Getting to Railay Beach

The Railay peninsula is located on the coast between Krabi Town and Ao Nang. Although it is part of the mainland, it is only accessible by boat because of the high mountains that surround it. Longtail boat services depart from nearby piers: from Krabi Town and Ao Nam Mao, arriving on the east side of the peninsula; and from Ao Nang and Ton Sai, arriving on the west side. More about getting to Railay by longtail boat below.

There is also a direct ferry connection to Railay from the islands of Phi Phi and Phuket year round, and from Lanta during high season. Boats stop here en route to and from Ao Nang, mooring offshore. Longtail boats are then used to carry passengers to and from the shore on the west beach. Ferry timetables here >>

The only way to get around the Railey peninsula is on foot (there are no cars or roads): it’s fairly small so the distance from beach to beach can be covered easily without transport. At low tide it is possible to walk to the adjacent beach of Ton Sai across the rocks, though this is not advised for young children or anyone with mobility issues. Longtail boats can be chartered from any beach to visit the local islands.

View Railay & Ton Sai in a larger map

Longtail boat service to Railay

Do boats to Railay run in the night time? How to avoid being “ripped off” by the Railay boat service? Questions like these seem to abound on travel forums. So we’ve compiled the definitive guide to long boat travel to Railay. It will help you understand how the system works, and that in reality there are no rip-offs, just poor communication. If you are informed you can avoid most issues.

Understand the system

There are several different co-ops in Krabi, called “boat clubs”, that the boat drivers belong to. For example, the “Ao Nang Boat Club” and “Klong Haeng Boat Club” are for drivers with boats based in Ao Nang, and the “Railay Boat Club” for drivers based in Railay.

The key thing to understand is that each boat club issues its own tickets that can only be used on boats belonging to that club.

Tickets: single or return?

The Ao Nang and Klong Haeng Boat Clubs issue single and return tickets to Railay. Their ticket booths are stationed at either end of Ao Nang Beach and Nopparat Thara Beach (see map above for locations). The Railay Boat Club, based on Railay West beach, only issues single tickets to Ao Nang – they are not allowed to pick up passengers for the return journey. This means:

– If you are travelling from Ao Nang to Railay, you can buy either a single ticket there, and then a single ticket back from Railay Boat Club (which will be valid only on Railay Boat Club boats) OR you can buy a return ticket, which will be valid for travel back only on that Boat Club’s boats (Ao Nang OR Klong Haeng – the ticket will not be accepted on any other boats). To ensure you return to the same spot you started, buy a return; each boat club also uses different piers so you may end up returning to a different place.

– If you are leaving from Railay to Ao Nang and don’t yet have a ticket, your only option is to buy a single ticket from the beach in Railay, which is valid only with the Railay Boat Club boats, not on boats registered in Ao Nang. These boats usually drop off in the middle of Ao Nang Beach, near the Sailfish Statue.

Tickets are valid for the whole day or evening they are purchased. In addition, there is no fixed schedule between Ao Nang and Railay: boats leave as soon as there are 8 people on board. This can be every 10 – 15 minutes at peak times, and up to an hour or more between boats at night.

How to know which boat belongs to which club?

Aye, there’s the rub! If you’ve just bought your ticket, it’s easy: you will be directed to the next departing boat by their staff at the beach. However on the way back from Railay, if you have bought a return from Ao Nang, it’s more complicated.

The Ao Nang Boat Club drivers usually (though not always) wear blue shirts, and the Klong Haeng Boat Club drivers wear green shirts. The Railay Boat Club drivers don’t seem to wear their uniform much, but a yellow shirt will tell you a driver is from there. Red shirts are from Tonsai Beach, next to Railay. As these are not reliable indicators though, the best bet is always to approach the waiting boatmen and show them your ticket – they’ll let you know straight away if it can be used.

I’ve been ripped off!

Unlikely. Problems usually arise when people try to board boats that their ticket is not valid for. They are refused, and the reason (that the boatman in question will not be able to exchange their voucher for payment later if it is not from his boat club) is, due to language limitation, not properly explained. The resulting outrage, fuelled by myriad anecdotal reports of “Thai scams”, has led to more than a few indignant TripAdvisor rants. It is certainly frustrating, even if you understand the rules, to see other boats leave Railay – sometimes half empty – and have to wait another 15 minutes for your turn, but unfortunately this is the system as it stands.

What about Railay East / Ao Nam Mao?

The east side of Railay operates in a different – and clearer – fashion. It also has its own boat club (sound familiar?) but offers a smoother experience. East Railay connects with Ao Nam Mao and Krabi Town piers, that lie to the east of the peninsula. From Railay to Ao Nam Mao, there is a guaranteed boat schedule, with boats leaving every hour on the hour, with boats leaving Railay from 8am until the last boat at 6pm. The return journey from Ao Nam Mao to Railay is every hour on the half hour from 8.30am to 6.30pm. After these hours (or at any time) you can charter a boat for 800 baht one way: there is someone at the pier until around 11pm most nights. Tickets are sold as single (one way) only.

The service to Krabi Town in theory also runs on a schedule, with boats leaving the riverside Chao Fah Pier at 9, 10 and 11am and returning at 11am, 2 and 5pm – though it is not wholly reliable. Unless there is a very good reason for getting a boat all the way to Krabi, it is usually safer to travel to Ao Nam Mao and complete the journey by road.

Which pier do I need?

– If you are on a day trip, it makes little difference which pier you use. Leave from the place closest to your hotel.
– If you are travelling from Ao Nang on a day trip, it makes sense to travel to Phra Nang Cave first and return from Railay West (or vice versa) as you can then do a circuit around the whole peninsula.
– If you are driving, go to Ao Nam Mao, as there is secure parking next to the pier. It will be difficult to find a place in Ao Nang unless you are leaving very early morning.
– If you are travelling to a hotel on Railay, Railay West is a more convenient arrival point for Sand Sea Resort, Railay Village Resort, Railay Bay Resort and Railei Beach Club (though East would not be a disaster either). For all other hotels, Railay East is the most convenient.
– If you are travelling to the airport from a Railay hotel, Railay East – Ao Nam Mao is the most convenient route to take – book a taxi to pick you up at the pier on arrival.
– If you are arriving from the airport after dark, it is wiser to book your hotel airport transfer service in advance, so there is no hanging around with your luggage; otherwise Ao Nam Mao – Railay East is again the most convenient route.
– If you are travelling during a period of high winds or storms, some piers may be closed. Ask for advice from your hotel, or taxi driver if coming from the airport.
– If you are travelling from a beach that does not offer a “taxi boat” service to Railay, for example Klong Muang or Tubkaek, you can either travel to Ao Nang by road and take the boat from there, or charter a boat from the beach where you are (price will vary according to distance).

How much do tickets cost and where do I buy them?

Longtail taxi boat tickets to / from all destinations mentioned above (except Krabi Town) cost 100 baht each way, fixed price, during daylight hours. Travel time is 10 – 15 minutes, once you are on the boat. A return is simply twice the price of a one way journey (200 baht).
After dark, the price rises to 150 baht each way. Charter boat prices can be negotiated (usually 800 – 1200 baht for the whole boat), and will leave immediately.

Krabi Town is minimum 150 baht / one way (if less than 8 passengers, you will share the charter cost of 1200 baht between you) and runs only during daylight hours. Journey time is 30 minutes.

Small children usually travel free; older kids (there is no fixed age range, they will look at your child’s size and decide) are sometimes charged half price. Teens are counted as adults and pay full fare.

It is not necessary, nor even possible to buy “advance” tickets to Railay. Simply go to one of the ticket booths, or stands at the departure points listed on the map above to purchase your voucher / coupon. After dark, you will need to find a driver at the same spots and pay in cash when you board the boat.

Coming back from Railay (if you don’t already have a ticket) you can buy one from the boat club representatives on Railay East or West beaches. Don’t worry about finding them – they will usually find you. From Phra Nang Cave, you may have to negotiate directly with a boatman as there are not usually any ticket salesmen there. In this case, they will take the ticket payment in cash directly from you.

What about night time travel?

Boats between Railay and Ao Nang / Ao Nam Mao do run up until at least 11pm, and often later during peak season. But they are infrequent after 6pm, and almost non-existent if there is bad weather as well: if there are less than 8 of you, you will need to wait until that number is met, or pay the cost of chartering the whole boat, up to 1200 baht / one way. There are no boats to / from Krabi Town or Nopparat Thara pier after dark. Note: the ticket booths are usually closed after 6pm; you will need to pay the drivers directly in cash.

As mentioned above, if you are travelling with luggage after dark, you may find it more convenient to take your hotel’s transfer service, as waiting time can be long and the boats are poorly lit.

I’m still confused

You’re not alone. Here are the key takeaway points:

  • Wherever you buy your ticket, the staff there will ensure you get on the correct boat out.
  • On the way back, if you’ve bought a return, you’re on your own: try different boats, stay calm if you are refused, and you will eventually find one to take you.
  • Or, travel on 2 singles, but be aware you may be dropped back in a different place in Ao Nang to where you started.
  • For the least stressful journey, go via Ao Nam Mao to Railay East. Scheduled boats, fixed piers and single tickets ensure a relatively hassle free journey.

Destination Guide: Railay Beach & Phra Nang >>

Posted in Getting here and around.