How to get from Surat Thani to Ko Samui by bus and ferry without dramas!

Reading the travel forums online before our first visit to Ko Samui, there seemed to be a mess of misinformation about how to travel to and from Surat Thani to Ko Samui, the nearest large city and the landing point for many travellers. So here are the simple facts, easy to follow and repeat.

We landed at Surat Thani on Air Asia direct from Kuala Lumpur
We landed at Surat Thani on Air Asia direct from Kuala Lumpur

We landed at Surat Thani from Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. It’s a cheap way into this part of Thailand and we have used Air Asia a lot both travelling to and from Thailand and flying within Thailand. But this guide will also be useful for those arriving by train or bus from Bangkok and other destinations. There are direct flights to Koh Samui, by the way, but they are expensive. We prefer to spend our money on the holiday, not on getting there.

Buy the bus/ferry ticket from the Phantip Tours desk in the airport
Buy the bus/ferry ticket from the Phantip Tours desk in the airport

If  you are starting from Surat Thani airport, getting to Ko Samui is really very, very easy. As you come into the arrivals hall of the airport, look for the Panthip Travel desk (although they’ll usually find you first). The Panthip people wear green polo shirts. They will sell you a single bus-ferry ticket all the way to Thanon Pier on Koh Samui (or to Koh Tao or Koh Phangan if that’s where you’re headed).

The bus-ferry ticket to Koh Samui cost us 350 Bt (about $10) each and we were directed to a comfortable bus outside the terminal where our luggage was loaded. The bus takes about 90 minutes to get to Donsak Pier where you transfer to the Seatran Ferry, which takes a further 90 minutes to cross the fairly sheltered water to Koh Samui. There is cheap food and drinks available cheaply on the ferry if you’re hungry and you can even while away the time having a massage.

Seatran ferry looks old, but it's actually pretty good and very comfortable
Seatran ferry looks old, but it’s actually pretty good and very comfortable

Taxis and songthaews (public taxis) meet every ferry so it’s easy to get to your hotel from the pier.

If you arrive by train or bus, you will land in Surat Thani town, about 30 km from Donsak Pier. You have two options now. Go to the Seatran service centre near the main bus station, or go 100 metres up the road to the Panthip Travel ticket office. Either way, you can buy a combined bus-ferry ticket to Koh Samui for about 240 Bt ($8) each. The bus takes about an hour to get to the ferry, then the trip is the same as above.

The ferry terminal at Koh Samui end looks a bit daunting
The ferry terminal at Koh Samui end looks a bit daunting

On the way back, it can be a little tricker. We were dropped at Thanon Pier in Koh Samui and directed to the main ticket office, where we could only buy a combined ferry-bus ticket to Surat Thani town, not to the airport. The price was also 240 Bt. What we were not told is that there’s also a Panthip Travel ticket counter at Thanon Pier which can ticket you right through to Surat Thani airport.

Never mind, because when you get off the Seatran bus in the town, just walk 100m to your left and you’ll find the Panthip Travel ticket office which coordinates airport buses for each flight. The cost of your extra ticket is only 100 Bt, so the total cost is the same. It just takes a little longer.

If you are trying to figure out how much time to allow to get back to the airport to catch your flight, our experience was that we left our hotel in Lamai at 9:00 am to catch a 3:55 pm flight and didn’t have a lot of time to spare. We caught the 10:00 am ferry to Donsak (leaves every hour, on the hour) and arrived at Donsak at 11:30 am. The Seatran bus was waiting for us and got us into Surat Thani town at about 1:00 pm. The airport bus left at 1:30 pm and arrived at Surat Thani airport a little after 2:00 pm, which left us 30 minutes between checkin and boarding of our flight.

Good luck with your trip and feel free to ask any questions about this story. Don’t miss our Koh Samui destination guide.