Bangkok Airways operates regular flights from Bangkok to Trat airport, located a 10 minute minibus drive from the ferry terminals near Laem Ngop. A round-trip ticket costs around 4,000 baht.
It takes around three and a half to four hours to drive the 300 km. from Bangkok-Laem Ngop. There are two alternative routes. Either take the BangNa-Trat highway (Highway 3) out of Bangkok until you reach the Chonburi bypass, turn off here onto Highway 344, follow this road until it rejoins Highway 3 at Klaeng. From Klaeng continue past Chantaburi. Approximately 23km outside Trat, there is a large T-junction signposted to Laem Ngop, Highway 3156,take this road for approximately 25km until you reach the first of the ferry terminals. Alternatively, take the motorway (Highway 7) out of Bangkok and then take the first exit after the second tollbooth. This is Highway 344, follow the road to Klaeng and onwards as described above.
Minibus and full sized bus services pick guests up from Khao San Road and travel direct to Laem Ngop pier from where a passenger ferry departs hourly to Koh Chang. Expect to pay around 250 – 300 Baht for a one way ticket. Regular buses also leave Bangkok’s Morchit and Ekkami bus terminals – the journey usually includes frequent food & rest stops and therefore takes around 6 hours. One way tickets range from 150 baht – 190 baht and you’ll be dropped off in Trat town, from where the passenger ferry is a 20 baht songtaew (converted pick-up) ride away.
Once on the island white pick-up trucks offer a taxi service to the west coast beaches. The cost is between 30 – 70 baht/person depending on distance, just tell the driver when you want to get off. If you have booked accommodation in advance your resort may offer a pick up service from the ferry pier.
Firstly, you are guaranteed hot weather as daily temperatures average 30C, water temperatures are 27-28C year round. From December to April rain is very scarce. For the remainder of the year visitors can expect to encounter thunderstorms and heavy rain, especially during July – September. Although, even in the height of the rainy season rain seldom falls for more than an hour or two and is usually followed by sunshine. The fringes of the high season (April/May + October/November) are a good time to visit the island. The water conditions are good, there are far fewer tourists, hotels are cheaper and the occasional rain showers cool the air.
Koh Chang is still classified as a malarial area, although in reality malarial mosquitoes only pose a danger if you venture deep into the jungle. Sandflies can also be a nuisance on some beaches, mainly during late afternoon when the weather cools, the bites look similar to those from mosquitoes and can itch a great deal. There is an excellent private clinic , Koh Chang International Clinic, on Whitesands Beach which provides international standard health care – it’s part of the Bangkok Hospital Group. Koh Chang also has a state-run general hospital and clinics which are located in Klong Son, Klong Prao, Bang Bao and Ban Jek Bae. The clinics are recommended if you simply require treatment for common ailments such as cuts or bites etc
Phone lines have been installed on the west coast as far south as Kai Bae Beach, however there are phone booths near all west coast beaches and also in Bang Bao at the very southeast of the island. Most communication is done by mobile phone. Internet cafes are located in all of the resort areas, costs range from 1 – 2 baht per minute. Choose an internet cafe which uses a satellite link-up as local dial up connections can be rather slow.
Beaches & Accommodation
The far northern area of Whitesands Beach and Lonely Beach – the backpackers’ favourite hangout – offer the best powdery white sand but are also the busiest areas. Klong Prao Beach is a very long, coconut palm fringed bay which is always quiet. Accommodation here is mainly in a few large package tour resorts, although ‘KP Huts’ and Thale Bungalows are good budget options. Kai Bae beach has a decent stretch of sand and is home to a large number of low and mid-price bungalows. The atmosphere of Kai Bae lies somewhere between the commercialism of Whitesands and the backpacker vibe of Lonely Beach. Bailan Bay, although having only a very stony shoreline, offers those wanting to get away from it all accommodation where they can be guaranteed peace and quiet.
Getting around the island
Koh Chang is the second largest island in Thailand, therefore, the distances involved in travelling from the north of the island to the south mean that walking is not an option. Anyone who is reasonably fit can cycle the stretch of road between Whitesands and Kai Bae, however from Kai Bae to Bang Bao the road includes many extremely steep mountain climbs which can also be tricky for inexperienced motorcyclists to negotiate. Motorbikes can be rented for 200 baht/day from virtually every resort and are the preferred means of transport for most visitors. (Small jeeps are also available to rent for approx 1,200 – 1,500 baht/day.) The alternative to having your own transport is to rely on the white pick-up trucks (songtaews) which travel up and down the west coast road. If you plan to head to the east of the island you need your own wheels.
Koh Chang is still an island people come to to get away from it all. Other large islands such as Phuket and Samui offer visitors golf courses and cabaret shows whilst Koh Chang offers lazy days by the beach and unspoilt scenery. Activities, other than diving and snorkelling, include:
The four small islands just off the southern tip of Klong Prao Beach and Kai Bae beach are great for spending a day kayaking around. The islands offer a couple of small beaches – don’t forget to bring lunch – and some coral reefs which provide a good snorkelling opportunity.
There are no clearly marked paths into the interior of the island and as such independent trekking isn’t recommended. However, several locals offer a guide service and for around 400-500 baht/person they will take you into the jungle . . .and bring you out alive. Overnight camping in the interior is also possible. Your resort will be able to put you in touch with a guide.
There are three camps on the island, however the best is Ban Kwan Chang, located 3km from the small hamlet of Klong Son in the north of the island deep in a valley in the jungle.. This camp is run by the Director of the Asian Elephant Foundation and offers the chance to see elephants in their natural surroundings. Short or long treks can be booked at your resort and cost 450-900 baht. Elephant bathing, feeding etc can also be seen . . .just don’t expect any shows or cute tricks from the elephants – the emphasis here is on elephant preservation and educating visitors rather than putting on a performance.
Rent a speedboat and head off to explore uninhabited islands. It isn’t cheap at around 7,000 – 8,000 baht/day for a boat to take you as far south as Koh Rang. But if you’re travelling in a group or as a family a day in a speedboat will ensure loads of photo opportunities and the chance to see islands which the majority of visitors to Koh Chang won’t make it to.