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Air

Around 18km due west of the centre of town, Surat Thani International Airport has daily shuttles to Bangkok on Thai Air Asia (www.airasia.com), Thai Smile, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air (www.nokair.com). Although flights from Bangkok to Surat Thani are cheaper than the flights to Samui, it takes quite a bit of time to reach the gulf islands from the airport. Air Asia offers a convenient bus and boat shuttle with their flights that can alleviate some of the stress.

Boat

Various ferry companies offer services to the islands. Try Lomprayah, Seatran Discovery or Songserm.

Bus-boat Combination Tickets

In the high season travellers can usually find bus-boat services to Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan directly from the Phun Phin train station (14km west of Surat). These services don’t cost any more than those booked in Surat Thani and can save you some serious waiting time.

There are also several ferry and speedboat operators that connect Surat Thani to Ko Tao, Ko Pha-Ngan and Ko Samui. Most boats – such as the Raja and Seatran services – leave from Don Sak (about one hour from Surat; bus transfers are included in the ferry ticket) although the Songserm leaves from the heart of Surat town. Be warned that the Raja service can be a very frustrating experience, especially for travellers who are tight on time. The boat trip usually takes around 1½ hours to Ko Samui and 2½ hours to Ko Pha-Ngan, although often the captain will cut the engines to half propulsion, which means the journey can take up to five hours.

Night Ferry

From the centre of Surat there are nightly ferries to Ko Tao (600B, eight hours, departs at 11pm), Ko Pha-Ngan (400B, seven hours, departs at 11pm) and Ko Samui (300B, six hours, departs at 11pm). These are cargo ships, not luxury boats, so bring food and water and watch your bags.

Bus & Minivan

The most convenient way to travel around the south, frequent buses and minivans depart from two main locations in town: Talat Kaset 1 and Talat Kaset 2. Talat Kaset 1, on the north side of Th Talat Mai (the city’s main drag) offers speedy service to Nakhon (120B, 1½ hours). Buses to Phun Phin – the nearest train station to Surat Thani – also leave from Talat Kaset 1. At Talat Kaset 2, on the south side of Th Talat Mai, you'll find buses to Phuket and Hat Yai, and regular minibuses to Khanom (100B, 90 minutes, hourly).

The ‘new’ bus terminal (actually quite a few years old now, but still referred to as new by the locals) is 7km south of town on the way to Phun Phin. This hub services traffic to and from Bangkok (380B to 800B, 11 to 14 hours).

Destinations from Surat Thani

Bangkok

Fare

425–860B

Duration

10hr

Hat Yai

Fare

165–300B

Duration

5hr

Khanom

Fare

100B

Duration

1hr

Krabi

Fare

170B

Duration

2½hr

Phuket

Fare

270B

Duration

6hr

Trang

Fare

180B

Duration

2hr 10min

Train

When arriving by train you’ll actually pull into Phun Phin, a nondescript town 14km west of Surat. From Phun Phin, there are buses to Phuket, Phang-Nga and Krabi – some via Takua Pa, a junction for Khao Sok National Park. Transport from Surat moves with greater frequency, but it’s worth checking the schedule in Phun Phin first – you might be lucky and save yourself a slow ride between towns.

If you plan on travelling during the day, go for the express train. Night travellers should opt for the air-con couchettes. Trains passing through Surat stop in Chumphon and Hua Hin on their way up to the capital, and in the other direction you’ll call at Trang, Hat Yai and Sungai Kolok before hopping across the border into Malaysia. The train station at Phun Phin has a 24-hour left-luggage room that charges around 20B a day. The advance ticket office is open from 6am to 6pm daily (with a nebulous one-hour lunch break somewhere between 11am and 1.30pm). The trip to Bangkok takes more than 8½ hours and costs 297B to 1379B depending on class.