Koh Chang Island (“Elephant Island”) is Thailand’s third-largest island (after Phuket and Ko Samui). The island is in Trat province, about 6-7 hours’ drive from Bangkok. Its accelerated development began just recently, in the last decade. Despite the island’s size, it does not have a lot of beaches, and many of them greatly differ in the beach quality, atmosphere, the nature of the resort, and type of tourism on the beach.
The island, which started as a destination for backpackers and humble cabins, is quickly changing its face and new hotels have been set up on the various beaches, mainly on the western side of the island
The island structure – Koh Chang Island mainly contains mountains, cliffs and rain forests, that cover most of its area.
The island has 2 roads starting at Sapparot Pier on the north – one winding along the western coasts and the other along the east coast – both ending on the south side of the island. At this time (January 2020) they are not connected on the south, so no circular road is formed.
Despite the size of the island, the number of beaches in it is relatively small. Most beaches are rocky, and the few sandy ones are found mainly on the west side, where most of the hotels are located and most of the tourists are staying.
The Thai population of the island is small, estimated around 5,000-10,000 people. Koh Chang does not have a main city or a major town, but every beach offers different shops, restaurants, markets, pubs and the likes on both sides of the road.
Beaches – As I mentioned before, most of the beaches are along the west side of Koh Chang. They are relatively distant from each other, very different in nature, separated by cliffs and connected by a road that stretches along.
A detailed article on Koh Chang beaches can be found here => Click the link (Coming soon)
Koh Chang Travel Guide East Side – This part of the island is far less known, and thus hardly visited by tourists, but there are some good attractions there.
♦ A detailed article on the east side of Koh Chang and interesting things you can find there => Click the link (Coming soon)
Attractions – Koh Chang has several interesting attractions. The most fun activities include bathing in the sea with elephants (amazing!!), ATVs (not to be missed!), hiking trails in the mangrove forests, ziplines, island boating, snorkeling and more. You can read about the various attractions and activities in further detail in a separate article.
♦ A detailed article on Koh Chang attractions, activities, restaurants etc. can be found in my article on this site => Click the link (will be posted soon)
The island’s various beaches on its western side are far from each other, so there’s no option of walking between them; it can only be done on a trip – and here are two common options:
Taxis / Pickup (Songtaew) – These are pickup trucks with 2 rows of seats (this is the meaning of Songtaew in Thai), waiting for those who arrive at the pier and moving along the western road of Koh Chang – from the pier in the north to the south of the island. Just signal for the driver to stop, state your destination, get into the van where other passengers are also seated, and pay accordingly (between 50 and 150 baht depending on the distance of the trip). In the evening, prices may jump up because the travel is set to “private.”
Scooters – one of the most popular means of transport but also a very dangerous option!!
The road on the west side of the island is not easy to drive in a scooter as the crossings from coast to coast are very steep and winding. I got to see quite a few scooters that just couldn’t take the steep ascent and the sharp turn and just fell ………. so, take that into account!!
If you decide to rent a scooter on the island anyway – my recommendation is to take a scooter with an engine powerful enough so it can transport you safely through the sharp and steep turns. Of course, you should have a two-wheel driving license, practical experience and wear a helmet which is mandatory!! Koh Chang is not the place to experiment with a two-wheeled vehicle for those who are inexperienced, nor is it worth wounding because there is no serious hospital in the island if – God forbid – you need one ……..So consider yourself warned!!
The seasons and weather in Koh Chang – it’s important to remember that Trat province – along with Ranong – are the 2 rainiest provinces in Thailand. The annual rainfall in Koh Chang is nearly 4,000 mm of rain – much more (2-3 times) than the annual average for rainfall in other Thailand areas.
Most of the rain in Koh Chang pours between May – October and it is a huge amount of rain. It’s the weak season in Koh Chang and some businesses are closed – although even during the weaker seasons, you’ll find quite a few sunny days.
♦ You can find my detailed article about Koh Chang seasons and weather on the site => Click the link
Arriving at Koh Chang – Koh Chang Island has no airport so it can only be reached by a ferry from the land (Trat province) – and here there are 2 piers on which I will elaborate later.
Trat province and the piers to Koh Chang ferries can be reached using all types of public transport – buses, vans, taxis and of course also in private cars. The distance from Bangkok is about 300 km from here, which is about 5-6 hours of a continuous drive up to the pier + about an hour (boarding and sailing) + travel within the island itself – so it takes at least 7 hours from the time of departure in Bangkok until you get to your hotel in Koh Chang.
Also – you can catch a flight from Bangkok to Trat airport and from there on drive to the pier and travel across to the island. However, as the flight with everything that comes along doesn’t save you much time – most of the visitors to Koh Chang come to the piers by car (public or private).
Piers and Ferries: Trat province has 2 piers and 2 ferry operators for people and vehicles traveling between the land and Koh Chang. Both piers are about 10km from each other.
- Ao Tammachat Pier – The company operating the ferry that departs from this pier is called Ferry Koh Chang. The Koh Chang pier you will arrive at is called Sapparot Pier (it is also called Dan Mai Pier). The island sailing time is the shortest (about 30 minutes) and it is also closer to Bangkok’s main road, so most transports in vans, taxis and private vehicles arrive at this pier.
On the line between Ao Tammachat on land and Sapparot pier in Koh Chang, there are always 2 ferries traveling – one in each direction – and the cruise frequency is approximately every 45 minutes. The ferries here operate year-round from 6.30am to the last cruise at 6.30pm. They are large and comfortable with a deck that has an unconditioned area and benches for seating passengers as well as toilet and buffet. Prices (as of January 2020) – 80 baht per person; 120 baht for a passenger vehicle.
- Center Point Pier – Here the operating company is called Centerpoint Ferry, or Cenferry You will arrive at Centerpoint Pier at Koh Chang (which is also called Dan Khao Pier), located about 3 km east of Sapparot Pier.
The sailing time here is longer – about 45 minutes – and sailing frequency is once per hour, departing from land towards the island every hour (08:00, 09:00, and so on), and from island to land every mid-hour (08:30, 09: 30 and so on).
The service starts at 6 am and ends at 7:30 pm. Here too – the ferries are large and comfortable with a deck offering an un air-conditioned area and benches for passengers seating as well as a toilet and buffet. The prices are similar.
From the pier to the hotel – whether you arrive in a private car or by van transfer to the island itself – after getting off the ferry simply continue the ride to the island, beach, and the hotel you booked.
If you arrive by car only up to one of the on-land piers – once you get off the ferry you will have the same taxis/pickup (Songtaew) and you can travel with more passengers for a few dozens of bahts per person, or rent a private shuttle for several hundred bahts.
Attractions on the way to Koh Chang (in-car ride) – the road from Bangkok to Koh Chang runs through Chanthaburi province and its capital, the city of Chanthaburi.
Chanthaburi City is known for various attractions such as the interesting cathedral, unique gem market, waterfall, and more.
♦ My detailed article on Chanthaburi attractions can be found at this link => Click the link (article will be posted soon)
Islands around Koh Chang – Koh Chang Island is at the center of a marine reserve – Mu Koh Chang Marine Park – consisting of about 40 islands, some large and others small, some inhabited with resorts and others uninhabited.
The larger islands (such as Ko Kut and Ko Mak) – are excellent for vacations and feature various resorts, while the smaller islands near Koh Chang (such as Ko Rang and Ko Wai) are particularly suitable for daily cruises, snorkeling and beach relaxation.
♦ My detailed article on daily cruises to the islands near Koh Chang can be found here => Click the link (article will be posted soon)
Koh Chang Travel Guide summary and my opinion: Koh Chang is a nice island with a pleasant atmosphere that has yet to experience intense, rapid development and commercialization like Phuket and Ko Samui for instance. As Koh Chang has no airport, it is not a popular tourist destination for the crowds arriving directly from China, India and other countries.
In my opinion, those who choose to reach it are looking for a quiet and calm atmosphere that is seemingly more authentic. On the other hand, the island also has a few drawbacks – long arrival time (about 7 hours each way), less beautiful beaches than those in the south coast, and rainy, problematic weather between May and October.
Since the good season on the island (November-February months) is also an excellent season for vacationing in the coasts and islands of the south of Thailand (Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, Cao Lak, Ko Phiam, Phuket and more), and as it takes the same time – or even more – to arrive at Koh Chang – you should thoughtfully consider what kind of vacation you are looking for and choose your destination accordingly.