Travel Advice for Koh Samui
Information on how to travel to Koh Samui and travel around Koh Samui is contained here. If you can not find the travel information you are looking for contact us and we will try to help.
Arriving in Thailand
To enter Thailand, you must have a passport with a minimum of 6 months before it expires. You must also be in possession of a tourist visa before you arrive in Thailand or your country must have a visa exempt agreement with Thailand that will enable you to enter Thailand without a visa.
For more information you can refer to our 1 day visa run to Malaysia or Myanmar page or 3 day visa run to Kota Bharu, Malaysia page which provides more resources about visas to enter Thailand.
Extend your visa : If you would like to extend your stay in Koh Samui, you can take the following documents to the immigration office in Nathon (turn right at the traffic lights) for an extension of stay:
The passport (of course !)
2 recent passport sized photos
2 photocopies for each of the following documents : your passport, the visa, the stamps, the departure card stapled
And 1,990 baht.
You only have to fill out a form, that’s all.
When you arrive in Thailand you will be given a customs declaration form and a sheet detailing the regulations. You should complete the form and hand it to the customs officer as you leave the airport’s arrival hall.
You may bring in 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco, 1 liter of spirits, plus a reasonable amount of perfume. If you are bringing in prescription drugs, ask your doctor for a note detailing the drugs you are taking.
Firearms, pornography and narcotics are strictly prohibited. The penalties for drug trafficking are severe.
Banks and currency
The main form of currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB).
There are many banks in Koh Samui. Most open from 8:30am until 5:00pm Monday to Saturday, with some opening on a Sunday.
ATMs (cash machines)
ATMs are everywhere in Koh Samui and work in exactly the same way as they do in your home country but will charge you to withdraw money from your bank account in your native country. There are options to chose English and other languages.
The maximum allowable withdrawal at once is of 20,000 baht. The maximum you can withdraw in 1 day depends on the limit on your card not the ATM.
ATMs in Thailand give you your cash first and then your card unlike in some European countries. Remember to take your card at the end!
Currency exchange offices
Currency exchange offices are open 7 days a week and often till 10 pm. All the common foreign currencies are accepted in banks everywhere, in cash or in travelers checks.
Like in other holiday destinations, different bank do offer different exchange rates so do some comparisons before exchanging. Typically you will get a better rate exchanging your money in Thailand than you will changing your money in your home country.
The most widespread cards are Visa, Mastercard and American Express. These cards allow you to withdraw money from any ATM which displays the same logo/symbol as your card, provided you have PIN code, otherwise you also could withdraw money from bank counters (4% commission or more!) or pay with your credit card in miscellaneous shops, hotels and restaurants.
If you urgently need to send or receive money in Koh Samui, Western Union provides a safe, reliable and fast money transfer worldwide.
Travelling to Koh Samui
Thailand has very good infrastructure and is extremely well organized to travel to Koh Samui.
Travel to Koh Samui by air
To travel to Koh Samui by air is the most expensive way to get to Koh Samui but it is the most convenient and certainly the fastest.
Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways and Firefly operate to Koh Samui International Airport from a number of locations including Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Koh Samui International Airport is actually privately owned by Bangkok Airways, as such they have a bit of a monopoly on the airport explaining why the cost of travel is so expensive compared to similar journeys elsewhere in Thailand.
If you want to travel to Koh Samui quickly by air but for around half the price, you can fly to Surat Thani Airport and catch a minibus (about 1 hour) to Donsak’s ferry port for a boat to Koh Samui (about 90 minutes).
Be aware that the last ferries leave at 7pm so allow yourself plenty of time to get there, otherwise you’ll have to spend the night in Surat Thani.
Travel to Koh Samui by rail
Traveling by train to Koh Samui can be a lot of fun and is great for meeting new people and making friends with other travelers. The train service is impeccable and timetables are generally respected, although it is true trains are not the fastest way to travel (e.g. 600 km over 12 hours) in Thailand. To make the journey bearable there are air conditioned carriages, VIP coaches and sleeper coaches which have beds with fresh sheets for you to relax. There are berths at the top bottom. We advise you to book the bottom bunk (a little more expensive) because it is more spacious and airier, especially if you happen to be over 6ft (183cm).
Food and snacks are available but it is generally a rather poor selection of junk food (cakes, chocolate, noodles, pork buns, soft drinks) and on the expensive side. We suggest you to stock up with food at the stations as there is always a market or food vendors nearby. When you stop at stations, there are almost always people who sell delicious cheap food either on the train or by the window.
All coaches are no smoking.
Book your ticket at least 3 days in advance to guarantee your travel date. Air-conditioned car-sleepers are very cold so either ensure you have something to keep you warm or book 2nd class fan.
Travel to Koh Samui by road
There are bus services to most destinations in Thailand. Bangkok to Koh Samui buses leave from the Southern Bus Terminal. There are VIP, first and second-class buses available. These are all air conditioned. For easier & cheaper travel, you can buy a bus/ferry combination ticket.
It stops almost every time a person holds out the hand by the roadside, no air-conditioning, wide opened windows but you could have very pleasant encounters in it with the local people and you travel really for an absurdly low fare.
A well maintained air conditioned bus. A reasonable amount of space between seats and the seats do recline comfortably. Always travels overnight (see below for details).
A nice air conditioned bus with on board toilet. This has fewer seats on board than the economy bus and they also recline a lot further. As a VIP you will receive a few extra snacks included in the cost of your ticket. Coaches always travel to Koh Samui overnight. You leave Bangkok between 5.30pm and 8pm and journey takes around 10-12 hours to Donsak, about 700 kilometers from Bangkok. Once in Donsak, you will travel by car ferry to Koh Samui, which takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then you will be transferred to the bus depot nearby in Nathon, where there will be a taxi rank for you to get to where you need to go on Koh Samui.
On all the coaches, they put on a movie (in Thai language or sometimes in English) or the Thai TV during 2 hours after your departure. All coaches will stop one or several times on the journey at local truck stop restaurants with bathroom facilities. VIP buses mainly have their own bathrooms.
Travel to Koh Samui by boat
Car & passenger ferry
There are two companies that operate a car ferry service to Koh Samui from Donsak, both taking around 1 hour 45 minutes, however one takes you to Nathon where the other takes you to Lipa Noi further south.
These ferries have plenty of seating, air conditioned areas, snack bars, bathroom facilities and even massage areas. They leave every hour from 6am until 7pm.
When you arrive there will be taxis and songtaew taxis available to continue your journey in Koh Samui.
The passenger ferry is a lot smaller and slimmer than the other ferries and is significantly cheaper. It does however take a little extra time to travel to Koh Samui and because of the price is popular with backpackers so can be busy.
Catamaran passenger ferry
This is the fastest way for a person to travel to Koh Samui from Donsak. It takes around 45 minutes but is a bit more expensive than the other ferries.
The night boat
Very cheap but travels very slow taking about 5-6 hours. There is plenty of space onboard and there are beds available for travelers.
Traveling around Koh Samui
There are many options to travel around Koh Samui. Cars, motorbikes and bicycles can be rented from a number of tour agents.
Since the most common form of transportation is motorbike, there are not many side walks in Koh Samui but they are slowly being developed in the main tourist areas. Walking is a nice way to take Koh Samui’s surroundings but use a lot of sun screen and be careful in the traffic.
Bicycle rentals in Koh Samui is cheap, good exercise and a great way to take in the sights locally. We wouldn’t recommend this for going too far though as Koh Samui has a lot of steep inclines.
Motorbikes are the most common form of transportation in Koh Samui. There are a range of motorbikes (or scooters) from 100-150cc available in automatic or manual transmission. You can refer of our car & motorbike rental page for more details. Prices start from 250 baht per day.
The roads in Koh Samui are notoriously dangerous. Slippery when dry because of sand and slippery when wet. There are many sharp turns and the roads are not in the condition you will be used to. You will also find drivers are not educated to Western standards and often perform dangerous or ill-thought moves. Please take care.
It is required by law to wear a motorcycle helmet, even though you will see a lot of people not wearing them in Koh Samui. There are motorbike accidents everyday in Koh Samui, wearing a helmet will save your life. The fine for not wearing one is 300 Baht.
Larger road bikes, sport bikes, dirt bikes, cruisers and choppers are also available in Koh Samui but we only recommend these for those who are experienced riders.
Open back taxi (Songtaew)
Songtaews, meaning 2 rows, are red pick-up trucks in Koh Samui that allow passengers to jump on and off the back. They will take you where you need to go but will stop to pick up other passengers and some times go a longer route to get more customers. Essentially they are the same as a bus service and Thais & visitors use them handy means of transportation around Koh Samui.
Songtaews operate from early morning to 10pm. Prices starts at around 30-60 Baht per person, but it’s more expensive at night after 6pm. After this time you will have to negotiate the price but typically it will be around 70-100 Baht per person.
Koh Samui is full of officially licensed taxis, which are comfortable, air conditioned and circulate the island. Even though many of them display “Meter” they rarely use it and the fare should be negotiated before getting in the taxi. You will find the price of taxis in Koh Samui much more expensive than Bangkok, the minimum charge is 200-300 Baht.
Visit our transfer services page for our taxi rates in Koh Samui.
Renting a car in Koh Samui is a great way for a group of people to travel around Koh Samui in relative comfort. Most cars feature air conditioning and some have 4 wheel drive to enable you to go off-road and negotiate some of the tougher terrain around Koh Samui. You can refer of our car & motorbike rental page for more details.
Be careful of motorbike either side of you before turning. They are very fast and very small and can be right next to you in a second.
Gasoline can be purchased from one of the gasoline stations around Koh Samui. Be warned that there are no 24hr gas stations in Koh Samui, they all close at 9-10pm.