Koh Samui
April 25, 2024

How to get around Koh Samui?

To get around Koh Samui, you have options for public transport as well as private, hired transportation. Whether by songthaew, car, bike, on foot or in a taxi, you have a variety of ways to get where you want to go.

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How to Get Around Koh Samui: Your Best Options for Island Transport

How do you get around Samui?

Wondering how to get around Koh Samui? You’ve got lots of options depending on where you’re starting from and where you want to go. In brief, your wheeled options include a rental car, taxi or a ride-sharing service like Grab (aka Thailand’s Uber), a songthaew (see below for explanation – and pronunciation), or a scooter or motorbike (I don’t recommend this due to safety concerns).

Myself, I prefer rental cars or hired drivers and would never (ever) get on a scooter as a driver or passenger. As for walking, it might be possible but might not be (A) safe or (B) a good idea depending on the heat, humidity and hills required. As ever, The Koh Samui Guide is your best bet to fully understand the island, and its layout, and to arrive as a total expert.

Get your guide: For total top-to-bottom expertise and answers to all your questions (and then some), you need The Koh Samui Guide. It’s packed with every ounce of my 20 years of Samui expertise from airport transfer to zip-lining (and everything in between). Truly, it’s the guidebook I’d give my very best friends.

Quick Links:

Koh Samui's size compared to Bangkok, London, Singapore and Sydney
Koh Samui's size compared to Bangkok, London, Singapore and Sydney

For a quick reference, here’s Koh Samui compared to Bangkok, London, Singapore and Sydney in size. Now add tropical heat, humidity and extreme UV. An air-conditioned rental car looks pretty good, right?

Airport transfer

Arrive at Koh Samui Airport with your airport transfer booked in advance (ideally at least 24 hours ahead of time).
Zero stress: Arrive at Koh Samui Airport with your airport transfer booked in advance (ideally at least 24 hours ahead of time).

Arrive at Koh Samui Airport, collect your luggage and find the friendly face holding your name on a sign. Your vacation starts now. You have a variety of options for transportation to and from Samui Airport, but – based on my example searches – you’ll get competitive rates (and a good choice of vehicles) through Klook's airport transfer service.

Their rates are far more competitive than arranging your transfer directly through your hotel (which averages about THB 700 one way but can be as much as THB 2500). For most beaches, this service also works out as the most affordable option – especially for a couple or group of three people booking a standard car. (See all my Koh Samui Airport transfer math and example costs to popular hotels).

Using Klook's airport transfer service, as a rough guide, you can expect to pay the following for a one-way airport transfer to Choeng Mon, Chaweng, Bophut or Bang Rak:

  • ≤ 3 people / standard car: THB 475 (approx £11, US$14, AU$20 or €12)
  • ≤ 4 people / people carrier: THB 520 (approx £12, US$15, AU$22 or €13)
  • ≤ 9 people / mini bus: THB 720 (approx £17, US$21, AU$31 or €19)

Book your airport transfer

The above rates will vary slightly depending on your exact destination but they’re a decent point of reference. Expect higher rates for further destinations such as Maenam, Bang Po, Lipa Noi or Taling Ngam, but it only takes a moment to get a quote for your dates.

If using this option, make sure to book your airport transfer at least 24 hours in advance of your arrival time. Similarly, you can cancel up to 24 hours prior for a full refund.

For more options and transport companies, see The Koh Samui Guide. It outlines every step of the travel process (from packing to your airport arrival and departure).

Rent a car

Ever seen a prettier ring road? Above – Koh Samui's main road through Nathon, its capital town.
Ever seen a prettier ring road? Above – Koh Samui's main road through Nathon, its capital town.

Once you’re settled at your hotel, showered/slept/snacked, it’s time to think about exploring Samui. Booking your own hire car is a brilliant way to tour the island. Rent a car for your whole trip for maximum flexibility, or just a day or two to make a grand island adventure, visiting Koh Samui attractions of your choosing.

While you have a variety of options for car rental on Samui, the most convenient choice is to pick up your car at Koh Samui Airport. Unlike at beachfront rental shops, you also get a good range of car choices that suit your group size and will almost certainly have air-conditioning (and seat belts).

How much does it cost to rent a car on Koh Samui?

Average rental costs per day (aggregating the whole year) are typically between THB 1,190 for a small car (≤ 4 passengers), THB 1,242 for a medium car (≤ 5 passengers) and THB 2,412 for an SUV.

That’s roughly £27-£55, US$35-$70, AU$51-$104 or €31-€63.

I took a look at random dates a month from now and found the following:

Small car ( e.g. Nissan March):

THB 900 to 1605 per day

(approx £20 to £37, US$25 to US$47, AU$37 to AU$69 or €22 to €42)

Medium car (e.g. Toyota Yaris):

THB 970 to 2810 per day

(approx £22 to £65, US$28 to US$82, AU$42 to AU$121 or €25 to €73)

SUV (e.g. Toyota Fortuner)

THB 1970 to 4400 per day

(approx £45 to £101, US$57 to US$128, AU$85 to AU$189 or €51 to €114)

How far in advance should you book your Koh Samui car rental?

Of course, you can book something last minute but expect (A) higher rates and (B) a limited choice of cars.

Searching for tomorrow, I’m offered 8 cars (no SUVs). With dates a month from now, there are 30 cars to choose from whereas searching for two months from now, there’s a choice of 46. Advanced booking is especially important if you’re coming during a peak period like Christmas or New Year.

To get the best rates, aim to book your rental car at least a week in advance. Note that most rentals offer free cancellation for up to 48 hours ahead of time (but double-check when booking).

Tip: To get the best choice of cars, make your booking as far in advance as possible as you’ll have a far better choice of cars. Also – there's a checkbox on the side of your search results page for cars with air-conditioning – don't miss it. Air-con will be especially crucial in hotter months like April and May.

What cars are available to rent on Koh Samui?

Medium passenger cars are most popular, but there’s a decent selection of small SUVs (Toyota Fortuner, Nissan Kicks, Nissan Terra, Nissan X-Trail, Honda BR-V, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and even Nissan Navara pick-up trucks). Got a big group? Some SUVs seat up to 7 passengers.

As far as I’m aware, all cars are automatic and offer unlimited mileage. Rates may or may not include additional drivers (though you can add more for a nominal fee).

You can also add baby seats, booster seats and child seats for approximately 500 THB per rental (approx £12, US$15, AU$22 or €13).

Can you rent a car on Koh Samui and return it elsewhere in Thailand?

Fancy a ferry journey and a Thailand road trip? Some rental agencies allow one-way rentals from Koh Samui to other parts of Thailand – just look for the check box on your search page to “drop car off at different location”. Doing so might incur an extra fee – but what a Grand Tour you'll have. Note that cross-border travel is not allowed.

As a quick reference, your drive times to the following destinations are as follows (includes ferry sail time but not wait time):

  • Phuket: 6-7 hours
  • Bangkok: 12-13 hours
  • Chiang Mai: 22-23 hurs

When can you pick up your rental car at Koh Samui Airport?

Note that the rental car office hours at Koh Samui Airport differ by provider, so make sure your arriving flight doesn’t conflict with their opening hours – especially at night. Arriving on a later flight? Just plan to pick up your car the next day. All are open seven days a week.

  • Avis: 8:00 AM - 7:00 PM
  • Budget: 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Drive Car Rental: 8:00 AM - 9:00 PM
  • Keddy By Europcar: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM
  • Sixt: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM
  • Thai Rent A Car: 8:00 AM - 8:00 PM

More details? Learn how to rent a car on Koh Samui

Book your rental car

Songthaews on Koh Samui

A songthaew, a scooter and a minibus on the road from Choeng Mon to Chaweng and the airport
A songthaew, a scooter and a minibus on the road from Choeng Mon to Chaweng and the airport

What’s a songthaew?

(Pronounced, “song-tao”, also spelt songtaeo, songtaw, songtao, etc). Koh Samui’s songthaews are, more or less, its version of public transport. Rather than a bus, a songthaew is a pick-up truck with a converted bed. Two back benches can fit between 8-10 adults inside, with the occasional madman choosing to hang off the back bumper.

Luggage racks up top mean you can easily transport luggage or a backpack from the airport or the ferry terminal. Of all Koh Samui's transport options, songthaews are the cheapest (besides walking).

Koh Samui’s songthaew routes?

Koh Samui’s main ring road is 51 km (just over 31 miles) and cuts through every major beach town (except Choeng Mon). Largely speaking, songthaews circle the ring road and other large secondary roads. Their route is never set in stone and depends more on driver preference and who’s paying to go where. The bigger or more popular your destination, the likelier the first songthaew will take you there. Otherwise, try the next one. Don’t be fooled by the signs above the songthaew’s front window and back bumper. They neither reference where they’re coming from nor where they’re going.

How to use a songthaew on Koh Samui?

Confidence, a big smile and having change ready will be your best songthaew assets. Stand on a roadside (the busier, the better) and flag one down. State your destination and agree on the price first. Then hop in the back and make some new friends. When you want to get off, ring the bell inside. He’ll pull over, you’ll pay (in correct change!), and off you go.

Tip: Got places to be? Easily book a private driver and car service for 4, 6, 8, or 10 hours. Tour the island or just enjoy a convenient night out with your group. Choose between an SUV (Toyota Fortuner) for a couple or group of up to three people OR a minibus (Toyota Commuter) for a group of up to 9 people. (Infants and children must be included in the total).

Taxis on Koh Samui

A Koh Samui taxi and ... more inventive Samui transport. If you must ride a scooter, make sure to wear a helmet.
A Koh Samui taxi (they're usually dark yellow and red) and ... more inventive Samui transport. If you must ride a scooter, make sure to wear a helmet.

Taxis are all over Koh Samui. They’re a good way to get to dinner at a restaurant on another beach, especially when you’re dressed nicely and want your hair to remain un-frizzy. Set a rate in advance as, despite appearances, meters are not used. You can try to bargain a little, but, as a foreigner, you probably won’t succeed.

Motorbike taxis on Koh Samui

Motorbike or scooter taxis are a cheaper, wilder means of transport than normal taxis. It’s a quick, zoom-zoom option if you’re by yourself (and feel comfortable clutching onto a stranger).

Scooters and motorbikes

Though popular with locals and tourists alike, scooters are a main contributor to Samui’s very high road accident rate. If you must, be sure to wear a helmet. Promise?

Walking on Koh Samui

Staying on Bophut Beach or in Fisherman's Village? You'll be able to walk everywhere in this vicinity. Unless you want to explore elsewhere, you can easily get around this area on foot. Hansar Samui and Holiday Inn Resort Samui Bophut Beach are especially convenient with direct access to paved roads.
Staying on Bophut Beach or in Fisherman's Village? You can easily get around this area on foot. Hansar Samui and Holiday Inn Resort are especially convenient, with direct access to paved roads.

Can you just walk to get around Koh Samui? Depending on where you're staying, you may have just a short walk to both your nearest beach and town. It might be very easy to stock up on beer and sunscreen on foot. Yet there's so much to do on Koh Samui that you might find yourself too limited by "the number 11 bus" (your two legs).

Your Koh Samui transport FAQs

2007: My first (and last) attempt at "exploring" Koh Samui's interior jungley bits. It did not go well.
2007: My first (and last) attempt at "exploring" Koh Samui's interior jungley bits in a highly unsuitable vehicle. It did not go well.

How much does transport cost on Koh Samui?

Rental cars: As mentioned, you can anticipate a daily rental car rate of about THB 1190 to THB 2412, depending on the type of car (and the time of year). Using current exchange rates, that’s approximately £27-£55, US$35-$70, AU$51-$104 or €31-€63.

Book your rental car

Airport transfer: Unless it happens to be included in your room rate, most likely, it will be more expensive to book your airport transfer directly through your hotel. One-way rates range from THB 300 to THB 2500 (£7-£56 or US$9-$71) with an average of THB 700 (£16 or US$20). Better plan? Compare the rate of booking it yourself. You can choose your car, minivan or shuttle bus depending on your group size and luggage requirements. My sample searches suggest that you’ll get the most competitive rates this way. As a couple you might save anywhere between 30% to 55% of the cost

Book your airport transfer

Taxis: Anticipate taxi rates similar to large metropolitan cities. Your hotel might advise on likely costs or you’ll find price boards in major tourist spots listing rates to all the major beaches. As a rough guide, you’re probably not going anywhere for under THB 200 (£5, US$6, AU$9 or €5). It’s best to get a guide price for your destination from your hotel and confirm the price with the driver in advance.

Book a private car with driver

Songthaews: The price will depend on your route and, probably, whether it’s day or night and how much you look like you want to get there this year. Tourist foreigner (farang) prices? Anticipate about THB 150 per person (£3, US$4, AU$6 or €4) from Beach A to neighbouring Beach B (e.g. Choeng Mon to Chaweng).  If you seem to know what you’re doing (and/or look Thai), you might have better luck, perhaps THB 50 or so (£1, US$1, AU$2 or €1). Mileage can vary here so your best bet is to have lots of small notes (don’t expect change).

A car park with a view on Koh Samui
A car park with a view on Koh Samui

How do you get from one side of Koh Samui to the other?

In almost all cases, you’ll go the long way around – that is, via the ring road that literally rings the island. Much of the middle is undeveloped, hilly jungle. Given Samui’s high road accident rate, I prefer to go where I’m going with a seatbelt – never on a scooter.

What’s the best way to get around Koh Samui?

For general exploring (see The Koh Samui Guide for everything you’ll want to do, see, eat and so on), I’ll always recommend a rental car – and never recommend a scooter. (If you must, please wear a helmet). If you just want to occasionally zip out of your resort, you might be able to rely on taxis, ride-sharing or songthaews alone – but I think you’d miss some of Samui’s best. Note that many of the island’s best spas, tours and restaurants offer pick-up services to and from hotels.

Does Koh Samui have public transport?

Sort of – in the form of city songthaews. However, there are no public buses on Samui per se. However, many hotels do offer shuttle buses to and from major attractions.

Can you use Uber, Lyft, Grab or Bolt in Koh Samui?

Yes, you can use Grab but note that they can’t come into the airport for pick-up so you’ll have to arrange your own airport transfer (ideally at least 24 hours in advance). Grab is Thailand’s equivalent of Uber, Lyft or Bolt and, while it’s massively popular in Bangkok, it probably won’t be an instant transport fix on Samui as service is limited. If you’re in a remote area (or it’s raining), you might be out of luck.

A typical dirt track beach path on Koh Samui. While the ring road and its offshoots are fully paved, this isn't true for every inch of the island.
A typical dirt track beach path on Koh Samui. While the ring road and its offshoots are fully paved, this isn't true for every inch of the island.

How to get a taxi in Koh Samui?

Stop for exactly one millisecond on the ring road and look lost. Otherwise, you’ll find taxi stands at all major attractions or your hotel will be able to arrange a taxi for you.

Are there tuk-tuks on Koh Samui?

Some hotels have them as decoration but they’re not used for transport. Songthaews are your best bet and the nearest ‘wind in your hair’ equivalent. 

How to get from the airport to your hotel in Koh Samui?

Easy! At least 24 hours before your arrival time, book your airport transfer (just input your hotel or resort to see your car options). If the airport for some reason doesn't pop up as an option in your search, type 'Samui International Airport'. Typically, your options will include a standard car for three people, a people carrier for four people or a minibus for nine people. If you need even more options, click ‘show more’ beneath the results. Once you’ve added your flight details, just complete your booking and get back to packing (don’t forget the mosquito repellent).

How to get around Koh Samui

How to see it all *and* be safe? The Koh Samui Guide outlines exactly what's possible (and what's safe) if you'd rather walk as your main form of transport. At a bare minimum, bring a flashlight and opt for light or reflective clothing at night. How happy will your mummy be!?