Langu and as such Pak Bara does not have a long distance bus station – well, any bus station. Yet there are daily vans from the port to some of the destinations of the Andaman, including Trang, Koh Lanta, Phuket, Phang Nga and Hat Yai. To catch any of them, you have to arrive to Pak Bara by 11.30am the latest which means leaving Koh Lipe by boat before 9.30am.
If you arrive later, then take an orange public songthaew (THB20) going from the port to Langu bus station. Songthaews are normally available round the clock every 30 minutes or so. From Langu bus station you can then proceed by local bus or van to Satun, Trang or Hat Yai where to connect to almost all other provincial centres and major destinations in Thailand.
Combination trips from Koh Lipe to Hat Yai
The majority of travellers prefer to buy combination tickets from Koh Lipe to their next destination to avoid hassle connected with getting out of Pak Bara all by themselves.
It makes sense to consider a combination trip from Koh Lipe to Hat Yai – either to the airport (THB700) or to the railway station (THB600) – from where you can continue your journey north up the country or south down to Malaysia.
Northbound trains to Bangkok pass through Hat Yai in the afternoon and in the evening, between 2.30pm and 6.45pm. Combination trips from Koh Lipe bring you to the train station in time to catch them. Arguably the best choice is train #36 which leaves Hat Yai at 6.45pm and arrives to Hua Lamphong by 11am and offers both first and second class sleepers (THB1000–THB1800). If you prefer travelling by bus, there is a wide choice of night buses from Hat Yai bus terminal #1 located close to Diana Plaza, less than 2 km east from the train station. Buses are a bit cheaper and faster than trains (THB800; 14 hours).
Hat Yai International Airport is the major hub airport in the south of Thailand and as such serves over 80 flights daily. From Hat Yai airport, you can fly to both of Bangkok airports and several other destinations throughout the country including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen and Pattaya (U-Tapao) with AirAsia and to Phuket with Bangkok Airways. International destinations include Kuala Lumpur (AirAsia) and Singapore (Tiger Airways).
From Koh Lipe to other destinations
Tiger Ferry high-speed boats connect Koh Lipe with islands of the Andaman as well as Krabi and Phuket. While direct boat trip when travelling, say, from Koh Lipe to Langkawi, is a sensible choice, travelling from Koh Lipe to Phuket by boat is pricy and long (8 hours, THB2400). If you are not sure whether travelling 8 hours by speedboat is your thing, consider taking a boat to Pak Bara and then switching to a van at the port. This trip will take longer in the terms of time spent (2 hours from Koh Lipe to Pak Bara plus about 7 hours from Pak Bara to Phuket), but travelling by bus and by boat are two different things.
The same is true to some island destinations like Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. Some of the Trang islands including Koh Libong, Koh Kradan, Muk and Koh Ngai can be reached by boat from Hat Yao pier in Trang. But if the weather is good and you do not mind a sea journey, why not hop onto the next boat to your dream island?
Here are some of the islands within reach from Koh Lipe you can choose as your next destination.
The largest of the islands within Tarutao Marine National Park and Tarutao archipelago in Satun province, Koh Tarutao used to be a prison but now it is home to fishermen and farmers – as well as the last known habitat in Thailand of saltwater crocodile.
The distance from Koh Lipe to Koh Tarutao is under 40 km. Speedboats from Koh Lipe take one hour to reach Koh Tarutao, but for the trip expect to pay the same price as you would pay if going to Pak Bara (THB500). Almost all boats between Koh Lipe and Pak Bara call to Koh Tarutao en route, and it is normally not a problem to catch one.
Koh Bulon Leh
Koh Bulon Leh also belongs to Tarutao archipelago and lies 45 km northeast of Koh Lipe but many boats from Koh Lipe call to Koh Tarutao first and then proceed to Koh Bulon Leh, which brings the distance they have to cover to 65 km. Travel time to Koh Bulon Leh is 1½ hour. There are no cars on the island and very little development. If you are after complete close-to-nature relaxation and low-key beach experience, check Koh Bulon Leh.
Koh Libong is the principal island of the namesake archipelago and is the largest island in Trang province. Travelling by sea from Koh Lipe to Koh Libong takes three hours (THB850). Very relaxed and rustic, Koh Libong is known as one of the last habitats of dugong, aka sea cows.
Koh Muk belongs to the Trang islands and lies mere 8 km northeast of Koh Kradan. Ferries from Koh Lipe call to Koh Muk first and then proceed to Koh Kradan. Travel time to Koh Muk is 3½ hours (THB1600). Among the three neighbouring islands – Koh Kradan, Koh Ngai and Koh Muk – the latter is probably of a minor interest, though its beaches are decent and accommodation is offered at very reasonable rates – cheaper than the average in the area. That said, Koh Muk is a welcome detox after the massive development of Koh Lipe.
One of the most stunning Thai islands with picture perfect white sand beaches and transparent waters, Koh Kradan is an ultimate beach destination. Do not expect busy nightlife and much development; lazy days spent in a hammock or snorkelling right off shore is a standard Koh Kradan itinerary. It takes 4 hours to get to Koh Kradan from Koh Lipe, and the trip is nowhere close to be budget (THB1800).
A trip to Koh Ngai is easily done in the frame of Koh Kradan-Muk-Ngai island-hopping. The island belongs to Koh Lanta archipelago and is a scenic paradise for a romantic holiday. It is the right place to pamper yourself in good quality spas and enjoy quiet life with all those little pleasures luxury resorts can offer. And yes, Koh Ngai does not come cheap. A sea trip from Koh Lipe to Koh Ngai takes 4½ hours (THB1600).
Sweeping long beaches of Koh Lanta are never crowded. And while the island cannot boast the stunning beauty of karst mountains of other destinations in Krabi province, there is much more to Koh Lanta than just ordinary beach pastime. The Old Town of Lanta is a picturesque mishmash of teak houses, quirky shops, fish restaurants with an extraordinary view, warm atmosphere and red Chinese lanterns. Malay dished cooked by moms in traditional Muslim dresses are mouth-watering, and colourful fishermen boats dot the sea by the Chao Leh village. Travelling by sea from Koh Lipe to Koh Lanta sets you back THB1700. Expect to spend around 6 hours.