Thailand is the place to be when it comes to inexpensive travel and on top of that, it is also a gorgeous destination. Island hopping in Thailand, whether you are staying for a week or you travel around for months on end, Thailand has what you like!
Choosing what islands to visit is a harder decision, that is where I come in to help. You could say I’m an addict to anything and everything in Thailand. From the full moon party on Koh Phangan to diving at the Similan islands, and eating too much banana pancakes and curries.
Here is my ultimate guide to island hopping in Thailand
Island hopping itinerary
Destinations & Transport Costs
Bangkok – Phuket (€20 – €80)
Phuket – Koh Phi Phi (less than €10)
Koh Phi Phi- Koh Lanta (less than €10)
Koh Lanta – Krabi (about €10)
Krabi – Koh Samui (less than € 15)
Koh Samui – Koh Phangan (about €8)
Koh Phangan – Koh Tao (about €8)
Koh Tao – Bangkok (about €20)
The currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht. In the table below you will find the most used currencies compared to the Baht. Currencies are ever changing; they do, however, never change drastically and will probably always stay around the same general exchange rate. A good website to check exchange rates is XE.
1 Euro = 40 Baht
1 American Dollar = 35 Baht
1 Australian Dollar = 25 Baht
1 British Pound = 50 Baht
100 Japanese Yen = 30 Baht
1 New Zealand Dollar = 25 Baht
1 Canadian Dollar = 30 Baht
It is not wise to exchange your money at an airport. They are often the most expensive and you will easily lose 20% of your money. If you do have cash in another currency than the bath it is smartest to exchange it at a booth in Thailand. In bigger cities you can find hundreds of them, and they usually offer competitive rates.
Taking out your cash from your debit or credit card is the best way to go. On a debit card you will only have to pay a 150 Baht fee (note: there are some debit cards that do charge an additional bank fee), and on a credit card, you’ll pay the 150 Baht fee + your card fees. It would probably be wise to take out a big amount each time you withdrawal to lower the total amount of fees.
Thailand is mostly a very safe country. It is, however, still a developing country and there is quite a bit of poverty around. When you go out exploring, make sure that you are not walking around with all your expensive gadgets in plain sight, this will make you huge a target for pickpockets.
Bangkok – Phuket
To start your island hopping in Thailand you are going to have to travel to the south of Thailand. It is most likely that you’ll fly into Bangkok since this is often the cheapest option. This is no problem at all since there are a plethora of options to get to the south. The easiest way would be by flight this will cost you around €80 and will get you to Phuket in under 2 hours.
The other option is to take the bus, this might not be the most pleasant way to travel, but it is by far the cheapest. For not more than €20 you’ll find yourself in Phuket. The only thing is that your trip will take at least 14 hours. Another option is to take a train and a bus you’ll have the option of a sleeper train, which is a lot less cramped than the bus, but it will also cost you a little more, in total you’ll spend about €40 to get to Phuket in about 14 hours.
It’s totally up to you which way you’ll travel. If you got the money I’d recommend to fly, also when you’re on a tight schedule. If you have the time or a small budget, I’d go for the bus or the train.
Bangla road is backpacker central and a good place to party. Here you can also see the famous ping pong shows, I personally found them super awkward and kind of disgusting, but I guess it’s one of those things that you have to see at least once in your life! In Phuket
I really wouldn’t spend more than 1 day in Phuket, the island is overrun by tourists and doesn’t have the best activities around.
Phuket – Koh Phi Phi
Travelling from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi is easy peasy. You can book your trip at one of the hundreds of travel shops around Phuket and shouldn’t cost more than 400 baht (€10). Most of the boat trips come with a pick up from your accommodation in Phuket, and the whole travel will not take longer than 3 hours.
To enter the island of Koh Phi Phi you have to pay a fee of 20 Baht (€0,50), you’ll have to pay this right after you come off the boat, so make sure you have it ready. The fee is to “keep Koh Phi Phi clean”, it is more likely that it’s just some extra pocket money for certain residents.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is a party central, you’ll be able to dance till the sun comes up again. There are however some other must-see sights on and around this small island. The first thing you should know is that there are no scooters on the island, everything is within walking distance or easy to reach with a cheap water taxi ride. As far as activities there are the following things.
- Viewpoint – I’d highly recommend going here just before sunset. It’s quite a walk and can feel impossible in the heat of the day. You can find the viewpoint by following the signs all around the island, or by just following the yellow brick road, which is the main walking path on the island.
- Day trip by boat. You’ll be able to rent a boat with a bunch of people for not more than 300 Bath each. The taxi driver will drop you off at all the highlights around the island such as monkey beach, maya bay, maya beach, and some amazing snorkelling points. When we did the trip our boat broke down (luckily this was on the way home), we had to wait for about 2 hours and got to see an amazing sunset from the water. The boat had to be towed by another longtail boat which must have been a hilarious sight!
- Rent a canoe, for those of us that like to explore and adventure out on their own, there is the option of renting a canoe. You can do this by yourself of with a bunch of your newly made friends. Maya Bay and monkey beach are easy to reach from the main beach of Koh Phi Phi (canoe to the right for maya bay, and left to monkey beach). This will cost about 100 Bath an hour (€2).
TIP: don’t leave your stuff unattended on monkey beach, the monkeys are very curious and have taken more than you’d believe into the jungle, never to be seen again. So if you like your belongings, keep them with you!
Koh Phi Phi – Koh Lanta
Another boat trip from island to island. You’ll be able to book this at any travel agent and at most accommodations on Koh Phi Phi, this shouldn’t cost more than 300 Baht (€8). This is one of the shortest boat trips and will take just 1 hour. After arrival on Koh Lanta there are tens of tuk tuks waiting to bring you to your accommodation. Depending on where your accommodation is the price will vary.
The hostel that I very much recommend (it’s really amazing and I met a bunch of great people here, the owners are also super nice!) Hey Beach Hostel is located on Long Beach. Me and a friend paid 60 Baht (€1,50) in total to get from the pier to our hostel.
Koh Lanta also has an arrival fee for “sustainability reasons”, on this island it is just 10 Baht (€0,25).
Koh Lanta is a quiet island, and a lot of backpackers find it plain boring. However, after partying a bunch on Koh Phi Phi with friends I really needed some rest and Koh Lanta was the perfect opportunity for this. The island has an incredible sunset which can be viewed from all the beaches on the west side (main side) of the island. Another activity is cruising around on your motorbike the island isn’t too big, so you can easily drive around in a day whilst stopping at some of the amazing beaches. Even if you aren’t very experienced on a motorbike, but you would like to learn, I would recommend you try to get some road time in on this island. There isn’t much traffic, and no steep hills and crazy curves.
There are numerous beaches well worth the visit, however, my personal favourite must be bamboo beach, which can be found at the most southern tip of the island. It is actually one of the only beaches located in the national park that is also located on the island. If you keep following the road from bamboo beach onwards to the east you’ll find that you have to pay 200 Baht to get into the national park. Bamboo beach is still free!
Koh Lanta is the perfect island to just relax and enjoy all that Thailand has to offer, great beaches, amazing sunsets and an incredible cuisine.
Koh Lanta – Krabi
The trip from Koh Lanta to Krabi is one with the most beautiful scenery you’re going to find in the south of Thailand. You’ll see some of the lushest green hills and bluest waters. This trip can be taken by bus or by bus and boat. I would recommend going the whole way by bus, this way you don’t have to drag your luggage from one transport to the other, and most importantly, the view isn’t any better on the boat!
You’ll be able to book your ticket to Krabi either at your accommodation or travel agents on Koh Lanta. This shouldn’t cost you more than 300 Baht (€8). The trip will probably take about 2 hours, depending on how long your bus has to wait for the ferry to cross to the mainland.
Krabi is one of the bigger cities in the south of Thailand. Many use it as a gateway to get to the islands in the southeast and don’t really spend any time here. Seriously, don’t do this, Krabi and its surroundings have much to offer and it would be a waste to not go here. And to be honest, you are in Thailand anyway, so why not go?
The biggest attraction that can be visited from Thailand is probably Railay beach. I would recommend spending a full day here, and if you want to spend some money, take a tour via a travel agent and cruise around this area some more. If you don’t like the busy streets of Krabi, you could also consider staying in Railay, this is, however, a bit more expensive. Sa Morakat or as us westerners call it ’emerald pool’ is another great trip that can be taken from Krabi, it is only about a 20-minute drive from the centre of town and involves a short jungle trek after which you’ll arrive at the emerald pool and nearby waterfalls. A great place to just hang about and enjoy your day.
Krabi itself has numerous nice little restaurants and places to party all night. If you are a backpacker or you just like to party I would recommend staying at Slumber Party Hostel as the name says, this is a party hostel, if you need a good night sleep, this is not the place for you. You’ll definitely have a good time here and probably make some new friends for life, or at least for the night!
Krabi – Koh Samui
The time has come to make our way to the east side of Thailand. This will probably be your longest trip on the southern side of Thailand. With at least 1,5 hours by bus and another hour by boat you’ll make your way to another famous island in Thailand, Koh Samui. Again you’ll be able to buy your ticket (bus and boat together) either at your hostel or one of the numerous shops around Krabi for under 600 Baht (€15). Make sure you buy a ticket that has bus and boat included, there are many that only do the bus, this way you’ll end up in Surat Thani, where it will cost you another 500 Baht to get to Koh Samui by boat.
Once you arrive on Koh Samui you’ll probably need a taxi to get you to your accommodation. Almost all boats from Krabi arrive in Nathon, this is a small town on the west side of Koh Samui. Your accommodation is probably on the east side of the island in either Chaweng or Lamai. You’ll be able to grab a taxi (one of the open van kinds) for about 100 Baht (€2) a person, this is only when you find more than 4 people to share your taxi with. Another option is to book your transport in advance, this is really easy doable either online (via your accommodation) or on the boat (they’ll advertise this about 10 times on the boat).
Koh Samui is really touristy. I’m not going to say that it isn’t so, but you shouldn’t believe what everyone tells you. Samui might be touristy but is still worth a visit.
If your not into partying and don’t want it to be too busy, I would recommend that you DON’T stay in the Chaweng Area. The island is big and has numerous other locations that you can stay in. However, if you do like a party, Chaweng is the place to be, with the famous ARK bar for parties on the beach and the Green Mango that lets you party till early in the morning, makes it a drinking and dancing Valhalla for many.
Samui’s biggest cultural attraction is probably Big Buddha which is only a 10-minute taxi drive away from Chaweng. There are numerous other cultural sites such as the grandmother and grandfather rocks, or as many others say the penis and vagina rock. Most of my time spent on Samui was either on the beach or on my motorbike cruising around looking for some great sights.
Koh Samui – Koh Phangan
Koh Phangan is easy to reach by boat from Koh Samui. Just make sure that you get dropped off at the right pier. The one near Big Buddha, not the one in Nathon. It will take about 1 hour and costs approximately 300 Baht (€8). Tickets can be bought at either your hostel or one of the many travel agents around. Just make sure they don’t rip you off, they often ask more than 300 Baht and they shouldn’t! If you like bargaining you might be able to get the price down to 200 Baht. Especially if you are travelling in a group!
FULL MOON PARTY TIME: If you are travelling around the time of the full moon party I would advise you to book your boat ticket at least one day in advance. The boat gets crazy busy, I’m not joking here, it took me at least an hour to get off the boat after arrival in Koh Phangan, just because there were so many bags and people around that I couldn’t find my own backpack!
Most people go to Koh Phangan for the full moon party, so I’ll focus on this subject first. During the week of the full moon party, the island is going to be crowded. Remember that I told you about the full boats. From about 3 days before the party until the day of the party itself there will be at least 14 boats every day, filled with party people.
If you are planning to go to Koh Phangan just to explore (not to party). I would say that it
Koh Phangan isn’t just about the full moon party, there are loads of other things to do on the island. Not to mention that it’s a great island to just go explore. I wouldn’t recommend renting a motorbike, the hills are really steep. The one near Haad Rin Beach is so steep that most motorbikes don’t make it up there! Koh Phangan is famous for its hills and jungles all around. Do yourself a favour and go out on a tour to explore these hills! There are some great paths to go hiking or mountain biking. The views are incredible and you’ll probably see some things you haven’t seen before! The water here is also great for snorkelling and diving, so don’t just stay on the beach. Explore those waters!
Koh Phangan – Koh Tao
I feel like I’m repeating myself here, however, Koh Tao is again only a boat trip away from Koh Phangan. It again takes about an hour and costs 300 Baht (€8). At the travel shops where you can buy the ticket, they also offer boats for 400 or 500 Baht. The extra costs are often because it’s a faster or a newer boat.
Koh Tao is the place to be when it comes to diving. Many go here to get PADI certified, a 3 to 4-day intensive course will cost you between €100 and €200. This is one of the cheapest ways to get your PADI around the world!! Don’t worry, they are all totally legit and a lot of fun!
If you’re not into diving there is also the option to go snorkelling. You can rent your gear from any dive shop on the islands and go to one of the bays to explore the waters. If you don’t want to go out by yourself, there is also the option of a half day snorkel tour by boat. This only costs around 500 Baht (€12). This tour will make sure you see some of the best spots. More importantly, they’ll feed you some delicious snacks along the way. These tours can be booked at most accommodation and travel agents around the island.
If you are looking for a party, you should definitely consider going on the famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl. They are 3 days a week: on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (at this moment in time). Make sure you buy your ticket on time (they start selling around 6 PM on the day itself at Choppers Bar). They often sell out within 30 minutes in high season! Tickets cost 400 Baht and include a shirt, free shots, a free bucket, a cabaret show and some other cool stuff.
Koh Tao – Bangkok
Travelling from the south of Thailand to Bangkok is going to be quite a trip. The best thing is that tourism in Thailand knows everyone wants to be able to travel back to the capital from almost every destination. This is why they made sure that it is possible to book a ticket at almost all destinations. This doesn’t mean that you’ll step on one bus and it will bring you all the way there. It’s just a combined ticket for a boat, bus and/or train.
In Koh Tao you’ll be able to book a combined ticket from almost any travel agent. The whole trip in total will take up to 12 hours and costs at least 800 Baht (€20). The easiest, cheapest and fastest way is to travel overland is by boat and bus. The other option is to travel by boat and train. This will cost you more money and is quite a hassle. You’re going to have to make your way to the station by yourself. However, once you’re on the train is way more comfortable than the bus. The last option is to fly. This costs quite a bit, and you still have to take a boat to Koh Samui for the closest airport.
Activities in Bangkok
Bangkok is big, really big. Personally, I dislike Bangkok because of its size and crowdedness. However, the city does have some amazing sights that are a must see. Some examples are the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Khaosan Road, Wat Arun, Golden Buddha, and Lumphini Park are just a few of them. Getting around Bangkok is easiest done by tuk tuk. You could also try to take the underground. I got lost more than once here, but if you feel brave and have a good sense of direction. Then this is definitely the cheapest way to get around.
Bangkok is the gateway to many other destinations. Such as Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Koh Chang and many other cities in Thailand. There are also hundreds of cheap flights to other destinations in Asia!