Tuk Tuk Tours
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Are you in need of a getaway? Do you want not only to feel the sand between your toes and hear the lap of waves on the shore, but also the feeling of seclusion and isolation that only comes from marooning yourself on a tropical island? If you’re craving all of this, but don’t have the time to head too far from Bangkok, you need our pick of the best Thai islands within easy reach of the capital.
One of the most popular island getaways from Bangkok, in no small part. Thanks to its close proximity to the capital, come the weekend the squeaky white sand beaches of Rayong province’s Koh Samet get packed with throngs of escaping Bangkokians and international tourists. But if you come mid-week, or head to one of the island’s quieter and more secluded beaches, you’ll be in with much more of a chance of some peace and quiet. Promising options for quieter spots include Ao Tubtim, Ao Nuan, and Ao Wai, while Saikaew beach is the busiest and most touristy drag. With plenty of bars and restaurants on the sand as well as nightly entertainment by way of fire puy shows.
Across the island there’s plenty of accommodation of varying quality and price but, again, at the weekend it’s not uncommon for prices to double as availability shrivels up.
To get to Koh Samet, take a bus or minivan from Bangkok’s eastern Ekkamai terminal; you’ll land in Ban Phe, from where it’s a short hop by fishing boat or speedboat until you’re deposited on the island. As Koh Samet forms part of a national park, there’s a 200 baht admission fee (40 baht for Thai nationals and residents).
Just a short ride offshore from the notoriously naughty mainland seaside resort of Pattaya. Itself an hour of Bangkok, lies the infinitely mote picturesque Koh Lan. Huge numbers of tourists make the hop across on day trips, resulting in packed beaches lined with deckchairs and parasols, and the island’s fair share of unsightly rubbish. Still, if you stay overnight you’ll enjoy much more tranquility once the daytrippers have gone back home.
Koh Lan certainly has its share of white sand beaches, and the water offshore is clear and blue. Besides sunning yourself on the sand, the island is worth taking a motorbike around in order to make the most of the impressive views both out to sea and back towards the mainland. A Buddhist shrine lies at the island’s highest point. Also, Koh Lan’s two villages have accommodation options and less touristy spots for eating and drinking.
Take a bus or minivan from Bangkok’s eastern Ekkamai terminal. And take boat travel from Pattaya’s Bali Hai pier throughout the day for the 45-minute journey.
A tiny fascinating island that seems to be a heaven for those who love a peaceful white sand beach and crystal clear water. Only 1-2 hours drive from Bangkok to Chonburi province where the island set out. You can spend a wonderful day swimming, snorkeling and relaxing. This island is different because of its bountiful underwater world, lovely fish and beautiful corals are all around. A couple of things you should know before coming here is you are not allowed to stay overnight. A one-day trip is good enough to maintain the magnificent nature. Moreover, plastics are banned as well.
Getting here from Bangkok you can take a bus or minivan at Ekkamai terminal to Khao Ma Cho pier and then take a ferry which runs all day from 9 am – 3 pm to Koh Kham. Ticket prices are 500 baht (foreigners) 250 bath (Thai) for adults or 200 baht for children aged 6-14.
Koh Chang is Thailand’s third-largest island after Phuket and Koh Samui. Nonetheless offers a pleasing level of quiet and seclusion, helped out by the fact that it’s that little bit further afield from Bangkok than many of the other options on this list. Setting out in eastern Thailand’s Trat province, in the direction of the Cambodian border. Koh Chang forms part of a national park and has a bounty of waterfalls and untouched inner jungle to discover. Accommodation, eating and drinking options are plentiful, particularly along Sai Khao (White Sand) Beach, the most popular spot on the island for visitors.
Getting here involves a 5-6 hour journey to Trat town by bus or minivan from Bangkok’s eastern Ekkamai terminal, followed by a songthaew transfer to Laem Ngop pier for the 30-minute ride to the island. Alternatively, if you’re short on time, it’s possible to catch a one-hour flight from Bangkok to Trat, and then continue onward.
Less heard of in talking about Thailand’s best islands, Koh Kut has been described as having Maldivian qualities and until fairly recently, wasn’t all that heavily visited by independent travellers at all. Long a mainstay of package groups, Koh Kut still isn’t the easiest to explore on your own. There is little in the way of transport to get you around once you’re on the island. And many of the accommodation options can still be on the pricier luxury side. But if you can see through these potential flaws, you’ll discover an island that serves up beauty and serenity by the bucket load.
Truly white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters await and, for now at least, you’re unlikely to have to share it with too many others. The other trade-off is a location relatively far from Bangkok and further than any of the other options we’ve given. But we reckon it’s worth the journey. Bear in mind, too, that the island’s very close proximity to Cambodia. This means it suffers particularly badly during the annual monsoon season that runs from May to October. When we would recommend against making a trip here (and indeed many of the accommodation operations close down completely during this period).
From Bangkok to Trat, take either a 5-6 hour bus or minivan ride from Ekkamai terminal or a one-hour flight from Suvarnabhumi airport. You’ll then need to connect to the pier at Laem Sok, around 30km outside of Trat town, from where the boat ride takes around an hour.
Low-key Koh Si Chang’s appeal lies in the fact that it is arguably the closest island to Bangkok. And it’s possible to have your feet on it less than two hours after leaving the capital. It’s not somewhere that’s geared up to be an idyllic paradise destination. Partly because it has a village of locals who live here and thankfully help keep the vibe more down-to-earth. As a result, things here also close up pretty early in the evening, particularly in the village itself.
If you’re looking for somewhere to relax with a foot massage, some cheap seafood, and pretty views on a decent enough beach, Koh Si Chang could be your bag. Some rubbish gets washed up onto the beach at high tide. As a result of the island’s location in the shipping lane on the way up to Bangkok. But you could do far worse this close to the capital. Away from the beach, a Chinese temple, King Chulalongkorn’s former summer palace, and a number of waterfalls all wait to be explored.
Take a bus or minivan to Sriracha town from Ekkamai terminal in Bangkok, then hop on a tuk-tuk to Koh Loy pier to catch the 30-45-minute boat ride to the island.
From Koh Kharm, you can take short boat travel to Koh Samaesarn. A beautiful peaceful beach, white sand, and rich coral reefs under crystal-clear water result in lots of visitors pouring to the island each day. This island is managed by the Thai Royal Navy. So, there are a few rules you need to follow. They limit the number of visitors to up to 500 people a day and you’re not allowed to stay overnight. A fee for foreigners is 300 baht per person and 220 baht for a child.
On the island, you can spend time to snorkel, play volleyball, ride a bike, kayaking. Also, there are a few small street food stalls available.
You can take a minivan from Ekamai bus station, located right next to Ekamai BTS station, to Sattahip. The ticket costs around 155 baht. They will drop you in front of 7-Eleven and the old bus stop. Then you can take a blue Songtaew to the island – costs around 15 baht. Also, on the way back, you can take the same blue songtaew from the pier to Sattahip and take a minivan back to Bangkok. You can go to the island starts at 9 am, and the last boat from the island is 4 pm.
A small laid-back island in Trad province, close to Koh Chang, is ideal for families, with a very peaceful atmosphere, and the scenery is more the typical desert island model than other islands mentioned here. On the island, travelling by bicycle is recommended. As there are fewer hills and short distances.
You will enjoy snorkeling, cycling, and chilling on a beach as well as experiencing art and culture at temples. Moreover, several resorts there built under eco-friendly concepts. The best time to visit Koh Mak is from October – May. For other periods, best to check the weather forecast as possible to have rain. However, that’s the time when hotels and resorts offer good deals.
Take a bus or a minivan from Ekkamai bus station or Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal (Chatuchak) which will take time about 5 hours. On the other hand, the fastest way is to take a train from Suwannabhumi Airport – there’s only Bangkok Airways, so the price is a bit high. There are 3 flights – in the morning, around midday, and afternoon. And then take a minibus or van at the airport (recommend booking a car in advance as there’s no taxi at the airport) to Laem Ngorb pier and get a ferry to the island.
Koh Pai (FYI, pai means bamboo) is the biggest of all small Pattaya’s islands. Located approximately 20 km from Pattaya. Koh Phai is under the Royal Thai Navy, thus, there’re no permanent facilities and visitors are not allowed to stay overnight. However, you still can explore the island and make it a wonderful one day trip. Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and diving activities are allowed. Moreover, for anyone loves adventure, you can explore the HTMS Khram, a diving site, to see old shipwrecks from the Second World War.
From Bangkok, you can take a bus or a van at Mo Chit 2 Bus Terminal as well as at the Ekkamai Bus Station to Laem Bali Hai Pattaya. There’s no ferry operating to Koh Phai, the best and easiest way to reach there is taking a speed boat from Bali Hai pier directly to the island. It takes about 30 mins to reach to the island.
MORE: Catch our wrap of the best beaches in easy reach of Bangkok
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UPDATE – 25 April 2017: References to minivans departing from Bangkok’s Victory Monument have been deleted, since these have been relocated by authorities to the northern, eastern and southern bus terminals.