The two mainland towns that act as starting points for the sea journey to Koh Phangan are Chumphon and Suratthani. In case with Chumphon all the ferries pass via Koh Tao. The distance from Chumphon to Koh Tao is about 70 km; add more 35 km to reach Koh Phangan from there. Starting from Suratthani – or, to be more exact, from one of the piers in Donsak – saves the travel time significantly as the distance you have to cover is less: 30 km from Donsak to Koh Samui and 25 km from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. Almost all the ferries from Donsak to Koh Phangan call to Koh Samui first; there is a direct high-speed ferry to Koh Phangan, too, but it takes approximately the same time to get to the island. In general, travelling to Koh Phangan from Suratthani takes about two hours – half the time you need to reach the island if starting from Chumphon. Even if the Gulf is generally not as rough as the Andaman Sea, those who suffer from seasickness may want to start from Suratthani to minimize the time spent in the sea.
From Suratthani to Koh Phangan by ferry
Ferries to Koh Phangan leave from several piers in Donsak. Donsak is a district to the east of Suratthani Town. The distance from Suratthani Town to piers in Donsak is 60 km, and it takes approximately 1½ hour to get to the pier from the town.
You can get to the pier all by yourself and then hop onto a ferry to the islands, but all of the companies offer combination tickets which include a van or a bus ride for Suratthani Town, Suratthani train station or Suratthani airport to the pier and a ferry ride. Such tickets cost the same or slightly more compared to tickets from the pier but they do save you a lot of hassle of getting to the pier.
There are several operators that provide service from Suratthani to Koh Phangan. Normally the ferries to Koh Phangan from Suratthani call to Koh Samui first and then proceed to Koh Phangan, some continuing further on to Koh Tao and/or Chumphon.
On Koh Phangan, all boats dock at Thong Sala pier on the Western side of the island. Haad Rin sits 10 km southeast, on the eastern part of the long peninsular. There are songthaews waiting for the passengers at the pier, but the prices tend to be inflated. You can just walk some 300m out of the port gates to the roundabout in the village: there is a taxi stand there with reasonable prices – if THB100 per seat in a shared vehicle can be called reasonable.
Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery
The two fastest operators serving the route are Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery. Both have their own high-speed ferries which depart from their own piers in Donsak, set 9 km apart.
Lomprayah offers four departures a day – at 10.10am, 12.30pm, 4pm and 6pm; Seatran Discovery sails to Koh Phangan twice a day – at 11am and 2.30pm. The sea journey itself with either of the two companies takes 1½ hour, but if you buy a combination ticket from any of Suratthani locations, you have to add more time.
Here is the average total travel time for different departure points in Suratthani with Lomprayah and Seatran Discovery:
- from Suratthani airport to Koh Phangan (THB700) – 5 hours;
- from Suratthani train station to Koh Phangan (THB600) – 4 hours;
- from Suratthani Town to Koh Phangan (THB600) – 4 hours.
There are large car ferries of Raja Ferry company plying the route between Donsak and Koh Phangan. They are slower but cost less. They allow you to transport your car or motorbike to Koh Phangan from the mainland, and you also can travel as a passenger.
Raja ferries heading to Koh Phangan depart on even hours from 6am till 6pm and take 2½ hours to reach the island. Raja sells separate ferry tickets and also offers combination tickets from Suratthani train station, Suratthani airport and Suratthani Town.
In Suratthani Town, the meeting point for travel to Koh Phangan is at Raja ticket office at the corner of Si Wichai Road and Soi Si Wichai 16, just opposite Krungsri Bank. Tickets cost THB400 and the whole trip takes 4½–5½ hours.
At the train station, Raja meets night trains from Bangkok arriving to Suratthani train station before 7am (trains #83, #173, #167 and the most popular night train #85) putting the travellers on their 10am ferry (arriving to Koh Phangan at 12.30pm; THB500).
Note that Suratthani train station is actually located at the town of Phun Phin, 20 kn west of town.
There are two departures with Raja from Suratthani Airport, too, at 3.15pm and 3.50pm. They meet several Air Asia and Lion Air early afternoon flights from Bangkok and bring you to the port to catch the last Raja ferry of the day at 6pm (THB600).
Phantip operates their own van and bus service and combines it with Raja ferry tickets. Phantip’s tickets are just insignificantly cheaper than those offered by Raja themselves, but the departure point of Phantip in Suratthani Town is more central – by Kaset 1 Market. Phantip picks up passengers from a quarter to a half an hour after Raja does, saving thus a bit on your total travel time. Tickets cost THB400 for departures from the train station; THB550 – from the airport and THB380 – from Suratthani Town.
Why travel to Koh Phangan
Party-crazy Koh Phangan rocks the Gulf with its endless ‘Moon’ parties. It all started back in 1985 with a modest improvised gathering organized by Paradise Bungalows on Haad Rin with some 50 travellers and now the events attracts tens of thousands party animals every month. Those, who cannot catch the full moon, do not despair – there are Half Moon, Quarter Moon, Black Moon and Moon Set Parties to keep you raving all month through.
Note In October 2016 due to the mourning period for the late King, all parties on Koh Phangan have been suspended, but now they are back to their usual schedule again.
Party life aside, Koh Phangan remains a pleasant place to enjoy the lazy island vibe – do not stay on Haad Rin then! – with tranquil beaches and transparent waters. There are nice walking trails, several waterfalls making for a nice stroll and an abundance of yoga and detox retreats. An important thing to know about Koh Phangan is that together with Koh Samui and Koh Tao it is not the best destination to visit during autumn months from October to December when the Gulf islands are hit by the monsoon. It is wet and windy during that time, the seas are often muddy and the unsealed roads are a disaster.
Where to stay on Koh Phangan
Newbies become an easy prey for touts hanging around the pier and trying to push you to stay at the resorts they are getting commissions from. If you need a room during the Full Moon Party period, be sure to book in advance – the best accommodation options sell out at least one week ahead. In other periods the best way is always to check what is on offer with your own eyes. There are more than two dozens of coves and beaches on Koh Phangan with accommodation to taste all pockets and tastes – from dirt-cheap windowless town digs to exquisite resorts bringing to Koh Phangan the new, more upscale feel.
Starting northwards from Thong Sala, there is a string of small quiet beaches with cheap bungalows available any time of the year – check Haad Yao, Haad Son or Haad Salad.
Northern beaches, from Chalok Lam to the Bottle beach, are much more peaceful than their southern counterparts. The area is developing very fast, but you can still find some of the best chilled out places on Koh Phangan there.
Ao Ban Tai, next to the famous Haad Rin, is the largest resort area on Koh Phangan. Note that due to its proximity to Haad Rin, it is always full during moon parties.
Any time of the year, the ‘Sunset’ (southern) side of Haad Rin is a bit less chaotic than the upper one. When parties are not rocking, Haad Rin is also a nice beach to stay, but unfortunately it is often very littered.
Yes, moon parties are full of drugs. Do not forget that drugs are illegal in Thailand, and urine tests are very common – as are the roadblocks. Drunk drivers face harsh punishment – you will be jailed and even if it may (or may not!) be possible to negotiate ‘a fine’ instead, it is going to be hefty! Take it as a rule of thumb: no drugs on you, in your vehicle or in your room. Do not accept drinks from strangers and better refrain from drinking party buckets as the cases of poisoning with low quality alcohol are not unheard of. Do your best to keep away from any conflicts with locals – you are unlikely to get support from passers by or police even if you are right. Another issue is Koh Phangan dogs, which are often very unfriendly – try to avoid empty backstreets at night not to encounter them.
Drunken tourists often become victims of sexual harassment, rapes or robbery. Stay safe, better come with a companion or a group of friends, do not drive or ride a motorbike when drunk and think twice before using drugs – there are probably safer places in the world to do it.
Onward travel from Koh Phangan
While visiting Koh Phangan, use the opportunity to have a look at its neighbour islands, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. It takes only half an hour to get to Samui from Koh Phangan and from one to two hours – to move to Koh Tao. For all other destinations you have to travel via Suratthani or Chumphon.