Koh Lanta: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Latest update: November 14, 2022
We were in Koh Lanta for three weeks and explored the island. This is our ultimate travel guide with everything you need to know for your trip!
Koh Lanta is a small, very laid-back island off the west coast of Thailand.
In this post, we tell you everything you need to know for your trip to Koh Lanta. And when we say everything, we mean everything.
We spent three whole weeks there and had a great time!
Where is Koh Lanta?
The Koh Lanta archipelago is located off the west coast of Thailand by the Andaman Coast and belongs to Krabi Province.
Koh Lanta is about 800 km from Bangkok and is located about 200 km north of the Malaysian border.
The Koh Lanta archipelago is made up of over 50 small islands. However, only three are inhabited and only one of them has a significant tourist infrastructure.
The main island of Koh Lanta actually consists of two separate islands: Koh Lanta Noi, the smaller part in the north, and Ko Lanta Yai, the larger southern part of the island, which caters to tourists.
Koh Lanta is 27 km in length and only 10 km in width at its narrowest point. There are even mountains in the south with an elevation of 500 m.
Koh Lanta actually still has 20 km² of virgin rainforest because a large part – 80% of the island – was declared a national park in 1990. The national park in the south of the island is a great destination for excursions.
The best time to travel to Koh Lanta
The peak travel season on Koh Lanta begins in November and ends in April/May. The rainy season lasts from June to September, and the weather can be highly volatile during this time.
If a few days of overcast and the odd cloudburst don’t phase you and bathing in the sea doesn’t really tickle your fancy anyway, then you should be fine visiting the island during the rainy season. September is the best time to do so because the weather gets better and better towards the end of the rainy season.
The main advantage of the rainy season is that the island is still fairly deserted, you’ll hardly encounter any other tourists, and many accommodations only charge half the normal room rate or even less.
The downside is that the weather is really unpredictable. There may be a few brief and heavy rain showers, or it could stay cloudy and rainy for a whole week. Some might also consider the fact that the tourist season hasn’t started yet more of a bug than a feature. Many hotels are still closed, the beaches aren’t maintained, and you’ll likely have most restaurants to yourself.
We were on the island from September 20 to October 14. The weather in September was a bit patchy – it was cloudy a lot of the time and there were a few torrential rain showers.
It brightened up in October and you could see the island slowly coming to life as more and more restaurants and hotels opened for the season.
Who is Koh Lanta perfect for as a destination?
Koh Lanta is very popular with families and couples. There are many shallow beaches, which are ideal for children. But you’ll also find quite a few backpackers there who appreciate islands with a more laid-back vibe.
Koh Lanta definitely isn’t a party island and the tourist infrastructure is nowhere near as developed as on Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi. McDonald’s hasn’t set foot on the island so far, which is a very good gauge of whether an island has turned into a full-blown tourist trap yet.
Most of the beaches are very long, so even during peak season you never have to worry that you’ll be lined up side by side like herrings at the beach. Everything is spread out beautifully, and there are a few deserted stretches of natural beach between the individual resorts and beach bars.
It’s really true: Koh Lanta is a paradise for families and the beaches on Koh Lanta are simply a dream – and not just for children, but for everyone.
If your ideal vacation is less about partying and shopping, and more about languishing on the beach and recharging your batteries, then Koh Lanta is just the place you’ve been looking for.
The island offers a great mix of relaxation, beach, and outings.
And don’t worry if you can’t completely suppress your inner party animal – the nightlife scene on Koh Lanta is small, but a lot of fun.
Koh Lanta is also a prime location for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are some great diving spots for beginners, and some challenging ones for more advanced divers.
Koh Lanta is also a popular destination for digital nomads working from the island. Koh Lanta caters to them with its very own coworking space, KoHub at Long Beach. So if you’re looking for a great place to work in the winter, you can easily spend a month or longer on the island.
How to get to Koh Lanta
There are several ways to get to Koh Lanta. The closest airport is Krabi. Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from Europe to Krabi. But that’s not really a problem because you can easily combine a visit to the island with a stopover, e.g. in Bangkok.
From Bangkok to Krabi
By plane: Domestic flights in Thailand are usually very cheap, for example with Air Asia or Bangkok Airways. Flights to Krabi start at around 20 euros. The flight takes just under an hour. You can find the best flight prices from Bangkok to Krabi at Skyscanner.
By bus: You can also go by bus. Bus tickets also start at 20 euros. Buses leave from Bangkok every evening. It takes about 12 hours to get to Krabi, so you’ll arrive there the next morning, more or less rested.
From Krabi to Koh Lanta
The island is connected to the mainland by a car ferry. There are also regular ferry boats from Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, and Phuket. They don’t operate during the low season from May to the end of October, so the car ferry is the only option then.
By ferry boat
During the peak season from November to April, there are daily ferries going from Krabi to Koh Lanta. Just take a taxi from the airport to the New Pier in Krabi for around 700 baht and then take the ferry from there.
Krabi – Koh Lanta
Departure: 11:30 am & 1:00 pm
Travel time: 1.5 hours
Price: about 250 baht per person
Please note: Ferry times tend to change a few times during the season. So make sure to double-check before your trip. The same goes for the prices. If you want to continue on to Koh Lanta the same day, you’ll have to take the earlier ferry from Krabi.
By minibus via 2 car ferries
You can also take the minibus, which runs all year round and goes to Koh Lanta by way of two car ferries.
Once you arrive in Krabi, you can arrange transport by minibus at one of the many travel agencies and at almost every accommodation.
Minibuses depart every hour and cost 400 baht (about 10 euros) per person.
If possible, you should provide the name of your accommodation when you book the trip to let the driver know where to drop you off. Otherwise he’ll just let you out at Saladin Pier and you’ll have to make your own way from there.
It’s about a 1-hour drive to the first car ferry. It’ll take you to the northern part of the island, Koh Lanta Noi. Once you get there, it’s only a short drive to the second ferry station.
The second car ferry will take you to your final destination on Koh Lanta Yai. The whole trip takes 2.5 hours, start to finish.
From Phuket to Koh Lanta
By ferry boat
There are daily ferries during the peak season from November to April.
Phuket (Rassada Pier) via Koh Phi-Phi to Koh Lanta
1st departure: 8 am
Travel time: 2 hours to Phi-Phi, 5.5 hours layover in Phi-Phi, 1 hour from Phi-Phi to Koh Lanta, arrives at about 4:30 pm
2nd departure: 1 pm
Travel time: 2 hours to Phi-Phi, 1 night on Koh Phi-Phi, onward journey to Koh Lanta the next morning at 11:30 am (1 hour drive).
Price: about 850 baht per person
Please note: Ferry times tend to change a few times during the season. So make sure to double-check before your trip. The same goes for the prices.
You can also book a minibus to Koh Lanta at every travel agency in Phuket, or ask your accommodation to arrange transportation for you.
Travel time: 5 hours
Price: about 500 baht per person
How long should you stay in Koh Lanta?
The question is difficult to answer, because it obviously greatly depends on what you’re looking for.
If you want, you can easily see the whole island in a day by scooter. But if you want to go on outings, e.g. to the waterfall or to the caves, or you want to spend some time at a nice beach, then you should schedule a week or more to properly get to know the island.
If you’re looking for peace, relaxation, and laid-back beach life, Koh Lanta is the right place for you too, and you can spend 10 or so days kicking back with a good book at the pool or one of the many beautiful beaches.
What should you pack?
It definitely never gets cold on Koh Lanta. But you should still bring a long pair of pants and a long-sleeve to keep pesky mosquitoes at bay, especially once it gets dark. But you don’t need them to keep warm.
Actually you don’t really need much else. But you’re welcome to take a look at what we had in our hand luggage backpacks: Our packing list for 6 months in Southeast Asia.
Since the island is mainly inhabited by Muslims, you should try to avoid wearing revealing clothing when you aren’t at the beach, simply out of respect. Thin T-shirts that cover your shoulders, a pair of thin linen pants, and two pairs of shorts should do just fine.
There’s a convenient laundry service on pretty much every corner and at many accommodations (1 kg = 40 baht = 1,10 euro). So you can lighten your load and have your laundry done locally instead of bringing a suitcase full of clothes from home.
We really learned to appreciate our Pacsafe that we always use to secure our valuables wherever we go.
If you go to Koh Lanta during the rainy season, we recommend bringing a water-proof bag as a daypack. There can be a sudden cloudburst at any time, and you’ll be drenched in seconds if you aren’t prepared. You can also buy a simple rain poncho anywhere on the island for a couple of cents.
If you have room in your backpack, you should pack enough sunscreen – make sure to use a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Sunscreen is pretty expensive on the island. You can easily end up paying 10 euros for a tube.
Other than that, local minimarts or one of the 7/11 supermarkets should have everything you need. There’s also a very well-stocked pharmacy in Long Beach.
Getting around on Koh Lanta
If you feel confident enough to ride a scooter, then hiring one is a great way to explore the island. Most accommodations have their own scooter rentals or can arrange one for you.
We’d recommend spending a couple of euros more rather than just hiring the first scooter you lay eyes on. You can get a scooter for about 5-7 euros, or 200-280 baht per day. If you’ll be stay for longer, you can most likely negotiate a discount.
Riding a scooter on the island is very pleasant even if you aren’t used to driving on the left-hand side. There isn’t much traffic on the roads and you can’t really get lost either.
Basically, there are only two roads: one leading around the island and another cutting through it. You can get gas about every 20 meters, either from a gas pump or from glass bottles for 40 baht per liter.
Another option is to explore the island by tuk-tuk. However, the prices aren’t quite as cheap as in Bangkok, but they won’t break the bank either. Just wave down a tuk-tuk driver, tell him where you want to go, and negotiate the price per person.
That usually works well, unless it’s late in the evening when prices are a bit higher and often non-negotiable. To give you an idea how much you should expect to pay, just ask at your accommodation before you head out.
If you switch plan to switch accommodations on the island, most hotels also offer a free pick-up service.
How much money do you need on Koh Lanta?
Koh Lanta isn’t a budget island, but not prohibitively expensive either. Room rates fluctuate greatly depending on the season and can be pretty high during peak season.
Some prices as a guideline:
Tuk-tuk: 2 km – approx. 50 – 80 baht per person.
Washing & drying laundry: 40 baht per kilo.
Food: A seafood curry with rice costs around 200-250 baht at the beaches or around 150 at restaurants by the main road.
Accommodations: simple: 10-20 euros, mid-range: 30-40 euros, upscale: starting at 50 euros
Withdrawing money on the island
There are ATMs all over Koh Lanta where you can withdraw baht (40 THB = about 1,10 euro).
Our tip: You can save a lot of money with the right credit card, both abroad and at home. Make sure your bank doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
Beaches on Koh Lanta
Most of the beaches are located on the west coast of Koh Lanta. The east is a bit rougher, has hardly any sandy beaches, and isn’t suitable for bathing.
The most famous and largest beach on Koh Lanta is Long Beach on the west coast of the island. That also happens to be our favorite beach on Koh Lanta. This map shows the most important beaches on the west coast of the island.
We’ve written more about the beaches on Koh Lanta in a separate post.
Where to stay on Koh Lanta
You’ll really find every type of accommodation on the island. From simple cabins without air conditioning on the beach to luxury resorts. Room rates on Koh Lanta during peak season are a little above average for Thailand, but are still very cheap by western standards.
You should also make sure to book your accommodation for the peak season well in advance, as many places are fully booked during those months.
If you want to stay right on the beach, it’ll cost you 10 to 20 euros extra per night. We recommend choosing a beach first and then finding a suitable accommodation nearby.
Make sure your accommodation isn’t located directly on the island’s main road leading down the coast. It’s generally pretty loud there at all times of the day.
There are three different location types for accommodations: Directly by the beach (meaning you pay extra for the location), between the sea and the main road (about 200 meters), and behind the main road (where you pay a little less).
If you’re looking for a good mix of relaxation and beach life, then we can highly recommend staying in Long Beach. We were very happy there during our three weeks on the island and after having seen all the other beaches, we’re convinced we made the right choice. We definitely liked Long Beach most of all.
The accommodation belongs to the category ‘behind the main road’. If you don’t mind walking a few minutes to get to the beach, then we highly recommend Escape Cabins (Book early! Fills up fast!).
We spent our last two nights on Koh Lanta at the Crown Lanta Spa & Beach Resort. The hotel has its own little bay with a private beach and access to Kawkwang Beach.
You don’t have to worry about any of these beaches being overrun – even during peak season. The general rule of thumb is: The further south you go, the ‘quieter’ it gets. But that also means the infrastructure thins out too. There are no restaurants along the road in the south of the island, just restaurants in hotels. But they usually offer super-delicious food at fair prices.
Internet & mobile communications on Koh Lanta
Internet connections on Koh Lanta vary greatly in quality and are never very fast. Especially in the evening and at the weekend, the Internet can get pretty sluggish. But it’s usually good enough to read emails, write blog posts, and check Facebook.
If you need a really fast and reliable service, you have to go to KoHub. That’s where we did most of our work while we were on Koh Lanta. A day pass costs 400 baht and a one-week pass costs 2000 baht. KoHub is open 24/7. The price includes coffee, water, and tea. Plus delicious food at reasonable prices.
Using your cellphone
Your best bet is to buy a Thai SIM card when you get to Thailand. That way, you’re independent and can access the web from anywhere. Just go to a local store and ask for the best rate for you. Tell the sales clerk what you want: Internet, phone minutes, or both, and how long you intend to stay.
It’s easier to get a SIM card in Bangkok, but you can also pick one up on Koh Lanta. There’s a telephone store in Saladan where you can get cards for all networks. Remember to take your passport because you’ll need it to buy one.
The rates are very cheap so you can’t really go wrong whichever network you choose. If you ask nicely, the salesperson will set everything up for you too. We used a SIM card by AIS.
There’s practically no 4G (LTE) on Koh Lanta no matter what some of the ads say. 3G was rare enough too, but the mobile network was still faster than most WiFi spots on the island.
Even more Koh Lanta tips?
Have we forgotten anything? Or is there something you’d like to ask us? Then leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to answer your questions. If not, we hope you have a lot of fun on Koh Lanta and give the island our regards.