Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NIGHT FERRY FROM KOH TAO TO SURAT THANI

This is a post on how to get from Koh Tao to Surat Thani airport (all land and sea transfers) in the most comfortable and economical manner.

I had to get from Koh Tao to Surat Thani, where I was due to get back to Kuala Lumpur on a 1 pm flight. You have a few ways of going about this

  • Speed boat 
  • VIP Night ferry  
  • Local night ferry 

Let's talk about your options.

Speed boat 
Tickets with the Lomprayah speed boat cost between 1200 - 1500 bht (depending on how hard you bargain / which agent you buy from). There are 2 departure times every day, 6.30 am and 1.30 pm. The journey is supposed to take between 4-5 hours on average, but remember that this is dependent on weather and it is safe to allocate extra time for delays.

VIP Night ferry (what I went with)
I can't remember the name of the company ; tickets range from 800-950bht (again, depending on how hard you bargain / which agent you buy from). Departure times are at 9 pm and you reach Surat Thani airport at 9.30 am the following day. You get a private sleeper bunk of your own, light refreshments, it is fully air-conditioned, you have your own reading light, and so on. I'll talk about it my experience further down in this post.

Local night ferry
I did not go with this (I wasn't even aware of this option til boarding my night ferry) but from what I later learnt, tickets are from 500 - 600bht. Everyone is spread out to sleep on the floor with no air-conditioning and out in the open. It largely carries locals but from what I heard, it is not uncommon to have the more cost-sensitive backpackers on board.


Image from somewhereorbust.com

Despite being the dollar-savvy traveler that I am, I probably would not have gone with this option even if I had known in advance. (Looks really uncomfortable / awkward / unclean / etc)

***

Anyway, here's my recount of the experience with the VIP night ferry.

I had scouted around Koh Tao and weighed my options. Eventually I decided that the morning speedboat would be cutting it too close for timing, so ended up with the night ferry. I bought my tickets for 800 bht from a travel agent directly behind Nat Resort.


Image of Nat Resort Koh Tao from travelfish.org

(Sidetracking a bit, Nat Resort was where I stayed after my free accommodation with my dive school ended upon completing my open water course with Phoenix Divers Koh Tao - review here. For the convenient location in the middle of Sairee beach, it is the most economical accommodation on the island ; for 300 bht you get a private room (fan) with a queen bed and shared bathroom. Air-conditioned rooms with private baths are available for around 600 bht. WiFi is in the main reception area though it gets spotty further away.)

On the day of departure, my agent picked me up at 8.30 pm for the short 5-min ride to the pier. 

I checked in, boarded the ferry and went to see my bunk. 


The sheets, linen, and pillows were relatively clean. We got a bun and a bottle of mineral water. I hung out on the deck with other passengers until they announced it was time to depart. Washrooms are up on the open air deck and cleanliness was decent by Asian standards.

At 9.30 pm, the ferry departed from Koh Tao.

They turned out the lights at around 10.30 pm. No wifi on board, but there are plenty of charging ports for your phone / electronics. Perhaps due to the time of the year (November - December is the monsoon season for Thailand's east coast), the bunks were occupied at only about 50% capacity.

My experience throughout the night was quietly peaceful. The air-conditioning was on the colder side, but I just nicked one of the blankets from the empty bunks and was fine. As the ferry moves slowly and steadily and the sea was calm and glassy (as opposed to the speedboat I took getting in to Koh Tao which was bumpy and nausea-inducing as heck ; people were throwing up left and right), I slept well in the darkness.

The night passed by uneventfully and we reached the mainland in the wee hours of morning, with different passengers stowed off to their respective locations (Bangkok, Railay, Chiang Mai, Koh Lanta, whatever - it's easy to buy a bundled transfer to wherever you want to go). I was directed into a minivan headed to the airport and arrived at Surat Thani airport at 9 am, slightly ahead of schedule.

It was a lot better and more comfortable than the speedboat, with the only possible drawback being time if you are in a hurry. Overall, it was a relatively alright experience and I would have done it again. 

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