We only had a very limited time in Thailand, and had to choose just one destination. We looked long and hard at what seemed like hundreds of Thai Islands – Koh Tao, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Phuket… the list is endless. We settled on Lanta after a recommendation from a friend that it was that bit quieter than many of the other Kohs (it simply means “island” in Thai), and that the diving off the coast was stunning. He wasn’t wrong. Here’s how we did it:
Like most people, we flew into Krabi airport from Bangkok. The flights go all the time with Air Asia and cost very little. Then from Krabi Town we took the water bus to Lanta, although we were a little blindsided by our options in the airport. The bus into the town cost us BHT180, and the ferry BHT900 each. It is cheaper and probably a little more straightforward to get a shuttle bus, which goes direct to Lanta from the airport, via the passenger ferry. The return leg from Lanta-Krabi airport cost us BHT800 by this method. (Note: this may have changed by the time you read this – a bridge is under construction to connect Lanta to the mainland.)
Lanta isn’t big, but it is far too big to walk around. You have a few options: tuk-tuks, vans or renting a moped. Tuk-tuks are everywhere and come in various colours and sizes, but have one thing in common – they will try and rip you off if they can. Drive a hard bargain, there will always be another one nearby! Vans are similar but much less common, however if you are in a larger group it will be cheaper. We got a van transport from Saladan Pier to Klong Nin – about half the length of the island, for BHT200, along with a few other backpackers.
Your other option is renting a moped. They are really cheap – the rental shop in Klong Nin rented a bike and 2 helmets for BHT300 for a day, and they get cheaper the longer you rent them for. A few words of advice though. The roads in Lanta, though not busy, can be dangerous. Cars have not been on the island for a long time, and there are no driving licenses at all. Cars overtake bikes overtaking tuktuks overtaking pedestrians, and speed limits and road markings are treated more as guidance than actual rules. Secondly, more and more tourists take to the roads under the influence of alcohol and other substances. The owner of the rental shop we used told us that only the week before someone had died on Lanta by drunk driving their moped into a tree. Finally, in the heat you may be tempted to not wear a helmet. Do not do this! Not only are the roads dangerous as previously mentioned, but the few police on the island are prone to stopping tourists and issuing them with “fines” (read: “bribes”) for not wearing a helmet while on a moped. It isn’t worth the hassle.
Lanta has an impressive array of accommodation, from budget backpacker hostels to upmarket hotels. As we were only on the island for such a short time, we pre-booked, which was a little more expensive than it otherwise could have been. We stayed in Nik’s Garden in Klong Nin, in a private room with an en-suite and air conditioning for about £10/BHT500 per person per night. Klong Nin was nice and quiet but still had a good choice of bars and restaurants on the beach, and a 7Eleven nearby.
Other slightly busier options are Klong Kong and Long Beach. “Busier” is a relative term on Lanta though – don’t expect a Koh Phi Phi style rave!
Diving – We chose this particular part of Thailand because of the diving. There are dozens of diving companies on Lanta, some more highly rated than others. I did my PADI Open Water with Lanta Diver, who have two offices, one in Saladan and one in Klong Nin. I absolutely cannot fault them, my instructors were phenomenal and the dive sites they took us to absolutely beautiful. Open Water courses cost BHT13,900. Dive days cost about BHT3000.
Beaches – I’m not a good enough writer to describe how beautiful the beaches on Lanta are. The sand is white and soft, the water warm, green and beautifully clear. Just look at the photos instead!
Sunset Watching – Again, my descriptive powers fail me. Having a drink on the beach watching the sun set into the Andaman is one of the best experiences of my entire life.
Rent a moped – Despite my earlier warnings, this was one of the most fun things we did on the island. It was a great way to see different parts of it. We went to the Old Town on the East coast, and sat and had a fresh coconut with a local man and his family. We also stopped at the Viewpoint café in the middle of the island, and it is worth it for the views alone, which are absolutely stunning.
Lanta Animal Welfare – We didn’t get chance to go here, but I am reliably informed that it is a great experience to go and visit the animal rescue centre on the Island. Your admission fee helps to run the charity.
Food & Drink
Street food is common enough in the towns and is pretty reasonable, about BHT50. You can easily do a decent lunch for BHT150 and dinner for BHT350, even with a beer or two. If you wanted to go cheaper you could. Large beers are about BHT80-100, cocktails similar. Water costs about BHT10-15 for a big bottle in a 7Eleven, don’t pay more if you can help it.
There are plenty of ATMs on the island, but they all charge – even if you have a charge-free card. Either take cash with you, or take as much out as you can in one transaction. Some of the bigger establishments, and all of the dive schools, take credit cards.