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A Travel Guide to Koh Lanta and The Trang Islands

Updated: Jun 20

In this travel guide for Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands, we will cover everything you need to know to plan your trip to the beautiful shores of what are perhaps Thailand's only remaining unspoilt islands.


Until recently I was under the impression that the Land of Smiles was nowadays swamped with tourists, and returning to Thailand after ten years was never on the itinerary. A path too trodden for my curiosity.


However, I was so pleasantly surprised by Koh Lanta that I ended up staying for 6 weeks in 2023, and then returning for another 6 weeks in 2024!



CONTENTS




sunset Koh Lanta
We always make time for sunset on Lanta


 

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A Travel Guide to Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands



About Koh Lanta & The Trang islands


Koh means 'island' in Thai, and Lanta is located in far south Thailand off of the west coast, not too far from the border with Malaysia. Most people describe Koh Lanta as 'chill' and they would be completely right.


Mainly visited by Scandinavian tourists, even in high season it doesn't feel too busy, and most of the island is still undeveloped, but there are plenty of things to do in Koh Lanta if being a beach bum is not your style.


Nearby are a group of smaller islands, the Trang islands, which again are relatively unexploited by tourists, in comparison to their more popular cousins like Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi.


I have read that these may be the last group of islands in Thailand that do not have resorts and beach bars built on every square inch of the beachfront.



A Piña Colada from Why Not bar in Koh Lanta
A Piña Colada from Why Not bar

 

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Which Trang Islands should you choose?


Koh Lanta is an excellent jumping-off point to the other 46 islands that make up the breathtaking Trang archipelago. Of these, I believe Koh Lipe, Koh Mook, Koh Ngai, and Koh Kradan are not to be missed.


If you imagine spending your days on a tiny speck of an island in the Andaman Sea, with white sand, turquoise waters, a smattering of jungle, no roads and very few people - then head to Koh Ngai or Koh Kradan.


Here you will find that postcard-perfect paradise. Neither of these islands has a permanent resident population, but what they lack in culture they make up for in views and vibes. While away your days snorkelling in the coral reefs, paddle boarding the coves, or simply kicking back in a hammock with a Piña colada from one of the very few beach shacks.


Koh Mook is slightly bigger, dotted with small villages, beaches to die for, and the famous Emerald Cave, a secret lagoon which can only be reached at low tide by swimming 80 meters through a dark cave.


Koh Lipe is Thailand's southernmost island, brushing the border with Malaysia and not technically a Trang Island, but I have included it here as it's easily reached from the other islands. Another slice of paradise and arguably the most beautiful place in all of Thailand.


If like me, you would prefer a little more going on, I highly recommend basing yourself on Koh Lanta and then jetting off for a few days to the smaller islands. This means you can leave your luggage on Lanta and just take a smaller bag with you, especially considering smaller islets like Koh Kradan do not have jetties, and you will have to wade in the last few meters from your longtail boat, carrying your belongings above your head.


For more details on which area to base yourself in on Koh Lanta, check out my article: Where to Stay on Koh Lanta & Lanta's Best Beaches.


The Trang islands are all well connected by longtail or speedboat, which normally run in the morning and early afternoons, up to 3x per day. You can see the schedules and book online through 12goAsia - or any small travel agent when in Thailand.


You can normally make these arrangements the day before, there is no need to book well in advance. Be aware that most connections only run in the high season from late October to April.



A long boat to Koh Ngai
A longboat to Koh Ngai

 


In this travel guide for Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands, you are probably looking for things to do, and the majority of activities can be found on Koh Lanta...



Things to Do in Koh Lanta:


1. Volunteer or take a tour at Lanta Animal Welfare


Lanta Animal Welfare has been helping dogs and cats on the island for more than 20 years. They currently have about 60 dogs and 12 cats yet to be adopted and are always looking for help with dog walking. I spent 6 weeks with them in both 2023 and 2024 and I loved every moment, it did not feel like enough time!


The dogs can be nervous and take a while to trust you, which is why they ask for a minimum commitment of one month. If you don't have this much time to spare, consider joining them for a tour and leaving them a much-appreciated donation. You may even end up going home with a new member of the family, as they are always looking for adopters! Make sure you book your tour beforehand as they can get extremely busy.



I Dream of Mangoes on a red bed sheet at Lanta Animal Welfare
Me & Bill from LAW


2. Learn to cook Thai food


I have been to many a cooking class on my travels through Asia, and my experience at Time For Lime was by far the best. They include free return transfers to and from your hotel, a cocktail-making class, and four Thai dishes to prepare, cook, and then eat. The experience is roughly five hours long with plenty of time to play with the dogs or jump in the pool, and the menu changes daily.


Not only that, but the ingredients are top-notch, the Chef, Noi, is super-informative and charismatic, and all of the profits go to Lanta Animal Welfare. Well worth every cent of the 2000 baht ticket price.



I Dream of Mangoes in green aprons at a Thai cooking school
The cocktail masterclass at Time for Lime


3. Go to a Reggae gig


Reggae and all things Rasta is a recurring theme on Koh Lanta, and there is live music almost every night somewhere on the island. We went to some fantastic gigs during our time here, at Irie, Why Not Bar, and Boogie Bay Bar.


Live music is often posted on the Facebook group for Koh Lanta, which I suggest joining to keep up to date with all the goings on during your stay. Most gigs are free entry but there may be a small cover charge if the band is well known. You can expect this to be 100-300 baht.



4. Lanta Open Air Cinema

* Lanta Open Air Cinema have announced they are not opening for the 23/24 season. This section will be updated when they make their announcement for the 24/25 season.


Operating in the high season from December to April, you only need to pay 100 baht for a season ticket and you can go to the flicks as many times as you like!


They have two showings each evening apart from Sundays, with comfy loungers, a cute bar serving beer and food, and a set up for the occasional live music gig. The space is impressive and the showings change daily. You can find their weekly fixtures on their Facebook page here.



5. Scuba Diving


There are heaps of dive shops in Koh Lanta, but being a nervous diver I tend to only book with PADI 5* Dive Centres. I chose to go with Dive and Relax, as they emphasised small groups and had great reviews. We went to a dive site at Koh Haa so that Joe could enjoy a guided snorkel while I was diving, and it was a truly memorable experience.


Dive and Relax were super warm and professional, and we saw turtles, lionfish, cuttlefish, beautiful soft coral, and a sea snake! A fabulous experience. One day of diving including equipment and lunch was 3500 baht.



6. Following Giants


Following Giants is one of the few no-touch elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, and they are certainly leading by example. t is so great to see the ex-working elephants living their best lives in the forest and doing whatever they damn well please - under the guidance of their ever-watchful mahouts, who make sure they have enough to eat and do not wander into private property.


We did the 2-hour program for 1500THB which included a hotel pick-up, a short introduction and then a walk through the forest to observe the elephants from a safe distance.



An elephant at Following Giants
An elephant thriving at Following Giants


7. Hit the Beach! (Sunbathe, frolic, volleyball, swim, kayak, & SUP)


While Lanta may not have the powder-white sand of other Thai islands, there isn't really much you can complain about. The west side of the island has nine beautiful stretches of sand to choose from, most of them great for swimming too. (Some are a little rocky). Our favourites were Beautiful Beach, Long Beach, Nui Bay and Klong Nin Beach.


A mesmerising sunset each evening is guaranteed, and there are plenty of places to rent SUPs and kayaks so you can watch the colours from the water. Expect to pay about 200 baht per hour to rent a paddleboard or kayak and volleyball nets can be found on Long Beach.


For long-term travelling, I do not go anywhere without this sunblock. It is a little pricey, but it lasts forever, and as it is made of zinc it is the only sun protection that doesn't make me sweat! It is in solid form, so ideal for hand-luggage only backpackers – I love it!



I Dream of Mangoes paddle boarding at Klong Nin Beach under a purple sky
Paddle boarding at Klong Nin Beach


8. Bars & Restaurants


There is a huge range of dining and drinking options on Koh Lanta. Some of my favourite bars are: Why Not Bar (Kantiang Bay), Pangea (Long Beach), Sanctuary (Long Beach), Korner Bar (Relax Bay), and Boogie Bay Bar (Klong Dao).


If you're wondering where to eat on the island, check out my article: The Best Restaurants in Koh Lanta.



Sunset Klong Dao
My sister and I enjoying sunset from a beach bar on Klong Dao


9. Yoga


If you would like to stretch it out and drop into a Vinyasa class, head to Oasis Yoga on Klong Dao. They offer four classes a day in the high season and a variety of styles. One class is 500 baht, or multi-class passes are available.



I Dream of Mangoes doing yoga at Beautiful Beach
Baddha Ardha Chandrasana at Beautiful Beach


10. 4-Island Tour or Stop-over on the Trang Islands


Most travel agents offer a version of the very popular 4-island tour - which is a package excursion including two-way hotel transfers, a longtail boat stopping at four Trang islands, snorkelling and gear, a guided swim into the emerald cave of Koh Mook, and a Thai buffet lunch on the beach of Koh Ngai.


The price for this is between 750 and 1400 baht depending on your bartering skills. It's excellent value and a great way to see some of the Trang islands if you have little time to spare. It can feel a little sheep-herdy, especially when you have to 'swim-queue' with a hundred people or so to see the no-longer-secret emerald lagoon.


I felt mesmerised by Koh Ngai when we stopped for lunch, it truly is breathtaking. I was inspired to arrange another trip to the Trang islands to stay overnight, and in the end, chose Koh Kradan. I did not regret it! Speedboats cost 900 baht per person each way and accommodation in the Trang Islands can be found on booking.com.



I Dream of Mangoes at the emerald lagoon at Koh Muk
The emerald lagoon at Koh Muk

 


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How to get to Koh Lanta


From Bangkok:


FLY - 4 Hours


From Bangkok you can fly to Trang or Krabi, check flight schedules on Skyscanner. The flight time is roughly 1h30m and costs £30 not including checked baggage.


TRAIN - 17.5 Hours


We opted for a train from Bangkok to Trang, which cost £16 for a second-class sleeper. We booked this through 12goAsia, but tickets can also be purchased at the railway station. Second-class was very comfy, with AC, clean toilets, fresh linen, and a curtain for each bed for privacy. The lower berth is MUCH more spacious than the top so I recommend going for that if you have a choice! The train takes about 15 hours overnight.


BUS - 16 Hours


You can also book your bus to Trang with 12goAsia, it's an overnight journey for roughly 13 hours and £20 a ticket. Generally, buses aren't as safe, and there are many road accidents. I would choose the train every time.


From Trang, you can take a mini-van, which takes about 2h30mins and includes hotel pick-up, car ferry and drop-off. So basically door to door. We booked this through our Trang hotel and the ticket was 350 baht - so about £7.



From Phuket:


FERRY - 6 Hours


You can book this on 12goAsia. A taxi will collect you from Phuket airport and make the 1h45m journey to Rassada pier on Phuket island, where you will then take a car ferry, probably stopping at Koh Phi Phi first, to Koh Lanta. The fare is roughly 900 baht(£23).



SPEEDBOAT - 3.75 Hours


Same deal as above, just a little faster and a little more expensive at 1500 baht.


BUS - 4.5 Hours


The minibus will board a ferry at some point as there is no land connection to Koh Lanta. A more direct and less fussy option, but less scenic. A budget-friendly 500 baht.


 


Getting Around Koh Lanta


On Koh Lanta, the best way to get around is by hiring a scooter. This will cost about 180 baht per day depending on the season, and fuel is cheap. The roads are ridden with potholes so I strongly urge you to wear a helmet (most people don't) and take it slow. The alternative is to use moto-taxis, which are more than a little pricey!


All of the Trang islands and islets are connected by longtail, speedboat, or high-speed ferry, which only run from late October to May. These can be booked online at 12goAsia or in person at one of the many travel agents on Koh Lanta, where you will most likely get a better deal. Transfers between islands start at 700 baht per person each way.



A boy on a pink moped in Thailand
Our pink ped


 


When to Go to Koh Lanta


April & May: Very, very hot!

June - October: Monsoon, most businesses closed

November: Shoulder with mixed rainy & sunny days

December - March: High Season


If you don't mind risking a few storms, I would suggest visiting Koh Lanta in early December - this is because prices practically double from Christmas week onwards. No exaggeration! This is for menu items, bike rental, accommodation, everything!


 



Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands are great for anyone who wants to slow down the pace and be near the ocean. Lanta especially has a real community feel, you know you are surrounded by good people and zero stress, and because of the wonderful work of LAW, all of the animals are happy too. I am so so glad I came here!



The beautiful turquoise waters of Koh Lanta
The beautiful turquoise waters of Koh Lanta


Thank you for reading my travel guide to Koh Lanta and the Trang islands.


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If you're thinking of visiting Koh Lanta and the Trang Islands as part of a wider trip, check out my post on how to plan a trip around the world.


Happy Travels

xxx



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Disclosure:
I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. That being said, I only link to products I use and love.

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