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I am planning to travel to Koh Lipe in April 2019, and fly into Phuket on the 20th. My flight home is actually out of Langkawi in Malaysia, around the 28th.

I already confirmed that there is a ferry from Phuket to Koh Lipe, at least in the high season (Nov - April). I prefer to do it this way than to minivan or fly to Hat Yai and catch the ferry there, as there is an Australian foreign ministry Do-Not-Travel warning for that region (which would void travel insurance).

There are apparently 2 ferry companies operating between Phuket (Rassada Pier) and Koh Lipe - Tigerline and Satun Pakbara Speed Boat Club. Both have many horrible reviews, with a smattering of good ones.

Tigerline has the most overwhelming collection of bad reviews, whereas Satun Pakbara has a more balanced mix, but I'm not sure if that's just due to Tigerline serving more people, or that LonelyPlanet thread having been around for longer.

I'm wondering if anyone has experiences with ferries in the Andaman islands, and particularly these two companies?

In particular:

  • What route do they take? I know that at least one stops at Koh Phi Phi and maybe other islands?

  • Are the two companies a pretty comparable experience? Are the boats similar, or are there big differences? Eg does Tigerline really reliably offer a 'high speed ferry', or is it just whatever they have on the day?

  • Is it worth booking online? It seems like even in high season the ferries have spots, that often it's cheaper in person, and that having the optionality to choose the company that seems the least shambolic on the day is also a major plus. Any problem with just rocking up half an hour before the supposed ferry time and finding a ticket?

  • How (un)reliable are the services? Eg if I fly out of Langkawi at 6pm, is it too risky to transfer from Koh Lipe that morning? Better to transfer across the day before, given flaky ferries, immigration etc, and spend a night in Langkawi?

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I have been stranded all over South-East Asia on different magnificent islands due to bad weather or broken down ferries. Thus if it is an important flight, e.g international flight then I would never advise anyone to travel with a ferry and fly on the same day.

The time you are going for koh lipe the island will be fairly quiet, making the ferries even more unreliable.

I would suggest to fly to Langkawi and take a ferry from the pier in Langkawi to Koh Lipe which takes about 30 minutes. Flights to Lankawi are cheap and immigration is a breeze.

pre-booking a ferry online in South-East Asia is expensive and not necessary for most routes, a couple of days in person in advance is enough.

  • Thanks for these useful pointers. I have learnt elsewhere that in April this year the ferries are still regular between Phuket and Koh Lipe, at least until the end of April. I guess we will see though. I have already booked flights as mentioned in the Q, cos we were booking Easter and on short notice flights were expensive, and into and out of Langkawi was more expensive than the itinerary I chose (open jaw HKT - LKW) Do you have any specific insight into the two main ferry companies I mentioned? – imoatama Apr 17 at 11:39
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As far as ferry companies go, there are actually three that go from Phuket to Koh Lipe. They are:

  • Tigerline

  • Bandhaya

  • Satun Pakbara Speedboat Club

The best reviewed seems to be Bundhaya, though all three have horror stories and entreaties to avoid at all costs. Both Bundhaya and SPBSC use speed boats, and Tigerline is either a speedboat or a ferry? All take about 5 hours total from Phuket to Lipe, with plenty of stops along the way - these are unavoidable.

Bundhaya and SPBSC go from Phuket to Phi Phi, to Lanta. With Bundhaya there was a boat change in Lanta, then both companies have stops in Ngai, Mook, Bulon and finally Lipe. I'm unsure of Tigerline's route but it is probably similar.

I can only speak to Bundhaya, but overall it was fairly professional and the boat well maintained. At this less busy time the boat was not at all packed. Though there were life jackets for everyone for the first stop only - some legs people outnumbered life jackets and not everyone got one.

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