Say ‘Koh Phangan’ and here you are in the middle of the partying crowd, old-school hippies and modern flashpackers, party animals and adventurous party goers from all over the world who come to the island to partake in a once in a lifetime celebration experience. Koh Phangan’s epic Full Moon, Black Moon and other ‘Moon’ parties rock the island creating the overwhelming atmosphere of freedom and happiness. If drinking and partying all night through is not your thing, it does not mean that Koh Phangan is a total no-no for you. The stunning island has much more to offer. When the parties are not raging, the island settles into a sleepy hippie town, perfect for the unconventional traveller who is looking for an organic experience. The terrain of the island is quite mountainous and provides a picturesque backdrop for white sand beaches and infinity pools in mushrooming luxury five star hotels and resorts which are consistently gentrifying the island, slowly transforming it from a budget destination to a Babylonian one.
From Phuket to Koh Phangan
Buy a combination ticket from Phuket to Koh Phangan or tailor-make your trip all by yourself. Getting from the Andaman Coast to the Gulf is easy, though be prepared to at least a seven-hour journey. There are no direct flights between Phuket and Suratthani, the starting point on the mainland for a sea journey to Koh Phangan. Though you can fly via Bangkok, it does not make much sense; so choose any of the overland options.
From Phuket to Koh Phangan by a combination bus+ferry ticket
The fastest and most convenient ride from Phuket to Koh Phangan is offered by Lomprayah company which sells combination bus + ferry tickets. There are two departures a day: at 10am and at 12.30pm from Phuket Lomprayah office in Bangkok Road in Phuket Town. Passengers go by bus to Suratthani first where they transfer to Lomprayah high-speed ferry at 2.30pm and 4pm respectively, arriving to Thong Sala Pier on Koh Phangan at 5.30pm and 7.30pm. The whole journey thus takes about 7½ hours. Tickets cost THB1400 and should be booked at least two days in advance.
Note that you should show up at Lomprayah office at least half an hour before the departure.
From Phuket to Koh Phangan by separate bus+ferry tickets
For a wider choice of options to get from Phuket to Koh Phangan, buy separate tickets from Phuket to Suratthani first and then from Suratthani to Koh Phangan. You will definitely spend more time this way, but with separate tickets you can save a couple of baht, too.
Note though, that most probably you will have to spend the night in Suratthani to proceed with your journey to Koh Phangan the next morning. If you wish to get to Koh Phangan the same day you leave Phuket, take 8am bus the latest to catch Lomprayah ferries at 2.30pm or 4pm.
There are a lot of buses leaving Phuket for Suratthani all day long. You may want to check, for instance, Phantip Travel. They operate from Phuket Bus Terminal 2 in Phetkrasattri Road and offer Standard AC buses calling both to Suratthani train station (4½ hours; THB250) in Phun Phin and Suratthani Town proper (5 hours; THB270).
In Suratthani, Phantip Travel, Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery pick up passengers in Suratthani Town, at Suratthani train station or at Suratthani airport: please check carefully the pick-up location before buying your ticket. Phantip Travel sells the cheapest tickets (THB380) but uses the slowest ferries, so the trip from the train station in Phun Phin to Koh Phangan lasts not less than 4½ hours, while Lomprayah does the same job in three hours, but costs more (THB600). There are 6 departures a day from Suratthani airport, too, both with Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery: from 5 to 7 hours (THB700; the first departure is at 8.30an, the last one is at 1.30pm).
From Koh Phi Phi to Koh Phangan
If you are heading to Koh Phangan from Koh Phi Phi (let us guess... for the Full Moon Party?!), you can take a joint ferry+bus+ferry ticket with Seatran Discovery which is the best way to travel between the two islands. It will cost you considerably less that if buying separate tickets from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket and then from Phuket to Koh Phangan. Look no further.
Island hopping from Koh Phangan
Do not miss a wonderful opportunity to visit Koh Phangan’s neighbouring islands, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Though a part of the same archipelago, the three islands differ greatly in the atmosphere and activities they offer.
From Koh Phangan to Koh Samui
Change the party-crazy Koh Phangan for Koh Samui’s upscale resorts, idyllic beaches and beautiful crowd – or just use Koh Samui as your base for partying on Koh Phangan if all the accommodation options on Hat Rin are sold out for the Full Moon Party. A slow Haad Rin Queen ferry brings you to Koh Samui from Koh Phangan in 50 minutes; Sonserm covers the same distance in 40 minutes; Lomprayah (THB300) and Seatran Discovery (THB400) are the fastest operators (20-30 minutes).
From Koh Phangan to Koh Tao
A diving Mecca of Thailand, Koh Tao is the place to get your fins wet. Seatran Discovery and Lomprayah offer the fastest (1–1½ hour) and most expensive transfer from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao (from THB500). There are also Songserm boats plying the same route.
Koh Phangan is big enough, and if you wish to explore the island interior and its beaches, it makes sense to hire a motorbike – provided you know how to drive. Otherwise skip the idea and opt for songthaews instead. It will cost you more (THB100-THB200 for a ride depending on your destination), but taking into account rather an elevated number of inexperienced (and often drunk) riders fresh from Moon Parties, it may prove much safer.
That said, a motorbike remains a great way for getting around on Koh Phangan, and rentals are cheap – from as low as THB150 per day; but be ready to leave your passport as a deposit, which may feel a bit uncomfortable thing to do as scams on asking tourists to pay for imaginary damages of motorbikes on handing vehicles back are not unheard of.
The fittest ones can make use of bicycles (from THB50 per day), but do not underestimate the island roads coupled with tropical heat. It is a great idea to hire a longtail boat to cruise little bays accessible only from water or by hiking. Prices are negotiated with the boats' owners, and usually works out quite well if you're in a group.
Where to stay
No matter which beach appeals to you most, if you come for the Full Moon Party, do arrive early. It means 4–5 days before the party hits the island; otherwise you risk counting the stars by night – literally. Almost all the guesthouses require the minimum stay of at least three nights, with some places not letting you in for less than a week. There is transportation to Hat Rin, where the Full Moon Parties are held, from all the beaches, so it is not so important where you finally settle down.
Families and those looking for some serenity and peacefulness should try the remote Haad Thong Nai Pan Noi with its elegant resorts, which bring an air of Samui to Koh Phangan.
Tip: If you fail to find accommodation on Koh Phangan during the Full Moon period, consider staying on Koh Samui which is the closest option.
With the diving mecca of Koh Tao within an easy reach, there is no great sense in visiting much more modest diving sites of Koh Phangan. Still there are nice spots for snorkelling in the vicinity, including Koh Ma, and you may also sign up for a hiking and snorkelling adventure in the Ang Thong Marine National Park. Waterfalls and worthy trekking trails await those to venture to the island’s hinterland. Climb the highest island’s pick, a 630m Khao Ra, or hire a kayak and reach some hidden beaches and visit Saturday Walking Street market in Thong Sala (the best time to do so is between 6pm and 8pm) for local souvenirs and cheap tasty food.
If you are going to the Full Moon Party not just to party and drink, but to take drugs as well, remember that drugs are completely illegal in Thailand and punishment is severe. To get inspired, watch Bangkok-Hilton and think twice. In any case do not leave drugs in your accommodation and do not carry any with you.