Northern Thailand’s largest city is a beautiful gem filled with hundreds of Buddhist temples and surrounded by scenic mountains. With so much to see and do, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and is recognized as one of the greatest in the world. Come to Chiang Mai to experience Thai culture at its finest before heading off to one of the country’s top beach destinations. Koh Samui is quite the contrast from the authenticity you’ll find in Chiang Mai. Set up to cater to the large number of tourists who are drawn here every year, Koh Samui is perfect for spending time on the beach by day and partying by night, but it’s also great for elephant tours, snorkeling and more. So, what’s the best way to travel from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui? Read on to find out!

Options for Travel from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui

Options for Travel from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui

It’s easy to forget just how large Thailand is until you decide to take a journey like Chiang Mai to Koh Samui! Traveling by land and water, the distance between the two is around 1,450 kilometers (over 900 miles) so it’s really quite a trek from Northern to Southern Thailand. Of course, going by flight will cut out a lot of those miles as it’s a more direct route from A to B, but it’s interesting to note that up until recently there were no direct flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui, so going by train or by road and then ferry, was the main travel option. There were, and still are, flights via Bangkok to Koh Samui, so this is always another option if necessary.

Chiang Mai to Koh Samui by Bus, Train and Ferry

Chiang Mai to Koh Samui by Train
Train heading to Surat Thani where the ferry departs to Koh Samui. © Amnat Phutthamrong / Shutterstock.com

We like to give all the different travel options when discussing the best way to get from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui, so we’ll touch briefly on traveling by bus, train and ferry. While it is possible to go this way, it’s an extremely long and arduous journey that takes somewhere around 24 hours. The greatest advantage with traveling to Koh Samui by bus, train and ferry is that it’s considerably cheaper than flying, so it’s a good option for anyone traveling on a budget. The only other advantage is the opportunity to see so much of the Thai landscape when traveling overland. The scenery around Chiang Mai is incredibly beautiful and although you’ll see some of it from a plane, you’ll be missing a lot once the plane reaches altitude. Even so, we would strongly recommend flying, if you can spare the extra money!

Flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui

Flight Bangkok to Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways plane landing in Koh Samui © IamDoctorEgg / Shutterstock.com

Now that there are direct flights from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui, this is by far the easiest way to travel between these two destinations. The direct flights takes less than 2 hours so you could be soaking up the sun on one of Koh Samui’s beaches by the afternoon! The bad news is that there is only one airline operating this route, and there are only two flights per day so this keeps ticket prices relatively high. To get the best deal, you should book your flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui as early as possible because the closer you get to the day of departure the more expensive the ticket will be, and you risk finding that the flight is full already.

Bangkok Airways is the airline, and their two flights per day leave at 9am and around 1pm, taking one hour and 45 minutes. Even when you add on the transfer time to get to and from the airport at either end, and the time it takes to get through security etc, flying still beats any other mode of transport, hands down!

If you’d like to fly but want to save a little more money, and have more flexibility, you could also consider connecting flights. There are dozens of flights daily from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, and then from Bangkok to Koh Samui there are between 10 and 12 departures per day. Going this way from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui will obviously take longer than the direct flight, but again, you’re saving considerable time over traveling by bus and ferry, or by train and ferry.

So, in our opinion the best to travel from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui is definitely by flight!

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