Koh Chang Island Thailand - Our Guide
Thailand is currently the most visited country in the world and Bangkok, its capital, is one of the most visited cities. It is a hugely popular destination for tourists and doubles up as a convenient business hub in Asia.
Despite Thailand's popularity, there is a gem of a destination that often gets forgotten, in favour of more popular Thai islands such as Koh Samui and Phuket. Koh Chang, in Trat, is a destination we think will become much more popular in the coming years - it is currently a relatively unknown paradise for visitors to Thailand.
Koh Chang is not even a consideration for many tourists visiting Thailand. As such, it can provide excellent value if you know where to look. You can stay in some beautiful resorts and eat the finest food around for 50% of the price that you would pay on Phuket or Koh Samui, for example. There is no airport on Koh Chang, despite it being the third largest island in Thailand, but this adds to its appeal in our opinion and makes it a little bit off the beaten path. However, Trat airport is just a short drive from the mainland for those that choose to fly to this charming island paradise.
How To Get To Koh Chang
1. Bus from Suvarnabhumi Airport
3. Hire a car
4. Fly to Trat + Minivan / Taxi
Bus from Suvarnabhumi Airport
*Our Choice for first-timers* The Koh Chang Bus from Suvarnabhumi airport is air conditioned and comfortable. Check the timetable beforehand but currently 7:50am is the departure time. You can call in advance to reserve a seat but you must arrive to the desk early to confirm your booking and pay for the ticket. The return ticket is just 900 baht and includes the ferry crossing and minivan transfer to your accommodation. It takes around 5-6 hours from door to door.
Taxi to Koh Chang
2) If you are travelling with others a comfortable way to get to Koh Chang can be to hire a taxi. However, there's a couple of things to consider. The police and locals can frown upon taxis from the mainline travelling across on the ferry with you. So, they will either agree to the fair and then drop you off before the crossing (not ideal) or you may have to talk to the police if you are stopped. If you are stopped explain the driver is your full-time driver and not a taxi and all should be ok. Time is around 5 hours.
Hire a car
Hiring a car in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced driver. The roads are some of the most dangerous in the world in terms of fatalities but it is worth noting that the roads down to Koh Chang from Bangkok are overall pretty good - and you are not likely to experience many hold ups on a normal day. A car can be hired on your driving licence from country of origin from either Don Mueang Airport (DMK) or Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) for around 1,000THB per day. Travel time is around 5hours.
Fly to Trat + Minivan / Taxi
Flying to Trat isn't that cheap, as Bangkok Airways is the main operator and they are a more premium airline than Air Asia, for example. If you fly to Trat you will do so direct from Suvarnabhumi (BKK) Airport as no flights are available from Don Mueang (DMK). Due to the fact the coach journey is around 6 hours door to door we do recommend that above flying on basis of cost and convenience. By the time you have checked in and cleared security, and got the transfer from the other end we have found it is easier to just sit on the coach and relax. It's also more eco-friendly!
*The Ferries run regularly to Koh Chang from the mainland, even during low season and take around 45minutes. Cars can be taken on the ferry. Ferry schedules.
Tips For Koh Chang Travel
- Book your accommodation beforehand. Things can fill up fast, especially in high season. Agoda is a great place to book your accommodation.
- High season is December, January, February and March. However, book outside these months for great deals and you may get lucky with the weather. We visited most recently in July and had 7 days of sun!
- Visit the surrounding islands - the four or five island trips will take you to some of the most beautiful islands you have ever seen.
- BE CAREFUL - the roads can be very dangerous on Koh Chang with steep hills and hairpin bends. Especially in wet weather. Take special care when riding a scooter (and always wear a helmet).
- 5-10 days is a good length of time to spend on the island for most people.
Where To Stay in Koh Chang
There are many beaches in Koh Chang, each providing something a little different. Here is a summary of the main areas.
White Sand Beach
The first main beach that you get to from the ferry port and one of the busiest. White Sands is full of restaurants, bars and hotels. If you like cocktails by the pool and nightlife White Sands can be a lot of fun. If you are looking for a total relax it is probably not the place to stay.
Chai Chet has a nice beach area that is rarely crowded and a range of resort-style accommodation to choose from. The road is also lined with beer bars. There's not a lot more to say about Chai Chet - it is not the most inspiring of areas to stay unless you like beer for breakfast or want to be alone in a resort. Chai Chet Resort is one of the most popular places to stay here.
Klong Prao Beach
Klong Prao has a very attractive beach area and a mixture of shops and restaurants. It is a good place to stay if you have your own transport, otherwise, some of the accommodation can be out of the way a little. Ramayana Hotel, for example, is great value and highly-recommended but it is some distance from the beach. It does have a lovely pool area and relaxed quiet feel to it.
Kai Bae Beach
Probably the most popular and all-round location for families on Koh Chang. It has the best choice of accommodation and most of which provide good access to the many local shops, bars and restaurants. The accommodation isn't the cheapest on Koh Chang here, but you will get more home comforts such as air-conditioning and almost 5 star facilities at some hotels.
This is where hippies, backpackers and generally people with low budgets stay and party. In the day time Lonely Beach is relaxed and chilled but in the evening there are several venues that stay open until well into the early hours - 4am+. If you want to travel and meet people of a predominantly young age - think 20s - then this is the place for you. But don't expect much luxury here. It's cheap, and cheerful but there's also a great restaurant called the Magic Garden where you can eat in chilled settings for very good prices.
A lot more relaxed rather than the party scene that Lonely Beach provides. This is a good area to stay if you value your sleep and like being a little out of the way. Best to rent a scooter here if you haven't got your own car. The Mercure Hideaway Hotel is probably the most well-known accommodation here and one of the best on Koh Chang. Don't stay in the basic rooms though - go for the pool access or beachfront rooms or stay elsewhere in our opinion. The resort is on its own private beach with fantastic sunsets. It isn't cheap but it is great for families that appreciate comfort and a little luxury.
This pier area has a few quaint guesthouses and nice restaurants - it is also the area where many of the boat trips depart from. Our favourite place to eat is Buddha View Restaurant right on the pier. One of the best places to have an evening meal on Koh Chang. There are some basic rooms attached to the restaurant if you need somewhere to stay.
If you don't like people - this is the place to stay. Situated on the quiet side of Koh Chang it is hard for us to recommend this area to stay in but it worth visiting on a quiet day.
Things To Do in Koh Chang
Island Tours - Various tours are available in Koh Chang - you can book at a pretty standard price through most hotels. Double check the price against the first one you have been quoted elsewhere to ensure you are being treated fairly.
Jungle Trek - Much of Koh Chang is a protected national park, meaning there's lots of undeveloped jungle to explore. We recommend hiring a guide rather than going it alone, as there's some difficult terrain to navigate in places.
Explore on a scooter - You can hire scooters or small motorbikes from various places on the island for 200THB to 300THB ($10-12) per day. It is a great way to explore the island but be careful - some of the roads, especially between Lonely Beach and Kai Bae can be dangerous, particularly during wet weather.
Cooking Classes - Thai food is world-renowned and rightly so. It's delicious. You may be surprised to learn how simple some of the dishes are to prepare, if you have the right ingredients. Booking into one of the best Koh Chang cooking classes are a great and affordable activity for all the family regardless of the weather.
Diving - There is some good diving to be had off the coast of Koh Chang and surrounds. PADI courses are also available at attractive prices. November until May is the main season.
Visit Waterfalls - There are a range of waterfalls on Koh Chang for you to visit. Each varying in their difficulty to get to.
Hotels on Koh Chang
These are all hotels we have stayed in and can recommend. All are all mid-range to upper end price wise on Koh Chang. At the cheaper end you have lots of basic type lodges, especially in the Lonely Beach area.
Mercure Hideaway Hotel - (Bailan Beach) one of the higher end resorts on Koh Chang - 4 star with its own private beach. Own transport is recommended or be prepared to pay for pricey song teaws (open backed taxis).
K.C Grande Resort & Spa - (White Sand Beach) - very good pool area and on the beach. Popular resort very close to all the action in White Sand Beach and the ferry port.
Ramayana Resort - (Klong Prao) - Very good value resort in great surroundings but location means you will need a scooter or a car to get around.
Awa Resort - (Kai Bae). One of our favourites on Koh Chang. Good prices in a very central location. Can walk to many restaurants and shops nearby. Pool area is fantastic and rooms spacious and clean.
Nest Sense Resort (Lonely Beach). Situated just a few hundred metres away from where all the action happens in Lonely Beach. However, you wouldn't really notice that as Nest Sense is down a small lane and very peaceful. It has an elevated pool with great views of the ocean.
Best Restaurants In Koh Chang
We have eaten in all of these restaurants several times and can recommend them wholeheartedly. There's a handful of top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor that we have eaten in and been less than impressed not on this list. So use these recommendations wisely and read the reviews elsewhere carefully - or you may get some unwelcome surprises.
Buddha View - (Bang Bao Pier) - situated at the end of the pier and the most visually stunning restaurant on Koh Chang. There are tables where you can literally dangle your legs over the ocean while you eat. Not the cheapest place on the island but you get what you pay for here and that is quality food in impressive surroundings. Do not visit Koh Chang without trying this place out. We also loved the fact they also use eco-friendly straws.
Magic Garden - (Lonely Beach). You will find the Magic Garden on the bend just before Nest Sense resort and close to the party street of Lonely Beach. We have eaten here many times and have never had a bad meal. It is a very chilled location and the prices are very reasonable.
Fig Cafe - 100Metres from Awa Resort (Kai Bae) - A beautiful cafe tucked away on a side street. Brilliant coffee and healthy breakfast / brunch choices. We loved the water dispenser to reduce plastic consumption but then were given plastic straws to drink with so a little more work to do on that front.
Mochaccino Kitchen - (Klong Prao) Like Fig, this is a great choice for breakfast and Brunch but has a more impressive menu. Plenty of healthy options to pick from, each cooked from scratch in the open kitchen and excellent coffees makes this one of the best restaurant / cafes to visit on Koh Chang.
Mordi E Fuggi Italian Restaurant - (Kai Bae) Authentic Italian food, the owner is Italian and everything on the menu is superb. The pizzas, as you would expect, are good but a special recommendation has to go to the Duck Ravioli. Situated next to the road through Kai Bae on the left heading towards lonely beach.
Burger Station - (Kai Bae) - When you pull up at this place you will wonder why it has so many great reviews. It is literally a little shack with two or three tables. The burgers are incredible. Delicious vegetarian burgers are also available and cooked fresh in front of your eyes. Great prices for the best burgers on Koh Chang Island.
Ciao - (White Sands) - If you like a bit of ambiance (and some air conditioning) Ciao is a great choice. A very big menu, you can choose anything from White Snapper, to pizzas and pastas and most things between. Slightly more pricey than some of the others here but location, quality of food and the actual surrounds mean it is is far from expensive.