By Plane -- Bangkok Airways (tel. 02270-6699; www.bangkokair.com) has two to three flights daily, depending on the season, between Bangkok and Trat, each taking 55 minutes. Airport minivans serve Ao Thammarat pier, 15 minutes' drive away, from where the larger ferries serve Ko Chang; they will hang around if a flight is delayed. Prices start around 250B. Save time and money by asking your hotel to organize a round-trip transfer (it works out cheaper than a one-way). Some companies offer limousine transfers for around 500B, which often stop everywhere -- check before you pay.
By Bus -- From Bangkok's two Eastern Bus Terminals, at Ekkamai (tel. 02391-2504) and Khao San Road (no phone), there are now dozens of buses direct to the three ferry piers; the trip time is around 5 to 6 hours. Fares range from 250B to 500B; the pricier tickets include the ferry. Buses usually stop at Suvarnabhumi International Airport's Bus Terminal.
Daily minivans operate from Pattaya, via Ban Phe (Ko Samet's ferry port). From Pattaya, allow 4 hours, and from Ban Phe, you'll need 2 1/2 hours; costs are 400B and 300B, respectively.
By Car -- There are two routes out of Bangkok: the faster Bagna-Trat tollway, past Suvarnabhumi International Airport, and a route via Highway 3 to Chonburi. From the latter route, take Highway 344 southeast to Klaeng (bypassing Pattaya and Rayong), and then pick up Highway 3 again through Chanthaburi, after which you can turn south to Trat. This route takes about 5 to 6 hours.
Getting to Ko Chang & Beyond
There are now many ways to bypass Trat and go directly to or from Ko Chang from Bangkok. From Trat airport, minivans link passengers to Ao Thammachat pier (for Ko Chang only) or Laem Ngop piers, where during dry season (Oct-May), weather-beaten ferries cross to the nearby islands of Ko Chang, and much farther afield, Ko Wai, Ko Kood, Ko Maak, and Ko Kham. From Trat, songtaews (shared pickups) journey between all piers for around 50B. On the island, white songtaews charge from 40B to 100B to take visitors to their hotels. In low season, if you are alone, you may be obliged to charter the whole songtaew for 500B.
The fastest ferry service departs Ao Thammachat daily from 6:30am to 7pm (trip time is 30 min.) and lands at Ko Chang's Ao Sapparos. Ferries from here are more frequent in high season and on public holidays. One-way fares cost 80B, and a return trip is 120B. From the ramshackle Center Point Pier, it's 50 minutes and 100B one-way, 160B round-trip. Your slowest option is the cheap but infrequent fishing boat from Laem Ngob, costing 80B round-trip, which takes an hour to reach Dan Mai Pier, on the east of Ko Chang. If you are prone to seasickness, be warned that during the monsoon season (July-Sept), the crossing can be rough.
The TAT has an office in Trat (Moo 1, Trat-Laem Ngop Rd.; tel. 03959-7259) and provides information about the nearby islands. At Bangkok Airways' information counter in Suvarnabhumi International Airport, or at Ko Chang's hotels, you can pick up the latest Ko Chang Trat and the Eastern Islands quarterly, with good maps and info. Another free magazine, Guide to Koh Chang, is available in many restaurants and resorts on the island.
The island's narrow, mountainous cliff roads are steep and perilous; road fatalities are common, so think very carefully before renting a motorbike, which can be organized through most resorts, starting at 200B per day. For emergencies, call tel. 1719. For serious injuries, Trat has a modern hospital at 376 Moo 2, Sukhumvit Rd., Wangkhrajae (tel. 03953-2735).
Ko Chang, Thailand's second-largest island after Phuket, is the anchor of the 52-island Mu Ko Chang Marine National Park. Thickly forested hills rise from its many bays, which, due to the tides, are narrow and rocky in wet season (June-Oct) and sandier in dry season (Nov-May). Coconut palms (and now billboards) dominate the west coast, and roads are hair-raisingly precipitous. Ferry piers are all in the north; fishing villages, mangroves, and orchid farms exist on the flatter and more tranquil east coast. In high season, some dive and boat trips leave from Bang Bao Bay, on the southernmost tip. The island's west coast is chockablock with resorts of all types and prices. At the northern end is Had Sai Khao (White Sand Beach), the busiest place to hang out. Its kilometer-long (2/3-mile) sands are now so crowded that it's been divided into "north" and "south," like Samui's Chaweng. More upmarket and family options abound at Had Klong Phrao; farther south, at the ramshackle Had Kai Be; and last of all, at Bang Bao, a stilted fishing village that suffers badly from a terrifyingly roller coaster-like road and trash-strewn mud flats.