Despite being Thailand’s third-largest island, Koh Chang is often left off of most travellers’ itineraries. But why is this?
Unlike Thailand’s other two biggest islands, Koh Samui and Phuket, Koh Chang is a lot less developed, offering that rustic, authentic and unspoilt feeling that travellers are constantly in search of.
The reason why it doesn’t make it on to most itineraries, is most likely due to the fact that the island is situated in the east of Thailand, actually closer to Cambodia than Thailand itself. Thanks to this proximity, many travellers also continue their journey from Thailand to Cambodia afterwards.
So why visit Koh Chang?
Koh Chang seems to have something for everyone; parties and fire shows on Lonely Beach for backpackers, high-end resorts for sunbed lovers, an incredible underwater world for water babies and rich jungle that is yet to be fully explored.
The island has maintained the back-to-nature feel that many of the popular islands in the south have sadly lost over the years. However, this is now quickly changing in Koh Chang too. Development is rapidly increasing across the island, so if a barely touched island is what you’re after we’d recommend not waiting too long to visit Koh Chang.
Frankly, we’re still a bit puzzled as to why Koh Chang is so underrated, but by the looks of it, it won’t stay that way for long.
Being one of Thailand’s largest islands, the choice of where to stay on Koh Chang becomes even more important. Unlike some of the smaller islands, visiting another beach or area requires you to exert more effort than a gentle stroll.
You’ll find that most accommodation on the island is dotted along the west coast, with the options on the east more remote and secluded.
To help, we’ve put together our favourite places to stay in Koh Chang. This way you can pick the right area to get the most out of your stay.
Location #1: White Sand Beach – the busiest beach on the island
Located on the northern point of the island, you’ll find White Sand Beach. It’s conveniently close to the ferry port and if the name isn’t enough to entice you, it certainly has attracted a whole host of other tourists.
White Sand Beach is Koh Chang’s busiest beach, most likely due to the high number of amenities. There’s a huge variety of shops, restaurants, bars and hotels as well as places to arrange island tours, ATMS and motorbike rentals.
Here you’ll find a lot of medium to high-end resorts with lush swimming pools and crisp white sheets, but you’ll also still be able to find a few bungalows at very reasonable prices.
This area isn’t void of backpackers either, head to the northern end of the beach and you’ll find plenty making the most of the cheap hillside huts.
If you stay on Lonely Beach, it’s unlikely that your experience will live up to the name, as this area is backpacker central. If you’re looking to create memories alongside other backpackers, then you’ll find plenty of like-minded people in the cheap accommodation on this southwestern part of the Island.
There’s plenty of bamboo bungalows dotted along the beach, hidden amongst the jungle and squeezed between reggae bars and other places offering cheap food and drink. The cheap prices certainly help the party to continue all night long, without the worry of blowing your daily budget on the first drink.
Depending on when you get the chance to visit Koh Chang, this scene might be completely different. As many travellers now have a larger disposable income, the island has begun to cater more for the ‘flashpacker’ crowd, introducing fancier accommodation with A/C, wifi and hot showers.
So if you want a more authentic, back-to-nature stay on Koh Chang, we’d recommend getting there pretty soon.
Location #3: Bangbao – a fishing village with amazing seafood
For those who want deliciously fresh seafood on their doorstep every day, you should stay in Bangbao.
The quaint fishing village is located on the southern point of Koh Chang, making it the island’s gateway to Koh Chang Marine Park and the meeting point for many snorkelling trips.
So if snorkelling’s high up on your agenda of things to do, you can save yourself time and money being close to where a lot of the snorkelling trips meet.
A downside for some people is that there isn’t a beach at the centre of Bangbao. Instead, you’ll have to travel 2km to the nearest one.
In this area of the island you’ll again find a range of accommodation choices, but predominantly mid-range resorts and a few backpacker style options.
How to get around in Koh Chang
If you plan on doing any exploring whilst on Koh Chang, you’ll have to take on the islands mountainous and jungle-laden landscape. In most cases, walking is out of the question so you’ll have to rely on proper transportation.
If you’ve been to Thailand before you’ll be familiar with this strange word – songthaew. For those who don’t have a clue, they’re converted pickup trucks with benches in the back for passengers. Essentially they are Thailand’s form of public transport.
As soon as you arrive at the ferry port, you’ll be overwhelmed with the white vehicles and drivers trying to get you in their Songthaews. During peak season, these vehicles can be packed to the brim, with some people even having to hang off the back.
Prices and routes for songthaews are set, so there’s no point trying to haggle. To give you an idea, from the pier to anywhere on the island the fare will range between 50-200 baht.
To travel from place to place around the island a similar range can also be expected, however if you hitch a ride after 10pm, the price will be 50 baht higher.
If you stop a songthaew with no one in it and ask them to take you to a particular place on the island, this is considered to be privately hiring the vehicle. In most instances you’ll pay the same price (as long as it’s a minimum of two people), but some drivers will charge you more.
Nothing beats having the freedom to explore an island at your own convenience and at your own pace. That’s where hiring a motorbike is a great choice.
Koh Chang will put your motorbike skills to the test though, as the roads can be quite hard to traverse! If you do feel confident, you can also save yourself a bit of money, as hiring a motorbike will cost you around 250 baht per day.
Arranging transport at your hotel
If you don’t fancy either of the options above, you can always speak to your hotel to see if they can arrange transportation for you.
This is likely to be a more expensive option but probably the most comfortable. It’s also nice to have someone who knows the island driving you around.
Located in the popular Lonely Beach area, Beach Jungle is a great choice for those looking for some extra comfort yet still wanting a social atmosphere.
Spend your days at the beach soaking up the sun and your evenings playing table tennis and billiards at the hostel or enjoying a drink at the on-site bar. Private rooms come with air-con, fridge, and your own bathroom.
Located in quiet Bailan Bay and just a short distance to Lonely Beach and Kai Bae Beach, it’s the perfect getaway!
Harley Moon hideaway boasts a beautiful outdoor pool, bbq and terrace for your enjoyment as well as on-site bar and restaurant. This is the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for relaxation and nature.