From one party mecca to another, you’re planning your trip from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi, that island paradise that launched a thousand dreams of Thailand, especially for fans of Alex Garland’s epic tale, The Beach. But, what’s the best way to get there and which ferry should you take? We’ve taken nearly all of the providers on the Phuket to Phi Phi route, so have put together this comprehensive transport guide including the pros and cons of different operators, plus all the travel tips you’ll need for your journey.
Getting from Phuket to Phi Phi
The distance between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi is 46 kilometres or 28 miles, usually done via ferry or speedboat, with ferry being the safest and most popular method. There are numerous Phuket to Phi Phi ferry departures, leaving both in the mornings and afternoons. The journey takes around 1 hour if using a speed boat to around 2 hours taking the slower large ferry.
We have used the majority of the ferry operators while island hopping in the Andaman Sea, with the below outlining our experiences with those providers. However, if you’d like to ask us more questions about our experiences, drop us a note in the comments below or get in touch with us here.
Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Ferry Operators
Andaman Wave Master
The company that we used to for this exact service offers one of the slower routes between Phi Phi and Phuket, however with some of the newer and larger ferries available, it would definitely be our best recommendation for the journey, especially if you aren’t that keen on taking boats. The larger ferry provides more stability and is a much more comfortable trip that the speed boat options.
On board you’ll find refreshments and bathroom facilities, there is air-conditioning inside and a great sun deck to watch the beautiful surroundings on your trip.
Andaman Wave provide the journey (and from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket) three times a day. There are different seating options, with standard and First Class compartments. And the journey with them takes 2 hours.
Check out here for the latest options, or use the below widget to book directly! You can add free cancellation into your ticket booking, and with a cheaper return option available, it’s almost like having an open ticket!
Satun Pakbara Speed Boat Club
The most expensive speed boat option between Rassada Pier Phuket and Ao Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi (actually the most expensive of all), Satun Pakbara has two daily trips from Phuket to Phi Phi, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Overall the Satun team are a great option, however if you’re not that great with boats, the speedboat can be a very bumpy and uncomfortable trip.
The journey takes around an hour travel time on the speed boats, so half the time to the slower larger ferries, but in our opinion, we’d definitely prefer to sit up deck on the larger boats and enjoy the views rather than being bounced around in the speedboat.
Although expensive, included in the price is a hotel pick up on Phuket to the ferry terminal, so that does help with the higher cost.
Bundhaya Speed Boat
Actually our preferred speed boat provider, Bundhaya, offers a very similar service to Satun Pakbara but at a lower cost (2/3rds of the price). They only operate one morning trip, but it also includes a hotel transfer.
What we’ve noticed on taking Bundhaya however is that you’re more likely to see locals using this option, fewer westerners and the boats for whatever reason seem to be less crowded. We’ve found that locals using a service is usually a pretty good sign – and unsure as to why it’s not as popular with tourists and travellers. Probably down to better marketing to tourists by Satun…
As with all speed boat operators, there are no refreshments available on board, so better to stock up beforehand. And although there is a toilet on board, we haven’t used it before and not sure how much fun it would be to try out when bouncing over the waves. Best to go before you board.
Phi Phi Cruiser
Another of the slower ferry providers, Phi Phi Cruiser is a slightly older, less frills option to Andaman Wave. And unsurprisingly is a touch cheaper than them too.
However, if you’re happy to sit up on the sun deck for the duration of the two hour journey from Rassada Pier to Ton Sai Pier then it’s also another very good option to consider. They have two trips from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi daily, morning and afternoon.
Other providers – some we haven’t used, some we wouldn’t recommend
Tigerline Travel: we have used Tigerline, but wouldn’t really recommend them again. We didn’t have the best experience with them, they are expensive and get terrible reviews. Read more about them here on TripAdvisor.
Chureang Travel and Tour, Ao Nang Travel and Tour & Sea Angel Cruise: All offering similar slow ferry options from Phuket to Phi Phi.
Sea See Blue Marine: Another speed boat service, although around the same price as Bundhaya and don’t offer hotel pick up. The journey is also slower, so another one we wouldn’t recommend.
Phuket to Phi Phi Ferry Schedule 2020
|Operator||Phuket to Koh Phi Phi||Phi Phi to Phuket|
|Andaman Wave||Departs: 08.30|
|Bundhaya Speed Boat||Departs: 08.30|
|Satun Pakbara Speed Boat||Departs: 08.30|
|Phi Phi Cruiser||Departs: 08.30|
|Tigerline Travel||Departs: 08.30|
Location of the Phuket Ferry Terminal
Location of the Koh Phi Phi Ferry Pier
What to expect on the Phuket to Phi Phi Ferry
Just as in our Phuket to Koh Lanta ferry review, we have outlined what to expect when taking our best recommendation for the route – Andaman Wave. And this is very similar to other slow boat providers. However, if you’d like any more details on the experience on the speedboats, let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you with what to expect!
Check in & boarding at Rassada Pier
In all likelihood, you’ll be arriving into Rassada Pier by taxi (either by Grab or through your hotels transfer service), and they’ll drop you right off in front of the main terminal building. If you’ve taken an option with hotel transfers in Phuket, then the process is even easier – as you will be directed throughout the ticket check in and boarding process.
Once you arrive at the Rassada Pier terminal, head into the main lobby and seek out your company signage. In this case, Andaman Wave is very easy to spot – so head to the check in counter with you online reservation. The staff will cross reference your booking ID and provide you with a sticker for your clothing. You don’t actually get a physical ticket.
You’re then directed towards the right ferry to board. Across a short walkway and you’re on board, where helpful staff will take your big luggage (suitcases and backpacks), which they store at the back of the vessel for the journey. Don’t worry about your luggage getting wet, they cover all the bags with a huge tarpaulin. You’re then free to go and find the best seats for the duration of the voyage.
Note: Our advice is to get to the ferry terminal around 45 minutes to an hour before your ferry… it’ll allow you to get snacks if you need to, and the earlier you are there, the more likely you’ll get your pick of seats on the boat!
So, you’ll soon be on your way and depending on the weather and sea conditions, it can be from super flat to a little choppy. However, as long as it’s not raining, we think that the top deck is the best place to base yourself for the trip – a chance to top up your tan and watch the sea roll by. It can get busy on the sun deck, but there are also great spots on the sides and front of the boat outside that are often overlooked by travellers.
The 2 hour journey will go by relatively quickly, so you probably won’t need snacks or the toilet, but there are these facilities on board, just in case.
Inside the boat there is air-conditioning so if it’s too hot outside, then plenty of comfy seating within. There is also a Premium or First Class service which has even more cosy sofa style seats, and although we’re not 100% sure it’s worth the additional fee, it does come with free water, tea and coffee, alongside guaranteed lots of space to stretch out. So maybe something to consider if travelling in high season!
Arrival into the pier at Koh Phi Phi
The journey will be over in no time, and as you arrive into the Ao Tonsai Pier, you’ll realise that you’ve made a great choice to come to the stunning Phi Phi islands – they really are breath-taking.
The boat may make a stop a couple of hundred metres away from shore, where it connects to other vessels and people heading to Koh Lanta or Krabi change boats. But the staff will announce what’s going on, so at this point just hold tight until you reach the pier.
You’ll collect your bags from the back of the boat as you leave (sometimes, some of the boats have been moved onto the pier too), it’s a bit of a hectic process, but the norm for those who’ve taken ferries in Thailand before.
The last thing to be aware of is that there is a small entrance fee of 20 THB per person (0.65 USD/0.50 GBP) to enter the islands.
Can you fly from Phuket to Phi Phi?
Unfortunately not, there is no airport on Phi Phi (it’s a very small island), so the only way is to take the ferry.
Phuket has a great international airport, well connected around Southeast Asia and further afield. So if you are wanting to get to Koh Phi Phi, this is the best airport to fly into. Looking for flights to Phuket airport? Then check out the latest deals on Skyscanner here.
However, you may also be looking to fly out of a different location, if so, you can take the ferry from Phi Phi to the Klong Jilad Pier near Krabi and head to Krabi Airport for your onwards journey.
Are there other alternatives to the Phuket to Phi Phi Ferry?
This is definitely the fastest route into Koh Phi Phi, but you can also take the ferry from Koh Lanta directly to Phi Phi or also from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi.
Getting around Phuket
Grab: Our favourite app in Southeast Asia (think Uber), although taxis are a little more expensive than we expected in Phuket. However, this is still our favourite way to get around town.
Song Thaew: If you’re in any of the main areas on Phuket, you’ll meet a friendly taxi driver vying for your business. The song thaew is essentially an converted pick-up truck that holds up to 10 people seated in the back. You can’t miss the ones in Phuket, they’re bright (with flashy neon lights) and often come with blaring music. But they’re also pretty pricey and you’ll often find them outside tourist attractions, alongside a board of prices – don’t forget to negotiate!
Moped: If you’re happy driving a scooter, then this is likely the cheapest and best way to get around town during the day. For around 250 THB a day (7.80 USD/6.50 GBP), it’s often cheaper than a short taxi ride. However, make sure you have insurance and wear a helmet!
Getting around Koh Phi Phi
Walk: Pretty much most of the accommodation on Phi Phi Don is located is in walking distance of the main pier, so you’re most likely to walk everywhere on the island!
Longtail Taxi Boat: Although if you’re wanting to head to Long beach, or any of the beaches on the north of the island (Loh Ba Koa Bay and Loh Lana Bay), you can get one of the longtail boats that are on the main beach next to the pier.
Taxi: Some of the island hotels are a little more difficult to get to, especially those up near the viewpoints, and there are a few taxis that we saw while walking if you’re based on the hillside.
Why go to Phuket?
- It’s the jumping off point for some of the most beautiful islands, including Koh Phi Phi (hence this guide!), Koh Lanta and even smaller Phi Phi. If you’re set on exploring these islands, Phuket is a good base or starting point.
- Phuket is also a great base for avid scuba divers and snorkellers, as you can explore the colourful reefs of the surrounding islands.
- Keen on partying the night away? Phuket is a great place to start. Heaps of bars, pubs and clubs to frequent.
What are the best things to do on Phuket?
Obviously you could just spend time lazing by the pool (or the sea), and we highly recommend you do! But if you want a few other things to do on this surprisingly large island, here are a few good picks:
Walk up the Big Buddha
He towers over a lot of the island – a 45 metre tall Big Buddha which sits at the top of the Nakkerd Hills. The Big Buddha (also known as the Phra Puttamingmonkol Akenakkiri Buddha) is a white concrete and marble landmark built in 2004, sitting alongside a smaller buddha made out of brass.
It’s only a handful of stairs to the top so worth the climb and you’ll also be rewarded with epic views of Phuket’s Old Town, Karon Beach and the Kata area.
Visit a night market
If you’re into Thai food and crafts then you should definitely swing by one of the many, many night markets in Phuket. There is one in nearly every major area, although our favourite was the Sunday Market that ran in the Phuket Old Town, which felt the most authentic and definitely had the best food and drink on offer. More than food, you can buy the requisite souvenir, clothing or gifts for those back home.
Chill out on the beach
Phuket has a LOT of fantastic beaches, all waiting to be explored. Actually the island has more than 30 of them, all offering you something slightly different. If you want a busy beach, hit up Patong, if you want a popular beach with instagrammable longtail boats but still some seclusion try Kata or Karon, or go fully off the beaten track to check out sandy shores like Freedom Beach or Nai Harn.
Drink beer on Bangla Road
It’s madness. It’s manic. It’s Bangla Road and a must-visit even if you’re not that keen on partying in Phuket. Like it’s Bangkok brother, Khao San Road, Bangla Road is a pedestrianized strip of road where you are almost accosted by hawkers selling you vodka buckets, custom suits and entrance to a never-ending slew of ‘exotic’ shows. We actually loved this street for the sheer mayhem of it, and since we spent a few hours playing board games with a bartender at one of the many pubs lining the road. It’s also a good place to go if you want to watch an international sporting match, since bars like Aussie Bar offer football, rugby, cricket and the like on their many big screens.
Go scuba diving (or snorkelling)
First up a caveat – Phuket is not a diver’s mecca. However, it’s the place you should base yourself if you want to explore some of the incredible reefs of the Andaman Sea and, if you’re really looking for amazing corals and marine life, can catch a liveaboard vessel to places like the Similan Islands. There is a plethora of dive shops on Phuket taking you to places like Hin Daeng, Hin Maung or Racha Noi to swim with manta rays, check out the King Cruiser wreck, dive alongside a soaring ‘wall’ or snap underwater photos of bright purple corals.
If you’re not a qualified scuba diver you can still book a number of snorkelling tours from Phuket.
Add a trip to Khao Sok National Park
While this isn’t really a day trip, we wanted to flag that you should try to add a day or so in Khao Sok National Park, if you’re already keen on Phuket. This is an incredible national park full of lush forests, limestone karsts and gorgeous little cabins in the trees. You can hike in the park, chill out at many of the reggae bars or take a boat tour to see the floating villages and many caves of the Khao Sok National Park.
Where to stay in Phuket
Luxury: It’s possibly the best hotel we’ve ever stayed so, if you can afford to do so, please book a few nights at Como Point Yamu. Set at the end of the Cape Yamu peninsula with exquisite views across the Andaman Sea, Como offers luxurious suites, incredible breakfasts, some of the most accomplished staff, a world-class spa and so much more.
4* Star: If you’re keen on luxury but still want to be near the bustle of Phuket, we’d highly recommend Centara Villas. This upmarket resort is nestled between Karon Beach and Patong but feels absolutely secluded while offering easy access to these areas. The property boasts two pools, beach access and you can even use the facilities of its sister hotel, Centara Grand, next door which includes water slides, an even larger pool and a fabulous gym.
Backpacker: Best of the bunch is Lub D Patong. This modern, social hostel is right near Patong and gives you so many highlights – a great swimming pool, amazing bar, comfy beds and even a boxing area for muay thai fights and training!
Why go to Koh Phi Phi?
- It’s one of the most famous places in Thailand, mainly because of Maya Bay and Alex Garland’s film and book, The Beach. For those bragging rights alone, its worth seeing the Phi Phi Islands, especially if you’re already planning to be in Phuket
- If you get away from the main Ton Sai beach, Phi Phi has a number of beautiful sandy beaches to explore
- While accommodation can be expensive, hiring a longtail boat and exploring the islands is relatively affordable and something you’ll never forget
What are the best things to do on the Phi Phi islands?
Hike the viewpoint
This is definitely the first must-do on the island, as you can get a birds eye view of Koh Phi Phi and surrounds without too much effort. Starting just outside of the town centre, this 20 minute hike is up some pretty steep stairs but you’re quickly at the first viewpoint and able to see Phi Phi Don laid out before you. There are actually two further viewpoints with Viewpoint 2 being just a few minutes from the first and offering the best view, as the raised wooden platforms give you a breathtaking expanse of land and sea. This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do on the island but try to do it early in the morning to avoid the crowds but also the heat.
There are two restaurants at the top of Viewpoint 2, so you can stock up on water or have a coffee and a rest.
Go dancing (and drinking)
Now you’re probably arriving from Phuket, which has its own party culture, but Phi Phi is well-known for its clubs and beach bars. Buy yourself a bucket of vodka and mixer, and just enjoy dancing the night away. There are quite a number of options depending on your personal style, as you can down beers while watching Muay Thai boxing at the Phi Phi Reggae Bar, try the open-air beats at Slinky Bar or ‘be seen’ at the achingly trendy Ibiza Beach Bar.
Take an island tour
Even though the iconic landmark of Maya Bay is closed, it’s still worth getting out on a boat to explore the islands around Koh Phi Phi Don, either by longtail boat or speedboat. We prefer hiring a private longtail boat so you can set off earlier (to beat the crowds) and can adjust your own itinerary but of course you could join an existing tour, usually by speedboat, which takes you around some of the top spots.
Most tours will include a stop to see the crab-eating macaque monkeys of Monkey Beach (Yong Gasem Bay) before heading to arguably the best stop: Pileh Bay (Phi Leh Lagoon). Like a dream, Pileh Bay is all emerald water, towering limestone cliffs and longtail boats bobbing along – you can spend an hour or so swimming or just taking photos of the stunning surrounds. After that its off to see Maya Bay from afar, as your boat usually does a slow loop around the enclosed bay, before stopping at Sama Bay (Loh Samah) for an afternoon swim, a snorkel and some lunch.
You can also change up your itinerary if taking a private longtail boat to explore some more remote islands. Popular choices include Bamboo Island (Koh Phai), where you can chill on the beach and snorkel, or Mosquito Island (pack some mozzie spray!) an entirely uninhabited island.
Go beach hopping
The most popular two beaches are Tonsai Beach and the neighbouring shore, Long Beach, which is accessible via the coastal walkway or a taxi boat. That said, there are other quieter beaches dotted around Koh Phi Phi that you can visit with a bit of sweat on a hiking trail, or via private boat. We continued our Viewpoint hike to head over the hill down to Loh Moo Dee beach, where you can then also continue back around to Long Beach in a massive loop.
Alternatively, further afield is Loh Lana Bay or Loh Dalum Beach.
Go scuba diving
With many people actually travelling from Phuket just for the scuba diving around Phi Phi, there are lots of chances to go scuba diving near the islands. Head over to one of the island’s great dive shops (we personally recommend Island Divers) who can take you to places like Hin Daeng, Hin Maung or Racha Noi to swim with manta rays, check out the King Cruiser wreck, dive alongside a soaring ‘wall’ or snap underwater photos of bright purple corals.
Where to stay on Phi Phi
We’ll be honest – we found this the most difficult part of Koh Phi Phi: finding accommodation. Hotels are pricey for the value and service on the island and even at the high end of mid-range, you might be a little disappointed. That said, here are a few passable options (although do check their latest rating first):
Luxury: The best five star resort is Zeavola Hotel, at the northern tip of the island. This is a more remote resort offering you a secluded stay on the island, including beautiful suites, two high-end restaurants, a great spa and of course lovely swimming pool and central areas.
Mid-range: We stayed at Chao Koh Hotel and Resort which definitely has its flaws. That said, so do many on this island and Chao Koh boasts a fantastic position on the main street but away from the noise, really nice big rooms and a wonderful central swimming pool. The bathroom leaves a bit to be desired and can suffer from bad drainage but this is pretty common on the island and you should just feel empowered to talk to the manager and switch rooms (as we did).
Budget: Hangover Hostel is often rated as the best hostel on the island – its not the cheapest but ha a great location, amazing social atmosphere with great common areas as well as clean, comfy dorm rooms.
What should I pack for Phuket and the Phi Phi islands?
Now we hope you’re visiting Phuket and Koh Phi Phi during the dry season and, if so, most of your luggage will be jammed full of beachwear. If that’s the case, here’s a handy list of what else to pack:
- Sunglasses and sunscreen – make sure your eyes and skin are well-protected
- Warm jacket or jumper – this is mainly for the airconditioned places but also on the ferry they love to crank up the A/C and we often get cold
- Comfy shoes – especially if you do one of the hikes we suggest its worth taking good sneakers or even hiking sandals like Tevas.
- Taking one of the boat trips? Take a dry bag to keep all your gear safe (and dry), like this one from Osprey
- Travel adaptor – Thailand uses the EU socket so take an adaptor with you, like this one
- Portable safe – we never leave home without one, for our peace of mind. Highly recommend is the PacSafe.
What camera equipment and other gear do we use?
We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.
- Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
- GoPro: Hero 7 Black
- GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
- GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
- Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
- Powerbank: Anker Powercore
- Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
- Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
- Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the distance from Phuket to Phi Phi?
The distance from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi is 46 km (approx. 28 miles).
How long is the journey from Phuket to Phi Phi
The journey from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi takes between 1 and 2 hours depending on the ferry operator that you choose. Speed boats take around 1 hour, whereas the larger slower ferries take 2 hours.
What are other Thai islands to consider, other than Koh Phi Phi?
If you’re in Phuket, you can definitely consider hopping over to Koh Lanta, or as far as Koh Lipe in the Andaman Sea. Alternatively, head up to Chumphon Archipelago for options including Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, the last two being great jumping off points for the exquisite Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park.
So we hope we’ve helped you to plan your journey to the Phi Phi islands from Phuket in this comprehensive transport guide. If you need any more details on how to get to Phi Phi island, feel free to comment below or get in touch!
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