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How To Do Khao Sok National Park On A Budget

Is Khao Sok National Park on your bucket list yet? If not, put it on there! Khao Sok National Park, located in the South of Thailand, is a breath-taking national park and one of the world’s oldest rainforests. Limestone mountains, wild animals, caves, waterfalls, and a huge lake: Khao Sok National Park has it all. And more, as many areas are still undiscovered. There’s only one problem: traveling to Khao Sok can be expensive. We couldn’t find much information about how to do Khao Sok National Park on a budget, so we went on a mission! Now, we can tell you all about it. You shouldn’t skip this beautiful area of Thailand because of its prices.

In this article
1. Khao Sok National Park & Cheow Lan Lake
2. How To Get To Khao Sok National Park?
3. Cheow Lan Lake On A Budget
Overnight Group Tour
One Day Group Tour
⋆ Independently
4. More Things To Do in Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park & Cheow Lan Lake

Khao Sok National Park is huge, it covers an area of 739 square kilometres (285 square miles). There’s an obvious reason Khao Sok’s nature is incredibly green year-round: its one of the wettest regions of Thailand. So be prepared to get wet! Most rain falls between late April to December, but there’s really no way to predict the rainfall on a specific day (or even hour).

A visit to Khao Sok National Park isn’t complete without visiting the famous lake called Cheow Lan Lake. The Cheow Lan Lake, also called the Ratchaprapha Dam Reservoir, is an artificial lake and exists for just 30 years. It was created to generate power, control floods, irrigate land and fish for food! The lake is a big part of Khao Sok National Park but its entrance is located an hour-drive (50km) from Khao Sok town. You’ll most likely stay in Khao Sok town if you aren’t sleeping on the lake.

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Let’s be honest: staying on the lake overnight is very expensive. Prices of the raft houses vary from $75-$200/night for a simple bungalow (no electricity, just a mattress), to $200-$400/night for a more luxurious bungalow. These are complete tour packages and include a lake safari, a jungle trekking or cave exploration, canoe rental and food. For us, it was a bit too pricey and we weren’t interested in a full tour package with a big group. Luckily there are more options to explore the lake – and spend less!

How To Get To Khao Sok National Park?

Khao Sok National Park is located about two hours from Surat Thani & Krabi and three hours from Phuket. You can take local buses, minivans or taxis between those places. From Bangkok, it’s easiest to take a bus, train or plane to Surat Thani and go from there. For only ฿180/person ($5.50), we travelled by local (big) bus from Phuket Bus Terminal 2 to Khao Sok National Park and it dropped us here. Afterwards, we took a minivan from our hotel to Krabi for ฿300/person ($9.10).

Cheow Lan Lake On A Budget

These are the three cheapest options to visit the lake, ranging from cheap, cheaper, cheapest:

1. Overnight group tour
2. One day group tour
3. Visit the lake independently

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Overnight Group Tour

Sleeping on the lake is magical, waking up to the sound of the jungle, seeing the first sun rays touching the limestone mountains… Having more time to explore the lake by kayak for example and enjoying the magic just a bit longer! The cheapest option is to go for an overnight group tour through your hotel. This includes very basic raft house: mattress on the floor, no electricity, no locks, and possibly shared bathrooms. In addition, overnight group tours arranged by hotels may be a bit less magical and romantic than we described above. Often, people bring drinks and have lots of fun at night. Food and activities are all included in all tour packages. Tours organised through hotels include transport to the lake. If you decide to book a tour through the official khaosoklake.com, note you have to arrange transport to Ban Ta Khun!

Note: if you want to do an overnight group tour, calculate two extra nights (one before and one after the tour) in Khao Sok, as tours start early and end late: transportation to and from Khao Sok will be difficult at those times

Costs

  • ฿2500/person Overnight Lake Tour 2 Days ($76.20)
  • ฿300/person entrance fee national park ($9.10)

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One Day Group Tour

It’s possible to do a day tour to the lake from Khao Sok. Every hotel offers tours but we hear great things about the Smiley Bungalows day tour. They take you to the lake and you go on a boat ride, a jungle trekking and/or cave exploration (dry season only). Breakfast and lunch are included. For two people, this option is slightly more expensive than the third option but for solo-travellers, this is a great option!

Costs

  • ฿1500/person Lake Tour 1 Day ($45,70)
  • ฿300/person entrance fee national park ($9.10)

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Visit Khao Sok Lake Independently

This is the absolute best option if you don’t want to go on a group tour and love to explore on your pace! It’s what we did and we loved it. Having all the time to take the pictures and videos you want, and not doing the activities you don’t want to do: so perfect. No annoying minivans/expensive taxis or local bus necessary: just rent a motorbike! To get from the land-side of the park to the lakeside, you drive an amazing route along Route 401. It’s about an hour drive and on the way, you see incredibly beautiful mountains already. The perks of having your own transport: you can stop wherever and whenever you want!

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It’s an easy drive to the pier (Ratchaprapha Marina). There, you can book a long tail boat with a driver. You can either find other people/another group to split the costs or get a private boat. We decide on the latter and are on the lake for three hours, that’s enough to see the best parts! You can negotiate with the driver beforehand where he takes you.

For us no caves or hikes but a longer ride farther into the lake. Halfway the ride we stop at a resort with lake houses and shoot some awesome drone- and dome-footage! It’s no overnight stay in raft houses, but it’s definitely amazing and you get to see the best parts – and we love the freedom. Note: food isn’t included in this tour, but you can eat delicious Pad See Ew at the Ratchaprapa dam viewpoint for just ฿50!

Costs

    • ฿250 Scooter Rental (24h) & ฿100 gas ($10.70)
    • ฿300/person entrance fee national park ($9.10)
    • ฿2000 Private boat with driver (3h) ($61)

That’s it! The cheapest ways to visit the lake. Eventually, you can make your trip as expensive and luxurious as you want, take a look at khaosoklake.com for other options.

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More Things To Do in Khao Sok National Park

Khao Sok National Park is definitely not only the Cheow Lan Lake. It’s a huge part of it, and definitely the most popular part to visit, but there are more things to do in the national park – on the jungle side specifically

  • Jungle Cooking
    How about a cooking class? We love Thai food and it’s awesome to learn how to cook it yourself!
  • Night Safari
    The jungle by night is a completely different experience. You’ll see animals you can’t see by daylight: it’s incredible
  • Elephant Sanctuary
    We wish this wasn’t one of the things to do. It’s our belief elephants are not meant for selfies. But if you can’t help yourself: choose one of the recommended sanctuaries that take good care of its animals and is properly certified.
  • River Activities
    Khao Sok not only has a lake, but also a river! There are many activities like kayaking, rafting or tubing to choose from.
  • Jungle or Viewpoint Hiking (budget friendly)
    If you’re all about hiking: you’ll love the jungle hikes. You can either book a tour and do deep jungle hikes, but you can easily go on a hike independently (= FREE). To the Ton Kloi waterfall for example! Not so much a jungle person? Walk to the Khao Sok viewpoint.
  • Visit a Temple (budget friendly)
    When in Thailand, always visit a temple! Really close to the Khao Sok local bus stop is Wat Tham Phanthurat. Make sure to dress properly.

Visit khaosok.com for more information

Want to read more travel tips, journals and guides of Thailand? Find them here.

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Liza

Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

Hi! This was soooo helpful! Thank you! We are planning to repeat your journey but do you know if we can rent kayaks from the raft (lake) houses and do that for an hour or so? Will the boat ride wait or can we get another one to return the same day?:)

Roxanne & Maartje

Wednesday 22nd of January 2020

Probably? We think you can ask when renting the boat for a couple hours! We did a lunch somewhere, but you can probably add the kayak-rental!!

River

Wednesday 8th of January 2020

Hi we are planning to visit Khao Sok National Park and Cheow Lan Lake in February. We are planning to drive up the night before and then wake up to either do hikes in the park or get a long boat on the lake. Do you know if you can get through the park to hike and/or get a long boat before the park open at 8am?

Roxanne & Maartje

Thursday 16th of January 2020

Hi! That's a really good question, the boats probably won't be available yet and as for the park, you might be lucky and able to enter for free or unlucky and it's closed off still. Sorry, this is probably not very helpful!

Magda

Wednesday 16th of October 2019

Hi! Do you booked private boat in advance? Or you just asked the free driver when you arrived in Cheow Lan? Im afraid about corwds (I will travel in January). In which month did you visit Khao Sok?

Roxanne & Maartje

Thursday 17th of October 2019

Hi Magda! We just went and arranged it at the lake - that's the best way to do it!

Maggie

Sunday 13th of October 2019

Hi! Im truly in love with this post. I'm wonder, If I need to book a private boat in advance? I will travel in January and I'm afraid of the crowds. In which month did you visit Khao Sok?

Roxanne & Maartje

Thursday 17th of October 2019

Hi Maggie! No need to book anything in advance, there will be lots of boats ready to take you! We visited in September!

sophia

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

O my gosh what filter did u use for your photo's? I think the view itself is already incredible, but you're making the photo's even more pretty!!! I'm going to Khao lak with my partner the 13th of september and I can't wait, so thank you for your tips and I hope you can help me with the filter/app/programm you use for your photos!

Roxanne & Maartje

Sunday 25th of August 2019

Ahw thank you so so much! You're gonna love Khao Sok!! We use our own photo filters (presets) and the program Adobe Lightroom. If you click 'presets' on the menu, you'll find more info/previews!

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