Thailand is known for pristine beaches and numerous different islands in the Southern Province of Surat Thani. There are around 1,000 islands in total, but only about 50 of them are inhabited. If you are going to Thailand you must go and see the islands. I am here to give you the inside scoop on how you can get to the Southern islands in Thailand.
If you are travelling internationally into Thailand it is very likely you will be landing in Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi Airport. I recommend you spend a few days adventuring in Bangkok and go to some of the attractions and famous markets. If you are interested in what you can do South East Asia backpackers have a two week destination with ideas on your trip possibilities. Budget Traveler
If you are traveling to Thailand with a backpack, (which is what I recommend as that is what I have done :P) then taking a bus and ferry will be your most affordable option. Thailand has made it easy for tourists to make it to the islands now and there are a lot of options of island you can go see! If you decide this option is for you, prepare for a long long trip. Bring a book, your portable charger, your travel playlist, a notebook, nausea medicine (I always carry a bit on hand in case) and some snacks. These are my favorite things to bring with me for long bus rides and the most important would definitely be the snacks.
The trip varies depending on where about you are going, but you can plan for the trip to take around 10-15 hours on bus and then a 3-5 hours on a ferry. I know I know that sounds like an awful trip, but trust me the views of the jungle on the way make it worth it; the last trek on the ferry when you are surrounded by beautiful blue are worth all the hassle. I like to choose the overnight bus the most as it helps pass the time, but if you don't mind long bus rides the view is spectacular in the jungle.
I use lomprayah when travelling from Khao San road in Bangkok to the islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao. I find them to be reliable and the buses have air conditioning, toilet, and comfortable seats for sleeping. They have a nice system for if you have a lot of luggage (but there is a limit on how many). If you are travelling to the islands near Krabi town area like the Phi Phi islands, Phuket, Koh Yao Yai, or Koh Lanta to name a few, then Lomprayah will travel there. Lomprayah is one of the most popular and well-known bus and ferry transports from the mainland to the islands. Other well-known companies include Songserm and Raja. The price is very similar and you can plan for it to be 1,300-1,600 baht ( $40-$50) one way.
High End Traveler
If your budget allows, then the simplest and fastest way to the islands will be to take a flight into the South of Thailand in either Krabi Airport, Phuket, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammart airport, and Koh Samui. However, to get to the island itself a ferry will be a must. It really just depends on your schedule and budget on what works best for you. Flights vary in price and can be anywhere from 2,500 baht to 15,000 baht ($80 to $480).. Noted, it is very rare that you will get an $80 flight. If you have the budget you can save a lot of time by travelling by air.
What can you do on the island?
If you love islands and oceans it doesn't get much better than this! The views are amazing with jungle, coconut trees, banana trees, tropical beaches, and Thai life! There are islands that have become more like a city living on a beach (Phuket and Koh Samui) and then the smaller ones (Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, are island life to the fullest. I prefer islands such as Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, and Koh Lanta for the sole reason that it is true islands vibes, filled with yogis, scuba divers, and beautiful corals.
My favorites that I enjoy would be snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, partying, fire shows, going to temples, sunset watching, getting a Thai massage, and just living the island life!
Other things you can do is visit an elephant sanctuary, go to a zoo, try out Muay Thai, scuba diving, zip lining, and jet ski. Also what I love about Thailand is the street food life, it is a must to try out street food at the big markets.
On a majority of the islands your accommodation can be anything from hostel life, private bungalow on the beach, to a private resort.
There are so many islands in Thailand to see and prior to covid I had planned to see many more of them. I will just wait until that day. I have been lucky to stay in quarantine on an island though during this whole pandemic. The island vibes indeed have kept me chilled in this pandemic. I hope you too can see the islands in Thailand when travel is open again for all.