How to travel to Koh Phangan for $20

There are many ways to travel to Koh Phangan but only one that is worth writing about: going by land and sea without buying a tour package at the airport. Of course, you could just hop on a plane to Koh Samui and take the boat over to Koh Phangan, but where is the fun in that? Even the land and sea tour packages do not cut it; they are over priced and take longer than using public transportation. I flew into Phuket to attend the Full Moon Party when doing this journey, so the guide covers all the details from Phuket to Koh Phangan.

Use the map and placemarks below to read about each step on how to travel to Koh Phangan. Detailed instructions to follow after the map.

  • Mode of transportation: Taxi, Bus, Night Boat
  • Departure city: Phuket
  • Transfer city: Surat Thani
  • Arrival city: Koh Phangan
  • Duration: 14 hours
  • Cost: Less than 600 baht ($20)

View Getting from Phuket to Koh Phangan in a larger map

1. Finding the bus stop

Fancy being ripped off? Phuket Airport is your destination of choice in that case. Not only did my previous girlfriend lose jewelry worth $3,000 here after checking in her luggage, but every single person within the premise has your money on their agenda. We even saw a small brawl break out when we were shopping around for bus tours because the vendors were competing for our business. Lol. Your decision to travel to Koh Phangan from Phuket will spare you this hassle however, since you have this nifty guide at hand!

First step to Koh Phangan is making it out of the Phuket airport. Once you are outside get ready to be solicited by taxi and tuktuk drivers. This is likely the only place you will be blatantly ripped of and can’t do anything about it, unless you speak Thai of course or know how to haggle. Ask to be taken to the public bus station to travel to Koh Phangan (see the placemark on the map above). Pay NO MORE than 150 baht which is an overprice already, otherwise you really suck at haggling. Sorry.


2. Wait (and wait some more) for the bus

We spent a good 3 hours waiting for the bus to travel to Koh Phangan. There is no exact schedule so timing the bus is almost impossible. However, if you are backpacking this should be a familiar story since most backpacking-friendly countries (read: third-world countries) are also very inefficient. Sorry Thailand, we forgive you for your sloppiness considering you are so cheap and have great food. Plan accordingly by bringing whatever you need to keep yourself entertained and don’t forget to bring lots of water.

The buses that do come all have signs in their front windows with the destination written on them. Take the bus which says Surat Thani but make sure to ask every driver where the bus is going before hopping on or letting it leave without you. The last thing you want to do is miss the bus or getting on the wrong one when you actually want to travel to Koh Phangan.

3. Enjoy the surprisingly comfortable bus ride

Believe it or not, the buses are actually really comfortable and have both reclining seats and air condition for only 80 baht one-way ($2.5). That is pretty cheap for a six-hour bus ride if you ask me and it is faster than the package bus tours that travel to Koh Phangan. The bus also makes a stop along the way where you can relieve yourself as well as buy some food. The food is actually pretty tasty but make sure to get the soup and not the burger if you are hungry. The burger has been waiting for you all day in the sun and is guaranteed to come with surprises. You don’t want to spend the remainder of your time on Koh Phangan in the restroom, now do you?

Another fun aspect of the public bus is all the locals you will run into. We LOVE locals here on ADVENTURE: How-To and this is a great opportunity to chat them up while learning more about their country.

4. Arrive in Surat Thani

After about 6 hours on the bus you will arrive in Surat Thani. It is not entirely clear when you are supposed to get off so make sure to start asking around for Koh Phangan night boat after about 5 hours and 30 minutes. Once the driver and the fellow passengers you have befriended tell you to get off, you have arrived. There is no bus terminal, just a street in the middle of a big city somewhere in Thailand. Sounds fun? It is. Ask for directions to the harbor or the Koh Phangan night boat and you will soon get your bearings right.

Once you find the harbor, ask around for the night boat until you find it. Buy the ticket of your choice and follow the instructions provided. To travel to Koh Phangan involves possessing a good deal of patience, and waiting a few hours for the both should therefore be second nature to you by now. The boat leaves 11 pm so depending on when you arrived in Surat Thani you will have time to eat & drink a Chang beer, and familiarize yourself with the fellow passangers. To confirm departure times, view the bottom of this timetable.

5. Keeping it real on the boat

In contrast to the bus ride, the boat ride is not as comfortable (it is pretty horrible). It consists of about 80 bunk beds and 80 mattresses lined up next  to each other on the floor. The boat is made entirely of wood and the sides are completely open, so if you do manage to fall asleep there will be a sea breeze gently caressing your face while you are sleeping. Considering the boat leaves at 11 pm and arrives at 6:30 am, this 7 hour and 30 minute leg of the journey is the longest and toughest. But, it is also the funnest since Koh Phangan is now closer than ever!

If you end up travelling to Koh Phangan during the Full Moon Party, the boat will be filled to capacity with people from all walks of life. You don’t get to chose who you are sleeping next to so be prepared for quirky moments and possible inconveniences. It tends to get loud during these trips so bringing beer and a good spirit will get you further than a pillow. But, if you travel to Koh Phangan – sleeping is probably at the bottom of your “priorities I know I should care about but don’t” list. So, have fun on the boat!

6. You have arrived in Koh Phangan boss!

So you decided to travel to Koh Phangan  relying on this guide? Awesome! You have now traversed a vast distance in a foreign country all on your own relying solely on your social and navigational skills. That’s great, and I’d like to hear how it went here.

Hop in a tuktuk and head off to Ban Tai Beach or Haad Rin or wherever your next adventure awaits. For tips on what to do except the Full Moon Party, see this guide to Koh Phangan.