Phuket is a very popular destination. It’s also the gateway to the Andaman sea. Only 30 minutes from Phuket by speedboat there is a small cluster of islands where you can (still) experience traditional rural life and escape from mass tourism. Koh Yao Yai is one of them! It’s a great island with nice beaches. However, forget about nightlife, shopping, temples, etc. It’s a quiet island.

There are different ways to explore this destination. Backpackers will enjoy the quietness of the island and the small roads on a motorbike while families and people looking for luxury can stay in one of the few high end hotels.

Most Western and Asian tourists would stay in Phuket, which means you can get the island for yourself or so. This makes it a good off-the-beaten track alternative to Phuket.

If you are looking for info about its sister island, take a look at Koh Yao Noi.

How accessible is it from Singapore?

Singapore to Ko Yao Yai journey details

Koh Yao Yai is a good destination for a long 3-day weekend from Singapore. If you are short of days off, it’s feasible in a regular 2-day weekend.

You will have to leave Singapore in the morning to catch the speedboat from Phuket to Ko Yao Yai. If you decide to leave on a Friday night, you can always spend one night in Phuket and catch the first boat the next morning.

The total door to door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel  will take you about 4 hours 45 minutes. The trip includes flight, taxi and boat transfers.

How much is this going to cost us?

It’s a relatively inexpensive destination since the cost of living for tourists in Thailand is low and travel costs from Singapore are usually reasonable. Of course, the bill can get bigger if you plan on doing boat tours or stay in luxury hotels.

How remote and risky is it?

Medical infrastructures on the islands are minimal but overall the island is safe.

What about the kids?

Koh Yao Yai is a family friendly destination and you can bring kids and babies (but will need to pack all the necessary food and supplies for babies as they are not available on the island). Bring a baby carrier.

When should we go?

The best period to visit Koh Yao Yai and avoid the rain season are the months of January, February, March, April, November and December. Refer to the chart in the sidebar for details about the monthly average rain volumes and rainy days.

Connections from Koh Yao Yai

If you have more time, you could combine trip to Koh Yao Yai with a stay on its sister island Koh Yao Noi or spend a few days in Phuket.

Getting from Singapore to Phuket

There are many daily direct flights from Singapore (SIN) to Phuket (HKT), low cost companies such as Jetstar, Tiger Airways or AirAsia will bring you there at low fares in 1h55 minutes. Example:

Getting there: Tigerair: Friday 8:00 AM (SIN) – 8:55 AM (HKT)
Coming back: Tigerair. Sunday 7:50 PM (HKT) – 10:45 PM (SIN)
Return ticket from SGD 225.

Get your tickets NOW to enjoy the best fares.

NB: it is also possible to reach Koh Yao Yai from Krabi but it is usually more expensive and less flexible – flight schedule wise.



Getting from Phuket airport to the Koh Yao Yai

Great news… a new international terminal opened in October 2016. It’s much better than the previous one and offers good restaurants and shops. Clearing immigration and customs has also become much faster!

You can get to Koh Yao Yai either by hotel transfer or on your own:

  • Hotel transfer: Most of the resorts offer transfer services combining land and sea from 1000 THB / adult / way – and the total travelling time from Phuket airport will be about 1.30 hrs. That’s quite expensive and getting there on your own is not that difficult at all. Therefore we would recommend you arrange your transfer on your own.
  •  On your own:  When you exit the airport, take a taxi to Bang Rong Pier, which is 20min ride and 650 THB per car (you can be up to 4 adults per taxi). You can buy basic food and drinks at Bang Rong Pier. You will need to pay THB 10 at the pier (park fee).
    Then take a speedboat to Koh Yao Yai (Klong Hia Pier located at the North shore of the island), 30 min and 200 THB per person– see below boat time table. If you prefer you can also take a long tail boat at 50 THB per person but the journey will take 1h (and the boat might be very packed with people and goods).
    There is no restroom or shop at the pier. You can buy drinks from locals. Most resorts can pick you up from Koh Yao Yai Klong Hia Pier. Roads are in really good condition and the closest hotel is about 8Km from the pier.

Boat Timetable Koh Yao islands

NB: On your way back, the taxi from Phuket pier to the airport is negotiable at 500 THB per car. Taxis are available at the pier. Remember to reach the airport early if you travel during the high season.

Where to stay in Khao Yao Yai

You will reach the island at the pier North of Koh Yao Yai. There are only a dozen of accommodations, either on the North Eastern bank or in the South Western one.

The resorts on the East Coast are closer to the pier (about 8km), with nice view on some limestone formations. However, the beaches are not great when the tide is low (mud). The East Coast is perfect if you wish to arrange some excursion to the famous limestone islands. We’ve stayed at Baan Taranya Koh Yao Yai Resort, it’s very simple but clean and there is a swimming pool. You can rent motorbike from the hotel.

The West coast is about 20km from the pier, there are more sand beaches where you can swim even if when tide is low. However, you will not see limestone islands from the West cost. We had lunch at Glow Elexir resort, which is right on the beach and seemed to be a nice place to stay.

So, in a nutshell, you need to chose between nice views but muddy beaches (East) or nice beaches but no view over the limestone islands (West). Whatever your choice is, you’ll still be able to enjoy the other side by renting a (motor)bike or arranging a tour.

As always, we recommend you book early to enjoy the best rates. A lot of booking website group Phuket together with the surrounding islands. Make sure you pick Koh Yao Yai as “region”.

or, if you prefer, with

To see & to do in Koh Yao Yai

Ko Yao Yai is a quiet island compared to many other islands in Thailand. You will feel a world apart from Phuket and its busy streets and beaches.

Explore the island on a bike or motorbike

The traditional way of life on Koh Yao Yai island has remained unchanged. The main arterial road that runs the entire length of the Island will lead you through the country side past small quaint village communities, farms, fishing villages and many quiet beaches and rest areas to stop by. Don’t be surprised if you see people riding a motorbike with a monkey. These people actually send the monkeys get the coconuts in the trees.

The main road are in really good condition. If you are brave enough to ride a bike despite the heat you can rent bikes or to join a bike tour. Otherwise, rent a motorbike (400 THB full day or 200 THB half day rental) from your hotel.

Snorkeling at Khai Island

Located on the northern part of Koh Yao Yai, there are three islands close together: Khai Nok Island, Khai Nai Island and Khai Nui Island. There you can enjoy the underwater world and the coral reef, but be prepared you won’t be the only one arriving with your long tail boat and snorkeling. Most resorts can arrange half day tours (5h tour, from 1800 THB per person) or you can directly ask a boatman on the beach (full day, from 3000 THB per boat).

Boat tour to Phang-nga bay National Park

When you think about Thailand you see the limestone rocks and islands. Resort organize tours combining boat tour among the limestone formations, a stop at James Bond Islandcanoeing in the caves,… resorts offer tours from 3000 THB per person. Our recommendation would be to avoid James Bond Island and its hordes of noisy-red face tourists. Honestly the island is nothing spectacular and you’re better off just skipping it. If you can, make sure the canoes are on your boat in order to be able to go canoeing in more peaceful places. A lot of tours will take you to designated spots where they would rent canoes and a boatman. We’ve seen places where the sea was covered by canoes!

A good alternative would be to rent a long tail boat for the day and ride nearby limestone rocks (from 3000 THB per day per boat) at your own pace.

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi will be available in most of the hotels or guesthouses.

What to pack for Koh Yao Yai 

Your main bag

That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which  you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
  • Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.

Your small bag

That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.

  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag  in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
  • Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Camera and its protection.

Beach pack

Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)

  • Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
  • Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
  • Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
  • Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.

Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!

Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!

Thailand

Thailand

  • Language: Thai.
  • Time zone: Bangkok and across the country GMT +7  hours.
    1h behind Singapore
  • Currency: Thai Baht (THB)
  • Phone: + 66
  • Electricity: 220V 60 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

If you are a citizen from the following countries, you possess a passport with at least 6 months validity, and you are staying up to 30 days, then you do NOT need any Tourist visa to enter Thailand.

  • Visa exemption rule applies for: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.
  • If you hold a passport from another country, you will need to apply for a visa on arrival at the airport customs. A visa for 15 days costs 1000 Bahts.

National Public Holidays in Thailand

2015

January 1 New Years Day
March 4 * Makha Bucha Day
April 6 * Chakri Day
April 13 Thai New Year
April 14 Thai New Year
April 15 Thai New Year
April 16 Thai New Year
April 17 Thai New Year
May 1 Labour Day
May 5 * Coronation Day
June 1 * Visakha Bucha Day
July 30 * Asahna Bucha Day
August 12 H.M. Queen’s Birthday
October 23 Chulalongkorn Day
December 5 H.M. King’s Birthday
December 10 Constitution Day
December 31 New Year’s Eve

* check the exact date on this website as it varies from one year to another.