Exploring Koh Tao after Koh Samui’s Glamour

Koh Tao, though rustic and simple compared to the glamorous nightlife, expensive spas, and fancy boutique hotels of Koh Samui, offers something that no other Thai island can beat: diving. Learning to dive, diving repeatedly, and meeting fellow divers who share their stories are all part of the experience on Koh Tao. As a hidden gem in the lower part of the Gulf, the island attracts underwater enthusiasts with its abundance of easily accessible diving sites (over 30) and affordable prices for diving lessons, sea safaris, and diving trips. Beyond diving, there are opportunities for hiking, bouldering, sea kayaking, fire shows, jam sessions, and more, all against a backdrop of picturesque views and a laid-back island atmosphere. Koh Tao truly offers an unforgettable experience.

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Getting to Koh Tao from Koh Samui

To reach Koh Tao from Koh Samui, you have three ferry companies to choose from: Lomprayah High-Speed Catamaran, Seatran Discovery, and Songserm.

Lomprayah’s catamaran takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes to travel from Koh Samui’s Maenam pier to Koh Tao’s Mae Haad pier. They offer two daily departures at 8 am and 12:30 pm, with tickets priced at THB 650.

Seatran Discovery provides a similar service but at a slightly slower pace and lower price. The journey takes around two hours, and tickets cost THB 624. Seatran departs from their own pier on Samui, Bangrak Seatran pier, with three daily departures at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4:30 pm.

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Songserm is the cheapest option, priced at THB 450. Departing from Samui at 11 am, the journey includes a stop at Koh Phangan before arriving at Koh Tao at 2:30 pm.

Tip: Since the sea journey between Koh Samui and Koh Tao lasts from two to three hours, it’s advisable to have necessary medications on hand if you’re prone to seasickness. During choppy seas, choosing Seatran over Lomprayah is recommended, as Seatran’s vessel cuts through the swell, minimizing the sensation of ups and downs.

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Getting Around Koh Tao

Renting a car on this relatively small 21 sq. km island is not available. However, if you’re considering renting a scooter or motorcycle, be aware that the roads on the island can be dangerous and accidents are not uncommon. Renting a vehicle does provide the freedom to explore the island, as official taxi fares can be quite high, particularly for destinations on the eastern coast. For transportation, you have two options: motorbikes or songthaews (pickup trucks). There is also a longtail boat service between certain beaches, offering a reasonable alternative.

Where to Stay on Koh Tao

The western side of the island is more developed and is where the ferries from the mainland and other islands arrive, specifically at Mae Haad. This area is also home to Haad Sairee, where most of the island’s action takes place. For those seeking serenity and tranquility, Chalok Ban Kao on the eastern side is a great option. Keep in mind that reaching the nightspots on the western side from the eastern side requires navigating treacherous island roads or relying on taxis, which can be costly. The busiest seasons on Koh Tao are summer (July to August) and Christmas & New Year, so it’s advisable to book accommodation in advance, as budget options tend to sell out quickly. Additionally, it may be challenging to find affordable accommodations without prior reservations immediately after Full Moon Parties on nearby Ko Phangan.

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Tip: If you’re traveling to Koh Tao for diving, check with your diving school or operator if they provide free accommodation, as many of them do.

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Health Considerations

Koh Tao has small clinics in each “town” on the island that can handle minor health issues and motorbike scratches. However, for more serious cases, transportation to the mainland or Koh Samui may be required. It’s important to note that dengue fever is a concern, especially in highly populated tourist areas, where the virus can spread rapidly. Take necessary preventive measures to avoid mosquito bites, such as using repellent.

…And always remember, if you happen to scrape your knee in a motorbike accident, you may have to postpone your pre-booked scuba diving course! Safety should always come first.