Koh Lipe is located in the Andaman Sea, in the south of Thailand, close to the border with Malaysia, and about 43 nautical miles, or 85km, from the coast in Satun province.
The island can only be reached by boat. The places with ferries to Koh Lipe are Pak Bara pier, near to Hat Yai airport in Satun Province, Krabi or Phuket. All three cities make great stopover destinations, but Krabi and Phuket are the best two for longer stays or even full holidays there without ever seeing Bangkok.
Each route has pros and cons, and this guide will look at all three options, the cost, the length of time on the boat, and the benefits of each journey. Remember, there are many different boat operators providing trips to Koh Lipe. Hotels in Koh Lipe may also provide a speedboat transfer service, free airport transfers or have a deal with an operator, so shop around for the best price and check with the accommodation on Koh Lipe whether they have a speedboat service.
The other options for how to get to Koh Lipe: Travel via Phuket, Bangkok, or staying overnight in Hat Yai…
Phuket is a great resort and one that every fan of holidays in Thailand will visit at least once. The growth in popularity of the area means it has become a big holiday destination, with its own airport with direct international flights arriving daily from Russia and Europe, with some great package deals.
If you are taking a holiday direct to Phuket with no plans to leave the city, but would like to see some islands, then take the speedboat from Phuket straight to Koh Lipe. If you’re in Bangkok, and you would like to see Phuket before heading on to Koh Lipe, this is also a good option. Phuket has plenty to see, bars, nightclubs, beaches and restaurants and can keep people entertained for several nights. Just take a flight from Don Muang to Phuket. (This route has the added bonus of being able to tell your friends back home they you’ve been ‘island hopping’, as Phuket is technically an island, even is is a big very close the mainland.)
If you’re in Bangkok on a budget, want to avoid overly high prices, or you’ve seen Phuket before, then avoid the Phuket route to Koh Lipe. The resort is expensive, and the ferry ride is long at six hours, and even the speedboat is a long time at three hours.
If you don’t like long sea journeys, definitely avoid this route. The ferry is more comfortable but slower, while the speedboats are bumpy and noisy. Avoid especially in low season – getting caught in rough seas and heavy rain in the middle of the ocean is not nice.
Visiting Koh Lipe via Krabi is a good option. Like Phuket, Krabi has become a popular resort for families and couple, boasting its own airport that receives international flights from tourists on package holidays or those who want to skip the bustle of Bangkok and head straight for the idyllic scenery. It’s possible to fly direct to Krabi, have an entire holiday here, mixed in with a trip to Koh Lipe or other islands for a few nights or a week.
Krabi also has some great nightlife, and it’s a lot cheaper than Phuket. This makes it perfect for people who’d like to see as much as Thailand as they can. Krabi has a wide range of idyllic beaches, including James Bond Island, which was in the Man With The Golden Gun Movie, with some great shots of Ko Tapu, Koh Tapu or Khao Tapu – the large vertical rock.
Unfortunately the journey by sea from Krabi to Koh Lipe is a long one – three hours by speedboat or five hours by the ferry. It’s not as expensive as above, so if you can stomach the sea travel, it’s a good option.
Perhaps my favourite option of all the above is to travel from Bangkok, via Hat Yai, and then on to Koh Lipe. Hat Yai is a southern city, with very little happening there for western Tourists. There are no idyllic islands. But this is part of the attraction – it’s quiet and there aren’t loads of backpackers, or holidaymakers like the other resorts. It’s mainly Thai locals and some Malaysian tourists. Plus the food here is really cheap and great quality.
Staying in Hat Yai for a night is good option if you have the time. After the taxi to Don Muang and flight to Hat Yai airport, it’s nice to relax for a night before the road journey to Pak Bara pier and the speedboat ride to Koh Lipe. However, anything longer than two nights in Hat Yai and it’s hard to stay entertained. It’s a quite city, but does have plenty of massage shops and a few great bars with live music, western expats and Thai locals.
Flights to Hat Yai are cheap, as are hotels. The transfer to Koh Lipe is about an hour by van to Prak Bara pier and onto Koh Lip by speedboat. I stayed at the Red Plane hotel ( 800thb a night in low season for a double room) and there was a tour company with a desk inside the foyer, who charged just 600thb per person for the mini van journey and speedboat ride to Koh Lipe, which is a good price.
For travelers who have a limited time in Thailand, staying overnight in Hat Yai might not be the best option. Instead, just book a flight from Bangkok to Hat Yai, as described at the top of this page, and choose an airline that includes the airport transfer from Hat Yai to Pak Bara, and the ferry to Koh Lipe. The whole journey, from a morning flight at Don Muang at 10am until arriving on Koh Lipe at around 5pm, should take about eight hours – arriving on the white sands of Koh Lipe’s beaches just in time too see a gorgeous sunset before taking in the nightlife, bars and restaurants.
Remeber to read our guide to choosing the best time of the year to visit Koh Lipe, to make sure you take your holiday in the right season.