Nearly all Similan Islands scuba diving liveaboard trips depart from Khao Lak, simply because Tab Lamu Pier is the nearest point of mainland to The Similan Islands. Khao Lak is a very pleasant beach resort town that has a nice mixture of accommodation options, some nightlife, and plenty of restaurants. It’s far more family & couple orientated than Phuket is. We always encourage our divers to stay in Khao Lak if they can. However, Phuket is hugely popular, and has its own international airport, so many Similan scuba divers stay in Phuket during their stay and often up until the departure. Please note that any boats which depart in the morning require guests to stay in Khao Lak, not Phuket. But most departures are in the evening and the dive centres can collect guests from around Phuket as well as Khao Lak. Khao Lak transfers are always free for Khao Lak departures, but only the more luxurious boats offer free pick-up in Phuket. The others normally charge about $8-10 (250 THB) guest. But nowadays we are noticing that more divers than before are staying on Koh Lanta, or around Krabi, such as Railay or Ao Nang.
Some of our Koh Lanta or Krabi guests who know about the free or cheap pick-up in Phuket think that it’s a good idea to come across to Phuket on the ferry to meet the pick-up. This is not a good idea. The ferries are slow and quite expensive, then the road transfer from Rassada Pier to Khao Lak takes up to three hours. Instead, if you’re staying on Koh Lanta or around Krabi, it’s a much better idea to travel by road directly to Khao Lak, even though you have to pay for that. The drive from Krabi to Khao Lak is around 3-4 hours, and fares in a shared minivan are around $10 (300 THB) per passenger and even cheaper by public bus. The bus would most likely stop and require you to change vehicles half way. The minivan trip is a direct journey.
We do not organise or sell these transfers, and we are not sure where to find one. However, if you’re staying around Krabi or on Koh Lanta, your local travel agent or hotel will be able to help you. Whatever you do, avoid taking a ferry from Koh Lanta or Krabi across to Phuket to join a Similan liveaboard pick up service if your boat departs from Khao Lak. You will spend all day travelling, if you choose that option. However, please check your boat’s itinerary. Some boats always leave from Chalong in Phuket, and others alternate departures from Khao Lak and from Phuket.