The tranquil tropical island of Koh Samed (or “Samet”) has beautifully soft sandy beaches and is surrounded by clear warm water. Samed has become popular with gay travellers looking for something a bit different to the more developed resorts of Phuket and Pattaya. Nothing except the odd radio mast rises above the tree line and the main roads are just bumpy tracks.
Samed is less than three hours from Bangkok by car (plus a 15-minute speed boat crossing) making it easier and cheaper to reach than destinations that require an internal flight.
Most beaches on Samed are on the east side of the island. The beaches hide in small bays (“Ao” in Thai language) and stretch about 200 meters. From the north, popular beaches include Hat Sai Kaew, Ao Phai, Ao Tubtim, Ao Wongduen, Ao Wai, Ao Kiew Na Nok, Ao Pakarang and Ao Prao.
You will find gay sunbathers on every beach, although Ao Tubtim has attracted a larger gay crowd in recent years and is now considered by many to be the ‘unofficial gay beach’ on the island.
During the day, most people tend to stay at their resort’s own beach as they usually provide sun loungers, shades and an ‘at seat’ food and drink service. At night, many head for Silver Sand Hotel that has an open-air dance club/bar that can get very crowded at the weekends. Occasional gay circuit beach parties take place on the island when there’s a 3-day weekend due to a national holiday.
The cheapest way is to take the bus from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekkamai) to Ban Phe pier which usually takes three and a half hours.
There are also minivans that leave from Victory Monument in Bangkok. They charge about 250 baht per person and bring you directly to the piers. This is a slightly nicer alternative to the larger tourist buses but they also make several stops along the way.
The easiest and safest way is to book a private transfer from the airport or your hotel to the Ban Phe pier. The price is normally around 2500 – 3500 baht each way depending on the type of car. This type of transport could also be arranged by your hotel concierge.
Some metered taxi in Bangkok might agree to drive you to Ban Phe pier. They will likely to ask for a flat-rate fare which should be around 1500 – 2000 baht. However, taxis are not recommended as they usually don’t have seat belts.
Unless you can carpool with local friends, you can rent a car in Bangkok and drive to Ban Phe. Leave your car at a designated car parking and pick it up on the way back from the island.
Your hotel on Koh Samed will be able to advise you about the various speedboat transfers from the pier to the island. Some resorts offer free transfers at scheduled times, otherwise a private speedboat will cost around 2000 baht. Scheduled but slower ferry boat transfer takes around 25 minutes and costs around 100 baht per person.
The island has only a single main road. Some parts are concrete, and some are only a dirt trail which get quite bumpy. The only way to get around is by a ‘songthaew’ (a pickup truck with two benches in the back and no roof), which costs 200 baht for a private trip, or 20-60 baht per person for a full load, depending on which beach you are going to.
Unlike a few decades ago, Samed island has become quite developed. Even if you go there unprepared, you can pretty much find whatever you need, be it ATMs, convenient stores like 7-Eleven, pharmacies or internet cafés. Most of these are located near the main pier on Hat Sai Kaew Beach.
Visitors go to Koh Samed all year round, with peak months from November to April. Low period starts from May until September which is the rainy season, but even then the island still has much less rain than other islands in Thailand. Tourists should, however, be careful of occasional storms.
If you’re looking for a high-end accommodation and if the price isn’t an issue, then we recommend Paradee Resort. Otherwise, pick a hotel that has at least a 3-star rating. For a quieter and more secluded beach, choose a hotel on Ao Prao. But if you prefer to be close to all the action, then stay at one of the resorts on Ao Phai or Ao Tubtim which are frequented by gay visitors.