Bangkok to Koh Samui by Train
Taking the train from Bangkok to Koh Samui costs more than taking the bus, but it is the more comfortable way to travel and quite seamless. Overnight trains depart Hualamphong Station in Bangkok in the evening and reach Surat Thani in 11-12 hours (Surat Thani is the mainland city that is your gateway to Koh Samui). Taking the overnight train means being able to save on accommodations and sleeping through most of the journey.
The sleeping cars on Thailand’s trains are very comfortable. 1st class sleeping cars have lockable compartments that contain 2 berths and a washbasin. There is aircon and clean linens are provided. These cabins offer more room and privacy than 2nd class sleeper.
2nd class a/c and fan sleepers are perfectly adequate and the open plan means it’s more social. In fact, if you are a solo traveller you may feel more comfortable being with the crowd rather than sharing a cabin with a stranger. In the evening, the staff come around to convert the seats into bunks, and like in 1st class, clean linens (pillow, sheets and blanket) are provided. Curtains are hung for privacy.
The upper beds are slightly cheaper than the lower beds, but they are narrower and less roomy. If you are tall, you will definitely want the lower bunk. The air-con can be quite strong so have layers handy.
A suggested itinerary for a comfortable and convenient journey is to take overnight train 85, departing Bangkok Hualamphong Station at 7:30 pm, arriving at Surat Thani at 7:16 am, in a 1st or 2nd class a/c sleeper. This schedule allows you to have a meal at the train station or in the train (they are available for purchase), to settle in until it’s time for bed, a full night’s sleep and finally, a wake up call and arrival at a decent hour. The bus transfer should get you to the pier a few minutes before the next ferry departs, making for a seamless journey. That said, delays and changes to ferry times are all part of the experience!
To get from Surat Thani train station to Koh Samui, you will need to take a one hour bus ride to Don Sak pier and then a ferry or catamaran (slightly faster) to get to the island. Taxi drivers will greet your arrival to the island. Taxis on Koh Samui almost never use the meter: negotiate the fare before you get in. Try and find others headed to the same beach to share a taxi.
Taxi drivers will flash a placard price list with 600-800 baht for a trip to Chaweng or Lamai beach. This is way overpriced and you can bargain down. A car should cost no more than 400.
How to buy train & ferry tickets to Koh Samui
You have several options:
In Bangkok, you can buy a combined train and ferry ticket from an agency. This will include transfer from the train station to Donsak pier (once you arrive at the train station, simply look for your boat company’s bus). The agent’s commission is around 200-300 baht. You’ll have peace of mind having your complete journey booked and it saves you time/money having to go to/from the train station in person to purchase your tickets.
Alternatively, there are online agencies that charge slightly less commission and promise that a messenger will deliver the tickets to your hotel. Search for online agencies and reviews of their services at your own discretion.
Do-it-yourself: Purchase combined train and ferry ticket at Hualamphong Station in Bangkok. At the end of 2011, Thai Railways finally allowed for booking a train to Surat Thani online. The official website is www.thairailticket.com and booking begins 60 days in advance. You will need to find somewhere to print your ticket. When you arrive at Surat Thani, you can purchase an onward ferry ticket at the travel offices opposite the station.
Of course, once you finally reach this magical island, you will want some good quality Samui Hotels to enjoy!