Every trip to The Similan Islands requires using a pier. This is because the only way to get to the Similan Islands is by boat. There are no public ferries, so visitors need to join a private diving or snorkelling tour. The nearest mainland harbour to The Similans is at Thap Lamu, which is 8 kilometres south of Khao Lak and more than 50 kilometres north of Phuket. A few other piers can be used, but Thap Lamu Pier is by far the most popular.
Thap Lamu Pier is also spelled Tab Lamu Pier. It’s where most Similan-bound private tour boats depart from and return to. For boats the location and natural harbour make it the best choice for logistics and for safe mooring. It is the nearest point of mainland to the Similans, which makes it the best choice to minimize fuel used & time spent. And there is a large natural harbour that offers year-round calm seas. The harbour’s entrance is small and an isthmus of land offers protection from wind and waves. Many boats are moored in the harbour, just a short dinghy ride from the pier. Local fishing boats also use the harbour.
Also, the road to the harbour is flat and straight, whereas slightly further north it becomes twisty due to the elevated terrain. This location is the best choice for land-based logistics, such as transporting people and goods to the boats. There are no traffic issues in the area.
Even though the Thai Navy have a base nearby, and the National Marine Park office is located at the pier, the place is not all glamorous. There’s nothing to see or do there, and it’s quite untidy, dirty and busy. Tourists only go to Tab Lamu Pier Khao Lak to get on or off of a Similan Islands diving or snorkelling boat. Information for getting from Thap Lamu Pier to Similan Islands is on another page, and it discusses the logistics from many places. This page is just about Tab Lamu Pier Khao Lak.
Where is Thap Lamu Pier?
- From Phuket Airport, the pier is 50 kilometres in a straight line directly north, but 71 kilometres following the road.
- From Patong Beach Phuket, it’s 100 kilometres by road, and traffic is normally a problem around Phuket’s beaches.
- From Chalong, Phuket Town and Rassada Ferry Pier, Thap Lamu is just over 100 kilometres, but traffic is not quite as bad as from Patong.
- From the centre of Khao Lak, Tab Lamu Pier is 5 kilometres south in a straight line, but 12 kilometres by road.
- From Krabi Town, the distance is 130 kilometres.
Thap Lamu Pier is in a natural harbour between Phuket International Airport and the seaside town of Khao Lak, but it is much nearer to Khao Lak than it is to Phuket. From the main road, the pier is 4.5 kilometres west on a single carriageway road that is in good condition for all types of vehicle.
Transport Options for Tab Lamu Pier Thailand
This is not an easy place to get any public transport or for private taxis. Although the local people may have ways to get to or from the pier area, foreign tourists cannot jump on a bus or hail a taxi.
Private Boat Tours Transfer
90% of foreign & local tourists are taken to or picked up from Khao Lak Thap Lamu Pier as part of their tour package for snorkelling or diving at The Similan Islands. The private boat tour companies have their own vehicles or they hire local taxis to transfer guests.
It’s easy enough to get a private taxi from Phuket airport, and around Phuket & Khao Lak to the pier. But it’s not common and often doesn’t fit with the policies and itineraries of trips. Nearly all diving and snorkelling guests need to ‘check in’ at the tour operator office to complete paperwork or pay for their trip. It’s very rare that this is all done online and guests make their own way to the pier. In nearly all cases, you need to meet your tour group somewhere else, such as at your hotel or the airport, and they will take you to the pier. But sometimes, guests from Khao Lak or Phuket make their own way directly to the pier to meet the boat.
For getting to Thap Lamu Pier Phuket guests may come from the airport or the tourist areas of Patong, Karon, Kata, Chalong etc. Private taxis from Phuket will cost at the very least 1,000 THB, and can be more than 2,000 THB in some cases. A taxi from Khao Lak is much cheaper, but the vehicle is normally a pickup truck with a covered outside area that has benches for passengers to sit on.
There is a public bus to Thap Lamu, but not to the pier. The pier is 5 kilometres from the main road where the local bus stop is located. Along the road there are a few local shops and businesses, and one or two small hotels and resorts. However, it is wrong to suggest any Thap Lamu Pier hotel is actually at the pier. Public buses are available from Phuket and Ranong.
Thap Lamu Amenities
Please note that there are very few amenities at Thap Lamu Pier for international tourists. In recent years the quantity & quality of amenities has increased, but it’s important to note that things to do, see & use there are very limited.
A 7Eleven convenience store has opened and there are one or two similar locally-owned shops. There are almost no tourist souvenir shops. Foreign tourists can buy last-minute snacks, drinks and small items that they want to take on a liveaboard scuba diving cruise. Prices are the same as other convenience stores around Thailand.
At present, the choice of places to eat at Tab Lamu pier is extremely limited. There are no franchised restaurants, nor are there any restaurants where foreigners would enjoy a meal in a nice atmosphere. The main reason for this is that nearly every tourist at Tab Lamu Pier is just passing through, with luggage. There is no reason to go there unless you’re getting on or off a boat, and in 99% of cases, travel to or from the pier is in a shared hotel or airport transfer. Therefore, tourists don’t have the opportunity to stop for a meal, and local businesses understand that opening a restaurant is prone to failure from lack of customers.
There is no bank branch at Thap Lamu Pier. The nearest banks with English-speaking staff are in Khao Lak. Thap Lamu Pier Khao Lak has one or two ATMs but these are often out of cash because tourists may withdraw large sums before a liveaboard diving cruise, and the banks don’t replenish the cash very often. So it’s a bad idea to depend on an ATM at the pier to pay for your diving trip on arrival. It’s better to withdraw cash in Phuket or Khao Lak before travelling on to Tap Lamu Pier to Similan etc.
Finding and using a public bathroom at Thap Lamu is not easy or pleasant. Unless you’re in a desperate situation, wait until you get to your Khao Lak hotel or Similan liveaboard boat. But if you can’t wait, then the park office or a local shop or food seller may be able to help you out. But don’t depend on it. There are a couple of snorkel speedboat companies who have meeting points at Thap Lamu Pier, and these often have mostly Thai or Chinese guests. You may be able to use their toilet, but prepare for a queue and the possibility of a dirty squat-type toilet with limited personal cleaning facilities.
Parking facilities at Thap Lamu Pier Similan Islands
Most tourists do not require to park a car at Tab Lamu Pier. But those who are renting a car and going on a Similan day trip will be able to find space a short walk from the boats. The car park is nearly always full of minivans and pickup trucks converted into local taxis. If you plan to drive to Tab Lamu and leave your car for more than just the day, for example to go on a diving liveaboard, then it’s better to park at the dive centre in Khao Lak and use their transfer service. Thai drivers have a unique way of parking and lack of respect for others’ property. Some behaviour is regarded as unacceptable in the West. For example, parking across cars and blocking them in is very common. And sitting on a stranger’s parked vehicle (especially motorcycles) is also normal for them. Also, there is little or no security at Thap Lamu Pier. So if something happens to a parked car, finding the culprit will be almost impossible.
Other piers nearby
The main pier is easy to find, even for people who have never been before. The road leads directly to the pier and it’s clear to see that you have reached the end. However, there are a few places where boats dock at Tab Lamu. The local fishing boats have their own area, which is directly south of the ‘tourist pier’ and they do not normally disturb anyone involved in snorkel or diving trips. There’s a separate entrance for them and they tend to work at different times of day or night to tour operators. However, some diving boats use what is known as ‘The Ice Pier.’ The Ice Pier, is 450 metres south of the main pier, and requires experience to find. 4.1 kilometres after leaving the main road, you need to take the left fork, then travel 700 metres in the direction of 3 mobile telephone transmitter masts. This is not as easy as it sounds, and even returning drivers make mistakes. Several of our liveaboard boats use The Ice Pier, but all of these boats offer free local transfers. In addition, there is absolutely nothing to do at The Ice Pier (not even chairs to sit on and wait). Therefore, it’s much better to join their transfers from your Khao Lak hotel (or some from Phuket).
To anyone who takes the time to stop and look at the pier and its surroundings it’s clear that this place is dirty, untidy and not at all nice. There appears to be no policing or controlling of activities there, even though the national park office is right at the pier. Also, considering that most dive staff and guests are on their way to see nature at coral reefs and pristine beaches, one would think that they would do something about it. For example, a ‘clean Tab Lamu Day’ would be easy enough to organise and not take too long if enough people attended.
In summary, Thap Lamu Pier is by far the most-used pier for snorkelling and diving trips to Similan Islands. Day trip speedboats leave in the morning and return around 5pm. Liveaboard boats usually depart in the late afternoon & evening, then return mid or late afternoon a few days later. Also, a few liveaboard boats also leave in the morning. Your next Similan diving trip will most likely depart from Thap Lamu Pier. So, in order to select the best trip to fit your needs, schedule and budget, contact us now or check out our pages and special offers.