Hey, a happy Open Water Diver (do not tell us you have spent your time on Koh Tao without trying your scuba on!), now it is time to go back to civilisation, is it not? Before you say good-bye to all those sandy beaches and underwater wonders, make sure to have checked Koh Tao’s neighbours, Koh Phangan and Samui. Though all the three islands are so close to each other, the vibe and flavour of each of them differ greatly. Why not compare? Party all night through at famous Koh Phangan’s Full Moon parties or enjoy the eldest of the three brothers, Samui.
From Koh Tao to Koh Phangan
Lomprayah links Koh Tao and Koh Phangan twice a day (9.30am and 3pm; one hour). Seatran Discovery is a bit slower (1½ hr) but has an early morning service (6am and 9am). Songserm also departs with the first Lomprayah boat (9.30am) but takes two hours to Koh Phangan.
From Koh Tao to Koh Samui
Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery both take from 1 hr 40 min to 2 hrs to cover the distance between Koh Tao and Samui via Koh Phangan. The departure times are the same as for Koh Tao–Koh Phangan route. Note that Seatran Discovery arrives to Bangrak pier on Samui while Lomprayah uses Maenam pier.
Travelling from Koh Tao to the mainland
Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran calls to Koh Tao’s Maehaad pier twice a day at 10.15am and 2.45pm (THB 650 or THB 750 for a joint ferry+bus ticket to the train station in Chumphon). Transit time to the mainland is about 1½ hr. You have an option of buying just a ticket to Chumphon, from where there is a choice of buses and trains heading north to the capital, or opt for a joint ticket (ferry+bus or ferry+bus+train) to eliminate any possible headache of self-connecting yourself.
A slower Songserm ferry arrives to Koh Tao from Kog Phangan once a day at 2.30pm and proceeds to Chumphon. Transit time from Koh Tao to Chumphon with Songserm is 2½ hrs.
Seatran Discovery offers two trips a day (at 6.30am and 9am). These ferries call to Koh Phangan and Koh Samui before bringing their passengers to Donsak pier in Suratthani. You may want to consider this option if Lomprayah is fully booked or if you decide to go down to the Deep South or to Krabi (add three more hours of the sea travel!). Transit time to Donsak from Koh Tao is four hours.
There are two slow night ferries from Koh Tao to Chumphon. They cover the distance in 5–6 hours departing at 10pm and 11pm (except Sunday) and arriving to the mainland between 3am and 5am which is a bit inconvenient, but they let you spare a few baht (tickets cost around THB 350).
Tip: If your are not in a hurry, stay overnight in Chumphon and discover the tastes of local robusta, find out how the birds’ nests are harvested at the farms and if you have not had enough of the sea-sand-sun vitamin, visit some of the idyllic beaches in the proximity of the city (e.g. Hat Thung Wua Laen).
From Koh Tao to Bangkok via Chumphon ferry + bus
The easiest way to get to Bangkok from Koh Tao is to buy a joint ferry+bus ticket with Lomprayah (THB 1050-1150). The whole journey will take around 10 hours with buses bringing you to Lomprayah’s office in Khao San Road in Bangkok by 8.30pm or 12.30am. That means that in both cases you’d better arrange your accommodation in advance if you do not want to find yourself in the middle of the night with no alternatives.
You can as well buy separate ferry and bus tickets but it is probably worth doing only if you use one of the cheaper ferries, especially the night ones; otherwise it will cost you even more, both price-wise and time-wise. The main bus terminal in Chumphon is located some 16km from the city on the highway which is quite inconvenient. To get there, catch a songthaew from Thanon Nawamin Ruam Jai (THB 50). In Bangkok buses arrive to the Southern bus terminal, Sai Tai Mai. Buses for Bangkok depart regularly during the day and take about 6½ hrs to arrive. Book your bus ticket with Suwannatee Tour (THB 382) here.
Tip: Note that Lomprayah also offers joint tickets from Koh Tao to Hua Hin. They cost the same as those to Bangkok (THB 1150), but transit time is 3½ hrs less (buses arrive to Hua Hin at 5pm and 9.35pm).
From Koh Tao to Bangkok via Chumphon ferry + bus + train
As in case with ferries and buses, there are joint ferry+bus+train tickets for the journey from Koh Tao to Bangkok. By far the most convenient connection is that of Lomprayah 2.45pm ferry and 9.10pm #86 night train from Chumphon arriving to Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok at 6.30am. The joint ticket ferry+bus+2nd class sleeper costs THB 1640; and a more plush 1st class sleeper sets you back at THB 2144. There is, though, four hour waiting time after you are picked up by bus at the pier and brought to Chumphon train station. Note that you can do the same journey all by yourself without booking the joint ticket, but in this case you will have to get to the train station as well (or buy the ferry ticket right to the Chumphon train station). Trains take anywhere from seven to 10 hours to arrive to Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok.
Tip: Trains for Bangkok depart regularly throughout the day from Chumphon train station. The night ones offer convenient 2nd and 1st class sleepers which let you sleep all your journey through and save on a hotel room. Tickets in AC sleepers cost THB 700 up. The cheaper fan only seats are offered by the day trains. It is a good option to save some extra baht, but it steals you the whole day of your trip.