Koh Chang, Thailand’s third largest island, is the perfect beach destination for an independent road trip from Bangkok. It is located 320 kilometers (5 hours) from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Gulf of Thailand near the border of Cambodia.
While you can reach Koh Chang by flying into Trat and taking public transportation, by taking a bus from Bangkok, or even by hiring a taxi; nothing beats the freedom of having your own transportation 24 hours per day. It opens up many more opportunities for exploration and some terrific side-trips!
The driving portion of the trip consists of three segments:
- A 4 hour drive from Bangkok to the Koh Chang Ferry Pier (Ao Thammachart).
- A 25 to 30 minute (plus wait time) ferry to Koh Chang.
- A 30 to 40 minute drive from the ferry pier (Ao Sapporot) to the hotel on Koh Chang.
For the trip, we rented a Toyota Hilux pickup from Budget Car Rental at Suvarnabhumi Airport (1525 baht / 43 USD per day). The roads between Bangkok and the Koh Chang Ferry Pier are well maintained and the route is the easiest to navigate that we have encountered in Thailand. The 4 hour mainland portion of the trip was very pleasant and we were surprised how short the drive seemed.
Koh Chang Ferry Pier (120 baht / 3 USD per car + 80 baht / 2 USD per person) – The ferry operates from 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM, departing every 30-60 minutes. The crossing takes 25 to 30 minutes. We bought our tickets and had about a 15 minute wait until the ferry pulled up and unloaded. We drove onto the ferry, parked our car, and headed up to the deck.
The ferry ride was very smooth and relaxing and gave us a chance to stretch our legs and view the beautiful scenery. We enjoyed it so much that we actually wished it lasted a little longer!
Once we reached the island, the unloading of the ferry was quick and efficient. Our hotel was on the west side of the island so we turned right exiting the ferry terminal. Almost immediately the road is steep, narrow, and winding. Drive patiently and watch out for inexperienced motorcyclists*.
*Motorcycles: There are lots of motorcycle accidents on Koh Chang. If you choose to rent a motorcycle make sure that you are properly licensed and that your travel health insurance covers injuries that occur while riding motorcycles. Most policies exclude riding without the appropriate international motorcycle license, riding without a helmet, or riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Checked into Paradise Bungalows (1533 baht / 43 USD per night) – Paradise Bungalows is located a short 5-minute walk from Kai Bae Beach. It hit all of our requirements for our visit to Koh Chang:
- Within walking distance of a great beach, delicious restaurants, and a 7-Eleven.
- Quiet and peaceful in the evening.
- Under $50 USD per night.
We loved Kai Bae Beach! We did not want to be isolated, but we also did not want to be part of the party scene (Lonely Beach). Kai Bae Beach strikes a great balance.
We enjoyed our first day on the island swimming in the ocean and taking in the scenery.
Koh Chang means “Elephant Island.” The name comes from its elephant-shaped headland. You will see plenty of elephants on the island, but they are not indigenous and are there as tourist attractions.
After our swim, we explored the rest of the western side of the island by car before returning to Kai Bae Beach in the evening to watch the sunset.
We rose early on day two and drove back toward and past the ferry pier to explore the more remote areas of the eastern side of Koh Chang (there is no complete loop around the island).
Our first stop was at Tahn Mayom Pier to watch the sunrise.
The views from the old pier are beautiful and it is a perfect vantage point to welcome the day.
We continued our drive heading toward Long Beach by following the road signs and our map. The road is very rough in parts and the last three kilometers consists of very rutted dirt roads. This is the primary reason that we chose a high-clearance pickup for this trip.
Getting up early ensured that we had both the road and the views to ourselves!
The views are absolutely stunning and well-worth the effort. We stopped and enjoyed many viewpoints along the way. A very nice one is located at the Salak Phet Viewpoint where you can stretch your legs and buy a cold drink.
Rubber plantations boarder sections of the road on Koh Chang’s eastern side. On our return trip we stopped at one of the plantations and explored some of the roadside trees.
Each tree is tapped every other day or every third day to collect the natural latex in a cup. Trees are six to seven years old before they are tapped and they can produce latex for up to 32 years.
It takes about three hours to produce slightly less than one cup of latex. At this point it stops flowing and will not flow again until the tree is re-tapped.
After returning to our hotel, we walked to a nearby shop to purchase snorkels and masks (300 baht / 8 USD each) for our next day’s big adventure. We spent the afternoon playing at the beach and trying our our new snorkeling gear!
Before heading to bed, our final activity of the evening was watching the sunset from Kai Bai View Point, just a short distance south of our hotel.
Located just off of Kai Bae Beach are four islands within kayaking distance that offer great snorkeling. We headed to the beach early in the morning and rented a tandem kayak for the day (500 baht / 14 USD).
Our plan of attack was to head to the farthest island and work our way back toward the mainland. This worked out perfect because we were just preparing to leave the first island (Koh Yuak) before the first tour group pulled up in a speed boat. With the exception of Koh Man Nai (the last island), we had every island to ourselves!
It felt great to be back in a kayak and on the water!
We loved Koh Yuak! The snorkeling was great and the scenery was spectacular!
The mask and snorkel were very good, better than most of the rentals that we have used.
The best island for snorkeling was Koh Man Nok. So many fish!
I am not sure what type of fish these are but it looks like they have teeth!
In between snorkel sessions, we soaked up the gorgeous scenery. It was a fantastic and satisfying full day of kayaking and snorkeling.
We rose early in order to beat the traffic and headed back to Bangkok, retracing our steps. The ferry starts running from Ao Sapporot at 7:00 AM, departing every 30-60 minutes.
Our trip to Koh Chang was relaxing and re-energizing. This short trip was perfect for spending a few days enjoying nature and getting some exercise – without spending a fortune.
- Time of Year: December 2015
- Length of Stay: 4 Days, 3 Nights
- Total Trip Cost – 2 People: 472 USD*
- Cost Per Day / Per Person: 59 USD*
- Visa Information: Thai Embassy, U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining to be allowed entry.
*Excluded from the cost analysis:
- International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
- Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have health insurance valid in Thailand.
GPS Coordinates: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
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Suvarnabhumi Airport @ 13.693281,100.750802
Koh Chang Ferry Pier (Ao Thammachart) @ 12.188312,102.301264
Koh Chang Ferry Pier (Ao Sapporot) @ 12.141397,102.280651
Paradise Bungalows @ 12.028189,102.292497
Kai Bai Beach @ 12.027096,102.290639
Tahn Mayom Pier @ 12.076485,102.371064
Salak Phet Viewpoint @ 11.976875,102.405857
Kai Bai View Point @ 12.020918,102.292255
Kayak Rental @ 12.028174,102.290455
Koh Yuak @ 12.024072,102.262556
Koh Pli @ 12.019634,102.264536
Koh Man Nok @ 12.012913,102.269548
Koh Man Nai @ 12.016380,102.283634
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You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.
*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.