Bangkok to Samui – Planes, Buses and Boats

On our trip to Thailand we flew from Seattle through Taipei before arriving in Bangkok. We intended to head first to Koh Samui and debated whether to take the train or fly. Since we only had 15 days and the flights on Air Asia were so cheap we decided to fly. A minor wrinkle was the cheap discount carriers don’t fly directly to Samui but to a nearby town on the mainland – Surat Thani. But there’s just a small strip of water between that city and the island so it would surely be a quick hop over. In fact I’d done a similar transfer before, albeit after an overnight train, and remembered the short jaunt being fairly painless. Arriving at our hotel in Bangkok after a 20 hour flight at about 2pm we had an afternoon of swimming, eating and exploring the market and then to sleep early. We slept very well, woke early, and prepared for our quick trip down to Koh Samui. Maybe we’d be having lunch on the beach!

Up early and waiting for our flight in the Bangkok airport.The children waiting for our flight in the Bangkok Airport.

A bus ride from the airport in Surat Thani to the ferry terminal that – for a variety of reasons – took a couple of hours more than expected.Bus ride to ferry terminal for Ko Samui.

A friendly police officer while waiting for our ferry.In the waiting room getting a hat from a man in uniform.

After a few hours wait a short walk out to the ferry.The walkway out to the ferry.

It was a great to be on the ferry and finally getting close to our destination. Here’s Kipling reading Curious George just before he started throwing up.Reading a book on the ferry ride to Samui, Thailand.

Exhausted! The boys fell asleep on the hour long taxi ride to our hotel. In the semi-mad rush to get out of the taxi we just started piling bags, backpacks and boys on the steps of the hotel.Falling asleep on the luggage.

Ahhh, but it’s all worth it. It being so late when we arrived the previous night we didn’t get a chance to explore. So the next morning, as we wandered down the paths and through the palm leaves toward the beach, we got that feeling that you only get from drinking strong coffee, playing drinking games or traveling in foreign countries. That incredible sense that anything is possible.At the World Resort hotel in Bophut, Koh Samui, Thailand.

16 questions and comments

  1. AvatarJames

    Hi I was just wondering whether you would recommend that I take malaria tablets on the sleeper train from Bangkok to Surat Thani?

      1. AvatarPeter Welsh

        Hi, good post guys!

        I’m also planning to go from Bangkok to Surat Thani however worried wether I should get the anti malarials or not. I left slightly too late to get the cheaper type which needs longer to provide protection. I was wondering if you and your family taken any?
        Thanks Peter

        1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

          Hi Peter. We didn’t take anti-malarials for Thailand as they’re not necessary in the main tourist areas.

          The CDC website says this about malaria in Thailand:
          Rural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, and Laos. Rural, forested areas in districts of Phang Nga and Phuket. None in the cities of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Phang Nga, and Phuket.

  2. AvatarSimone

    Hi David,

    Thanks for providing all this valuable info! I am travelling from Melbourne to Koh Samui in 3 weeks with my 5 month old son (he will be 5 months when we travel) so thought you’d be the ideal person to ask a question of.
    I’ve been to Samui before (in my past life as a single and carefree gal!) and never gave a thought to transfers and getting around the island but of course now I have a baby to think of and it has occurred to me that I will probably have to travel in cars etc without rear-ward facing car seats!!
    Being from Australia, they are compulsory here and I just can’t relax knowing I might have to hold my son on my lap!!
    I know your kids are older but do you have any ideas / info / contacts regarding the availability of car transfers and transport to tours etc where we can get a vehicle with a rear-ward facing car seat?
    I have found one company on Samui that does transfers with forward facing car seats but my son is too young to travel forward facing.
    Any info you have is greatly appreciated.

    Much thanks,

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

      HI Simone. Car seats are always a big problem and concern for parents. You can never be sure what type of car you’ll get — and whether it will have working seat belts in the rear of the car. Not sure if you’ll be arriving by ferry or plane but in either case there should be a number of taxis available so one of them should work with your setup. You obviously won’t be able to use a 5-point setup so be sure your car seat works with a simple lap belt. There are often vans available in the tourist towns and they have different seating arrangements that might work — so keep those in mind if you can’t find anything.

      I hope that helps.

  3. AvatarAmy

    thanks for the reply! That helps thanks!

  4. AvatarAmy

    We are travelling with our 7 month old to Thailand in January. We are flying directly to Phuket so will bypass Bangkok. This is my third time to Thailand but our first big trip as parents. I’m wondering about car seats. we hope to not spend too much time on the roads but even the transfer from the airport will be at least 45min from what I’ve been reading. Traffic is the biggest safety concern I have about the whole trip. What do you think about car seats and travelling?There are rental agencies in Phuket or maybe we could buy a cheaper one at home and bring it? Also, any suggestions about quieter places on the beach to stay around Phuket? We are planning for a week in Phuket to get our bearings and then are considering going to Krabi and maybe Phi Phi. I’ve never been to Phuket but loved Railay and around Phi Phi years ago!

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

      Hi Amy. I love Railay too. It’s my top pick for families traveling through Thailand. If you can get back there again I think you’ll find it a perfect fit for a family with baby.

      As for the car seat I’d try taking one, unless you could find a rental agency that you had a lot of confidence in – and would be able to supply one at the airport. It is something else to carry but it doesn’t sound like you’ll be traveling around excessively so it should be fine. Not sure if you bought your baby a seat on the plane but it’s nice to have the car seat for them to sleep in on a long flight. Even if you don’t buy a seat take the car seat to the gate. If there’s a free seat having a car seat to plop down in it is good way to secure it.

      The best beaches in Phuket are not the most popular ones and will probably require a car or taxi to get to. They’re usually away from the main towns and take some searching to find.

      Hope that helps. Good luck.

      1. AvatarVivek

        It looks guergoos. Kind of reminds me of the lagoas in the Azores. (sigh)I am green with envy right now… positively GREEN!!!!!

  5. Avatarali

    i’m considering traveling with my six month old to koh samui, chiang mai in july/august. did you worry about dengue fever? i’ve been many times alone, and pregnant but now i have a little one to worry about! it will be rainy season, not so worried about malaria but i hear dengue is still possible. should i buy my own lifevest for a little one?
    any help is appreciated. i don’t want to stay home just from worries but i dont want to be selfish either.

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

      HI Ali. Dengue fever is a growing concern among travelers and is now the second leading cause of illness for people return from developing countries – after malaria. Unlike malaria, dengue fever is found mainly in urban areas. As well, there are no medicines, vaccines or specific treatments that are used to combat the illness. The best advice (much like for malaria) is to avoid being bitten. Keep you and your child covered with light clothing as much as you can (easier said than done) and apply mosquito repellent often.

      The CDC has a good information page on the disease:

      And it might be wise to keep an eye on any outrbreaks in the places you’ll be visiting:

      As for a life jacket it really isn’t a bad idea. Life jackets for children are small and should tuck away easily into your luggage. Boats in Thailand (and pretty much all of south east asia) typically have old faded, possibly waterlogged life vests that wouldn’t fit kids even if they were working.
      This is a good information page on life jackets:

      I hope that helps Ali.

      Good luck.

  6. AvatarRandy @thelollipoproad

    I love Koh Samui! I want to take the entire family to Thailand but have been hesitent as they are still young (1 and 4). I took a flight from Bangkok (on Bangkok Air) directly to Koh Samui…the views on final approach are amazing and the airport is so cool. However, getting to Koh Pha Ngan was a challenge, and I did it without kids…I can imagine the challenge it would have been with little ones in tow.

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

      Bangkok Air owns that airport which gives them just a bit of a monopoly on flights to and from Koh Samui. I’ve used them a few times. It’s a wonderful airport. About 10 days after the boat trip above, we flew from Samui to Krabi. A very short uneventful hop across the country (hence, no stories). Koh Pha Ngan is my favorite island in Thailand and we debated whether to take the boat across. Next time I guess.

  7. AvatarVictoria

    This is the bit of our round the world trip that I’m NOT looking forward to. I remember doing the journey too, by overnight train, bus and boat and it felt like it took about a week. But you are right, it is worth it. And when you get there, you’ve earnt’ that beach. It looks like your kids stood up pretty well to a gruelling day.

    1. Santorini DaveSantorini Dave My Little Nomads

      Yes exactly. It’s all part of the trip and I wouldn’t wish it away even if I could. It was long and tiring but not without its own rewards too. After all that, you get the memories which is what you don’t get when everything goes as planned. Does anyone tell a long entertaining story at the dinner table about the camping trip that went absolutely perfectly?

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