Island-hopping is one of the best ways to experience all that the Thai islands have to offer. It can be hard to decide to which islands to visit - since there are just so many to choose from - but once you do, it's easy to get around!
Unfortunately, there isn't always a lot of information available about how to get from one place to the next. I found this out the hard way when I was planning our trip from Railay Beach to Koh Lanta. Luckily we figured it out!
Here's what you need to know about getting from Railay Beach to Koh Lanta by ferry:
Ferry is the best way to travel between Railay Beach and Koh Lanta for one simple reason: both places are only accessible by ferry. You can drive to Koh Lanta from the mainland - but it still requires using a car ferry. So bottom line? Passenger ferry is the best mode of transportation between the two places.
The passenger ferries between Railay Beach and Koh Lanta operate November to April via several companies. The travel time from Railay Beach and Koh Lanta (or the reverse route) is 1 hour on the speedboat (operated by Tigerline) and 2 hours on the regular ferry (operated by Ao Nang Princess). It costs cost 1500 TBH and 550 TBH, respectively. There is usually one ferry per day, which leaves in the morning.
You can book tickets online through both operators - but there's really no need. You can easily book once you arrive, either through your hotel or at the company's ticket office at the respective piers (in Railay Beach, there is no pier so the company's ticket 'offices' are located at the beach front where the ferries depart). The advantage to not booking in advance is it gives you the flexibility to decide once you get there. Plus, neither company puts a cap on the number of passengers (as you'll see, the ferries are notorious for being crowded). Having a booking in advance doesn't give you any advantage.
From Railay Beach, the departure point is Railay Beach West. It's easy to see where the meeting point is because it'll be where all the other travelers will be with their suitcases. You'll check-in with the ticket office to validate your ticket and get instructions on what to do next. Once they're ready to board, attendants will check your ticket a final time and direct you to your ferry.
Because Railay Beach doesn't have a pier, you'll first get into a long-tail boat, which will shuttle you from the beach to the actual ferry. The attendants will take care of loading your bags. Once you're on the ferry, you can find a seat - either down below the main deck or on top. There's very little shade so don't forget your sunscreen!
One to two hours later, you'll arrive in Koh Lanta! At the Saladan Pier. Grab your bags and exit the ferry. When you disembark in Koh Lanta be prepared for the crowds of people who are there to offer their transport services. It can be overwhelming but just keep moving until you get past the crowd. Most hotels can help you organize pick-up from the pier, or you can easily hop into a tuk-tuk to get you where you need to go.