A guide to visiting Koh Samui, Thailand

Which is better – Koh Samui or Phuket?

Before we get into some of the things you need to know before planning your trip to Koh Samui, let’s answer this question. Koh Samui is often compared to Phuket, so which is better? Well, both are great choices for tourists and digital nomads as there’s a decent amount of infrastructure and modernisation that comes in handy when working remotely, as well as lots of sights to be explored!

Both Phuket and Koh Samui have a great nightlife scene – as well as plenty of scenic spots. Having been to both places, it is really hard for me to choose between the two! If pushed, I would say that Phuket has nicer beaches, although Koh Samui does have some great viewpoints which make up for it! If you have time on your Thailand itinerary, I would definitely try to incorporate them both, Koh Samui is definitely worth visiting!

How to get to Koh Samui

By plane:

If budget is not an issue, then the easiest way to get to Koh Samui is to fly in. Koh Samui has an international airport located between Bophut and Chaweng and there are regular flights from the mainland if you are travelling from elsewhere in Thailand.

By bus / ferry / taxi:

If you’re travelling to Koh Samui from elsewhere in Thailand, there are regular ferries that run from the mainland, with buses and minivans available to catch to the ferry port. Regular ferries also run between Koh Samui and the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Being the budget conscious backpacker that I am, I chose the cheaper option of using public transport to reach Koh Samui. I travelled from Railay beach, Krabi to Koh Samui and booked a ticket with a local tour operator in Railay. What promised to be a 6.5 hour journey consisting of a bus, ferry and taxi turned out to involve a whopping 5 buses, 1 long tail boat, 1 ferry, and a taxi ride! Oh…and it took 12 hours!

If you’ve backpacked in Thailand before, I’m sure at some point you’ve had one of those journeys where you just get moved on and off buses, each time getting a new sticker and you don’t really have a clue what’s going on! Sound familiar?! Well, this was one of those journeys! (If you have not been to Thailand before and are wondering what I’m talking about, make sure you read my 50 essential tips for first time backpackers travelling to Southeast Asia)

My advice for a smoother journey than mine would be would be to book your transport to Koh Samui online instead of using a local operator. I used 12go for all of my transport bookings throughout Southeast Asia and this was the only time I didn’t and look what happened!

Getting around Koh Samui

The best way to get around Koh Samui if you want to have freedom and flexibility is to hire your own scooter. However, be careful if you are not confident or experienced on a scooter, the traffic in Koh Samui is much busier than some of the smaller islands. I personally didn’t ride a scooter in Koh Samui and didn’t have a problem getting around.

There is a local Songthaew bus which drives laps on the main ring road around Koh Samui. You simply flag it down, tell the driver where you want to go and confirm the price and off you go. Just note that this is a bus so you will be making stops and pick ups along the way, so factor that into your journey time. There are also lots of private songthaews, taxis, and motorcycle taxis which you can flag down too.

How many days do you need on Koh Samui?

Personally, I would recommend having at least 5 days on Koh Samui. This will give you time to explore the different areas of the island, and get a day trip in too. Koh Samui is a large island and anything less than 5 days would feel rushed.

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