While hanging out at the beach one day in Langkawi, we met a friendly Malaysian student who recommended checking out Koh Lipe before leaving the area. We decided it was worth it even if we only stayed one night and looked into heading back into Thailand. Turns out it's quite simple.
We booked the one-way ferry ticket to avoid being locked into a specific day. There are 9:30, 12:30, and 4:00 rides, and we took the 12:30 ride. It was 118 RM per person, not a bad deal considering it included transport from our guesthouse to Telaga harbor.
From there we filled out our Thailand arrival/departure cards, stamped out of Malaysia, and had to hand over our passports to the captain of the ferry. There was a large sign advising us of this, and you can't avoid it so I'm mentioning it just to give you advance notice if you're looking into riding this ferry.
After stamping out we sat around for a long time waiting for others to show up. It was a bit hot so we "illegally" went to the nearby gas station and bought some ice cream to cool ourselves while sitting in a very informal no-mans-land waiting area.
Finally we made the uneventful hour-long ride over to Koh Lipe, which is about 40km west of Langkawi. There's a timezone change so you arrive only minutes after your journey started.
Once we arrived we knew we'd made a great choice. Koh Lipe is a stunning paradise of an island!
After being ferried to the shore (it's quite shallow so our speedboat couldn't pull up to the beach), we were dropped off at the immigration desk. The entire group restlessly waited around with no instructions. It was very hot and everyone had to simply wait and watch all the other people enjoy the beach while we stood there waiting for our passports to be returned to us.
Finally after 20 minutes they appeared with all the passports again, arrival cards processed, passports stamped, and departure cards helpfully stapled into our passports. Pretty low-hassle in the end, and we were free to go and enjoy the beach!
Overall Koh Lipe is quite saturated with tourism, but I get the feeling that most of these Thai islands are similar. This was our first island visit, so the low prices and other backpacker-friendly aspects we were accustomed to in Bangkok or northern Thailand didn't count for much. For a shorter vacation it is still a real bargain, so we decided to ditch our normal budgeting for a few days and treat ourselves nicely while enjoying this tropical paradise!