Difference between revisions of "Ko Lanta"
Revision as of 18:59, 6 November 2006
Ko Lanta is popular with tourists seeking a holiday away from the parties: more walking on the beach and watching the sunset than drinking and dancing. It is also popular with families with young children, and of course, with divers. The two largest islands are Ko Lanta Noi and Ko Lanta Yai. Although Ko Lanta Noi is inhabited, Ko Lanta Yai is the primary tourist destination.
Ko Lanta is a little less well-known than nearby Ko Phi Phi but it is hardly undiscovered: the several beaches on the west coast of Ko Lanta Yai are each strung with an unbroken line of resorts and bungalows. Ko Lanta is especially popular with Swedish tourists: although the "tourist language" is English as it is in most places in Thailand, and you will find menus and so on are translated into English, expect the poolside language to be Swedish much of the time.
Ko Lanta sustained limited tsunami damage in December 2004, but virtually all businesses are now operating normally again.
The nearest airports are Krabi and Phuket. Krabi has direct road and boat connections to Ko Lanta, and is the best option if you're only visiting Ko Lanta. Flying into Phuket is a better option if you're intending to spend time in Phuket and nearby islands, or, since Phuket has many more international flights, if you don't want to have to organise a domestic flight to Krabi from Bangkok.
Ko Lanta does not have roads connecting it directly to the mainland, but is served by car ferries. Take road 4206 off highway 4 about 20km south-east of Krabi airport. Drive to the end of the road, where there is a car ferry from Baan Hua Hin to Ko Lanta Noi. From the pier here, turn right and follow the "ferry" signs to the second car ferry to Ko Lanta Yai. Ferries operate 07:00-22:00.
There are plenty of car taxi and minivan taxi services from Krabi and the nearby airport. A seat in a ten person minivan from the airport to Ko Lanta costs about 250 baht. These minivans usually don't have much room for luggage (although they can usually find room for one or two large suitcases together with backpacks for the rest of the passengers) so if you're not travelling light you might need to get a private taxi. This is what the divemasters do. A private minivan taxi will usually be quoted as 2500 baht. It's possible to bargain a few hundred baht off this price but not much more or the tolls will consume too much of the price. Car taxis cost about the same.
Ferry services run from Krabi, Ao Nang and from Phuket via Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta Yai's Saladan pier. Ferry services are subject to weather and to demand: many will not run at all during the monsoon season and at a reduced frequency during the low season. Many ferries have limited room for luggage. Often the ferries dock alongside each other, meaning that to get on and off passengers must clamber onto and across other boats with their luggage.
Services from Krabi are run by P.P. Family Co (+66 75 630 165) and depart Krabi pier at 10:30 and 13:30, taking 2 hours to reach Ko Lanta (200 baht including free pickup from Krabi hotels). There's a transit bus from Krabi town center for 10 baht.
Services from Ao Nang are run by Ao Nang Travel and Tour (+66 75 637 730) and depart at 10:30 (280 baht).
Ferries depart from Ko Phi-Phi at 11:30 and 14:00, and take 2.5 hours. If travelling from Phuket in a single day, you will need to leave Phuket on the 08:00 ferry to transfer to the 11:30 ferry. Tickets to Ko Lanta are 200 baht from Ko Phi-Phi and 450 baht from Phuket.
The main road which loops around the island is paved with cement. Some roads are unpaved dirt. Most of the unpaved roads are in very bad condition with deep ruts; some would be very difficult to negotiate in an ordinary sedan car. It's worth knowing the names of the resorts near yours: both the pickup trucks and motorcycle taxis will often want to pick you up or drop you at a nearby resort with a better road.
Resorts and some of the major tourist services (like the dive shops) own large pickup trucks and transport tourists around in the tray. Very occasionally, they own minibuses instead. If you come in by ferry your resort will almost certainly meet you at pier with their truck; if you're travelling with very small children who you don't want to cling to while you bump along sitting on the side of the truck you might want to warn them in advance that you'll want to ride in the cab: it's generally assumed to be the private domain of the driver.
You will find the locals almost exclusively ride motorcycles; you can hire these in several places for a few hundred baht a day. You can also hire motorcycle taxis with sidecars. These will happily take you on the unpaved roads but the ride can be as slow as walking. A typical fare for a ride from Saladan to Klong Dao Beach is 40 baht.
Jeeps can be hired for 1200 baht per day. Be sure to check insurance, contract terms and the condition of the vehicle. The "roads" of Ko Lanta combined with the driver operation characteristics of some renters are a serious challenge for any car. The frequently available Suzuki Sporty seems primitive and therefore sturdy, and a replacement should cost around 150000 baht.
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Ko Lanta has no dive sites, but there are plenty of dive centers offering dive tours and PADI dive courses from beginner upwards. Dive resorts on Ko Lanta run boat trips to many of the major dive sites in Krabi province. Almost all dive resorts offer free pickups from your resort. Prices are fairly consistent at about 2500 baht for a day's boat diving (usually two dives), 10000 baht for a four day PADI Open Water course, and 8000 baht for a two day PADI Advanced Open Water course (five dives). Dive resorts and tour companies on Lanta include:
Ko Lanta has a wide variety of restaurants, the kind that most visitors travel to Thailand for: beach-front locations serving delicious and inexpensive Thai and seafood dishes. Eateries line the beaches in front of the bungalows and no visitor to Lanta will starve from lack of variety or interesting places to dine.
There's not much in the way of nightlife on Ko Lanta, which, for many is part of the appeal. There are a few restaurant/bars at the harbor and most hotels.
Ko Lanta has three tourist seasons: low, high and peak. Visiting in the low season (May to October) is likely to be very quiet indeed: so quiet in fact that you'll have difficulty getting accommodation as many of the resorts shut down. The resorts open for the high season in November and close in May. The peak season is from mid-December to the end of January and at Songkran in April; per-night prices may increase by as much as 600 baht. Getting accommodation at a day or two's notice during the high season is usually not a problem, but may be difficult during the peak period.
Usually, however, you'll find touts more than happy to help you find somehere to stay, from Krabi pier onwards. The places further away offer free transport and are much cheaper (100 baht for a spotless beach hut with bathroom), but the beach may not be so attractive.