You have several alternative options when travelling from Bangkok to Koh Phangan but it basically comes down to choosing between arriving quickly or slowly. There’s a price to pay if you want to get there quickly but if you don’t have the funds for that then the cheaper options are frequent and reliable.
FLY + BOAT –> Quick but expensive
To get there as quickly as possible there are direct flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui where you then catch the ferry to Koh Phangan (more information below). Flying the first part of the journey will cost you the most – prices for this particular domestic Thai flight have gone up considerably in recent years. Flight time is between 1 and 1.5 hours.
BUS/TRAIN + BOAT –> Slow but cheap
The cheapest option is to get the bus or train from Bangkok to Surat Thani and then take the slow (night) or fast (day) boat to Koh Phangan from there. This will take between 15-21 hours, depending on the connections you choose.
Flying part of the way to Koh Phangan
Direct flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui are with Bangkok Airways (lots) and Thai Airways (fewer). Choosing this option will save you a lot of time and leave you only needing to catch a ferry over to Koh Phangan. Flights are daily and regular with between 15-18 flights a day on average making this connection. Flights leave from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) and arrive at Koh Samui airport (USM) on the north-east of the island in-between Big Buddha Beach and Chaweng Beach. Songathaew’s, minibuses and regular air-con taxis are available there to take you to one of the piers from which you can catch the ferry across to Koh Phangan.
Bus from Bangkok to Surat Thani (drops off at Surat Thani port)
This is the backpacker option and is the next best in terms of time because with this journey the bus will take you straight to the ferry port (Don Sak) in Surat Thani whereas with the train option you need to transfer to the port from the station which is more hassle. Buses can be caught from the Southern Bangkok Bus Terminal (Sai Tai) and these take 11-12 hours (to get to Surat Thani). The bus is obviously not going to take you all the way to Koh Phangan but you’ll transfer onto a ferry for that part. Check timetables for up-to-date departure information.
TIP: get a VIP bus! For not much more baht you can take a VIP bus instead of a standard one. You’ll get more legroom and better air-con not to mention the obligatory upgrade on those little sweet Thai cup-cakes… it’s a complete no-brainer. Oh, and be careful if you book a bus from Khao San Road as some of the operators down there are known for being a bit dodgy.
Train from Bangkok to Surat Thani (drops off at Surat Thani station)
Another of the backpacker standards, as mentioned above this travel option has the added hassle of having to get a bus connection from the train station to the port (Don Sak) at Surat Thani. However, the upside of getting the train is the comfort factor of getting a sleeper berth which gives you the best chance of getting some kip on the way. Night trains leave Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok and terminate at Phun Phin station in Surat Thani from where you need to transfer to Don Sak port for the ferry across to Koh Phangan.
Ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan
The last leg of the journey (if you’re not initially flying to Koh Samui) is the ferry from Surat Thani to Koh Phangan. Ferries leave at several times during the day (mainly from the Don Sak port) and take anywhere between 2 to 3.5 hours depending on which one you choose. Alternatively there is a night ferry which is a cheaper but slower option (around 7.5 hours).
The ferry will arrive at either the Haad Rin (south) or Thong Sala (west) pier on Koh Phangan. Each of these arrival points will have plenty of songathaew’s on stand by to take you to your bungalow on Koh Phangan.