If you’re looking for a beautiful island to visit in Thailand, but need something that won’t break the bank, I’d have to recommend Koh Chang. Here’s a guide for exploring Koh Chang on a budget. Think $150 for a week! While that might seem like a lot for Thailand, that includes getting there from Bangkok and all excursions (but not alcoholic drinks). It’s also cheaper than what you’ll find on other islands in southern Thailand.
Where to Stay in Koh Chang
Just as with any place in Thailand, the cost of accommodations varies wildly on Koh Chang. The cheapest hostels are $4 a night, but you could also spend $100 at a resort – not that that’s budget-friendly. The average price for a hostel is around $10, and some of them are quite nice!
My brother and I stayed at a few different hostels and guesthouses on Koh Chang, both in Bang Bao and Klong Prao Beach. Bang Bao is on the southern tip of the island which makes it furthest away from the crowds. It’s also a floating village, which is just awesome, and you can get the island hopping and snorkeling excursions from the pier.
The two places I stayed at in Bang Bao were Asia Backpackers and Ocean View Guesthouse. The former has since been renamed The Coconut Garden and now only offers bungalows and cottages (instead of hostel rooms). The Ocean View Guesthouse was quite an experience, located on the floating piers. My room had a door that opened over the water (apparently for a private entry from a boat).
The two places I stayed at in Klong Prao Beach were quite nice too. Koh Chang Luxury Hotel was surprisingly nice, considering it was one of the cheapest hotels on the island. However, the Habitat Hostel was even better with modern, clean rooms.
The cheaper places tend to be further south on the island – Lonely Beach and Bang Bao. The resorts near the ferry landing and White Sands Beach are some of the most expensive. If you’re on a budget but want to stay somewhere nice, it’s certainly possible on Koh Chang. Some of the hotels are as cheap as $10 a night (like the Koh Chang Luxury Hotel), and you can even find bungalows on the beach for as little as $15 a night.
Book a hostel on the island using Agoda. Keep track of where you book the hostel, as you don’t want to get a cheap hostel and then pay a fortune on taxi costs (unless you use hitchhiking). There are activities in each part of the island, and I would recommend finding accommodations near those activities when you want to do them. It’s cheaper to change accommodations every couple nights than it is to take tuk-tuks back and forth around the island.
Bangkok to Koh Chang
To get to Koh Chang from Bangkok, take the BTS Skytrain to Ekkamai Bus station (East Bus Station) and book Government Bus 999 (leaving at 7:45 or 9:00 a.m.) for 260 baht ($8). The ride takes about 5 hours. Then jump on the ferry (leaving every hour) for 80 baht. Once you get to the island, get one of the tuk-tuk taxis for 50-150 baht (depending on the location of your guesthouse).
Please note that the only two cheap buses leave in the morning. If you miss them or don’t get there early enough and the tickets are sold out, you’ll either have to wait until the next day, or purchase a minivan or taxi, neither of which are budget options.
The bus will take you to the ferry terminal in Trat. From there, you’ll need to jump on the ferry to the island, which is only 80 baht ($2.50) and takes about half an hour.
Transportation Around Koh Chang
Once you get to the island, you’ll need to get a tuk-tuk taxi to take you to your accommodations. Taxis rides are pretty flat rates, although there will always be those who try to scam you with crazy prices, especially if you’re not willing to wait for a taxi to fill up with other passengers. The closer beaches are 50 baht ($1.50), while Bang Bao (at the southern end of the island) is 150 baht.
Don’t rent a scooter on the island. They are overpriced, so is the gas, and there are too many scams. Nearly every scooter rental will demand to keep your passport, which is illegal. Either use the taxis or, better yet, try hitchhiking. The two times I stuck out my thumb, I got a ride within two minutes.
Leaving Koh Chang
Return to Bangkok on the same route. You can always buy your return bus and ferry tickets when you’re headed down. That can be a good idea since both can get full, especially at the end of the weekend, after holidays or before bad weather, but only if you know the exact day you plan to return, or you forfeit the money.
Where and What to Eat
As with any location in Thailand (and all of SE Asia for that matter), your cheapest options for food are always street food vendors, and there are plenty of these on Koh Chang. You should aim for paying 40-50 baht ($1.50) for pad Thai, fried rice, papaya salad or a Thai omelet. Some places will charge 40-50 baht, some will charge 2-3 times that.
You’ll have to pay minimally 50-100% more if you eat at a restaurant, even a Thai restaurant, although that’s still fairly budget-friendly. My favorite restaurant is the Lucky Gecko in Lonely Beach. Managed by a German and Thai couple, they make delicious food from both cuisines, and at fantastic prices.
In Klong Prao Beach, I found Nong Bua Seafood Klong Prao (next to the Pajamas Hostel) to have the best prices for good quality food at a restaurant. In Bang Bao, my favorite place to eat was at the Chill House.
My recommendation would be a Thai omelet or 4 pork sticks for breakfast (40 baht), papaya salad for lunch (40 baht) and pad thai or chicken fried rice for dinner (40 baht). Get your bottles of water from 7-eleven (13 baht a liter). If you’re traveling to Koh Chang on a budget, consider skipping the alcohol. After all, this really isn’t a party island (except at Lonely Beach).
Most of the activities you can do on Koh Chang are free, other than really touristy things like rifle ranges, treetop adventure parks, ATV courses, and a crocodile and snake show, all of which can get pretty pricy.
As I love nature, I’d recommend a hike to one of the many waterfalls around the island. The popular ones will charge you 200 baht, but there’s another which most locals don’t even know about. It’s at the south end of Kai Bae Beach – north of Lonely Beach. Just walk down the street leading east from the 7-Eleven (the last one at the south end of the beach), take the left fork, and then the first right. From there you can follow the signs another 20 minutes to reach the waterfall. It’s secluded and peaceful, and chances are you won’t meet another person on the trail.
Another activity I’d really recommend is a boat tour. If you book from Bang Bao pier where the boats leave from, you can get the ticket for 650 baht ($20), plus the 200 baht fee ($6.50) for the national park. So 850 baht total, which includes lunch and snacks.
If you want to go for a week, you’ll have the following expenses.
- Hostels for 7 nights using Agoda – 300 baht a night
- Try Couchsurfing to find a host for free, or use Workaway to find a job in a hostel
- Total – 2,100 baht
- Bus to Koh Chang (Trat) with return – 520 baht
- Ferry with return – 160 baht
- Taxis on the island – 300 baht
- Hitchhike the rest
- Total – 980 baht
Food (per day)
- Breakfast – 30-40 baht
- Lunch – 40-50 baht
- Dinner (splurge) – 80-100 baht
- Drinks – 50 baht
- Total for 7 days – 1680 baht
- Boat tour – 850 baht
- Relaxing on the beach – free
- Hiking to Kai Bae Waterfall – free
- Total – 850 baht
Grand Total for 7 Days – 5,610 baht
At the current exchange rate on XE.com, that’s about $160 for a week, or $23 per day. If you find a Couchsurfing or Workaway host, get the bare minimum costs for food, skip the boat tour and only hitchhike on the island, you can drop that down to under 2,000 baht for the week! Never let it be said that money stopped you from traveling. Of course, you first have to get to Thailand, but even that can be cheap with Skyscanner.
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While I’ve tried to avoid the more touristic islands of southern Thailand, I did spend a couple weeks on Koh Chang with my brother. Here are those stories:
- Beaches, Waterfalls, Snorkeling and New Year’s Celebration: A Guide to Ko Chang, The Best Island in Thailand
- New Year in Koh Chang and my New Year’s Resolution
- Ending Up at Ao Nang Beach in Krabi was a Shock
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
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