Just 200 kilometres from Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand, the T-shaped island of Ko Samet is famed for its white sandy beaches, exotic coral and crystal clear waters. Ko Samet has developed steadily over the past decade or so, but it hasn’t been the victim of over zealous construction which has hit the likes of Ko Samui (or even Ko Chang). The island is typified for its splendid beaches and white silky sand, surrounded by tropical coral reefs and crystal clear sea. Tourists can also enjoy a plethora of delicious cuisine and fine nightlife.
Arriving in Koh Samet
Koh Samet is approximately 200 kilometres from Bangkok and can be accessed by taxi in about 2½ hours. Taxis from Bangkok to Ban Phe, where the ferry to visit Koh Samet departs, cost 1,600 to 2,500 baht. Note that most taxis will insist on a fixed fare due to the long distance.
If you’re travelling to visit Koh Samet from Bangkok, it’s best to ask your hotel to request a taxi for you, as many taxis called off the street will refuse the fare. Taxis to Ban Phe are also available from Suvarnabhumi Airport, usually at a fixed fare of 2,000 to 2,500 baht. Buses leave from Ekamai Bus Station in Bangkok several times daily and take about 3½ hours to complete the journey. There are also minivan services to Ban Phe, which depart from Victory Monument and make the journey in about 2½ hours. If you’ve arrived at Ban Phe late or just want to travel straight to your beach, you can get to the island significantly faster on a private speedboat. Speedboats are available 24 hours a day and make the trip between Ban Phe and Koh Samet in 15-20 minutes.
Prices for speedboat transfers vary based on the beach you’re travelling to. Beaches located on the eastern side of Koh Samet are typically the cheapest, with the cost of transfers to the more remote beaches on the island’s western coastline often 2,000 baht or more. Most of Ko Samet, including all the good parts, is part of Khao Laem Ya-Mu Ko Samet National Park and thus has an entry fee. Thais pay 40 baht for adults, 20 baht for children (current as of October 2015); foreigners pay 200 baht for adults, 100 baht for children (current as of October 2015). This two-tier pricing policy is applicable to all national parks. If you can explain, however, that you actually live or work in Thailand, then you may not have to pay the “tourist” price. One excuse for the difference is that “Thai citizens pay taxes”. If you are a teacher and work in Thailand you may bring out some form of Thai ID – Driver’s License, Teachers card or something like that and you will get the Thai fee. It seems like the fee is only during peak tourist season, as several tourists walk in and out without buying the pass.
If your ferry arrives at the main pier and you take a songtheaw to the beaches, there will be a stop at the main ticket checkpoint. The journey from the pier to the town centre is a fairly short stroll, taking less than ten minutes. If your ferry arrives at one of the beaches, an officer will collect the fee as you step out of the surf. Note that there is plenty of foot traffic in and out of the park to the 7-Eleven, ATM or other shops and restaurants and if you have no bags you can nonchalantly walk into the park without anyone checking your ticket. There is a road via the temple which avoids the checkpoint entirely. Note: some bungalows might give the impression that the entry fee is included in their booking, but it is not. You may also be asked to pay the park entry fee when boarding the ferry on the mainland, but if you mention you are staying outside the park boundaries they won’t make you pay.
Getting around when you visit Koh Samet
There is a single main road and short, bumpy dirt roads branching off to the beaches. The distance from the main town by the port to the beaches is not actually very great, much of it can be reached on foot by walking along the coastline. Many tourists are not aware of this & end up hiring vehicles they do not really need if all they intend to do is go to and from the main town.
You can take a songthaew (usually a green pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs up to 600 baht for a private trip, or between 20 and 100 baht per person for a full car, depending on which beach you are going to. The alternative is renting a scooter for 100 Baht/hr 200-300 Baht/day. Gasoline is often included. You can try and negotiate better deals for 3 or 6 hours if that is all you want. It is best to hire one from close to the pier (Hat Sai Kaew) where there are many deals. Rental prices tend to increase as you move away from the main pier. The roads are of a good quality but there are some steep hills towards the South of the island. Leaving your passport or a deposit is not necessary or advisable. Also available are ATV (4 wheeled motorbikes) for around 400 Baht/1hr or 1200 Baht/day or golf cars.
Staying in Koh Samet
Most of the accommodation centers around the beaches on the east coast; try to arrive on the island as early as possible to have the best selection to choose from. Tourist season on Ko Samet is generally from November till February and from June till August, at which time finding vacant accommodation can be a challenge. Also, beware of weekends and public holidays — the island then fills up like crazy!
The northern-most beaches of Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Hin Kok have many bugalow operations with typical Thai concrete bunker-style rooms. If your room doesn’t have air-conditioning it can get a little hot during the day At the very northern end are a few upscale resorts. At beaches further south you’ll find the bungalows ranging from dismal shacks to four-star, air-conditioned mini suites. You can stay upmarket or downmarket when you visit Koh Samet.
Areas of Koh Samet
Most beaches are on the eastern side of the island. The beaches hide in small bays and stretch some 200 m. From the north, there are Hat Sai Kaeo, Hat Hin Khrong, Hat Khlong Phai, Ao Phutsa, Ao Thapthim, Ao Naun, Ao Cho, Ao Thian, Ao Wai, Ao Kio Na Yok and Ao Karang. The only beach on the western side is Ao Phrahis. Note, the spelling of beach names can vary.
How long to stay in Koh Samet
Ko Samet is a laid back island paradise where the emphasis is less on things to do and more on enjoying the islands beaches. For those people who do want something to do, the island does have a few activities to enjoy if the beauty of the beaches is not quite enough to keep you occupied. From the simplest of activities such as walks along the beach, all the way through to taking your PADI Scuba Diving certificate, there is an array of ways to keep yourself active. Stay a couple of days, stay a week…..just enjoy this island paradise.
Thanks to Wikitravel for this great information about Koh Samet