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.
How to get around Koh Samui?
1. Songthaews on Koh Samui
What’s a songthaew? (Pronounced, “song-tao”, also spelled 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 mad-man choosing to hang off the back bumper.
Luggage racks up top mean you can easily transport luggage or a back-pack 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 51km 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.
2. Taxis on Koh Samui
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 unfrizzy. 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.
3. Scooter-taxis on Koh Samui
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 on to a stranger).
4. Rent a car on Koh 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.
5. 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?
6. Get around Samui on foot
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).
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 as transport. At a bare minimum, bring a flashlight and opt for light or reflective clothing at night. How happy will your mummy be!?