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When the ferry pulls into the docks it seems like there is nothing on the island except a road and a few radio towers - no worries, the real areas start over the mountain! It is a 20 minute drive through a few steep switchbacks and you are almost there. The first idea you have that you have arrived is a few glimpses of some beautiful ocean views as the taxi follows a mountain road. Then suddenly the trees give way and the view is awesome, it really is...
The first view is of White Sands from from your taxi as you start to head down into the west side. It is the "postcard" view of the island and one can see why - it looks great! White Sands is a good choice if you have no idea where to book on the island and also your best choice for accommodation, restaurants and nightlife. It is the main beach and has been for quite a while. So if you want the place with the most shops, restaurants, tailors, road side food, tour agencies, scooter rentals, nightlife and tourist services – this is a good place to stay, if this what you are looking for. If you want a quiet, laid back and restful area, then you might want to consider somewhere else. But the fact is that it is popular because of the development here. The resorts range from the expensive to the backpacker huts and everything in between. Restaurants range from upper end to very inexpensive...
You can find all kinds of souvenirs here from T-shits to sandals, There are several banks and ATMs dot the area. Wine sellers and small coffee shops are easy to find. There are also numerous massage shops, diver shops, tour booking scooter rentals and other amenities all over that we will not list as it just takes up too much room. If you need anything a good five minute walk will certainly probably find what you need.
The original plans called for no development on the beach side of the road, but that note was lost soon after the developers started building there. So you know the beach is really good, but you need to remember to just cut through any resort and go for the beach. There are public access paths, but they are hard to find… just go through the resorts!
White Sands Beach proper runs about 2.2 km in total length and between the south cliffs and the north cliffs the beach is excellent with great sand, lots of small restaurants, beach side cafes, small bars etc... and good shade. There is always something going on here at the beach. From large parties at Sabay and KC, to fire shows, beach sellers, small private parties etc... It is the busiest and most developed as we said, and there will be something for everyone. Generally speaking, the farther north you go the better the beach gets.
There are a lot of places to eat in White Sands and most resorts offer at least a restaurant along with rooms, but here we thought we would share some of the better places to grab a bite to eat and relax a bit.
There are a lot of entertainment venues on White Sands and that of course depends on what your idea of night life and entertainment is... If you want the beach life, just walk along the beach, there a lot of great places along the whole length of the area... What we have here are just our favourites, there are lots more lounges and small bars along the shore and the main road, go take a look and have fun!
Mini-Pats: The KC equivalent of Pattaya, located in central White Sands there are about 20 beer bars that change names and owners quite frequently. Some of the ones that have been around for a while are Mankeyto, Golden Bar, Double Lucky and In-Love. Just south is Zap Bar that borders the nightclub-beer bar line.
At the southern end of White Sands are a strip of about 4 beer bars with Rock-Hard being one of the more inventive names.
Pearl Beach is just south of White Sands and although it is called Pearl Beach, there really is not a beach there. The argument going on is that it is named after a baby born there, the shape of the rocks at the shore or perhaps the fact oysters (and maybe pearls) might be found...take your pick.
The resorts are much quieter and generally speaking if you don't want or need quick access to a beach this could be a very good choice to stay at. Actually quite good deals can be had for longer stays and with the addition of a scooter, no worries getting around. There are several good restaurants in the area and enough services to keep one happy.
Several good shops are here and the main post office. If you need something mailed or are looking for a cool stamp collection for someone back home, this is the place. The local Honda dealer can also service your scooter and of course the best used book store on Koh Chang called "Books Thailand" is just beside the Honda dealership, they have a great selection of books in quite a few languages. It is also part of the "White Sands Publications" that do a nice guide for the island in print form.
Not a lot of places to go in Pearl Beach but the ones that are there are very good.
North Chai Chet is the place to head to if you like small beer bars or need some gas. Actually the gas station is quite interesting, they offer both hand pump 1920s style pumps and full modern electric ones. You might wonder why 1920s style hand pumps? Then one day the power goes off and all you can get is hand pumped gas… then it makes perfect sense.
If you want to save a bit of money the best bet is to also get your gas here, or in Klong Prao and stop buying gas in bottles - all the bottles are filled here anyways and then marked up quite a bit..
As far as the beer bars go there are about
34, 30,28,31 in the area. The most impressive site is under the local radio/cell phone tower called the "Koh Chang Entertainment Complex" that used to be the local fish market, years and years ago. If you read Shakespeare then you might get the joke. Otherwise it is a mostly vacant hangar like facility with maybe two small beer bars at the front. But if beer bars are your thing, Chai Chet is the place for you...
The beer bars are open for some from early and until late. To be honest the area is a perfect example of market saturation and we covered that in an article a while back...
Sorry to cover the bars so much but we always go from North to South in the guides. Just south of the bars is where the resorts and services actually start. V Mart is the biggest landmark that you will see with a bank on one side and side-road with two concrete elephants. Some very good restaurants are located down the road so please, take a look!
Just south of that is the newly renovated Coconut Plaza that has a few services with a handful of decent restaurants. A bit farther south you have the police block and then
Some good resorts in the area, a really nice beach with excellent sand in a wonderful bay. Not a bad place to spend a little while on your trip.>/p>
Chai Chet does not have a lot of restaurants but there are some good ones.
Beer bars would seem to the main draw to the area, lots and lots of beer bars, but there are also a few good lounges to take in here.
Getting to Koh Chang from Bangkok is fairly easy.
The easiest way is to simply book a mini-van or tourist bus from your local booking agency or just at the hotel. The trip by bus or mini-van takes about 4 hours, depending on the route your driver takes this time can vary... sometimes that is good and sometimes bad.
Another good idea also is to book the direct bus at the bus station at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. We find this is about the easiest way here. Take the Sky Train into the airport, head to the front doors and look for for the feeder bus that will take you over to the bus terminal. The bus Terminal is located on the grounds of the airport about 5 minutes drive from the main gates. Since you are basically outside of the city it can saves sometimes two hours of travel as you crawl through the traffic.
The times vary but generally there are buses until noon. leave early and avoid a lot of hassles.
Bangkok Airways offers a few flights per week, check their web site out and make arrangements. The flight is an hour long.
Once you leave the main terminal, there will be transport buses and taxis to the main ferry, about a 20 minute drive.
No matter where you start in Cambodia you will wind up at Hat Lak on the Thai side. Just go through customs and you will be greeted by a large circular parking lot surrounded by small shops and lots of vehicles.
Every shop owner will know who is going to Koh Chang and when the mini-van leaves. Might as well find what you can for whatever price and then kick back and wait for the van to be full before it leaves, and sometimes that can be a bit of a wait...
You can also get a lift into Trat and from there a bus to the ferry terminals.
Expect about three hours from the border to Koh Chang.
A lot of guides waste a lot of room on the ferry schedules and it makes for a lot of wasted space. It does look nice though!
There is no Swiss Style precision here at all. The ferries leave about every hour, and the crossing takes about 25-45 minutes. You don't need to consult a chart, just remember - about every hour and you will be fine.
Open from around 7am until 8pm what ever you do don't miss the closing!
The one thing about the bus and minivan drivers is that they will call ahead if they are running late and get the ferry to wait until they get there. This can cause some delays, but it seems to work for everyone.
Ao Sapporat Ferry: These are the larger commercial ferries and they tend to be fast than the Center Point Ferries. There was once a price difference, but that is no longer applicable.
If you have a choice head to the Ao Sapparot Ferries and get to the island a lot faster.
Sometimes you just have a bad day, and that can lead you to getting stuck in Trat. Now don't get us wrong - we like Trat, but it can be hard to find a decent place to stay there...
If you do get stuck, head to the local Kentucky Friend Chicken outlet on the main road, a part of the Trat department store... Everyone knows where it is and you cannot miss it.
Go Across the street and head north, take the first road to the right and the Trat Hotel is back there about 50m, basic but okay for a night.
You can also head south and turn left at the stoplights and go across the road, there are a few guest houses down that way.
Banks & Money: Koh Chang has quite a few ATMs scattered about in almost every location with exchange places in all centres. The real banks all have a branch in White Sands and one in Klong Prao. With the advent of the Internet it is also easy to exchange money almost everywhere.
Groceries: There are three Tesco-Lotus Express branches here with numerous 7-11s in almost every village. For real groceries and supplies check out Sing-Tong in Klong Prao, V-Mart in Chai Chet and Anna Store in White Sands.
Internet: There are high speed ADSL lines on the island with many Internet cafes and places with wireless connections, getting online should not be a problem.
You can also purchase a SIM card/USB device and login through the cell phone network if you want to.
Personal Services: Barber, beauty, nail, hair, fish-spas, massage, facials etc... are all over the island.
Laundry: Just about all resorts will have a drop off and pick up service, there are also numerous laundries along the main street.
Pharmacies: Every village has at least one, if not more. Specialized medicines can also be re-filled at the local hospital in Dan Mai or the Bangkok-Trat in White Sands.
Rip Tides and Jelly Fish: These are the two real concerns here on Koh Chang and although rare, they are deadly.
Rip tides occur mainly in White Sands and Lonely Beach and they can kill you. Read our article about how to spot them and be safe.
Jellyfish are becoming more of a concern as their numbers increase during certain times of the year. If stung get vinegar on the wound as quickly as possible and if the person is in shock get them to the hospital.
Crime: Crime is not overly a concern here on the island and you should not be concerned for your safety at all. Koh Chang is pretty laid back...
The main problems are drunk driving and motorcycle accidents occurring from either drunk driving or reckless motoring.
Be sensible and lock up your valuables in the resort safe or at least in your luggage when you go out. A recurring problem is petty hotel crime, and it is done more by fellow travellers than by the staff.
Like anywhere in the world play it safe and don't be silly with your money or around strangers.
Medical: There are two hospitals on the island. The one on the west side is the Bangkok-Trat branch that deals mainly with tourist accidents. Be sure you have full coverage before you walk through the doors.
The local Koh Chang hospital is over on the east side in Dan Mai, just down from the main police station and if you don't have a lot of cash that is your best bet.
In the case of severe medical emergencies there is a med-evac service to Trat at all times by boat and ambulance.
Transport on the island can be a bit sticky. The local taxis are not direct dial but are shared songtaws that go back and forth up the main road.
We would love to say that they all belong to the "We Love Koh Chang - and You" club, but most are members of the "Get It While You Can" club. It leads to a lot of high prices and you are a captive audience.
Best bet is to rent a scooter from one of the may shops for around 300 Bht a day and be free of hassles and high fares. If you are new to biking then read our article on how to get a decent scooter and how to drive on the island
Packing for Koh Chang does not have to be a hassle at all. Very few places, actually none, insist on black shoes and formal wear. There are also enough clothing shops and such if you do need something you can easily purchase it here.
A few tips though are in order. If you a hefty person... the Thai clothing will never fit you. But there are many, many happy tailors on the island who can make it for you.
Keep the clothes to cotton or other all natural fibres. Cool-Max and poly-polypropylene may work at home, but here in the tropics they just make you sweat like a water fountain.
A couple of good things to bring are a decent flashlight, not only for walking in darker areas but also to make sure drivers can see you walking at night.
In the Green Season also bring a good rain jacket and an umbrella!
If you really need an extensive and complete list take a look at our packing list article for more details.
Koh Chang has not quite got to the level of scams that plague other places but there are a few heads up:
No Taxis! There have been reports at the main ferry docks that some con-artists have been telling people that there are no taxis and or there are just a few, and you need to book one on the mainland to make sure you can get to your hotel.
This is a good scam and very lucrative for them. They just make about 400% off the price of a real taxi fare, call their buddy taxi driver, cram you in with everyone else and charge you a lot more!
You Wrecked My Bike: Some unsavoury scooter rental places will happily charge thousands for the most minor damage... They pray you have a good scrape and they can cash in.
Get around this by taking a close look at the bike, marking damage on the rental sheet and even if a bit paranoid - take some pictures.
If you do scrape the bike take it to either the dealer or a real garage, you will just save a lot of money.
The "Extra Bin" Scam: A few bars are known to either put extra bills in your cup or just add stupid prices on. Check your bills and be sure if head to the bathroom there are no surprises when you get back.
Saving time and money is a relative thing, but there are a few tips to help you stretch out that last Baht you have in the bottom of your pocket.
Book a room online for a night or two and then head out and see what you like. It can be confusing, even with our Koh Chang Guide! to see what is best...it can also be a bit scary to come here without a resort reservation. But if you find a better place - great! If not at least you still have a place to call home.
If you are staying for a while, be sure to ask about long term rates and discounts both on scooters and resorts.
You can get better deals the farther you away from the beaches.
Dont ring the bell in any bar. If you dont know, when you ring the bell you buy everyone a drink!
Lending money here is the equivalent of burning your cash, be very wary of any hard-luck, need money stories...
If you want to save on food, eat at the places where you see a lot of plastic chairs and locals. Or even better most of time, eat at the road side stalls and the motorcycle carts with food.
If you are staying for a while invest in a few kitchen items and a cooker... it can save you a load of time and money!
Land Area: 429.5 square kilometres at roughly 30 km long by 14 wide making Koh Chang the second largest island in Thailand.
Highest Peak: Khao Salak Phet at 743 meters.
Population: Official 5,000 Unofficial:15,000
Average Rainfall: 4,000 mm per year
Koh Chang means "Elephant Island" not because the elephants are native but because several rock formations on the island resemble them.
There are about 60+ bird species and many mammals that live in the jungle here, including monkeys, deer and snakes.
We can certainly give our opinion about a lot of things on the island - and we do, but there is an important caveat when someone does a review, the problem is that the review can certainly be skewered.
You will notice in the Koh Chang Guide we don't give out a lot of personal opinions on where to stay, we rely more on reading online reviews and saying they have mixed reviews or great reviews. This is because it depends very much on what you are looking for and we don't know exactly what you are looking for. Maybe a beach-side chalet with a private pool or a small bungalow that is cheap but you can stay longer... You can drop us a line and ask us questions anytime... but we recommend that you do your research. Many places get a new manager and things can change quickly for the better (or worse) on the island.
The best bet is to take a look at online reviews and even then take them with a grain of salt, people game the system all the time. You will even notice that we have skipped some highly rated places, we have good reasons for that, sometimes we know exactly what they think of travellers and its not pleasant. Other places are simply left off as we have not got there yet... We suggest you use this guide as a starting point for your own journey here on Koh Chang and not as something set in stone.
We have our "Editors Picks" that are clearly marked as our opinion of what is great here on the island, with those we try to find the out-of-the-way places and places that will remain with you for a while in your memory of Koh Chang (hopefully). We even try to deliberately skip the five-star places and send you instead to some unique places, they might even be a bit rustic or shabby - but cool.
We have tried to avoid the pitfall of so many on-line guides by pumping up our buddies and then selling the place for a small fortune. Or conversely funnelling traffic to our favourite places that we get a commission on. Ads are clearly marked on the side bar and the major guides do not have them at all. If you book through our sites on resorts we get a bit back, but that is up to you of course...
We like to think of ourselves as "No-Bullshit" zone and so if you have questions, we made a glaring error etc... contact us at anytime and tell us.
We hope you have a great time on Koh Chang and enjoy your stay. We hope you find some great memories, have some great photos and just relax - your on the island now!