If your dream is to take a ferry and jump from one paradise to another, then the islands of Thailand are what you are looking for. Thailand is full of breathtaking islands, each with their own unique charms. Whether you want to snorkel, party or just relax on the beach, there will be the perfect island for you in the Land of Smiles. This means that roaming the islands in Thailand never gets boring!
The main caveat to enjoying an island hopping adventure in Thailand is the planning phase. Deciding where to start and which island you want to visit isn’t easy. After all, the country has over 1,000 islands, so there are an endless number of possible routes from island to island. That’s why we’ve created this guide – to help anyone looking for an unforgettable island hopping experience in Thailand but don’t know where to start.
When is the best time to go from island to island in Thailand?
In general, Thailand has three seasons – cool, hot and humid (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 rainy season from November to December. These months are not the best for traveling the islands as the ocean can be rough and visibility can be poor. Therefore, it is best to avoid this season. The cool, 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, transportation, and everything in between are much more expensive.
The best time to go island hopping in the Andaman Sea is between December and 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, with prices low and crowds minimal, transportation choices are limited as the weather can be harsh. In addition, some islands are closed during this season.
For more information on the weather in Thailand, please read our article on the best time to visit Thailand.
How to go from island to island in Thailand
The majority of people will land in Bangkok and then travel to the island from the capital as, in most cases, it is the cheapest destination to fly. Plus, some people want to spend several nights discovering how great Bangkok is. From Bangkok, you can take a bus or train to southern Thailand. We suggest you use overnight buses and trains, so you don’t have to waste an entire day of travel. Yes, it takes a lot longer than taking a flight, but it’s the more affordable option.
If your budget is not tight, you can fly directly to southern Thailand, but these flights tend to be more expensive. The main destinations for flights to southern Thailand are Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai and Surat Thani. In addition, you can also choose to book flights with direct transfers to Koh Lipe, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.
Island hopping trails in Thailand
Thailand has hundreds of beautiful islands, so it can be very difficult to decide which islands to include on your island hopping itinerary. Unless you have a few weeks to spare, you will likely only be visiting a group of islands in a single region of Thailand.
In general, the islands of Thailand are located in two main areas: the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
The most famous islands for island hopping in Thailand are located in the Andaman Sea in the west of the mainland. People usually start from the largest island in Thailand and then continue south to Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, then Koh Lipe. Those with more time can also add the Similan Islands to their island hopping itinerary. It is very easy to get from Phuket to the islands of the Andaman Sea which is why people tend to settle in Phuket. Some people also use Krabi as a base.
For the best islands in the Andaman Sea, read our article on Island Hopping in the Andaman Sea in Thailand.
The Gulf of Thailand
The islands of the Gulf of Thailand are located across the Andaman Sea. They are closer to Bangkok than to the Andaman Sea. Tourists generally base themselves on 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.
To know the best islands in the Gulf of Thailand, read our article on Island Hopping in the Gulf of Thailand.
All of the islands, both in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, have similar characteristics: gorgeous beaches, gorgeous sunsets, 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. The Similan Islands and Koh Tao, on the other hand, are great destinations for those looking 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 visiting islands in Thailand
1. Do not squeeze as many islands as possible
When planning an island hopping trip, you might feel like you need to lock up as many islands as possible. However, it can be tiring and you will not be able to fully enjoy every destination. Some people just pick an island as their base and then go on day trips to many islands. Instead, do your research and decide which island is best for day trips and which is ideal for overnight trips. Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Samui are great islands for day trips. However, you might want to stay multiple 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 the map of the islands of Thailand
To make your island visit more efficient, in terms of both time and money, be sure to take a look at the island map of Thailand after choosing which island you want to visit. Find a website that provides a map of the islands and plan your routes carefully.
3. Book your accommodation and boat transfer in advance
If your travel dates are fixed or if you are traveling in high season, be sure to book your accommodation well in advance. Many hotels are fully booked in advance if you are traveling between the peak season of November through February, and those that are still available will be expensive. In addition to your accommodation, you can also book your boat transfers in advance.
4. Prepare a travel backpack
A backpack can be better than a suitcase if you plan to stay on many different islands. It also helps to wrap the light. You can of course bring huge suitcases if you’re sure you don’t have to haul them anywhere, and your hotel offers shuttles to pick you up and drop you off where you need to be. If you decide to pack a suitcase, take a smaller backpack (or waterproof bag) for your electronics, cameras, and other valuables.
5. Carry motion sickness pills
Even if you think you don’t need motion sickness pills, it is good to have them if you encounter rough seas on your trip.
6. Make sure you have cash
If you plan to visit islands far from the main tourist areas, it will be difficult to find ATMs or establishments that accept credit cards. Therefore, make sure you have enough cash on you.
7. Check travel restrictions
It is possible to travel to Thailand in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the process can be tiring. The requirements may change all the time depending on the situation in the country. Therefore, always keep an eye out for changes in the country’s travel restrictions. Additionally, make sure you have travel insurance that covers Covid-19 related claims to be on the safer side. Please keep in mind that some places may be closed and some festivals may be postponed due to Covid-19.
With so many beautiful islands, visiting the islands in Thailand is a travel experience that many people dream of. So if you are dreaming about it, we hope this article can give you some useful information and help you plan your island hopping trip in Thailand!
For more beautiful islands to include on your island hopping trip in Thailand, check out our article on the Top 10 Most Beautiful Islands in Thailand!