How to get around Koh Samui

Getting around Koh Samui is fairly easy given the choice of transport options and the small size of the island. At only 25km (15mi) long and 21km (13mi) wide, most trips around Koh Samui tend to be quite short.

While Koh Samui has neither tuk-tuks nor a scheduled bus service, you can easily rent cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Songtaews also provide an efficient way to get around the island.

While main roads in Koh Samui are paved, many others are often in a state of disrepair and some are simply sandy tracks. Roads leading inland can be particularly steep. Traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road.

Transport options in Koh Samui

Car hire: Car hire companies operating at Koh Samui Airport and in town, include Hertz, Budget, National, Thai Rent A Car and SIXT, as well as several local agencies. There is a good choice of vehicles.

Given that Koh Samui has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in Thailand, it's recommended to hire a car from a well-established local or international company that also provides insurance cover; this should cost around 2,000 Baht per day.

Alternatively, several local companies rent older-model cars from as little as 800 Baht per day, but usually without insurance.

If you plan to explore the island, including the hilly interior, a 4WD is recommended.

A valid Thai or international driver’s licence is required to drive a car or a motorbike in Koh Samui.

Motorcycle hire: Hiring a motorbike is arguably the most economical way to get around Koh Samui. Motorcycles and scooters are available for hire from almost every resort on the island.

Rental rates range from 200 to 300 Baht per day; gasoline costs about 30 Baht per litre. You generally need to hand over your passport as a deposit.

If you decide to rent a motorcycle, wear a helmet, and ask for one with a plastic visor.

An international driving permit is necessary to legally drive a motorbike in Thailand. Please note that if you don’t carry a motorcycle driver’s license, police may let you go, but your insurance might not cover you in case of an accident.

Rental Scams: Some shops will claim that you damaged your bike during your hire period and will try to extort money from you. The best way to avoid this is to take plenty of photos of your motorbike (or car) at the time of rental, making sure the person renting you the vehicle sees you do this (they will be less likely to make false claims against you if they know you have photos).

If they still insist that you owe them money, keep your cool. Losing your temper won't help you win the argument and could significantly escalate the problem.

If things get really bad call the tourist police, not the regular police.

Taxi: The distinct yellow and maroon taxis in Koh Samui are operated by one company, and as with any monopoly, fares are ridiculously expensive (compared to Bangkok). While most vehicles have a meter, very few drivers use it; instead drivers prefer to negotiate a fixed price for the journey – often a high price relative to the distance.

While expensive, taxis are the most comfortable of the public transport options in Koh Samui, with vehicles generally well maintained and air-conditioned. They will also take you directly to your destination instead of following fixed and indistinct routes.

Considerably cheaper (but less comfortable), motorbike taxis in Koh Samui are easily found by looking for the riders in brightly-coloured vests. Being manoeuvrable, motorbike taxis can zip through traffic and narrow back streets, making them much quicker for short journeys around towns.

As with other forms of taxi, you will need to agree a price in advance, but you won’t need to bargain as hard to get a fair one. Figure about 20 Baht for a five-minute ride on a motorcycle taxi.

Bus: The nearest thing to a bus service on Koh Samui is a songthaew. Its name means ‘two benches’, songthaews are generally little more than a pick-up minibus with a roof covering two benches fitted in the back.

During the day, songthaews follow set routes and they will generally have the destination painted on the front in English. There are no official bus stops, so you can flag one down anywhere.

Drivers love to try to overcharge tourists, so it’s best to ask a third party for current rates, as they can change with the season. It’s about 50 Baht to travel between beaches, and no more than 100 Baht to travel halfway across the island.

Songthaews are the cheapest method of getting around Koh Samui, costing as little as 50 Baht per person, which increases the further you go. In the evenings, some songthaews operate as private taxis and will take you directly to your destination. You'll need to bargain with the driver before setting off.

Bicycle: If you’re feeling energetic and can manage with the hot climate, hiring a bicycle is one of the cheapest methods of getting around Koh Samui. Several shops hire out bicycles. A good mountain bike will generally cost you about 80 Baht per day.

Boat: The island has extensive boat links to Ko Samui, Ko Pha-Ngan, Ko Tao and Donsak Pier (for Surat Thani); and it's the only way to get between the nearby off-shore islands.

More about Ko Samui…

Latest update: How to get to around Samui: 5 May, 2022