Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend as much time on Koh Tao as we would have liked. But I thought I would share our experiences anyway. It seemed like a great island with a very chilled out vibe. I’ll be going back for the diving.
Step one: arrival
You can only get to Koh Tao by boat – no planes available.
Ferries from Koh Phangan leave from Thong Sala (the main town on the island). The fast ferry is 500 baht per person. Slower ferries are cheaper but, well, slower. Beware that in the wet season, the crossing can be rough. When we crossed, every second person got seasick. Get some sea sickness tablets before you travel.
From Bangkok, you can get an overnight train to Chumphon and then a ferry directly to Koh Tao.
Step two: sleeping
We didn’t do much research for sleeping options here. After stumbling off the boat we had to sit Barry down in a cafe (remember when I said every second person was seasick?) to rehydrate and got a recommendation from our lovely waiter.
O.K. II Bungalows (okay by me) overlook Shark Bay and is a short walk to Chalok Bay. A pretty but basic bungalow, double with ensuite and fan and cold water only (but awesome views from the wraparound balcony) set us back 600 baht per night. The wifi didn’t reach the bungalow but it was decent in the restaurant (more awesome views). We weren’t really working during our stay so didn’t put it through it’s paces.
Check out the other offerings at Hostelworld here:
Step three: eat stuff
Our limited time and the resort style eating on Koh Tao meant that we ate at O.K II Bungalow’s restaurant. Lovely views, reasonable prices, enjoyable but not memorable food. You’ll also meet other guests there.
Step four: do stuff
Snorkelling – definitely hire some gear to see the underwater world. At O.K. II you can hire mask and snorkel for 50 baht per day and fins for 80 baht per day. They also have direct access down the rocks to the water and a platform and ladder you can use to get in and out of the blue. We didn’t see any sharks (I’m actually pleased) but were very excited to see a Giant Turtle. The coral reef, unfortunately, is dying so the colours aren’t amazing. But the turtles!
Diving – it’s the big attraction of Koh Tao. There is a huge number of dive sites (I can’t remember exactly how many). I believe most of the dive companies are similar but we stopped in at Bubble Diving School and liked what we saw (we didn’t go in the end because of the bad weather). They don’t do accommodation so their focus is on diving and there was no hard sell. It’s 1900 baht for two dives (for certified divers). They also run the full range of PADI courses. An open water refresher course is 1400 and if you choose do to another dive on the same day, it’s 600 baht extra.
Yoga – a yoga class at Chalok Bay was 300 baht for 1.5 hours. The view from the upper room was lovely, shame about the mosquitoes.
Walk – the free island guides mention a walkway along the coast of the island, via which you can beach hop between Chalok Bay and Jansom Bay. It’s quite disappointing. It’s difficult to find and there are restaurants and bars built across so you have to pass through businesses to continue along the path. They don’t seem to mind. Possibly worth it on a nicer day but not sure I’d really recommend it.
You can also hire the usual scooters, get a massage, etc.
Step five: move on
Ferries return to Koh Phangan and then on to Koh Samui but we headed back to the mainland.
The afternoon fast ferry will get you to Chumphorn in time for the sleeper train to Bangkok, with a few hours to spare. The ferry takes about 2/2.5 hours, followed by a bus ride of about 30 minutes to the train station. There are plenty of restaurants to bide the time. We bought a combination ticket from O.K. II Bungalows for 2510 baht, which was for two people in second class air conditioned (one upper, one lower) sleeping cart.
The journey was very comfortable and I slept better than our previous first class journey (and didn’t wake up to a rash on my legs!).
These tips are based on my own experiences in October/November 2013. If you have questions, pop them in the comments box and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you have updates, comments or different experiences, I’d love to hear from you too.