The Raja Car Ferry is in many ways the life blood of Koh Phangan. It is the only car ferry serving the island. As such it is responsible for bringing in many things to the island which allow it to cater to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
In 1981 the Samui-Kanom Ferry Co., Ltd was set up. It was only later the company changed its name to Raja. The company found quick success setting up car ferry services between the mainland of Thailand (Donsak) and both Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The company capitalized on the booming tourist industry developing on both islands with its need for vehicles, motorbikes, imported food goods, furniture, electrical equipment and so on.
Now there are 40 boats in the Raja fleet. They all have plenty of sitting space, a bar, a restaurant, a shop and lots of deck space. You can always find a chair to sit on.
The car rental business in Koh Phangan is still very much in its infancy. It is thus a big advantage to be able to bring your own car to Koh Phangan. Another big benefit of the Raja is that it is a big boat that is more stable in the water. It is the ferry that is least likely to cause you to be sea sick. The Lomprayah tends to bounce through rough waters. The combination of hung-over full moon party people and choppy waters leads to an unpleasant Lomprayah catamaran service.
Raja Car Ferry has teamed up with Air Asia to provide one of several fly and ferry services connecting Bangkok and Koh Phangan. Outside Suratthani Airport there is a bus waiting for passengers disembarking from the Bangkok flight (Don Muang). The combined bus and ferry ticket to Thongsala in Koh Phangan costs 420 Thai Baht. Tickets can be bought in the airport as well as outside by the bus rank.
The 7am flight from Don Muang arrives at Suratthani at 8am. You then transfer to a bus and then the Raja Car Ferry. The boat leaves at 10am and arrives in Thongsala at 12.30. Thus, the trip from Bangkok to Thongsala takes 5 and a half hours. The afternoon Air Asia flight leaves Bangkok at 14.35 and gets to Suratthani at 15.35. This connects with the 18.00 Raja that gets into Koh Phangan at 20.30. There are few taxis waiting to meet this ferry. You will be unable to get a shared taxi to anywhere other than Haad Rin at this time of night.
A good place to stay in Thongsala is Buakao Inn. It is a short walk from the pier and has clean comfortable rooms. Downstairs there is an excellent bar and restaurant.
Overall, Raja is a reliable and comfortable ferry service to Koh Phangan. It is excellent value for bringing small motorbikes onto the island - only 280 Thai Baht. The only drawback to the Raja is that it takes 2 and a half hours to ply the route between Thongsala and Donsak on the mainland. Lomprayah catamarans are much quicker vessels
Raja Ferry Timetable
Foot passenger - 220 Thai Baht
Monk and student in uniform - 11o Thai Baht
Children under 110 cm - 110 Thai Baht
Bicycle / small motorbike with rider - 280 Thai Baht
Large motorbike with rider - 460 Thai Baht
Car with driver - 620 Thai Baht