Koh Chang is a heavenly island paradise with lush jungle-covered mountains, sparkling blue bays, vibrant coral reefs, and cascading waterfalls. It’s the third-largest island in Thailand, so there is a lot of space to move around and escape the crowds flocking there.
Like much of Thailand, the island has seen a rise in tourism over the last few years. Although it remains somewhat undiscovered by most tourists, an increasing number of visitors come each year.
Therefore, you'll discover diverse lodging choices, ranging from luxurious accommodations to budget-friendly options, ensuring something suitable for every budget. Fortunately, its relative size and location mean it doesn't feel that busy even when the Island is busy.
Despite its recent surge in tourism, Koh Chang still offers a lot of peace. So, this travel guide to Koh Chang will definitely help you save money while maximizing your experience in this breathtaking tropical paradise!
Koh Chang Island is known as ‘Elephant Island’ because of its elephant-shaped headland. It is Thailand’s third-largest Island after Phuket and Koh Samui. Situated approximately 300 kilometers east of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok), Trat Province rests in the Gulf of Thailand, which is close to the Cambodian border.
Koh Chang offers plenty of things, from jungle-covered mountain peaks to sweeping bays, incredible waterfalls, flourishing coral reefs, beach huts, and luxury resorts. It is a part of the Mu Ko Chang National Park. Despite increased tourism and development in the past decade, it has retained its remote and rugged character.
With an area of approximately 212 square kilometers, Koh Chang's 70% is covered in rainforests, mountains, and beaches. Khao Salak Phet is the Island's tallest peak, soaring to 743 meters above sea level. The Island boasts numerous waterfalls due to its mountainous landscape, among which the Klong Nueng waterfall is the tallest. However, it may not always be the easiest to reach, which can be found in the Island's southeastern corner.
Koh Chang offers more than just luxury resorts and stunning beaches. If you’re adventurous and don’t particularly enjoy spending time on the beach, this island offers tons of activities. Some of the most popular activities in Koh Chang are kayaking, jungle trekking, diving, and snorkeling.
Another highlight is visiting the Island's beautiful waterfalls. For something more laid back, why not take a Thai cooking class or jungle trek ride on the back of the elephant and then end the day with a relaxing massage in one of the many spas on the Island? And if you still have time, head south to Koh Mak or Koh Kood. Both are ideal for a few days chilling on laid-back, vehicle-free islands.
You're almost certainly coming here for a beach holiday. So, here's a brief rundown of the Island's main beaches. All of these are situated along the Island's western coast, with White Sand Beach to the north and Lonely Beach to the south. In between, you'll find Klong Prao, which happens to be the longest beach on the Island, and Kai Bae Beach.
The nearest beach to the ferry piers is White Sand Beach, undoubtedly the most bustling and touristy beach on the island. You'll find everything you require conveniently within walking distance from your resort.
The longest beach in Koh Chang is Klong Prao Beach. It is cut in three by a large river estuary in the center and a much smaller one near the south. Here, you'll find accommodation mostly in larger resorts.
Kai Bae is also a beach of two halves. The south has by far the best stretch of sand. But the northern half has three of the island's best resorts adjacent to each other - The Chill, Gajapuri Resort, and AWA Resort.
You'll find locally owned bungalow resorts in the southern section, e.g., KB Resort, Kai Bae Hut, and Kai Bae Beach Resort. These have expanded over the years and now offer a good standard of accommodation.
Lonely Beach, the initial choice for backpackers in Koh Chang, is gradually shifting toward a more upscale atmosphere. There are merely three beachfront lodging options available. Most accommodations can be found just a short stroll to the south in a bustling, developed area, also home to many budget-friendly guesthouses and huts.
Koh Chang is located within a marine park, offering many outdoor activities for visitors. Divers, in particular, can explore the pristine reefs nearby, as Ko Chang remains relatively unspoiled and "off the grid."
Koh Chang has a few Muay Thai gyms tailored for seasoned fighters, with some also providing beginner-friendly classes. The Ko Chang Thai Boxing Camp stands out as an excellent choice for learning, offering group sessions at a rate of 600 THB for a two-hour class.
You'll find a bustling night food market in the heart of White Sand Beach. On the beach side of the road, vendors offer an array of mouthwatering Thai dishes, ranging from BBQ meats to fresh fruits.
If Koh Chang is too touristy, you can hop to the other islands of Koh Kood, Ko Maak, Ko Khlum, or Ko Rang. Most of these islands are undeveloped if you want to escape from everything, escape the crowds, and disconnect.
Kati Culinary ranks among the Island's top restaurants, drawing tourists and locals alike. Additionally, visitors can participate in cooking classes led by the restaurant's head chef to learn the art of preparing traditional Thai cuisine.
Koh Chang has seven main waterfalls, the most popular being Klong Plus. It offers convenient accessibility and features an expansive swimming area. Additionally, notable waterfalls like Kai Bae, Klong Jao Leuam, Than Mayom, and Klong Nonsi can be found nearby.
White Sand Beach houses most resorts, high-end accommodations, and expensive restaurants. It’s the most developed part of Koh Chang, but you must accept that it’s a beautiful beach. The city is lively, full of shops, restaurants, and nightlife, including nightly live music at Oogie's Place.
Koh Chang has a floating village at Bang Bao pier. This is the departure point for numerous snorkeling and diving tours. However, the village has lost much of its authentic fishing village charm. It has transformed into primarily a shopping hub for tourists seeking souvenirs. Many buildings have been turned into restaurants, shops, or guesthouses, although a few locals still fish here.
Koh Chang is extensive and heavily forested, with several mountains. There are a few official hiking trails to explore the scenic landscapes. Salak Phet is the tallest mountain on the Island. It provides breathtaking panoramic views from its summit, but reaching it can be challenging.
Snorkeling is another way to enjoy Koh Chang’s underwater playground if you're not interested in diving. The coral reefs are teaming with fish, and you can find snorkeling tours all over the Island.
From the Mu Ko Chang National Park Viewpoint, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Ko Chang's lush forests, the expansive ocean surrounding it, and the distant islands on the horizon. It’s easy to get to, and the route from the main road is well-marked. Plus, it’s free! Keep an eye out for wildlife here because there are 100 bird species and various animals.
If you want to splash out, a few companies around Koh Chang offer a leisurely sailboat day trip around the Island. You can enjoy the sun, swimming, snorkeling, and sometimes even fishing while sailing. It’s an excellent way to spend your day hanging out and soaking up the weather.
A visit to the Treetop Adventure Park is highly recommended to experience Ko Chang's lush tropical rainforest from a unique perspective. You can venture into the forest canopy using suspended bridges, rope pathways, Tarzan swings, slides, and an exhilarating zip line.
Numerous backpackers arrive at Lonely Beach, the epicenter of guesthouses, bars, clubs, and parties on the Island. Here, you can secure affordable lodging, explore decent shops, and enjoy a pleasant beachfront. It's the perfect destination to rejuvenate after weeks or months of backpacking, with daytime beach relaxation and vibrant nighttime revelry!
Suppose you're eager to venture into more than just a single hike. In that case, several tour companies offer half or full-day trekking tours on the island.
There are numerous transport options from Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok). There isn't one which is 'best' as that depends on your budget and the way you travel. Flying on Bangkok Airways to Trat is the quickest but most expensive option.
Getting around the island is pretty straightforward.
If you want to escape the rush and have more of a peaceful experience on Koh Chang, head to the island's eastern side. The east side is less developed and more isolated than the West. You will experience authentic local life on the island around the fishing villages. You can explore the vibrant green countryside and discover its hidden jungle and incredible waterfalls.
Moreover, you will need your transport to get around the eastern side of Koh Chang due to the lack of public transport. Or you can rent a scooter to go and explore; you won't regret it.
Ko Chang has three seasons; the cool season sets in November and lasts until the end of February. This is when the island is busiest, with daily sunshine, beautiful blue sky, and calm seas. If you like the hustle and bustle, this is the ideal time to visit. In the cooler season, the typical temperature ranges from 27°C to 30°C, and you may experience the odd refreshing thunderstorms.
The hot season sets in from March till April. During these months, the temperature is over 33°C most days, and the high humidity can make it uncomfortable. You'll find yourself sweating profusely. Moreover, April and May are also the usual holiday months for Thais, so the island's tourist areas can still be busy. Especially during the Songkran Water Festival, the Thai New Year is from 13–15 April. If you're present during the Songkran festival, expect to be playfully doused with water. It's a central aspect of the Songkran celebrations and an enjoyable way to beat the intense heat. Protect your camera, phone, and passport by stashing them in a waterproof bag.
The rainy season sets in the end of May. This season lasts till the end of October. During these months, tourism in Koh Chang and accommodation prices are reduced. Visiting the island can still be a wonderful experience despite the erratic weather. During this period, the island is notably more serene, prices are more affordable, and the rainforests thrive in vibrant green, teeming with life. It's the perfect opportunity for those seeking relaxation and peace. Even White Sand Beach, typically bustling, takes on a peaceful atmosphere.
Koh Chang used to be well off the beaten path and only visited by seasoned backpackers. However, the island has seen a significant increase in development and tourism in the last 10 years. However, it is still not the same as Phuket or Koh Samui. The ferry terminal in Trat is conveniently situated 20 kilometers from the nearby airport. Therefore, Koh Chang is easier to get to than ever before. The three daily flights connect it with Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Bangkok Airways.
International travelers are drawn to Koh Chang's white sandy beaches and luxury hotels. But don't be discouraged from visiting the island if you're on a budget, as it's still affordable for families and backpackers. There is a wide range of accommodation available to suit everyone's needs and budget. The vast choice of accommodation is not surprising considering how large the island is. You can find anything from luxury villas to budget beach huts and everything imaginable according to your needs and budget.
The most famous areas are on the West coast of Koh Chang. The white sand beach is the most popular on the Island, attracting tourists. You will find some of the Island's best resorts towards the north of the Island. KC Grande Resort is on offer alongside some suitable mid-range beachfront accommodations, such as the famous Cookies Hotel. Klong Prao Beach and Kai Bae Beach are famous in Koh Chang if the two places have yet to take your fancy.
Klong Prao and Kai Bae beaches are the best options for families. They boast a mix of large 4-star resorts and mid-range bungalows. Some of the Island's best resorts, Emerald Cove Resort, Gajapuri Resort, and The Chill, are in the center of the Island's west coast. The lonely beach can be found heading towards the south of the Island. This is also where most backpackers are attracted to the budget accommodation options and daily parties during the high season. Some better places are Nature Beach Resort, Warapura Resort, and Oasis Bungalows.
Suppose you're on a budget but want somewhere quieter than a lonely beach. In that case, Bailan is a famous spot with various small, mid-range bungalow resorts clustered in the center of the small village. Finally, down the south coast, you'll find the Klong Kloi beach, which has excellent views of the islands south of Koh Chang—everything from budget huts for a few hundred Baht a night to 5-star luxury at Chivapuri Beach Resort.
If you go to Klong Prao Beach, you will find upmarket large-scale resorts like The Emerald Cove and The Dewa, which are excellent places to be if you're on a flexible budget. Head up towards the beach's Northern end if your pockets are not so deep. You will find cheaper beachfront accommodation to suit any budget at Chai Chet Resort or Koh Chang Resort. Kai Bae Beach has a laid-back feel and has recently increased the accommodation stakes. It is home to some exclusive resorts like AWA Resort, Gajapuri Resort, and The Chill, all serious contenders for being the best on the island.
Towards the beach's Southern end are the popular smaller resorts and some budget-friendly bungalows such as The Garden Resort and Sea Breeze. Plus, beachfront resorts owned by members of a local family, KB Resort, KaiBae Hut Resort, and Kai Bae Beach Resort, are excellent options to consider if you're looking for affordable beach bungalow accommodations.
👨🎓 Quick Trivia
You'll get some great sunset photos at Koh Chang any time of the year.
The price typically falls between 475-550 THB per night for a budget room without air conditioning. You can pay between 500-700 THB per night if you prefer a simple bungalow.
Koh Chang offers a limited choice of hostels, all located in the Lonely Beach area of the island. Fortunately, they provide budget-friendly options, and most offer a comfortable stay. Rates remain relatively consistent throughout the year. Dormitory beds, with capacities ranging from 8 to 10 beds, are available from 150 to 255 THB per night. If you prefer a more comfortable dorm with air conditioning, anticipate a cost of 300 to 500 THB per night.
Private hostel rooms range in price from 500 to 795 THB. However, Pajamas Hotel stands out by providing deluxe private rooms and private terraces for 1,600 THB per night. Basic amenities typically include complimentary Wi-Fi, and most hostels offer a free breakfast.
Camping facilities on the Island are accessible at approximately 60 THB per person for a simple plot without electricity. Additionally, you can rent two-person tents for approximately 150 THB per night.
The Thai culinary tradition boasts an extensive and delectable array of spicy salads, rich curries, aromatic soups, and tantalizing stir-fries influenced by neighboring nations like Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Commonly utilized spices and fresh herbs in Thai cuisine. This includes garlic, lemongrass, basil, galangal, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, chilies, and fish sauce. Thai culinary essentials encompass rice and noodles, while typical protein sources include whole chicken, pork, fish, and seafood.
Famous Thai dishes encompass tom yum Goong (a spicy and sour shrimp soup), pad thai (a stir-fried noodle dish), Khao man gai (rice with boiled chicken), som tam (spicy papaya salad), Khao pad (fried rice), massaman curry, and satay (grilled skewered meat served with a peanut dipping sauce). Koh Chang's island location means that its cuisine prominently features fish and seafood. By avoiding the major resort areas and primarily dining at street vendors, you can savor delicious Thai dishes and enjoy affordable prices.
Kebabs cost as little as 10 THB each, while rice and curry costs around 60-80 THB per portion. Expect to pay 70-120 THB for stir fry, curry, or fried rice at a casual sit-down Thai eatery. Seafood dishes start at 150-250 THB. Western food is more expensive than any restaurant with an English menu. Even the curries cost 190-220 at places primarily for tourists. Pasta dishes cost 180-300 THB, a pizza 230-360 THB, and a burger 120-220 THB.
Regarding drinks, hitting the bars can add up in terms of expenses. The cheapest beers typically range from 60-80 THB per bottle, while a glass of wine costs around 130 THB, and cocktails are priced between 120-150 THB each. If you prefer non-alcoholic options, a cappuccino falls in the range of 65-90 THB, fruit juices or smoothies are 60-80 THB, and a soda can be had for 25 THB.
With a backpacking budget of 1,050 THB per day, you can comfortably lodge in a hostel dorm, relish street food, utilize songthaew transportation, indulge in beers from the convenience store, and engage in predominantly cost-free activities such as swimming and hiking.
With a mid-range budget of 2,125 THB per day, you can opt for a private Airbnb or a private hostel room for accommodation, enjoy a more comprehensive selection of drinks, dine at sit-down restaurants occasionally, explore the Island with more travel options, and partake in additional paid activities such as kayaking or Muay Thai lessons.
With a "luxury" budget of 5,100 THB per day, you can stay at hotels or bungalows, enjoy meals of your choice, enjoy a more extensive selection of beverages, hire a driver for convenient transportation, and engage in high-end activities such as diving or sailing. However, this budget represents just the beginning of luxury, as the sky's the limit!
Thailand is an inexpensive country, and it is hard to overspend there. However, a few things will blow your budget if you aren't careful. If you're on a tight budget or want to cut costs, here's how to save money in Koh Chang:
The easiest way to save money in Koh Chang is to live like a local. Take Songthaews, eat street food, and drink local beer to keep it simple and affordable.
The finest Thai cuisine is found on the streets, and it's a fraction of the cost compared to dining in a restaurant. Opt for street food if you plan to dine out.
Koh Chang’s many happy hours have half-priced drinks and 2-for-1 specials. Usually from 4-6 p.m. If you want to drink at the bar, this is the time.
Buying beer at Thailand’s 7-Elevens and drinking outside will save you quite a lot on your bar tab. Beer from 7-Eleven is half of the price compared to beers from other cities in Thailand.
Couchsurfing offers the opportunity to connect with locals who generously provide free accommodation while sharing their valuable insider tips and advice. It's the ultimate way to save on lodging expenses and access invaluable local insights.
Drinking tap water isn't advisable in this location due to safety concerns. While purchasing bottled water can be economical, the costs can accumulate. Instead, consider acquiring a LifeStraw with integrated filters for clean and safe drinking water.
Lonely Beach is the primary hub for backpackers, offering the area's most budget-friendly dining and lodging choices.
Koh Chang is a safe place to backpack and travel, even if you're traveling solo or as a solo female traveler. Violent attacks against tourists here are uncommon.
Petty theft is possible, so you must remain vigilant about your belongings, particularly in densely populated areas. Additionally, avoid leaving any valuables unattended on the beach. Solo female travelers should generally feel safe in this destination; however, adhering to standard safety precautions is essential. The people who get in trouble are usually involved with drugs or sexual tourism. Avoid those, and you should be fine.
Remember always to trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary to loved ones so they know where you are. The most important recommendation we can provide is to purchase quality travel insurance. It offers coverage for illness, injury, theft, and trip cancellations, ensuring comprehensive protection in unforeseen circumstances.
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