A mere 25km in length, no destination is too far away on Koh Samui, which makes it easy to explore the wealth of blissful beaches and jungle-clad interiors. Whether you are in search of bustling markets or rugged mountain terrain, there is always a mode of transportation to suit your destination and budget. It’s worth noting that unlike Phuket, Koh Samui is not home to an army or tuk-tuks or a public bus network. However, there are still plenty of budget options for visitors travelling from A to B on public transportation.
Flying to Koh Samui
Koh Samui International Airport is the perfect place to start feeling the overall ambience of the island. This popular gateway to the island is owned by Bangkok Airways, which was once the only airline to operate flights to and from Bangkok. However, Koh Samui Airport has had to grow to adapt to the island’s overwhelming popularity, and a handful of other airlines now run flights to this popular spot. Bangkok Airways departures back to the Thai capital run almost hourly, and advance reservations generally cost about THB4,500 (US$126) one-way. There are also daily flights to Thailand’s other popular island, Phuket and two daily flights to the northern city of Chiang Mai. Samui is also served by two daily flights from Bangkok with Thai Airways, in addition to Berjaya Air flying to destinations in Malaysia. Other airlines that offer flights to the island via code share agreements include British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air and Malaysia Airlines.
Koh Samui Taxis
Travelling by taxi around Koh Samui couldn’t be easier, and spotting one on the street is a breeze as they are all painted in the same maroon and yellow. If you flag down a cab, it’s customary to negotiate a flat rate with the driver based on your destination, rather than using a meter. Due to the fact that there is only one taxi firm operating on the island, prices do tend to be quite high for this private mode of transportation compared to other options available on the island.
Koh Samui Car Rental
If you want to explore Koh Samui independently and at your own pace, hiring your own car or mini-bus is one of the most convenient ways to do it. For visitors staying in secluded mountaintop locations, perhaps in one of the island’s exclusive private villas, renting a hire car is a must. It’s possible to hire a vehicle from the transportation desk at Samui airport, with rental counters for international firms including Hertz, Sixt, Budget and Avis. There are also plenty of other independent local firms scattered across the island. Car hire can cost as little as THB800 (US$22) per day, however, the safest option would be to invest in a newer model that costs within the region of THB2,000 (US$56). For those intending to explore Samui’s mountainous interior, it’s worthwhile hiring a four-by-four. Villa guests can make arrangements through the villa manager.
Visitors that don't mind sudden breaking and hairpin bends at breakneck speed should consider hiring a motorbike rather than a car on Koh Samui. Hiring a bike offers swift but sometimes treacherous access to Samui’s most breathtaking viewpoints, and it can be a romantic way for couples to see the sights. Only experienced drivers should consider renting a motorbike, and protective clothing and a helmet should be worn at all times. Rental firms can be found across the island.
For those that want to sample of local life on Koh Samui, a songthaew is the best way to get around. These open-air pickup trucks are the closest thing Samui has to a bus network, even though passengers can flag down a songthaew wherever they want, as there are no specific stops. The word ‘songthaew’ literally translates to ‘two benches’, referring to the wooden strip of seating that passengers would sit on when they get into the truck. Before getting on, it’s wise to negotiate a price with the driver or conductor.
Samui by Sea
Thanks to its location at the centre of a plethora of pristine islands in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Samui is well-served by water transportation. Those travelling longer distances between the mainland or to islands like Koh Phangan or Koh Tao are best buying tickets in advance from the ferry terminal or a local travel agent, of which there are plenty. The Lomprayah high-speed catamaran offers swift routes to Samui from the mainland in Chumpon, stopping at Koh Tao and Koh Phangan on the way. A longtail boat is also a favoured form of transport for visitors exploring the blissful coastline of Koh Samui, and can be hired in much the same way as a taxi.
Samui Travel App
Travellers used to modern conveniences like Uber will be delighted to learn that Samui recently launched its own taxi app - NaviGo samui. Once you’ve registered your account, the app will detect your location and set it as the pick-up location. Next, select your drop-off location, confirm the booking and wait for your driver to arrive. Booking via your phone is quick, easy and offers a safe way home. However, the privilege of riding in one of these pre-booked cabs does mean paying more than you would ordinarily.
Updates by Wayne Hue