Khao Sok National Park Travel Guide

by stephmylifetravel

Tucked away in the Thai jungle, half a day’s travel away from nearby tourist spots, Khao Sok National Park is one of the true gems to see in Thailand. Its remote position turns off many travellers looking for a convenient place to stop, so while it’s a popular spot to visit, it’s still not overrun with people. Planning a trip here can take time and effort, but you will be rewarded for your hard work!

A highlight of staying in Khao Sok National park is sleeping in a bungalow on the lake, and walking right out of your bedroom door to dive into the warm, clear waters of Cheow Lan Lake. We have just finished a three-day budget trip to the national park, where we stayed in one of these bungalows and had an incredible time! Along with swimming in the lake, you can take part in safaris and hikes, kayak on the lake, and try to spot lions, cougars, and elephants that live freely in the jungle.

Although it can be tricky to get to, Khao Sok is absolutely worth a few days’ visit during your time in Thailand. I recommend stopping here on your way from Bangkok to the islands, or vice versa. There is so much to see and do, away from the crowds of tourists that you find at other popular spots in Thailand.

Here is my guide to planning your trip to Khao Sok National Park.

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How to get to Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is located in Surat Thani province in Thailand, closer to the islands on the east and west coast than to Bangkok. This makes it a popular stop for people travelling between the islands and Bangkok. Most people access the park overland, either by private taxi (if you have a large budget), minibus (if you are on a backpacker budget), or even by local bus (if you are on a tiny budget, and have lots of time). We got a minibus from Koh Lanta directly to Khao Sok National park for 700 baht per person, which we booked through a local travel agency the night before our trip.

Travelling north to Khao Sok National Park

If you are travelling from Phuket / Krabi / Ao Nang or any of the islands in the south (Koh Phi Phi / Koh Yao / Koh Lanta etc), then you can book your transport to the park via local travel agencies. These agencies can be found on any popular area for tourists, and the agents will arrange minibus transport for you. If you are on an island they will arrange a bus-and-boat ticket for you. This makes it very easy to travel to the park, as your transfer is taken care of from start to finish. Prices are not usually very high, but I tend to visit multiple agencies to check prices as some do charge more than others!

One thing to note when booking your transport is to tell the agent if you want to be dropped off in Khao Sok bus terminal, or by Cheow Lan Lake. These are 65km apart, so do make sure you are dropped off in the right place. Check your accommodation address to confirm this – or if you are staying in a raft house / floating bungalow then you want to go to the pier. 

Travelling west to Khao Sok National Park

If you are coming from Surat Thani, you can get a minibus or taxi from the airport to the lake.  These can be organised at the airport through the travel desks, or booked online on 12Go.Asia.

If you are coming from the east coast islands (Koh Phangan / Koh Tao / Koh Samui), you can buy a bus-and-boat ticket that takes you to Khao Sok National Park. You can buy these from local travel agencies in the town you are in, or else through your reception. Usually the journey involves getting a boat to the  mainland and a minibus or regular bus to the park via Surat Thani.

Travelling to Khao Sok National Park from Bangkok

By Plane

The fastest way to get to the national park from Bangkok is to fly. Direct flights from Bangkok to Surat Thani take 1 hour and 124 flights run each week, so you should have plenty of choice. Prices start from as little £15 per person excluding baggage, so this can often be cheaper than getting an overnight train.

Once you land, you can get a taxi or minibus to Khao Sok National Park around 1 hour away. You can find a taxi driver at the airport, or else book your bus or minibus from the booking desks in arrivals. Expect to pay around 300 baht per person for a minibus to Khao Sok Bus Station (this is at the side of the road and not close to very much), or pay 350 baht to be taken to your hotel.

By Train

Take the overnight train from Hua Lampong Station in Bangkok to Surat Thani, then get a minibus or taxi to the national park.  This train takes 10-12 hours and sleeping carriages are available with flat beds so you can get a good night’s sleep. I’d recommend getting train #85 which departs Bangkok at 19:30 and arrives in Surat Thani at 7am, or if you’re a night owl you can get the #39/#41 which departs at 22:50 and arrives at 8am. If you didn’t feel like an overnight train, there is also a # 43 train which departs at 8am and arrives in Surat Thani at 16:45. This would most likely rule out staying on the lake for your first night.

You can book your train on 12Go.Asia – I have a post about booking night trains in Thailand which will help you. Once you arrive at the station, there will be taxis, buses, and minibuses waiting to take people to the park. You won’t struggle to find a way to the park – there will be agents waiting right outside the train shouting destinations and directing people to buses. It’s a busy terminal and super popular with tourists going to various islands and parts of the south.

Make sure you arrange to get dropped off at the right part of Khao Sok, because it is a huge area. Tell the driver your accommodation before you agree a price. Prices are usually around 200 baht per person for a shared minibus, and 1,200 baht for a private taxi.

By Bus

You can take a bus the entire way from Bangkok to Khao Sok in 16 hours – this costs around 900 baht for adults and 750 baht for children. Buses leave at 6 or 7pm each day, arriving in Khao Sok at 10 or 11am the next day. This is obviously not the most comfortable sleeping option, but if you’re booking last minute it may be the only affordable option.

You can pre-book your bus online at 12Go.Asia

 

Travelling to Khao Sok National Park from Chiang Mai

The best way to get from Chiang Mai to Khao Sok is the same as getting from Bangkok: fly to Surat Thani and get a minibus or taxi to the park. It takes a little bit of time to get to the national park from Chiang Mai, so do plan enough time there to make the journey worthwhile!

Staying in a floating bungalow: Packages vs DIY

If you want to stay in a floating bungalow on the lake, there are two ways you can book this: package or DIY. Packages include your accommodation, transfers, meals, and all activities for the duration of your stay. Boat trips, hikes, kayaking etc are all included in this- the only extras are soft drinks and alcohol at your resort. Some of the higher-end resorts also offer taxi service from nearby towns too. Packages are super convenient – you just need to make one booking and your entire stay in Khao Sok is arranged. However, this convenience comes at a price – the most basic packages are 2,500thb / £63 / €75 per person per night. This is not much for your average holiday maker, when you consider that your meals and activities are included, but budget backpackers will struggle to budget for such a cost. I highly recommend a package if you can afford it, as it’s an easy way to holiday in a tricky location. Keep reading for information on how to book your package.

DIY trips are a less common way to stay on the lake, and it was very hard to find information online when I was planning our trip. However, with a lot of research, I managed to plan an excellent two-night stay in a floating bungalow on Cheow Lan Lake. It was exactly what I wanted, and cost 1/3 of the price of the cheapest package trip. This definitely wasn’t the most convenient way to plan our trip, and we had a few hiccups, but it was the only way we could afford to stay on the lake. I had the best few days, so I’m really glad we didn’t stay in the town! Details on how to plan your DIY trip to stay on the lake are below.

In summary – Packages are the most convenient way to plan your trip and they are much easier to plan. DIY trips take a bit more effort to organise, but are much cheaper.

Cost comparison of doing a Package or DIY lake stay

Packages for staying on the lake range from 2,500 to over 10,000 baht per person per night depending on which resort you opt to stay in. Everything is included in these packages apart from getting to Khao Sok National Park, and the national park entrance fee which is 300 baht per person, and the pier fee of 20 baht per person. These costs will be incurred on both the package and DIY trips.

Here is a cost comparison for a three-day / two-night stay for two people in the exact same resort on the lake.

The following is the price to book the trip as a package (here is a link to show the package details)

  • Package: 21,000 Baht (5,250 per person per night)
  • Entry fees: 640 Baht

Total: 21,640 baht / £545  / €640
Cost per day per person: 3607 baht / £91 / €107 

In comparison, here is a breakdown of our DIY trip to this same resort:

  • Bungalow: 800 baht (200 baht per person per night)
  • Boat trip to and from the bungalow, two day tours around the lake, hiking, kayaking and meals: 3600 baht
  • Entry fees: 640 Baht

Total: 5,040 baht / £125 / €150
Cost per day per person: 840 baht / £21 / €25

There are many more floating resorts on the lake, but I wanted to do a like-for-like comparison of how much you can save. While the prices above may not differ wildly for a mid-range or luxury traveller, they make a huge difference to a budget backpacker and can mean the difference between being able to stay on the lake or having to stay in the town.

How to plan a Package trip to Khao Sok National Park

Planning a package stay on Cheow Lan lake is pretty straightforward, and there are a great range of options depending on your budget.

If you are in a low- to mid-range budget, check out Khaosoklake.com where you can compare different floating resorts and packages and book online. This site is super detailed, and even though I didn’t book a package, I found it very helpful for planning my trip. Here are the packages that they offer, ranging from cheapest to most expensive and fanciest: 

If you have a higher budget, or are coming to Khao Sok Lake for a special occasion, here are some luxury floating resorts you can check out – these are not booked as packages, but do have some amenities included which I have listed below:

  • Phutawan Rafthouse: These bungalows look stunning, and are a departure from the traditional style of the other floating resorts. Capsule rooms are 4,000 baht / £100 / €118 per night, which includes activities, meals, and boat tours to the top sights on the lake. However transfers are not included in the price, and add at least another 4,000 baht to the price – boat prices start at 2,000 baht each way, although their transfer prices don’t appear to be listed on the site. Some resorts charge as much as 3,500 for transfers on top of high room rates (I haven’t included these here).
  • Panvaree resort: This stunning luxury resort offers sturdy wooden cabins with modern en suite bathrooms and air conditioning for around €200 per night. Free transfers to and from the pier are included in the price, and many tours and activities are available to guests.  Each room has a balcony and steps right out onto the lake. There is a tour booking office on site where you can book your activities each day.
  • 500 Rai: If you really want to splurge in Khao Sok, then 500 Rai is the place to do it! These luxury 2 bedroom villas are even better than ones you would find on land, and are more like upmarket ski chalets. Each villa has it’s own private balcony leading out onto the water, the honeymoon suite even has an outdoor hot tub out front! There is a spa on site where you can have daily massages, and kayaks are available for all guests. Return transfers to and from the pier are included but food is not, so factor this in to your costs.

How to plan a DIY Budget Trip to Khao Sok National Park

If you are planning a budget trip, here’s a little hack for you! The government-run National Parks website allows you to book floating bungalows at a really cheap price without having to fork out for a package. This website is a little hard to navigate, but it’s worth persevering for the savings.

Here is a short guide on  how to use the website to book your hut:

  • Click here to open the booking portal.
  • Click the British flag on the top right hand corner of the page to switch to English.
  • Go to Login -> registration and create an account as an ‘ordinary person’. You need this to book a bungalow.
  • Enter the required information, which is mostly personal info and also your passport number (this is a government website so I wasn’t worried about giving this info).
  • Click the green registration button and when your account is created, log in to continue (note that you log in with your passport number and the password you chose at registration).
  • On the menu bar at the top, go to Reservations -> Book Accommodation.
  • Search for ‘Khao Sok National Park’ in the national park field and enter the dates of your visit.
  • Click the red ‘search for home & camp’ button at the bottom of the page.
  • Scroll down and your results will appear. This will show all of the available bungalows for your dates.
  • Look at the ‘Zone’ field in each row, and the last item in that list is the name of the resort this bungalow is in. You’ll see ‘Nang Pai floating house’, ‘Krai Son floating house’ etc. There will be multiple entries for each resort as there are multiple bungalows available.
  • There are no details on this website about each of the resorts, but if you google the name of each one you will find Google reviews, TripAdvisor Reviews, or posts on travel blogs. Do this for each available resort to find which one is right for you. We stayed at Krai Son floating house and loved it! You will be able to see number of people in the bungalow, and facilities available in the results though.
  • Once you have chosen your resort, select any bungalow available in this resort from the list – they’re all the same, so you don’t need to worry about which one you choose.
  • Click the red button with a tick on it at the end of the row for this bungalow & a ‘booking success’ notice should come up.
  • Click on the cart icon (should show on the page with a timer next to it) to checkout.
  • Verify that the information and dates are correct and click ‘continue’.
  • At the moment, credit card payments are not possible on the site. You will instead have two options on the next page: Pay at a DNP station by 4:30pm that same day, or pay at a branch or ATM of Bank of Thailand by 8pm. The easiest thing to do if you’re not currently in a national park is to pay via Bank of Thailand. This is what we did and it’s incredibly simple.
  • Choose your payment option DNP / Bank of Thailand, then fill out your information and click ‘Save’. This will confirm your booking and you will be emailed confirmation along with a booking ID.
  • Bring this booking email to your nearest Bank of Thailand branch before 8pm (or the time listed on the confirmation email if it’s different), and hand it to the cashier. They will ask you to pay the balance plus a 10 baht processing fee and will give you a confirmation of payment slip. We weren’t asked to show this again, but keep it safe just in case as it’s your only proof of payment.
  • Once you have paid, reply to your confirmation to tell them the payment has been submitted. They will respond to say they have received the payment and your booking is confirmed.
  • Arrive at the resort you chose on your booking date and they will have your bungalow ready. In our case they were ready and waiting for us – everything was managed really smoothly.

How to get to your floating bungalow

Now that your accommodation is booked, you will need to book your activities, transport, and meals separately. Floating bungalows can only be accessed by boat, and the boat trip takes around 1 hour from the pier. It costs roughly 2,000 baht for a one-way private boat to take you to the lake bungalows, so this is not a good option for budget travellers. Here is what you can do instead:

  • Find other travellers to share a boat with to reduce the price.
  • Join an existing tour that is going to your resort, and travel with them for the day.

We joined a tour that was going to Krai Son for 1 night and we paid a reduced price to go with them. This 2 day / 1 night tour involved two full days of exploring the lake, all meals, hikes, kayaking, and transfers to and from the bungalow for 2,500 baht. We paid 1,800 baht each and because we stayed in Krai Son Resort for 2 nights, we did the first day of the tour on the way to the bunglows on day 1, and the second day of the tour on the 3rd day which returned us back to the pier. On the middle day, we were able to enjoy the resort on our own as everyone else was away on tours. This was a great mix of sightseeing and relaxing, so I would definitely recommend this approach.

If you are doing a DIY trip to stay on the lake, it makes sense to stay longer than 1 night as it’s so expensive to get the boat to the bungalows. With this approach, a two night stay cost us the same as the one night tour and we also had some personal time together.

Our tour was with Happy Tours, who run tours to many of the bungalows on the lake each day. I couldn’t find a website for them, but you can contact them on Facebook to enquire about a tour.

 

Staying in Khao Sok Town

Many people opt to stay in the town rather than on a floating bungalow – this is usually best for travellers that are short on money or time. If you stay in the town you can do a one-day tour of the lake instead of staying overnight.

All accommodations will offer tours, drivers, and day trips to see the area, so you can book day trips and boat trips through reception. If you would rather book your tour in advance, Our Jungle House offers one-day tours of the lake for 1,500 baht per person (not including national park entry fee or pier fee of 320 baht per person). You may be able to find better deals if you wait until you’re in the town to book your tour though! There are many different hikes and activities you can do from the town too, which again you can book when you arrive at your accommodation.

Here are some great places to stay in the town, not far from the pier so you have the option to do a boat trip:

  • Khao Sok Homestay Resort: This simple, budget-friendly resort offers clean, air-conditioned rooms for 585 baht / £15 / €17 per night with breakfast included. Each room has a balcony with mountain views, and they have a lake on the property with water sports facilities. They also offer many tours and even cooking classes on site.
  •  Khao Sok Ecolodge: Stay in a safari-style glamping tent in this gorgeous eco resort which has a pool where you can cool off from the jungle humidity. The tents are seriously pretty and luxurious, and are €36 per night with breakfast – which isn’t bad for a 3-star resort. They also offer a paid airport shuttle if you are flying to Surat Thani. We were seriously tempted to stay here during our time in Khao Sok!
  • Anurak Community Lodge: Another accommodation we almost booked, these stilted bungalows are nestled in the jungle and have four poster beds that face floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the beautiful scenery outside. All rooms are air-conditioned and have a private balcony. Group and private tours to the park can be arranged at the property, and they also offer table tennis, trekking, canoeing, bamboo rafting, cycling and bird watching. Arranging a cooking class is also possible. Rooms start at 1,800 baht / £47 / €55 per night.
  • Montania Lifestyle Hotel: If modern luxury is what you’re after, this 3-star resort offers traditional Thai style villas in beautiful surroundings. The swimming pool with mountain views is the real draw here, and the staff are very highly reviewed by guests. Rooms are the same price as Anurak at 1,800 baht / £47 / €55 per night.
  • Our Jungle House: Get back to basics by staying in a wooden tree house in the middle of the jungle at this 3-star resort. This is an eco-friendly accommodation option surrounded by rainforest and an array of wildlife. Through the resort you can book tours of the lake as well as river tubing, hiking and canoeing. Rooms start at 2,600 baht/ £67 / €79 per night for a double room, and family rooms are also available.

General Information

Here are some tips for visiting Khao Sok National Park, based on our experience here!

What to bring with you

  • If you are in a budget bungalow, bring a sleeping bag liner. This is more comfortable to sleep inside than the sheets and blankets they give you
  • A travel towel for swims during your day trips, and also for showering at the budget bungalows as you don’t get towels here.
  • Portable chargers to charge your devices during the day – there is only power from 6-10pm each day.
  • Toiletries weren’t provided in our resort, so we had to bring our own.
  • A dry bag would be helpful to carry your things on boat trips – we were splashed a lot during one trip.
  • Trainers for hiking – you can’t do the hikes in flip flops.
  • Lots and lots of bug spray (we use Soffell which you can buy in any convenience store or pharmacy in Thailand).
  • A head torch or regular torch if you have one – or use your phone torch if not.

Phone reception and internet

There is no phone reception across most of the accommodation on the lake, and wifi is only available in the high end resorts. We had zero reception or internet during our stay at the lake with our local Thai SIM cards.

If you are staying in the town there is reasonable wifi and 3G phone reception with local SIM cards.

Electricity

If you are staying on the lake, electricity is only available from 6-10pm each day. Our resort had a big charging area where we could leave our phones charge during those hours. There are no sockets in the bungalows.

Lights around the resort are solar powered, and everything goes off after 10pm. If you need to go to the bathroom after this, bring a torch.

Insects and wildlife

The national park is filled with many different animals and insects, so if you are an animal lover you will really enjoy the safari boat trips. It’s possible to to see wild elephants, leopards, tigers, and sun bears on your safaris – but as they are wild nothing is guaranteed!

There are leeches in the jungle, which is why it’s important to wear trainers when you hike – and it would be a good idea to wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible during long  hikes. We didn’t have a problem on our short hike to the viewpoint, but if you’re here in rainy season you may encounter them more often.

As you can imagine, there are lots of mosquitos so don’t forget to spray yourself regularly with insect repellent. Apart from that, we didn’t have much trouble with insects and we didn’t have any of them in our bungalow at any point.

Food & drink

All of our meals were included in our stay at Krai Son, as part of the tour we booked with Happy Tours. The breakfast, lunch, and dinner was massive each day and we were told we could have more of anything if we wanted it.  Tim and I both ate vegetarian food the entire time, and vegan options are available too.

For breakfast we had an egg-free pancake with fresh fruit, for lunch it was sweet & sour vegetables, green curry soup, and rice with fruit for dessert, and for dinner we had Massaman curry, omelettes, and rice with fruit for dessert. Free tea, coffee and water were available throughout the day also. If you didn’t have a reusable bottle, you were given one plastic bottle on arrival which you would refill from large drums when you needed it. This is done in an effort to reduce single use plastic usage which was great!

Beer, rum, whiskey, soft drinks, and snacks were available until 11pm from a little shop in the resort at your own expense.

Sea sickness on the raft houses

This was asked a lot on instagram, so I thought I would include a section here on seasickness. The bungalows don’t move enough to make you seasick, as they are moored down. However you will need to take a 45 – 60 minute boat journey to get to the rafts as they are not accessible by road. Even though this is a lake, we still found the journey a little rocky at times, so keep that in mind if you do suffer from sea sickness.

Bathroom facilities on the lake

In budget and mid-range bungalows, the bathrooms will be shared, while luxury bungalows have their own bathrooms. The bathroom facilities at Krai Son were excellent, and I have no complaints. There were two bathrooms and a cold water shower for each gender, which were cleaned throughout the day and were completely pristine during our three days.

I hope this guide is helpful for anyone thinking of visiting the national park, and that it can help any budget traveller to plan their trip! If you have been to Khao Sok and have any suggestions or recommendations – leave them in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading!
Steph
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2 comments
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2 comments

Deirdre Carolan January 8, 2020 - 4:34 pm

So good Steph! Thanks for going to so much effort

Reply
Ruth January 12, 2020 - 10:46 pm

This is very useful, thank you! Just a quick note – cougars are from the Americas and lions are from the savannah plains of Africa. I think you meant tigers and leopards which live in Asian equatorial jungles.

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