Ah, Koh Lipe… A tiny paradise island that packs a lot of punch!
We were in Langkawi, Malaysia when we first heard about Koh Lipe, Thailand.
I don’t know how it missed our radar for so long! It’s a pretty popular island, known especially to divers.
But, in case you’re wondering; Yes!
Koh Lipe in low season (May – October) is without a doubt definitely still worth a visit.
In fact, depending on your preference, low season may actually be a better time to go to Koh Lipe!
Accommodation is half or one-third of the price, and visitor numbers are low.
Sure, you will get some rainy days. And yes, half the restaurants and accommodation options are closed.
But, paradise is still paradise!
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How To Get To Koh Lipe From Malaysia In Low Season
Getting to Koh Lipe in low season can be a bit of a challenge though, depending on where you are coming from.
As we decided to detour to Koh Lipe from Langkawi in Malaysia, that is the route I’m going to focus on here.
Normally, in high season, there is a direct “ferry” (aka. speedboat!) that will get you from Langkawi to Koh Lipe in 1 hour 30 minutes.
You board the ferry in Kuah in Langkawi. Go through immigration there to exit Malaysia. Get off in Koh Lipe and go through immigration there to enter Thailand.
In low season, however, the route to Koh Lipe from Malaysia is less direct.
The easiest thing to do is to buy a combination ticket. This ticket will include a speedboat ferry from Langkawi to Tammalang in Thailand, a (shared) minivan to Pak Bara jetty, and then another speedboat ferry from there to Koh Lipe.
You still get on the ferry at Kuah Jetty on Langkawi, and go through the exit process for Malaysia there.
Your ferry will take you to Tammalang jetty in Thailand where you will go through immigration for entry into Thailand.
This is a pretty straightforward process with few questions asked, although they may ask to inspect your bag(s).
If you buy a combination ticket (we bought ours through phuketferry.com), you’ll be given a sticker to put on your t-shirt.
The minivan driver will find you after you clear immigration at Tammalang based on this sticker, and take you to your shared transfer to Pak Bara Pier.
From there, the final leg is another speedboat to your final destination – Koh Lipe!
The Cost Of Getting To Koh Lipe In Low Season
In total, the combination ticket from Langkawi, Malaysia to Koh Lipe, Thailand cost us around €100 for the two of us.
It is very likely possible to do this more cheaply if you organise the sections separately yourself. (For example – the ticket we received for Langkawi to Tammalang showed a price of RM35 per person)
But, the schedule is pretty tight.
The benefit of buying a combination ticket is that while we were running a little late, our driver got us to Pak Bara quickly (driving Thai style… you’ll soon figure out what I mean if you haven’t experienced this before), and the next ferry was waiting for us.
When you get to Pak Bara, bear in mind that you will have to pay THB 20 per person in port taxes before they’ll allow you to go into the building and check in for boarding.
Make sure you have some change in Thai Baht with you for this purpose as you may not have a lot of time to spare.
Koh Lipe Transfer Details
The speed boat from Pak Bara to Koh Lipe is an open speedboat. They’ll give you life jackets to wear and it’s a cozy snuggle with the rest of the passengers if it’s a full ride.
We were lucky that we arrived on a sunny, calm day. Even then, the ocean swell made the ride somewhat bumpy and a couple of passengers succumbed to seasickness.
If you’re likely to get queasy, I’d recommend you take some seasickness medication before getting on the boat. An hour and a half may not sound too long but it can feel like an age if you’re not feeling well!
Koh Lipe Arrival Details
We were fully expecting to arrive on the Pattaya Beach side of Koh Lipe. On Google Maps, all ferries in and out of Koh Lipe show Pattaya Beach as the base.
But, in low season, ferries actually arrive and leave Koh Lipe from Sunrise Beach!!
This is important to note as it definitely confused the hell out of us when we first arrived!
I mean, Koh Lipe is a tiny island, so it won’t be too far to your accommodation either way. (And there are scooter taxis that can take you there if it’s a bit further away). But, it worked out perfectly for us as Forra Dive and Bamboo Resort where we were staying was literally right there!
We were told that due to the direction of the wind, they change where the Koh Lipe pier is in low season vs high season.
This makes total sense but it wasn’t something we were aware of.
Hopefully it will be a bit less confusing for you on arrival in Koh Lipe!
Buying A One-Way Ticket To Koh Lipe Is Fine!
On our inbound journey from Langkawi to Koh Lipe, multiple people tried to tell us that the only way back to Malaysia would see us coming back to Langkawi again.
We hadn’t done any research ahead of time as Koh Lipe was definitely an unplanned detour on our way around Malaysia’s mainland.
Of course, people will always try to make money off you so my advice would be – Don’t feel under pressure to buy a return ticket right away!
We declined for multiple reasons;
- We weren’t sure how long we’d stay on Koh Lipe, and
- We had no intention to go back to Langkawi after having spent almost two weeks there already
We figured (correctly!) there must be a cheaper and easier way to get back into Malaysia than taking two ferries and a shuttle to get to Langkawi, and then another ferry from Langkawi back to the mainland…
Even if you do decide to head back to Langkawi after Koh Lipe (and certainly in high season when the direct ferry is running, this is likely the easiest option), there is no reason why you can’t buy your ticket on Koh Lipe or online once you’ve decided what you want to do.
How To Get From Koh Lipe To Malaysia (or elsewhere) In Low Season
Because we didn’t want to go back to Langkawi, our return route back into Malaysia was arguably a bit more long-winded but also a lot cheaper.
Obviously, the only way to get off the island is to get the speedboat ferry from Koh Lipe back to the Thai mainland at Pak Bara Pier.
You can either book this online, or go to one of the many transfer operators along Walking Street once you’re in Koh Lipe.
There aren’t too many transport options that leave from the mainland around Pak Bara in Thailand.
In fact, there doesn’t really seem to be any public transport that we could identify. So, really your only option is another shared minivan transfer to wherever you’re going next.
For our purposes, we wanted to get back to Malaysia. For this, Hat Yai is a small Thai city that serves as a good point for your onward travel.
This is true regardless of whether you’re headed to Malaysia or elsewhere in Thailand.
Hat Yai is only an hour and a half away from Pak Bara. Still, I’d suggest booking any onward travel later in the day to allow for any delays.
You just never know…
Getting Back To Malaysia From Hat Yai, Thailand
From Hat Yai, we got on the train back to Malaysia.
The train takes you just across the boarder into Padang Besar on the Malaysian side in under an hour.
There are only two trains per day. One leaves at 7.30 in the morning, and the other at 2 in the afternoon.
We stayed the night in Hat Yai and were able to buy a train ticket to Padang Besar ahead of time that afternoon, for the 7.30 train the next morning. This definitely took some of the stress out of it for us!
Note: The train does make a stop on the Thailand side of Padang Besar too. If you’re intending to travel into Malaysia, stay on the train until the last stop. Likely, most other passengers will get off at this stop too.
In (Malaysian) Padang Besar you go through both the exit immigration for Thailand and the entry immigration for Malaysia.
Make sure you’ve kept the slip from your arrival/departure card for Thailand safe as this will be required for your exit!
There are no forms to fill out for entry or exit in Malaysia though.
Immigration is pretty straight forward here as well, and relatively quick.
From Padang Besar, we had intended to catch the train down to Kuala Lumpur… Seemed simple in theory but alas, it wasn’t to be.
Luckily, there are lots of options from here as the train from Hat Yai to KL was fully sold out!
If you’re set on taking the train down to KL, I’d recommend booking online ahead of time.
As it was, we got a (2 hour) train to Butterworth, Penang instead. From there we were able to get a bus to KL. (If you’re headed elsewhere, this is still a good option as you can get a bus or train to almost anywhere from Butterworth).
The bus from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur was meant to take 4-5 hours. Unfortunately, we ended up spending 8 hours on that bus!!!
It was an absolute nightmare…
It just goes to show though, that you can’t predict traffic. I’d encourage you to give yourself plenty of time on the other end before any onward travel.
Regardless of where your next stop is, Hat Yai serves as a good exit point.
You can get flights from Hat Yai to most major centres both within Thailand, and Malaysia, or further afield.
Check out Skyscanner on the link above for available options if you’re not sure where you’re going next. I love their function for searching to “everywhere” so you can easily see what your options are!
While Koh Lipe may not be the easiest place to get to and from in low season, it is absolutely possible! And, in my opinion, definitely worthwhile!