Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Thailand : Southern Thailand : Central Gulf Coast : Surat Thani
Surat Thani (often just Surat in short) is the largest province of Southern Thailand. Surat Thani means City of Good People, the title given to the city by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI). It is a gateway to the islands of Thailand's Gulf Coast: Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao are much-visited destinations, as well as Ang Thong National Marine Park.
Surat Thani Airport(URT) (IATA: URT | ICAO: VTSB) is about 20 km west of the city in Phunphin district. Thai Airways international ,Thai Air Asia, Nok Air operate daily flights to/from Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport Bangkok. Also there's a new direct flight from Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. And connect by bus or car rent (buy ticket and rent in the airport) to the main town. Phantip Travel has bus service connecting all flights to airport from Surathani city. Phantip travel (Tel. 077-272-230, 077-282331) is located on Thanon Taladmai. Price one way is 100baht for foreigner and locals.
The Surat Thani train station, despite its name, is located in Phunphin district, about 12km west of the town center. Most comfortable are the overnight trains from Bangkok, which arrive in early morning. There are always many who try to catch the tourists and sell them trips to Surat or the islands directly - usually the most aggressive sellers are the most expensive. However, it's not a big problem to reach the city itself from the railway station. Municipal busses depart the train station for Surat Thani city every 30 minutes and cost 20 baht, though the service seems to stop around 5pm. After that, the only option is a taxi, the drivers of which will come in to the station to try and find passengers, but if you go outside and turn immediately to the left, there is a stand with taxis charging a fixed price of 140 baht to Surat Thani, the price is clearly indicated on a printed canvas sign attached high up.
The Surat Thani new bus terminal is located a bit outside the city; however if you plan to go directly into the city, it is usually possible to ask for a stop before. The old bus terminal in the middle of city is now frequented only by some private buses, which are however much more risky than the government buses. There are many bus companies from Southern Bus Terminal Bangkok to Surat Thani Bus terminal. If you are coming from Phuket, it takes about 6 hours to reach Surat Thani. Connexions by bus, tuk-tuk, or Songthaew from the bus terminal to the main town are available.
When arriving to Surat Thani by long distance (even government one!) bus such as one from Bangkok, Hat Yai or Phuket, it is more likely than not that at some point in the city outskirts the bus will stop, and some people will board the bus. They will ask the foreigners, where they go, and if (usually) they are going to the islands rather than city, these people will strongly insist (in English) that the tourists should get off the bus here, to get the transportation to their destination. Their behaviour will be far from usual politeness and calmness of Thai people - they may even try to unload you luggage from the bus to make you follow them.
If you agree to these scammers, you will be taken a few kilometers away by songthaew (which will be promised to be "free") to a travel agency in the city center, where you are likely to be asked a ridiculous price (e.g. B450-500 to Ko Samui) to go to you destination. If you refuse, they will try to charge you 2-3 times the regular price (B60/person for a trip with 5-10 fellow passengers) for a supposedly free songthaew trip from the bus. If going from Ko Samui or Ko Phangan, the same may happen - if so, they will either try to sell you Khao San Road bus ticket (widely known for theft on board) or, if you happen to have a train ticket, to offer you a triple-priced taxi - as they'll smartly make you leave the bus in the middle of nowhere, your choices and arguments for bargaining will be limited. This is the most annoying part of traveling to/from Ko Samui and Ko Phangan via Surat Thani, and the best you can do is to ignore their requests, not to leave the bus in a remote places, use the official bus only, and generally follow Thai people who were traveling in the same bus from the start (especially if some will go to the same destination as you).
As noted above, the "Bus Terminal" in the centre of town has mainly local buses there. A bus the Writer took from Khao Lak went to this point and not to any other bus terminal. It seems that buses to other places do go from here though. ie, Krabi. Beware a nasty scam though! There is a Tuk Tuk driver in a red/orange one (most are blue). To take us to the hotel he slurred "two hundred" into "twenty" remarkably well indeed! Admittedly the hotel was well out of town some 4Km, but this is still a ridiculous price. In the morning, since the hotel was in the middle of nowhere,he "only" charged B150 into town, BUT, to get us to the Krabi bus dropped us at a travel agent, Tanaporn Travel, directly opposite to where the Krabi bus was leaving. Address is 442/313 Talatmai Road, close to the old bus station. They charged more than twice the correct bus price and it appears that the taxi driver, and also the Bus Conductor (who gave a knowing smile and did not even inspect the ticket) are also in on the scam. Buy tickets on the buses only! Correct price is B140 each. (we paid B285!)This was the 10am bus to Krabi. (takes about three hours to get there)
If you are arriving at the train station, and your plans call for transit to Phuket, buses depart every few hours, until about 3:30pm. The ticket price is very reasonable by Western standards. Travel time is three to four hours. The bus departure area is about 100 meters away from the train station. For specific directions, just ask the representative at the railroad information desk.
You can take the ferry from any of the islands nearby, taking about an hour. There is food on board and movies as well.
From islands such as Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao a ferry ride takes between 7 and 9 hours depending on whether you take the fast or slow boat. The Slow boat from Ko Tao is overnight and features mattresses for sleeping. The skipper is especially friendly.
The ride will generally cost between 500 and 600 Baht depending on the season. Be wary of black market tickets as people will try to sell you tickets for over 2000baht promising food and dvd's included in the price.
Always go to a TAT approved travel agency.
When you get off, there are two ferry companies with departures every 30 minutes (Seatran Ferry and Raja Ferry). There is a bus ride included with the trip (note the strange system of paper tickets combined with circular stickers that you stick on your shirt). It is a 45 minute bus ride down backroads from the ferry terminal to Surat Thani. More than one ferry terminal serves Surat Thani.
Within Surat Thani:
, many travel agents willing to show high class hotels and places to travel to.
Most travellers in Surat Thani are on their way to or from the islands: