The 80 kilometer (50 mile) ferry journey from Suratthani to Koh Samui takes around two hours and 30 minutes. Most crossings will find mellow waves melting into azure skylines with the lush green limestone karst islands of Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park. Passing this beautiful landmark will add to the enjoyment of the warm sea breeze.
Ferry journeys such as these are a rite of passage for travelers and offer an opportunity to pause and catch your breath, and some sunshine, especially after traveling non-stop from Bangkok. Reading about what you can expect to find on Koh Samui, including the 'Big Buddha' statue and the best beaches for full moon parties, not only breaks up your time on board, but also gives you an excuse to meet and mingle with fellow passengers as you chat about your travel experiences and share some secret spots to explore.
Ferries vary in size from smaller high-speed ferry services, suitable for 200 people, to larger vehicle ferries; just remember: the larger the ferry, the smoother the crossing. All the ferries leave Suratthani, on the Thai mainland, from Donsak Pier and will head to one of four different piers on Koh Samui. If you're traveling in peak season you can expect to find ferries packed full of passengers, so it's definitely a good idea to book your tickets in advance to avoid a time consuming wait.
All ferries departing Suratthani for Koh Samui have air conditioning as well as outside seating. There are usually two passenger decks that feature basic food and drink kiosks, television areas and public bathrooms. The ride itself will be fairly comfortable and offers a good opportunity to get ready for your island adventures by chatting to fellow travelers or practicing your Thai on friendly local passengers. Once you arrive on Koh Samui it's a good idea to have your onward journey and accommodation booked in advance. That will help you avoid the often bewildering array of expectant hosts, who are eager to invite you to come and spend your time at their island hotel or hostel.
What to see when traveling from Suratthani to Koh Samui
Departing the Thai mainland from Donsak Pier at Suratthani to one of the four piers on Koh Samui island really sets traveler pulses racing. The 80 kilometer (50 mile) northeasterly journey encapsulates the beautiful blue skies and ocean waves that have become synonymous with the Gulf of Thailand. If you're making the journey during February to October you can expect to enjoy calm seas and sumptuous sunshine, and you'll be well advised to apply sunscreen if you're sitting out on deck.
A great way to pass the time is to keep your eyes trained on the ocean where you might be lucky enough to spy the fins of dolphins and whales which tend to frequent the area from September to December. The limestone karst islands of Mu Ko Ang Thong National Marine Park can often be seen on a clear day and make a beautiful backdrop for photographers looking to get in some practice prior to their exotic island adventures.
For many travelers, however, the chance to rest and recuperate before hitting the party island of Koh Samui is time well spent. Often you might find yourself whisked from the Thai capital, Bangkok, to Suratthani on an overnight sleeper bus or train. Although these buses offer a chance to chat with fellow travelers, and maybe catch up on some shut-eye, there's nothing that beats the lull of a ferry to recharge your batteries in readiness for what you'll discover on Koh Samui.
From water sports and all night bars to secluded beaches and underwater discoveries, this is an island that promises every kind of exotic experience that you could ever wish for. Just make sure you know what you're getting yourself into before taking the plunge into the unknown.
How to get from Suratthani to Koh Samui
Taking a ferry
The ferry ride from Suratthani to Koh Samui takes around two and a half hours, giving you more than enough time to enjoy a few restful moments before heading to what some consider to be Thailand's premier party island. Some of the bigger vehicle transporter ferries, such as Seatran, have an abundance of indoor and outdoor plastic seating areas, as well as bathrooms and onboard food and drink kiosks.
Several ferries will offer an air conditioned area for passengers willing to pay a small fee of around 30 Baht (less than $1). These VIP areas will often have upgraded lounge chairs, as well as a TV for movie watching. Sometimes, in high season, the charge for the VIP areas won't apply so as to safely accommodate the excess passenger numbers. Smaller vessels, such as those operated by Seatran Discovery, will also include air conditioned and open seating areas, TVs and snack shops. It's worth bearing in mind that the smaller the vessel, the bumpier the ride.
From plastic outdoor seats to plush leather air conditioned interiors, wherever you're seated, you can rest assured that you'll have plenty of time to press pause and relax before heading to what may well be your first of many Thai islands. Use the time wisely catching up on reading or resting before your next adventure begins. But then again, you're on holiday, so just go with the flow.
Chat to fellow travelers about where they've been and what they plan to do or try your hand at Thai as you smile and nod with local passengers who are also looking to share in a language exchange. Whatever you're looking forward to, the ferry journey from Suratthani to Koh Samui is much more than a way to get from A to B: it's a gateway to an island adventure. Kick back and enjoy the ride.