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 2800B. 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 800B, which often stop everywhere -- check before you pay.
There are also weekly flights to Trat from Phuket via Ko Samui (also on Bangkok Airways), making it possible to hop between the three island destinations.
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 6 hours.
Getting to Ko Chang & BeyondFrom Trat (the region’s capital), songtaews (shared pickups) journey between all three piers (Laem Ngop, Center Point, and Ao Thammachat) for around 50B. On the island, songtaews charge from 40B to 100B to take visitors to their hotels.
The Ao Thammachat ferry is the shortest, fastest, and safest crossing, with an hourly service year-round (more frequent in high season and on public holidays), departing daily from 6:30am to 7pm (trip time is 30 min.) and landing at Ko Chang’s Ao Sapparos on the north coast. One-way fares cost 60B, and a return trip is 120B. From the Center Point Pier, it’s 50 minutes and 80B one-way, 160B round-trip. Your slowest option is the cheap but infrequent fishing boat from Laem Ngob, costing 100B one-way, which takes an hour to reach Dan Mai Pier, on the east of Ko Chang, but it’s often overcrowded. 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. A useful website is www.iamkohchang.com, run by an expat resident on the island and loaded with restaurant and bar reviews.
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, head for the Ko Chang International Clinic (tel. 03955-1555), located near the southern end of White Sand Beach (Had Sai Khao).
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.