Bangkok would be relatively central in Thailand and as the Kingdom’s capital it is also a busy travel hub with so many travel options to reach the islands of Southern Thailand. This includes 2 international airports (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang), a massive train station (Hua Lamphong), and major bus and minivan terminals for travelling to the southern islands of Thailand (Ekamai Eastern Terminal and Sai Tai Mai Southern Bus Terminal). There are also independent tour agents and travel options leaving busier tourist areas such as Khaosarn Road with ‘VIP’ busses and coaches for travel to the Southern Thai Islands. And here I share the nearest Islands to Bangkok and the best options for travel including online booking these days (Book your tickets for Thailand).
Here I cover more the inland and port destination, those that are essential to pass to reach the islands. As the travel onwards to the island of Thailand is otherwise relatively simple and organised when compared to the complications of navigating the city and for travel from Bangkok. So I’m focusing more on the destinations, piers, and ports before onward travel to the southern island of Thailand. Starting with the nearest islands for short breaks from Bangkok, to the more mass tourist islands of Southern Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Islands. and the Gulf of Thailand. Highlighting the various travel options to reach them. Travel alternatives from Bangkok here. Also, for some Thai island hopping inspiration check our guide to the lesser-known islands of Thailand.
The Eastern Islands
Apart from Koh Larn at nearby Pattaya the Nearest Islands to Bangkok are the Eastern islands located out towards the Cambodian borders in the east of Thailand and are easy enough to reach from the piers of Rayong and Trat. And there are advantages with their closeness to Bangkok as they are overlooked by the mainstream tourist and backpacker trails who follow south, and instead, they are more domestic for short breaks from the city, and many are less developed outside of the main beaches of Koh Chang.
From Rayong it is only really the handy island of Koh Samet to reach. A great weekend island. Otherwise there are a number of lesser-known islands in the east that are often reached through the island of Koh Chang in Trat Province. Where, from Koh Chang, regular boat services leave Bangbao Pier (we shared these before here) to the smaller islands in the region. But it is possible to by-pass Koh Chang from the piers in Trat to take boats direct to Koh Kood and Koh Maak etc. Anyway, below I share the port cities for travel from Bangkok to Thailand’s Eastern Islands. Also, here for our full guide to Eastern Thailand.
Rayong (177km): Koh Samet
The coastal port for Koh Samet is Rayong, a quiet beach town on the Eastern Gulf Coast, located about 180 km from Bangkok. Full details on travel to Koh Samet here.
Travel from Bangkok to Rayong?
Flights from Bangkok to Rayong: You can fly into U-Tapao airport from Bangkok as well as from Chiangmai, and the airport serves as a common terminal for Pattaya and Rayong.
Busses from Bangkok to Rayong: Taking a bus or a taxi even is much more practical taking just 3-hours in the bus. The buses (unless specified) coming into Rayong stop at a terminal outside the city before a 10 km ride into the city by tuk-tuk or a taxi. However buses signed as for Koh Samet will continue to a smaller bus terminal nearer the coast. Within walking distance.
Trat (290km): Koh Chang, Koh Kood, Koh Mak
Trat is a rather remote coastal town in eastern Thailand, it’s about 290km travel from Bangkok to Trat to near the Cambodian border. From Trat it is also easy to cross the border (Had Lek / Koh Kong crossing) making it a more prominent destination. Full details on travel to Koh Chang here and our guide to the best areas to stay in Koh Chang here.
Travel from Bangkok to Trat?
Flights from Bangkok to Trat: To get to Trat, you can fly in (Trat Airport, where there are a few flights to and from Suvarnabhumi Airport run by Bangkok Airways.
Busses from Bangkok to Trat: Busses from Bangkok leave regularly from the Ekamai Eastern Terminal and take around 5 hours each way. From the same terminal, there are also tourist minivan options as well.
The Trat Ferry Terminal: Trat city centre is not on the coast but it is easy to reach the ferry ports at Ao Thammachat, Ko Chang Centerpoint and Laem Ngop by a quick taxi or tuk-tuk. The ferries go mostly to Ko Chang but also have options for direct travel to Koh Kood, Koh Maak etc…
The Gulf of Thailand
Following south from Bangkok finds the region of Southern Thailand it is a fair stretch before reach the main islands of the Gulf of Thailand. These islands include Koh Samui (a more luxury tourist resort), Koh Tao (a Mecca for scuba and snorkelling), and Koh Phangan (the famous full moon party island). And by far the quickest route to these islands from Bangkok would be by flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui, however, Koh Samui airport is owned by Bangkok Airways who have snubbed the low-cost carriers in Thailand so it’s also expensive. So flights to either Chumphon or Surat Thani are by far the cheaper for travel (or maybe Nakhon Si Thammarat) then transfer to the islands is made relatively simple with boats (including the Lomprayah Catamaran Services) doing regular daily loops between the three islands of the Gulf of Thailand.
Chumphon (450km): Koh Tao, Koh Phangan
The quaint coastal town of Chumphon is only really known as a transport hub for travellers headed to the islands and local focus is on access and onward travel through ferry, railway, bus travel and air.
Travel from Bangkok to Chumphon?
Flights from Bangkok to Chumphon: The airport which is located 35 kms from the city of Chumphon with flights to and from Bangkok taking roughly an hour one way. There are a couple of flights daily with seamless connection to the ferries for travel to the ferry terminals e.g. Lomphraya. It is also easy to reach Chumphon city itself with many taxis and minivans.
Trains from Bangkok to Chumphon: You can also choose to take a train to travel to Chumphon as there are regular trains to and from Bangkok. There are two options of seating, the 2nd class fan seats and 1st class sleeper coaches. The trains begin at 8 AM and the last one runs at 10.50 PM. The journey is roughly 9 hours long but extremely comfortable. Ferries start at 7 AM from Chumphon towards the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Phagnan continuing until Koh Samui. Overall, Chumphon is a small town, safe to travel to and from.
Surat Thani (644km): Koh Phangan, Koh Samui
Surat Thani is a great start for island hopping between the Gulf of Thailand islands but it’s not yet a stand-alone destination. Historically, it was the Srivijayan capital city and now, is a good example of a working city.
Travel from Bangkok to Surat Thani?
Flights from Bangkok to Surat Thani: By air, there are regular flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International and Suvarnabhumi Airports. As many as 4 carriers fly into and out of Surat Thani. The airport then lies 20 km away from the city. Tuk-tuks will take you to-and-from the airport but be prepared to bargain hard.
Trains from Bangkok to Surat Thani: The Train station is in Phun Pun, 15 km off the main city. If you have some time to spare, you can explore the night market and enjoy some beers.
Buses from Bangko to Surat Thani: The Bus Station at Surath Thani is about 5 km from city centre and very busy with buses coming in and going to Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga etc. but the stops can be different and sometimes even in the middle of nowhere, so be careful to research before you take one.
The Andaman Islands
The Andaman Coast is kind of split into 2 mainland tourist destinations and travel hubs for the region with Krabi (Ao Nang) and Phuket. Each with their own benefits and opportunities for travel to the islands of the Andaman where Krabi would be closer to Koh Lanta and the nearby peninsula of Railay, while Phuket is ideal for island hopping to the popular backpacker islands of Koh Phi-Phi and the Andaman. And from Phuket it is also simple to reach the quieter islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi. This region of southern Thailand is easily the most scenic, however, it is a long distance to travel from Bangkok to Krabi and Phuket by bus and overland. They would also be the busiest and most developed tourist destinations.
Krabi: Railay, Koh Lanta
Famous for its pristine blue seas and white limestone cliffs, the inland region of Krabi is like the poster boy of Thai tourism and getting travel from Bangkok to Krabi is quite simple as well. As a bigger tourist destination in itself, cars and scooters are cheap and easy to rent/lease rent with an international driver’s license.
Flights from Bangkok to Krabi: Krabi International Airport is 15 km away from the central areas and flight connectivity to the region is simple with not only flights from Bangkok but Koh Samui, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It’s a big tourist destination. Regular minivans then depart to the main hubs of Krabi and Ao Nang.
Busses from Bangkok to Krabi: The buses from Bangkok (Southern Terminal) take a good 10-hours one way to Krabi and VIP tour buses are also found at tourist hubs like Khaosarn Road. Krabi is still a good 3-4 hours by bus to Phuket but both destinations are used to access the islands of the Andaman.
Trains from Bangkok to Krabi: Train connectivity is not great for Krabi as the city has no train station of its own. The nearest train station would be Trang which is then a 2-hour road journey to reach Krabi.
Phuket (430km): Koh Phi Phi, Koh Yao
Phuket is a hugely popular tourist destination in Southern Thailand, an island itself, not much smaller than Singapore, that connects to the mainland so it is easy to access.
Flights from Bangkok to Phuket: The airport is the 2nd busiest airport in Thailand after Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok) with 2 terminals for domestic and international. There are regular and cheap daily flights from Bangkok with multiple carriers as well as accepting international flights from India, Germany, Australia, Malaysia etc. Many carriers operate between the countries and on the domestic routes.
Busses from Bangkok to Phuket: The bus terminal in Phuket is located in the south at Thanon Phang Nga in Phuket Town. The busses from Bangkok to Phuket take round 13-hours leaving from the Bangkok Southern Terminal with regular VIP and aircon buses, and the more basic domestic local buses.