Koh Samui Island Travel guide & Tourist Information. Koh Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand about 35 km north east of Surat Thani. Koh Samui island is a district of Surat Thani province. Its shape is almost circular and the total area is about 228 square km. Travelling all around the island takes about one hour. The main road that connects all centers is just 50 km long. The island is divided in two parts by Mount Pom (Khao Pom) that rises to 635 meters. The mountain affects the island climate, during Thailand’s rainy season (May to October) the east and west coast of the island can for day’s have different weather with most of the rain falling on the west side.
Koh Samui, thanks to its isolation, has been a hidden treasure for paradise seekers over the past 40 years. The first and still unique road was built in the 1970’s. First discovered by back packers, Samui followed Thailand’s development as a tourism destination and from about the 1990’s, all of the world discovered it.
The beaches remain Koh Samui island’s first attraction, with resorts and hide-away bungalows spilling out and onto the white sands. Each beach on Koh Samui has maintained its own personality, relating to the area that it lies within.
Despite the development, Koh Samui still maintains the feel of a tropical beach island with the beaches on the east side, facing Koh Pang Nga, offering a wide range of accommodations, services and activities. Recently major supermarket chains have built stores on Samui helping to reduce the price of goods. More job opportunities attract more workers worsening the only real problem here, water supply.
The small size and peaceful life hasn’t changed Koh Samui. Its soul remains untouched and you will feel the freedom around the island. No helmet bike riding, no road check points. People live life easily, so if the minibus is a bit late, that’s just part of Samui charm.
Koh Samui – How to Get There and Around
Getting to Koh Samui Island is very easy. The island is well connected to the mainland and major destinations abroad. The question is, once you have decided to visit Koh Samui, how to get there. Do you want to do it the cheapest way possible or the most comfortable way? Samui can be reached by land and sea transportation combinations from Bangkok, Surat Thani and Chumporn. By air from Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Krabi and from Hong Kong and Singapore directly.
The cheapest, longest and least comfortable way to get to Samui is by land and sea: from Bangkok there is a bus service provided that connects the capital to Chumporn and Surat Thani. We suggest the VIP 24 seat government service that is good and reliable to Chunporn. The journey takes about six hours to Chumporn and eight hours to Surat Thani. An alternative to this is to take the train that connects Bangkok with Hat Yai and the South. Unfortunately, Thailand Railways hasn’t developed as well other services in the country in last 20 years. The trip can be quite long and uncomfortable. The last option is to rent a car in Bangkok and follow the four lane highway “route 4” to the South.
Once in Chumporn or Surat Thani, you will need to find your way to the pier and catch a ferry to Samui Island. It is best to book a ticket in Bangkok that includes bus and ferry, the boats are often full and this will result in an overnight stopover in one of the coastal towns. Just like the buses there are different ferries; we suggest the “Seatran Express” which is modern, comfortable with air conditioning. Other boats and cheaper options are available but why waste so much valuable holiday time just to save a small amount of money?
The best and easiest way to travel to Samui is by air. The island has an amazing beautiful airport. For many years Bangkok airways was the only operator serving Samui; as they built and own the only island airport, now however, Thai Airways has scheduled flights as does China Air. Samui is connected to Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Krabi daily. There are direct flights to and from Hong Kong and Singapore also.
Koh Samui Island isn’t big so almost all of the tourists and residents enjoy riding motorbikes to move around Samui Island. Despite being fun and giving a free holiday feeling riding motorbikes is also a dangerous activity. Road conditions aren’t good and everyone drives a bit carelessly. You don’t need to wear a helmet or carry a driving license however, follow basic safety rules, drive slowly, always give way and when it’s raining stop and wait until the rain lessens or stops. You can also rent cars but the road all around the island is just 50 KM and driving a car will just take longer moving around, especially in town. And don’t forget to drive on the left!!
KOh Samui also offers public transportation. In Chaweng and Lamai there are Songtaews (pick- up trucks with benches and a roof) driving around all day and night. You can jump in and out for a small fare in town; transfer fees for outside or between the two centers need to be set in advance. Also available are Taxi “meters”. Be careful the meter is there but often doesn’t work, before getting into the car, deal and agree on the fare. Fares from town to town, for sightseeing and going to the airport are generally between 400 and 700 Thai baht depending on your dealing ability.
When to Travel to Samui and the Climate
Because of its position in the Gulf of Thailand, Samui offers its best conditions at a different time of the year than its rival Phuket. The best time to visit Koh Samui is from February to August, during this time there is little or no rain and the sea in the Gulf is calm. The climate is tropical, and as in all Thailand, very hot from March to May, with high humidity from June to September. October is the rainiest time everywhere in Thailand, and Samui’s rainy season is October to December. The sea offers the best conditions from February to mid October and can be very rough from then until February.
Where to stay and Beaches of Samui
The Island is considered the same as Phuket as a resort location and many people choose Samui as their long stay location. Accommodation offers are wide from basic bungalows to high end resorts, from family houses or rental villas to all inclusive. Here below you can find our suggestions for your stay in Samui.
Most of the hotels and life is concentrated on the east side where Chaweng and Lamai are located. Chaweng Beach developed in recent years as a town and now you can’t see where Chaweng finishes and Bo Phut starts. Chaweng has the longest beach on the island and it is divided in Chaweng and Chaweng Noi, in Thai noi means small. The second section is named that because it is smaller than the other.
Staying in Chaweng you will find passages from the main street to the beach; all hotels are built on the beach front and it looks like the beach is completely private, however the beaches are all public, so find a passage, go through and you will able to walk all the entire length without any limitation. Chaweng has shallow water, so during low tide you might want to move to Chaweng Noi, where the water is deeper and good for swimming. As this is the biggest centre during high season, the beach can be crowded. The shopping and night life is concentrated here, too.
Lamai Beach is about 10 km south of Chaweng and offers more quiet surroundings. There are many resorts and hotels on the beach front here too, along with restaurants and bars. Recently a supermarket opened, so you don’t need to drive back to Bophut for your daily shopping. The beach is less crowded and quieter.
Keep going south on the east coast and you can find other smaller beaches, small and hidden bays where you can relax and sunbath during the day. The most popular are Hua Thanon, Bang Kao and Thong Krut. Turning to the west coast there are long beaches, but keep in mind that all commercial traffic to the island comes here and the sea conditions aren’t the best.
The north part of Samui is the base for scuba diving, tours and some ferries. Here also are the famous Big Buddah beach and Chaeng Mon Beach. Rent a bike or hire a taxi and enjoy everyday a different beach until you find the one that most fits what you like.
Things to Do in Samui & Sightseeing
Samui is part of an archipelago and Angthong National Marine Park.You could visit a different island every day, as there are more than 40. Including Koh Tao and Koh Pangan. A lot of boat tours are available for the islands. It’s nice to spend two or three nights on the exotic Koh Tao to taste the relaxed atmosphere and freedom; many young and back packers prefer to stay there rather than Samui. Koh Tao offers a lot of accommodations such as bungalows built on the cliffs of five star resorts, less people, a little shopping, and beautiful beaches perfect for snorkelling. Daily ferries, speed boats and diving boats connect Samui and Koh Tao.
Just off the shore of Samui lays Koh Pangan where the famous full moon party is on show every month. Ferries and boats connect the two islands continuously.
Tours and sightseeing to the numerous waterfalls, elephant trekking, visits to temples and more are available on land. Water sports, snorkeling and diving are easy to organize on a tropical island such as Samui.
A good alternative is to catch one of the daily one hour flights to Phuket, combining your Samui holiday with four days in Phuket, which will allow you to visit Phi Phi Island too. Please contact us now and ask for our special package for this amazing tour of the top Thailand islands.
Another very good thing in Samui is dining out in the excellent restaurants: Thai or international, it’s easy to find something great for everyone. Or have dinner in Lamai in beach side restaurants or Chaweng for more fine restaurants. The night life is concentrated in Chaweng with beer bars, discos and other attractions.
Samui doesn’t have big shopping centres as Phuket does but offers many small shops with many choices.
Koh Samui Pro and Cons
To have an Easy Holiday we believe it is important to say what we think is good and what we think is not so good about Samui. So this is what we think you should know.
Not So Good – Samui has an estimated population of between 50 and 80 thousand plus the tourists and suffers from water supply problems, so sometimes the tap water quality isn’t the best, but this is normal on a tropical island, please do your best to save water and don’t drink the tap water.
The roads are narrow and very dusty, ride your bike carefully, nobody will ask you to wear a helmet but wearing one is better. Traffic flows well but it is intense and many people drive carelessly so keep your eyes open. And remember to Drive on the Left.
Prices – Samui is small and doesn’t have any resources so everything needs to be shipped in from the mainland; this causes prices to be higher than other Thailand destinations, for everything from gasoline to everyday food.
Shopping – there are not really any big shopping centres on the island, as this is a destination for relaxing , SPAs, beach life, diving and if you’re really looking for night life, probably you should just stay in Chaweng.
Good – Samui offers a real tropical holiday feeling, the smaller size of the island allows a more relaxed way to live. No traffic jams; a lot of cars and bikes but traffic is a problem only on the main street in Chaweng. Short distances, travel from the airport to your hotel is not far and it will never take more than 30 minutes to get anywhere on the island. The people are relaxed, friendly and always available to help. It is a great destination for medical holidays with four hospitals on a small island and many good SPAs with sauna, massage, pools and more. Top of page
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Easy Day Thailand can book and organize your stay in Koh Samui at all our recommended Samui hotels & resorts, arrange Samui activities and more. Just use our 1-2-go contact form.