Travel Information on Getting to and Exploring Koh Samet
Just this past week my wife and I went over to Koh Samet for a little get away from the hectic noise and heat of Bangkok. Depending on who you ask, some will say Koh Samet is a gem of an island. Some will say it’s not because it’s not far away enough from Bangkok so you still get a bit of the pollution often associated with big cities.
In the beginning I was in the latter camp and believed that you’d have to get as far away as possible from Bangkok if you want to swim in a sea of Listerin clear blue waters.
If you want to compare all the wonderful islands Thailand has to offer – it’s hard to beat those you’d find in the Andaman Sea surrounding Phuket. Or even deeper south on the Gulf of Thailand – Koh Samui’s pristine crystal clear waters is a prime example of some serious beach getaways.
Getting to Koh Samet from Bangkok
Koh Samet is located in Rayong province – due southeast of Bangkok. Taking a mini van or also called mini bus is the easiest option. Mini bus companies will take you to Ban Phe Pier in Rayong. From there you can purchase ferry boat tickets to Koh Samet for around 100THB round trip.
However, if you’re staying at a mid range resort in Koh Samet you should check if they have a complimentary ferry service from the pier to the hotel and back. It’ll save you some money and time. I stayed at the Vongdeuan Resort on Ao Vongdeun (Ao in Thai means beach).
There are public bus services at Ekkamai Bus Station which is your cheapest mode of transport choice. But a lot of people say the mini bus service is better because it’s a lot quicker and convenient.
Here’s where you can catch the mini bus to Ban Phe Municipality Pier within Bangkok:
- Victory Monument – From 6am to 6pm, fare is 200THB, takes about 3 hours (could be quicker) to reach Ban Phe pier.
- Khao San Road – Only 2 departures – 10:00am and 1:30pm, fare is 250THB, about a 3 and half hour ride.
My wife and I drove down to the pier. It’s a 3 hour leisure drive through Rayong not including the bathroom breaks and quick visits to nearby attractions along the highway.
If you’ve chosen to rent a car instead, there is free parking spots at Ban Phe pier. Or you can find a place that will let you park for a fee. Since there were no available parking spaces at the time we found a place to park for 100THB a day at another pier.
All ferry boats arrive at Nadan pier located on the north side of the island. The ferry ride takes about 35 to 40 minutes. Since Samet is a national park in Thailand you have to pay a one time entrance fee:
Entrance Fee For Foreigners Visiting Koh Samet (as of May 2015):
- Adult – 200THB
- Ages 3 to 14 – 100THB
- Ages under 3 and 60 and over free entrance
Since we were staying at Vongdeun Resort we used their complimentary ferry service and they also have an office at Ban Phe Municipality pier. So the resort’s personal ferry took us straight to our hotel with no hassles. It’s really worthwhile to book a resort on Koh Samet that provides complentary roundtrip ferry service. It’s important to find out also what the ferry boats’ time schedules are too.
Also any resort on the island may have offices at a different pier so you should also note where their ferry departs.
Getting Around Koh Samet
However, once you’re off the ferry boat your options for getting to where ever you are staying is rent a motorbike if you know how to ride or use the truck (songthaew) taxi service which are really green painted pick up trucks with 2 rows of seats.
These taxis don’t use meters and the rates are fixed and cost depends on distance. From the pier to Vongdeuan Resort it would cost 250THB if you want to hire one outright. Otherwise it’s about 30THB per person to Ao Vongdeun but you have to wait until the pick up truck is filled with customers. The most taxis charge is 70THB to Ao Pakarang which is the furthest beach area in Samet.
Which ever area you are staying at, the best way to really get around is by motorbike. The island is 7km across and 4km wide. There are only three main roads and the roads are not full of cars, thankfully. We rented a motorbike for 500THB for a full day with free gas. All rental shops stock automatic motorbikes.
Renting a motorbike is also a good idea so you can get around and check out other places to eat food. There are some cafes and Thai hawker stands throughout the island. If you’re married to a Thai lady like I am you’ll know Thais are quite picky about food. And they’ll go far and wide in search of a good meal and make it quite clear that they don’t like the food by not touching it again after one single first bite.
There are shops renting scooters for 400THB for 1 day plus free gas. However the place that we rented from was a few minutes walk from us on the beach near our resort and charged 500THB. Just a fair warning though that the roads are hilly. You’ll find rolling hills along the way which makes a harrowing ride. But the good news is there are virtually no cars at all since Koh Samet is quite strict on vehicle control.
Golf carts are also available for rent and cost 2000THB for 1 day. It’s only a two seater and kind of pricey if you really think about it. But certainly a safer alternative when you don’t know how to ride a scooter.
Though Vongdeun beach where the resort we were staying at is not too shabby either. Though with a motorbike you have the freedom to go around and check out other beaches easily. There are 18 beaches on this island. You won’t need to check all of them out as some are better than others.
My favorite 3 beaches on Koh Samet:
- Praw Bay
- Ao Hin Khok
- Ao Vongdeuan
Though main roads are in fairly good condition (though with lots of speed bumps) the roads leading to the beaches are not paved so do be extra careful.
There are other smaller islands surrounding Koh Samet you can check out. For those, you have to book a tour. Usually you can find island tour packages right at your hotel lobby. Or if you’re staying at an area north of Samet there are shops that can book a tour for you. Take a walk along most beaches and you’ll find a booking agency too. You can pretty much book a tour anywhere.
Depending on the tour you choose a lunch is included in the afternoon. And if they’ll take you to a snorkeling spot a snorkel kit and life jackets are provided. But I highly recommend buying your own snorkel kit for hygiene reasons. But there are other items you should have too:
Your Essential Island Hopping Kit Bag:
- Waterproof Dry Bag – Since you’ll be bringing a bag it might as well be waterproof.
- Beach Shoes – Wear these to protect your feet from sharp rocks and broken sea shells.
- Snorkel Kit – Should buy your own. The ones provided on tours are well used and I doubt they are sanitized after use.
Don’t forget to bring band aids too. Sometimes it’s hard to judge how deep coral or rocks are and I’ve seen a lot of people shred their knees and shins. Me included. And be sure to buy your sun tan lotion before you get on the island or else you’ll end up paying 2 to 3 times the normal price on Samet.
Might be a good idea to bring some toilet tissue too. Every island have toilets but no paper.
Two Tour Companies I’ve Used Before in Koh Samet:
- Nongboom Tours
- Shairbuay Tours
These two companies I have used on a consistent basis whenever in Samet. Of these two, I think Nongboom is the better one. Sometimes Shairbuay will skip certain locations on the itinerary and won’t even tell customers. They could’ve done it because of weather, time constraints or whatever circumstances but it would be nice if they could simply say something.
Now I don’t know if Nongboom has done the same since every speedboat has a different crew. But so far, Nongboom has taken the tour group we were on to every advertised snorkeling or beach locations.
Although this recent visit was in late May, weather wise it’s not ideal and considered the slow season. While my wife and I was there the waters were choppy and quite rough. So it’s not really suitable for snorkeling. And the water wasn’t as crystal clear as it could be due to the rough surf.
And although there were still plenty of fish that come up when you’re tossing food to them they don’t really come out until the waters are calmer. I asked the locals what are the best times for snorkeling and was told starting from November on to January. Though I’ve been to Koh Samet before in mid February and the water visibility was excellent too.
The more I visit Koh Samet the more I am beginning to enjoy the island. For my wife and I we like Samet because its a good beach getaway choice. Especially when we have certain time constraints and have to get back to Bangkok.
But if you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money and a whole lot of travel time and still want to enjoy beautiful island life with a Mai Tai in hand and soft fine sand under your feet – Koh Samet is not a bad option.