From Bangkok to Surat Thani: 3 Best Ways to Get There
Located on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand, the city of Surat Thani is a main transit point for travelers en route to some of Thailand's most famous islands: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. Traveling to Surat Thani has also become a favorite way to cut down costs when heading towards the islands in high season. For example, rather than flying directly to Koh Samui, travelers can fly to Surat Thani and then catch a ferry.
From the Thai capital of Bangkok, you can reach Surat Thani by plane, train, or bus–though the latter two are long overnight trips. Once in Surat Thani, you can catch regular ferries that run out to the islands from Donsak Pier, about 65 kilometers from Surat Thani town, as well as between all three islands. The trip between Koh Samui and Koh Phangan takes only half an hour, making it easy to island-hop and see all the sights.
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1. From Bangkok to Surat Thani by Plane
During the low and shoulder seasons (March to November), the one-hour flights to Surat Thani from Bangkok cost the same as taking the train and are the best choice for a quick and comfortable trip down to your destination. During high season, however, flight prices can easily triple, especially if you don't book well in advance.
Budget airlines–including Air Asia, Thai Lion Air, and Nok Air–depart from Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport at least 10 times per day and are a good choice if your main concern is low prices and you don't mind flying with just the basics. This means no free food or drinks on board, tight legroom, and often no checked luggage included in the price. If you want a little more comfort, Thai Airways offers more expensive flights that depart from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok's main airport, and include onboard meals and other extras.
All flights arrive at the Surat Thani International Airport, located 20 kilometers outside the town center. Tuk-tuks are always waiting outside for easy transportation, but remember to negotiate a ride fee before you set off to avoid being overcharged. You can also catch the bus into town. It will cost you less but takes around one hour.
2. From Bangkok to Surat Thani by Train
Traveling to Surat Thani by train has its pros and cons. Trains are more comfortable than buses, especially if you choose a sleeper train, where you can sleep away part of the long journey. During the day, you can watch out the window as the train crosses sleepy towns, rice paddies, and countryside greens, and even the buzz and hum of backyards and everyday life, giving you a peek into Thai life as you speed along to your destination.
Trains are also cheaper than flying, especially during high season (November to March), when railway tickets stay the same price but flight prices skyrocket.
On the negative side, Thai trains are slow, and it can take up to 12 hours to get to your destination. If you're setting off for only a short vacation, using half a day just to get to Surat Thani is probably not worth it.
All trains to Surat Thani depart from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Station and can be booked in advance through an online travel portal. The fastest train leaves in the morning and takes eight hours and 40 minutes to get to its destination. This is a second-class, seats-only, air-conditioned train–and while you can't lie down for a nap, the seats are comfortable enough to make this option worth it if you're after the fastest train available.
The sleeper overnight trains (both first and second class) leave from Bangkok at 6pm or later and take 10-12 hours to get to Surat Thani. The main difference between first- and second-class trains is the location of the berths. First-class means a separate compartment with only two or four beds and a private washbasin, while in second-class, 20 or more berths are arranged along carriage walls. There's also a second class A/C seat train, which offers the comfort of a cooler ride but no beds. If you're trying to save money, these trains cost half the price of the sleeper AC trains.
Overall, overnight trains are a better option because you'll arrive at your destination in the early morning, when it's easier to find transportation to the town center. This is important because the Surat Thani Railway Station is about 15 kilometers outside the city, and you'll have to catch a bus or arrange a tuk-tuk to get to your hotel. If you're continuing on to Koh Samui or Koh Tao, the 6:30pm or 7:30pm trains are the best options, as they arrive in Surat Thani at the perfect time to catch ferries to the islands.
3. From Bangkok to Surat Thani by Bus
The cheapest way to travel to Surat Thani is on a bus departing from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal, Eastern Bus Terminal Bangkok Ekkamai, or Bangkok Bus Terminal Chatuchak, though schedules vary throughout the year. Buses leave either in the morning or after 5pm–there's a several hour break in between the morning (daytime) and afternoon (overnight) buses, so make sure you plan your trip well if you want to arrive in Surat Thani at a certain time of the day. The latest bus departs at 8:30pm.
Buses all take about the same amount of time (10-11 hours) as trains to reach their destination and are air-conditioned, with reclining seats and refreshments sold onboard. When there's no traffic, the Express buses can take as little as seven hours to reach Surat Thani, but don't count on it, and make sure you leave enough time to connect to a ferry.
In addition to regular bus seats, you can also catch a VIP bus to Surat Thani. These buses make fewer stops along the way and offer a bit of extra comfort in the form of more ample legroom, seats that recline farther back, and sometimes hot meals being served. Both regular and VIP tickets can be booked through an online travel portal or bought directly at the station, though waiting till the last minute means you might not get a seat and will have to wait for a later bus.
There are three main bus stations in Surat Thani (Talad Kaset 1, Talad Kaset 2, and Bor Kor Sor Mai). Most buses coming from Bangkok arrive at Bor Kor Sor Mai, but confirm this when you buy your ticket so you don't get stranded thinking you're somewhere else. Local orange buses run from this station right into downtown (just a few minutes away) or you can catch a songthaew (shared open pickup taxi) for an even quicker ride.
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Where to Stay in Bangkok: To help make your stay in Bangkok more comfortable, book a place to stay in advance, especially if you're arriving during high season or late at night. For a breakdown of the best neighborhoods in Bangkok to get a restful night, take a look at our article, Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Areas & Hotels.
Koh Samui: If you're continuing to Koh Samui after your trip to Surat Thani, get some inspiration on the best accommodations once you reach the island on where to stay in Koh Samui. Thinking about heading directly to Koh Samui instead? We have some tips in our article: From Bangkok to Koh Samui: Best Ways to Get There.