Island hopping in Thailand: An insider guide

PHOTO: Speed boat at Andaman Sea, Phi Phi Island in Krabi, Thailand by tawatchai07 via Freepik

If your dream is to grab a ferry and hop from one paradise to the other, then the islands in Thailand is what you’re looking for. Thailand is full of jaw-dropping islands, each one with its own unique charms. Whether you want to go diving, hit up party spots, or simply relax on the beach, there will be the perfect island for you in the Land of Smiles. This means that island hopping in Thailand never gets boring!

The main caveat to enjoying an island hopping adventure in Thailand is the planning stage. Deciding where to start and which island you want to visit is not easy. After all, the country has more than 1,000 islands, so there’s an infinite number of possible island-hopping itineraries. That’s why we made this guide – to help anyone looking for an unforgettable island hopping experience in Thailand but doesn’t know where to start.

When’s the best time to go island hopping in Thailand?

In general, Thailand has three seasons – cool, hot, and wet (monsoon). However, the weather between the Gulf of Thailand (east coast) and the Andaman Sea (west coast) is slightly different.

The Gulf of Thailand, which includes the Samui archipelago, experiences the wet season from November to December. These months are not the best for island hopping since the ocean can be rough and the visibility can be poor. Therefore, it’s best to avoid this season. The cool and dry season runs from January to April, making it the best time to come in terms of weather. You can enjoy more water activities during these months. However, accommodation, transport, and everything else is much more pricey.

The best time to go island hopping in the Andaman Sea is between December to March. During these months, you can enjoy many sunny days, very little rain, and cooler temperatures. The monsoon season begins in July and ends in November, while prices are low and crowds are minimal, transportation choices are limited as the weather can be rough. Also, some islands are closed during this season.

For more information about Thailand’s weather, please read our article on the best time to visit Thailand.

Island hopping Thailand
PHOTO: Long boat at Phi Phi Island by diana.grytsku from freepik.

How to go island hopping in Thailand

The majority of people will land in Bangkok then make their way down to the island from the capital since, on most occasions, it’s the cheapest destination to fly into. Also, some people want to spend several nights discovering just how great Bangkok is. From Bangkok, you can take a bus or train to Southern Thailand. We suggest using buses and trains that go overnight, so you don’t have to lose an entire day of travel. Yes, these take so much longer than taking a flight, but these are the most affordable option.

If you’re not tight on budget, you can fly directly to the Southern parts of Thailand, but these flights tend to be more expensive. The main destinations people fly into Southern Thailand are Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, and Surat Thani. In addition, you can also opt to book flights with direct island transfers to Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.

island hopping Thailand
PHOTO: Ferry ship Thailand by by a156719504 from Pixabay.

Thailand Island Hopping Routes

Thailand has hundreds of beautiful islands, so it can be very difficult to decide which islands to include in your island hopping itinerary. Unless you have a few weeks to spare, you’ll likely only visit a group of islands in one region of Thailand.

In general, the islands of Thailand is located in two main areas: the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.

The Andaman Sea

The most famous islands for island hopping in Thailand are located in the Andaman Sea, on the west side of the mainland. People usually start from Thailand’s biggest island, then continues south to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, then Koh Lipe. Those who have extra time may also add Similan Islands to their island hopping itinerary. It’s very easy to island hop from Phuket to the islands in the Andaman Sea, which is why people tend to base themselves in Phuket. Some people also use Krabi as their base.

For the best islands in the Andaman Sea, read our article on Island Hopping in the Andaman Sea of Thailand.

Island hopping in Thailand
PHOTO: Koh Phi Phi by kmarius from Pixabay.

The Gulf of Thailand

The islands in the Gulf of Thailand are situated on the opposite side of the Andaman Sea. They’re nearer to Bangkok than the Andaman Sea. Tourists usually base themselves in Koh Samui. They then continue their island hopping trip to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. Another popular route is from Bangkok to Koh Samet, Koh Si Chang, then Koh Chang.

For the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand, read our article on Island Hopping in the Gulf of Thailand.

Island hopping in Thailand
PHOTO: Ang Thong National Marine Park by Ralf Gölzenleuchter from Pixabay.

All of the islands, both in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, come with similar characteristics: stunning beaches, gorgeous sunset spots, and a range of fun activities. However, they all have different charms. Some islands, such as Koh Phangan and Koh Phi Phi, are known for their lively parties. Similan Islands and Koh Tao, on the other hand, are great destinations for those who want to explore the underwater world. If you want to get away from the crowds and the parties, then Koh Lanta and Koh Tao are the perfect islands for you.

Tips for island hopping in Thailand

1. Don’t squeeze in as many islands as possible

When planning for an island hopping trip, you might feel like you have to squeeze in as many islands as possible. However, doing so can be tiring, and you won’t be able to enjoy each destination to the fullest. Some people just pick an island as their base, then go on day trips to numerous islands. Instead of doing this, do your research and decide which island is best for day trips and which one is great for overnight trips. Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Samui are excellent islands for day trips. However, you might want to stay several nights in Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan. By doing this, you can explore many islands while still enjoying your time.

2. Take a look at Thailand’s island map

To make your island hopping more efficient, in terms of time and money, make sure to take a look at Thailand’s island map after you pick which island you want to visit. Find a website that provides a map of the islands and plan your routes carefully.

Island hopping in Thailand: An insider guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: Andaman Sea island map. Screenshot from Google Maps.

3. Book your accommodations and boat transfer in advance

If your travel dates are fixed or if you’re travelling during a high season, be sure to book your accommodations well in advance. Many hotels are fully booked in advance if you’re travelling between the high season from November to February, and the ones that are still available will be costly. Aside from your accommodation, you may also want to book your boat transfers in advance.

4. Pack a travel backpack

A backpack might be better than a suitcase if you’re planning to stay on numerous different islands. It also helps to pack light. You can, of course, bring huge suitcases if you’re sure you don’t have to carry them anywhere, and your hotel offers shuttles to pick you up and drop you off right where you have to be. If you decide to pack a suitcase, take a smaller backpack (or a dry bag) for your electronics, cameras, and other valuable items.

5. Pack motion sickness pills

Even if you think you don’t need motion sickness pills, it’s good to have them if you encounter rough seas during your trip.

Island hopping in Thailand: An insider guide | News by Thaiger
PHOTO: Tour boat in Koh Chang by jcomp from freepik.

6. Be sure to carry cash

If you plan to visit remote islands that are away from the main tourist areas, it’ll be hard to find ATMs or establishments that’ll accept credit cards. Therefore, be sure to carry enough cash with you.

With so many gorgeous islands, island hopping in Thailand is a travel experience that many people daydream about. So if you’ve been dreaming about it, we hope that this article can give you some useful information and help you plan your island hopping trip in Thailand!

For more beautiful islands to include in your island hopping journey in Thailand, check out our article on the Top 10 Most Beautiful Islands in Thailand!

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Cita Catellya

Cita Catellya is an experienced journalist and writer who covers a range of topics from medical and property to leisure and tourism. Her career began as a copywriter 5 years ago, where she worked with several brands in Indonesia to help them increase their online presence. Cita writes in both English and her native Bahasa Indonesia