Krabi’s economy used to be based on agriculture and fishing but since the mid- to late 1980s, tourism has grown although rubber and palm-oil plantations are still a mainstay. The tourism takeover in Krabi is all down to the growth in the late 1970s and 1980s of surfaced roads at Ao Nang, Ao Luk, Klong Tom and Panom Bencha. Indeed, in the early 1970s communists bandits operated the roadblocks at night, along the only surfaced road in Krabi – Highway 4 – which linked the town with Phangnga. Only those motorists who knew an ever-changing password would be allowed to travel while locals learned not to venture out after dusk. What scant tourists there were clung to their guesthouses, not that maps were even available for the more adventurous among them. Ever mindful of the possible spread of Communism, a watchful Royal Thai Survey Department along with the US Defence Mapping Agency in Washington, published a secret map of the area that no civilian was permitted to see. Then, as the communist threat receded, Ao Nang, which persisted with a dirt track to Krabi until the mid-1970s, got in on a budding asphalted network. This resulted in a bungalow and bar boom that transformed what was once an isolated beachside village into a Costa Del Sol with a twist of Patong. Meanwhile, Krabi town, on the beach route, steadily grew as a tourist layby and is, today, exceptionally well served with well-priced cafés and restaurants, catering for both tourists and locals and good quirky bars. There is even talk of an annual Thai reggae and Moken ‘sea gypsy’ summer music festival as more musicians are attracted to the area’s laid-back nightlife. Over the past five years the demographics of Krabi have also shifted and the present burgeoning Muslim population – well over half – has clearly influenced the food. Along with hot Thai salads, halal meat, roti and Malaysian-Thai fusion cuisine are commonplace.
Krabi is well connected. The new Krabi International Airport, 15 km from town, offers seven daily flights from Bangkok. The taxi to town from the airport is around ฿฿400 and to Ao Nang ฿฿500. Songthaews offer a cheaper option. There are also boats to Koh Phi Phi – still worth a day-trip – and Koh Lanta, from the new pier on the outskirts of Krabi town. Free courtesy tuk-tuks from the old pier at Chao Fah to the new one may still be offered, so don’t be too keen to flag down a taxi. Meanwhile, Chao Fah Pier continues to operate services to Rai Leh beach and there is a white minibus for ฿฿50 to Ao Nang from there as well.
There is no train station in Krabi but Phun Phin (the stop for Surat Thani) is a three-hour bus ride away. The overnight sleeper is met by buses for those going on to Krabi. Buses drop travellers at the tourist office in Krabi, where bookings for the islands can be made. Alternatively, travel to Trang or Nakhon Si Thammarat and take buses from there. Combination tickets from Bangkok via Surat Thani are available and can be booked through travel agencies. From the bus station, around 5 km from the centre in Talat Kao (Old Market), close to the intersection of Uttarakit Road and Route 4, there are regular connections with Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal (16 hours) as well as with all major towns in the south. The VIP bus from Bangkok is a 12-hour overnight journey. However, do your homework and don’t economize – Krabi hoteliers are now warning tourists of a rogue bus service with contraband ‘passengers’. For Koh Samui, companies offer combination bus/boat tickets. Motorcycle taxis also wait to ferry bus passengers into town. Songthaews are the main form of local transport, they drive through town stopping at various places such as Phattana Road, in front of Travel & Tour, for Ao Phra Nang and in front of the foodstalls on Uttarakit Rpad for Noppharat Thara Beach. Red songthaews regularly run between the bus station and town, ฿฿20. Motorbikes are widely available for hire.
The international airport is 17 km northeast of the town on Highway 4, T075-636546. It is served by THAI, Airasia, Tiger and Singapore airways with the vast bulk of flights going to Bangkok.
The monsoon season affects timetables as does the low season. The pier outside Krabi town is called Chao Fah Pier and services Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. To Koh Phi Phi, 1000 and 1500, 1½ hrs, ฿฿350 (includes transfer from guesthouse). There is also an additional 0900 boat going via Rai Leh Beach to Phi Phi, ฿฿390. It is also possible to take a long-tailed boat from Khong Pier ฿฿120 per person, leaves when full.
There is still a boat from Krabi to Koh Lanta via Koh Jum (1½ hrs). This runs from mid-Oct to mid-May, departing at 1100 for around ฿฿350. In the wet season, a minibus runs from Klong Chi Lard Pier and via 2 short car ferries across Lanta Noi and to Ban Sala Dan, 2 hrs, contact a tour operator for details.
There are boat connections with Ban Hua Hin, on the southern tip of Koh Klang. Songthaews also go to Ban Hua Hin
To Phuket there is one direct boat leaving at 1500 from Ao Nang Hat Naopparat Thara Pier, ฿฿550, 2 hrs.
There are also boats from Krabi to Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi, ฿฿350, 1 hr, leaving Thalane Pier at 1500, including transfer from guesthouse.
Numerous evening a/c, VIP and non-a/c connections with Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal, 16 hrs. There is also a service that departs for Bangkok’s Khaosan Rd at 1600. Regular a/c and non-a/c connections with Phuket, 3 hrs via Phangnga, 1½ hrs. Minivan to Phuket, daily 1100, 1400, pick-up from guesthouse, ฿฿350. Regular connections with Surat Thani, 3 hrs and Trang, a/c minibuses to Hat Yai. Tickets and information about bus connection (both public buses and private tour buses) available from travel agents.
To Koh Samui (฿฿400) and Koh Phangnan (฿฿550), bus and boat, 1100 and 1600. One connection daily with Koh Tao at 1600, ฿฿850.
International connections with Malaysia and Singapore
By a/c mini- bus to Singapore, 0700, ฿฿1000; Kuala Lumpur, 0700, ฿฿850 (there’s also a VIP bus at 1100) and Penang, 0700 and 1200, 7-11 hrs, ฿฿600). Buses stop in Hat Yai, for passport checks. Some travel agents charge ฿฿10 ‘border service’, avoid paying if possible.
Motorbike and jeep
Scooters cost ฿฿150-200 per day. Jeeps, ฿฿900-1200 per day.
Songthaew run regularly to the bus station at Talaat Kao, 5 km from town. White songthaews leave regularly 0600-1800 from Maharat Rd next to the 7-11 and from Phattana Rd stopping at both Nopparat Thara and Ao Nang, ฿฿50 from 0800-2200, and ฿฿80-100 after dark.
Immigration office, Uttarakit Rd, a little way up from the post office on the same side of the road. The office will extend 60-day visas by 30 days (฿฿1900) and provide free 14-day visas for people arriving by sailing boat. It will also provide re-entry permits for those travelling on longer-stay visas. Mon-Fri 0830-1200, 1300-1630. Photocopies can be made at a couple of shops just across the road in the row of wooden shophouses.
Lots of services available around the town, especially on Uttarakit Rd, Chao Fah Rd (towards the pier) and around Hollywood.
Uttarakit Rd (halfway up the hill, not far from the Customs Pier). It has a Poste Restante counter.
Quite a way out of the town on the way to the Krabi Meritime Hotel. Alternatively, look for services in some tour offices on Uttarakit Rd.