Our own experiences
(Unfortunately we did not make any pictures)
The easy way
If you take the train from Bangkok to Surat Thani, you will arrive early in the morning around 6:30 am. It is most likely that there will be someone waiting for tourists and offer them a package deal to get to either dive paradise Koh Tao, full moon party heaven Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. To Koh Phangan it was around 700 Baht / 17,80 Euro* for a bus and boat ride all the way to the island. Koh Tao is likely to be more expensive as it is further away, if this is your destination it is also possible to hop off a few train stations earlier and look for ferries there as it is closer to the island.
In the end we did not take the joint/bus boat tickets as Sam thought it was too expensive. But we really had no idea of what normal prices would be. We decided to travel to the ferry port ourselves and walked through Surat Thani town. After a breakfast we walked towards the ‘highway’ to try to get a ride. It proved to be very difficult as it was early in the morning, meaning that most people are going to work or school. That meant no cars really bothered to give us a ride and of course of the fact that most people here do not know the phenomenon of hitchhiking. A local bus stopped and in the end we took that bus for around 20 Baht / 0,51 Euro per person that drove us a long way.
We arrived at a bus station, where the lady from the bus told us to transfer to a smaller local bus. Even before our first footsteps reached the ground, one of the taxi-drivers already spotted our foreign faces and started to yell at us to go with him. Other followed and we kindly said no. We transferred to a smaller bus comparable to jeepneys in The Philippines. All the way to the pier costed 100 Baht / 2,54 Euro p.p. It was a long drive of about an hour.
As we arrived at a pier with boats leaving to Koh Tao. Unfortunately it had just left and next ferries were bound to leave a few hours later. The bus driver took us to Donsak pier that was located a few kilometers further. There we took the ferry to Koh Phangan – we had no plan anyway – for 210 Baht / 5,34 Euro p.p. The trip will take about 2,5 hours. In the end we only spent about 350 Baht / 8,90 Euro for transport from Surat Thani train station to Koh Phangan instead of 700 Baht / 17,80 Euro with a package deal! It took us a while longer, but we managed anyway.
– It is difficult to find correct information on the internet about departure times of ferries to the islands. We were told by a salesman from joint tickets that some of these ferries only leave once a day. It could also have been a trick to let us accept the offer. If you are not taking a joint ticket and want to figure it out on your own, make sure to be at the pier at least around noon. Our experience had shown us that noon is a popular departure time for ferries, but it is better to have clear information than to just guess!
– There is a possibility to buy food on the ferry. But if you prefer fruit over noodles and other snacks, buy it on forehand.
Transport on the island
– We met a local on the boat and he gave us a very helpful tip to avoid expensive busses, taxi’s and so on to get to your destination on the island: Rent a scooter. Now there are many places where you can rent a scooter on the island, but the best price (and on walking distance from the pier) can be found if you search for the second 7-eleven and walk for 10-15 minutes. First you need to take a right turn after the pier. There you will already find a shop renting scooters for 150 or 200 Baht /3,81 – 5,09 Euro per day.
That is already a good price, but we decided to check the cheaper place out. Second, you turn left at the end of the street and walk straight until you find a 7-eleven. Across from 7-eleven you will a scooter shop renting scooters for only 100 Baht / 2,54 Euro per day.
The scooter shop is quite strict and you need to check the whole scooter yourself and draw on a form where existing scratches and so on are. But if you are leaving the island, you can just bring the scooter back with all your luggage and walk to the port.
* currency at the time of traveling