Songserm Express (www.songserm.com;
tel. 07745-6274) boats leave from Surat Thani and connect nearby islands; fares from Ko Samui are 500B, fares from Ko Pha Ngan are 350B, plus there's a daily morning boat from Chumphon for 500B that takes 3.5 hours. Boats run subject to weather conditions in monsoon season.
Lomprayah High Speed Catamarans (www.lomprayah.com; tel. 07745-6176) also makes the connection from Samui, via Ko Pha Ngan, and onto Chumphon twice daily: From Chumphon the fare is 600B; from Ko Samui, 600B; and from Ko Pha Ngan, 500B. There are also night boats from Surat Thani and Chumphon with basic sleeping accommodations.
Caution: The south and western beaches can get blasted by the monsoon winds June through October, when the normally transparent seas get churned up; but even during November to January (high season), there can be squalls. If you have an onward flight to catch, reserve an extra day or two, in case of delays.
Orientation & Getting Around
All boats arrive in Ban Mae Had on the west of the island. Touts from resorts and scuba operators alike line the quay. (As long as it's not high season, and you can be flexible, you can find good deals by bargaining here.) A single concrete road connects the northwestern tip from the basic CFT resort to Ban Had Sai Ree and heads south (with the island's longest beach running parallel) through Ban Mae Had to Ao Chalok Ban Kao, but elsewhere the roads are steep, loose dirt tracks, most of which are very challenging. It's possible to walk over the headlands (just be mindful of the occasional dropping coconut). Pickups and motorbike taxis (prices vary from 20B-300B) are easy to find in Mae Had or by the pier, but difficult to find elsewhere. Taxi prices are not fixed, and fares tend to double after dark. Make sure you negotiate an acceptable fare before setting out.
Scooters can be rented for upwards of 150B per day from most resorts; it's a good idea not to hire bikes from the cowboys around the pier. If you are looking at car hire, beware that some companies charge outrageously for damages.
More remote bays, such as the eastern bays of Ao Leuk, Ao Ta Note, and Ao Hin Wong, are reachable by four-wheel-drive or boat, but most high-end resorts can simply arrange pickup.
Visitor Info and Orientation
The Tourism Authority of Thailand doesn’t have an office on the island, but guesthouses, dive shops, and hotels are happy to help with booking transport, making recommendations, and more. We’ve found in the Thai islands, they’re often more plugged-in to the local scene than government-run tourism stands.
ATMs are easy to find at 7-Elevens and along main roads; expect most places to add a three percent fee to credit card transactions. The tiny Ko Tao Hospital (tel. 07745-6490) has just 10 beds but can handle basic needs, like dings from a bike accent, sunburns, cuts, or jellyfish stings. Major problems should be addresses in Ko Samui or Bangkok. Plans are in the works to expand the facility by 2020 to include a hyperbaric chamber and speedboat transfers.
Many people find www.kohtaoonline.com to be a helpful resource for up-to-date info on island life, boat timetables, dive packages, and environmental concerns. Koh Tao Complete Guide (www.kohtaocompleteguide.com) is a local guide that is updated quarterly and is free for visitors.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.