As beautiful and entertaining as Chiang Mai is, one thing we sorely miss is having a beach nearby. So when we’ve needed a sand and sun fix, we’ve gone to Koh Chang. If anyone else finds themselves in need of beach time, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang on a variety of budgets.
Koh Chang (pronounced Gaw Chahng) doesn’t seem to pop up on travel itineraries nearly as much as islands like Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi (Gaw Pee Pee). It’s one of Thailand’s larger islands on the eastern banks of the Gulf of Thailand and one of the closest islands to Chiang Mai. We think it’s an amazing place to visit even though it doesn’t get as much attention as its sister islands further south.
There are several ways to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang, but we’ve broken it down into three tiers based on
how much sitting there is how much it costs. It’s possible to make the trip in as little as seven hours or nearly twenty. Up to you!
Since all three transit methods pass directly through Bangkok, you can consider this a guide to traveling from Bangkok to Koh Chang, too.
|TIP: Trat is the town on the mainland that has the ferry access point to Koh Chang. Some routes don’t advertise going to Koh Chang but rather “Trat” or “Trad.” That’s the correct bus to take and you will be dropped off at the Trat Bus Station.|
Tier 1: A Very Long Bus Ride
|Sombat Tours bus||Chiang Mai to Bangkok||9.5 hours||605 baht|
|Cherdchai bus||Bangkok Bus Terminal to Trat Bus Station||6.5 hours||265 baht|
|Songthaew||Trat Bus Station to Centre Point Pier||45 minutes||50 baht|
|Ferry||Centre Point Pier to Koh Chang Pier||45 minutes||80 baht|
|Songthaew||Koh Chang Pier to hotel||30 minutes||200 baht|
|TOTAL||19 hours||1,200 baht|
There is no way to get your tail bone and butt cheeks ready for this trip, but the cheapest option from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang is to take a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, then another from Bangkok to Trat, and then follow up with a ferry ride to the island.
Bus tickets from Chiang Mai to Bangkok can be purchased at the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station (Terminal 2), which is on Kaeo Narawat Road on the northeast outskirts of the Old City. We recommend taking a bus with Sombat Tours. They offer both VIP air-condition bus (605 baht) and simple AC bus (518 baht) from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Tickets can be purchased the same day of travel but it’s best to buy them at least a day in advance, particularly if it’s during a weekend or Thai holiday.
View Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station in a larger map
Their VIP bus is incredibly comfortable (only 24 passengers) with wide seats, blankets, and individual TVs. The extra 113 baht is well worth it! It also stops at a clean rest stop that serves hot food and snacks about halfway through the trip. Take the overnight VIP bus because you can squeeze in a little sleep and not lose a whole day to travel, but there are daytime buses, too. The ride is about 10 hours.
Once you make it into Thailand’s capital, you’ll arrive at the Ekamai Bus Terminal, which is also known as the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern). It is conveniently located on Sukhumvit Soi 42 just off the Ekamai stop of the BTS metro line. Bus tickets from Bangkok to Koh Chang can be purchased at the Cherdchai Tour counter, which sells one-way first class air-conditioned bus tickets for 265 baht ($9 USD) cash. Round trip tickets are available, too.
There are several departing times of Cherdchai Tour Bus from Bangkok to Trat. The ride takes roughly six and half hours. It’s a downgrade from the VIP Sombat Tours bus (has a tiny toilet, makes one quick bathroom, and does not provide snacks or blankets), but it gets you to Trat nonetheless.
The bus ride ends at the Trat Bus Station located off the main highway (Route 4). It’s a big building in good condition and has an open aired waiting area, clean bathrooms, and a food court. Once you’re at the Trat Bus Station, there will be songthaews (truck taxis) waiting at the bus station that can take you to the Centre Point Laem Ngab Pier to catch the ferry. A 45 minute drive cost us 50 baht per person (minimum 6 people, otherwise 300 baht for the trip).
Another bus company that departs Bangkok is 99 Tour. It actually bypasses the Trat Bus Station and goes directly to the ferry. Tickets for this bus company can be also purchased at the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern) for two departure times of 7:45am and 9:45 am.
Once you’re at the Centre Point Pier, the ferry departs roughly every hour from 6:00am to 6:00pm. It’s possible to hop on it just moments before it departs. The last ferry from Trat to Koh Chang departs at 7:30pm, so make sure you have a place to stay in Trat if you arrive at the bus station past 6:30pm, since you might not have enough time to make it to the pier.
Vehicles can also cross on this ferry, so you’ll see a big line of cars and trucks waiting to board along the pier. While you wait, there is a small snack shop with cold refreshments and snacks and decent bathrooms.
The ferry takes just shy of an hour to cross from the mainland to Koh Chang. Depending on the time of day, songthaews will be waiting at the Koh Chang Pier to offer a ride. It is possible to rent a motorbike right off the pier, but that may not be a good idea if you have a lot of luggage or beginner driving skills.
Tier 2: Flight to Bangkok and VIP Van
|Bangkok Airways||Chiang Mai (CNX) to Bangkok (BKK)||1.5 hours||1,350 baht|
|Wait time||Suvarnabhumi Airport||1 hour||N/A|
|VIP van||Bangkok (BKK) to Koh Chang hotel||7.5 hours||600 baht|
|TOTAL||10 hours||1,950 baht|
A good middle ground alternative to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang is to combine a flight and a van or bus ride. We took the early morning 6:55am Bangkok Airways flight to Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). After exiting the luggage pickup area, we went Door 8 on the first floor (Level 1) and bought tickets for a VIP van to Koh Chang at a small service desk from the company Suvarnabhumi Burapa Co, Ltd.
It’s an air-conditioned 10 seater van that offered door-to-door service from the airport to our hotel on Koh Chang, which took about 7.5 hours total. Alternatively, we could have taken the 40 seater air-conditioned bus, but it would have dropped us off at the Centre Point Pier after a 5.5 hour drive and we would have still paid for our ferry ticket and then transportation to our hotel on the island.
Suvarnabhumi Burapa Co, Ltd Tickets to Koh Chang
|10 seater AC VIP VAn||600 baht||9:30am, 11am, 2pm||BKK to Hotel on Koh Chang|
|40 seater AC Bus||275 baht||7:50am||BKK to Centre Point Pier|
To secure a return trip once you are on Koh Chang, call the Suvarnabhumi Burapa Co, Ltd. office at (081) 660-5926 or (039) 555-078 for either a 7am, 12a, or 5pm departure time back to BKK.
|NOTE: A one way trip on the VIP Van cost 600 baht but we bought the round trip for 900 baht.|
The private van made three bathroom stops. One was at a gas station to fill up, but we stopped twice at rest stops serving hot food with a convenience store and clean bathrooms.
Tier 3: Flight to Trat and Van Service
|Bangkok Airways||Chiang Mai to Trat (Bangkok Layover)||3.5 to 6 hours||4,800 baht|
|VIP Van||Trat Airport to Koh Chang Hotel||1.5 hours||500 baht|
|TOTAL||5 to 7.5 hours||5,300 baht|
The most convenient but also most expensive options is to take a flight with Bangkok Airways from Chiang Mai (CNX) to Trat (TDX). It’s a 3.5 hour trip that is serviced three times today with a layover in Bangkok.
Once you’ve arrived at the Trat Airport, you can book a van that will take you across the ferry and drop you off at your hotel. The last flight into Trat Airport will make the last ferry to Koh Chang. Prices for a shared van begin at 500 baht.
There Are Many More Ways to Get From Chiang Mai to Koh Chang
The three travel options we listed above were the ones we’ve personally taken or considered while we were researching for our trip from Chiang Mai to Koh Chang. Just thought we’d share! (Although admittedly we should have written this months ago when we took our first trip.) Whatever you choose, we hope you have a wonderful trip.