200 kilometers from Bangkok lies the oldest seaside resort in all of Thailand: Hua Hin. The city of Hua Hin started to become famous starting in the 20’s, when King Rama VI decided to build his summer residence.
From this period onward, from a fishing city Hua Hin started to become a sought-after destination for average stays, especially for those who live in the great Bangkok.
With the construction of the royal residence a good part of the Thai aristocracy adopted Hua Hin as a place to vacation and relax. Along with this new influx of wealthy people, a railway station was built in the city. Even today both tourists and others come to see this particular building, symbol of the city.
When it comes to foreign tourists, Hua Hin is a town particularly favored by retirees. Unlike Pattaya and Phuket, Hua Hin is not under assault by mass tourism, but instead is a preferred place for those with mid-to-high income.
In fact, along the beach you’ll see lots of villas, five start hotels and even luxury condominiums. The cost of living is higher compared to the rest of the country, hotels go for prices starting from 600 THB for a double room in a guest house. Forget about finding a Bed & Breakfast for 200 THB a person, or youthful hostels.
How to get to Hua Hin
You can get to the city in various ways depending on your budget and the time you have available.
Renting a car is one of the options that will save you the most time, not just when it comes to getting around Bangkok, or other cities, but for getting around once you get to your destination. A car gives you a sense of greater freedom, especially when visiting attractions outside of the city center, like the royal summer house or monkey hill.
Renting a car in the largest cities of Thailand is easy and convenient enough, especially if you’re at least 3-4 people. On sites likeAutoeurope, Bangkok.com or Kayak.com, you can rent cars starting from 20 USD a day.
Another possibility is renting a car through airlines like AirAsia. On the company’s dedicated page you’ll find lots of offers. Rentals start from 770 THB a car for 24 hours.
The convenience of this internet site is the fact that once you insert the name of the airport from where you wish to rent, the one where you want to return it, and the dates of your trip, the site will seek the best possible offers from all local companies that offer this service.
Buses and minivans
Taking a bus or minivan from Bangkok station is very easy and convenient. You can get to Hua Hin in 3-4 hours (depending on the traffic), for a price of 180 THB a person. From Bangkok both buses and minivans leave from the north station of Morchit. You can reach the station using the SkyTrain or taking advantage of the thousands of available taxis in the city.
Large buses will leave you at the city bus station, which isn’t far from the center. At this point you can walk or if your hotel is far and you have a lot of luggage, you can take one of the tuk tuk taxis across from the bus station waiting for tourists. Prices hover around 150-200 THB.
With minivans, they stop in front of the largest shopping mall. In this case too the stop isn’t far from the center, and if your hotel is situated a little outside the city you can take a taxi.
Remember that in all cities outside of Bangkok, taxis don’t use their meters and your only chance will be in negotiating a price.
If you land at Suvarnabhumi airport you can take advantage of the direct service between Bangkok–Hua Hin, taking one of the various minivans that offer this service from 7:30 to 18:30, from gate 8 on the first floor of the airport.
You can book tickets on the company’s site, choosing the date and time you want, your information and mode of payment. You can also buy tickets directly from the airport on the first floor, gate number 8, or one of the official vendors called “Bell Travel Service”, in Bangkok, Pattaya, and also Hua Hin.
This company offers the same service for the route between Hua Hin to Bangkok, for a price of 269 THB a person.
Pay attention on calculating well the timing of your trip, since the ticket is valid only for the day and hour you’ve chosen. If for some reason you miss the minivan, the company’s policy is not to reimburse the client. You can however change the date and time of your minivan, even after first booking it online, for a price of 30 THB a ticket.
Click here to read our guide on buses in Thailand and to find out the best way to buy your tickets.
If you have little time and don’t want to rent a car on your own, then you can opt for having your own personal driver: by using a taxi. For distances such as Bangkok you can manage to rent a taxi for 2,000 THB. If your plan is to just stay in Hua Hin for a day, it’s possible that the driver will wait for you and bring you to see the main attractions himeslf. The cost would be higher, but if you have at least 4 people it could be worth it.
Hua Hin is reachable by taxi from other places as well. An example is the town of Cha Am, located a few miles away. If you find yourself in Cha Am and decide to go to Hua Hin by taxi, the prices will be pretty high, again for the reason that outside of Bangkok the taxis hardly ever use meters! For a one-way run Cha Am–Hua Hin, the price should be about 600 THB per car.
The first train of the morning leaving Bangkok going to Hua Hin, departs at 4:28, while the last train at night leaves at 14:22. The trip will take about 4-5 hours, depending if you take a normal or fast train (express).
Besides a connection with the capital, the railway line in Hua Hin sees trains coming from the south of Thailand, such as Sungai Kolok and Hat Yai.
Though Hua Hin has a small airport, it isn’t accessible to commercial flights, but only private jets. Up until a few months ago it was possible to take a commercial flight from Bangkok to Hua Hin.
As was mentioned on the airport’s website, this route has been suspended and substituted by a limousine and minibus service, run by a private company.
Since January 2017 you can also get to Hua Hin from Pattaya, and viceversa. As was explained in one of our articles, from the beginning of the year the Thai government decided to open a marine route to speed the trip between the two coasts.
Tickets cost 1,250 THB a person, and takes an hour and a half. The ferry leaves only once a day from the port of Pattaya at 10:30 and Hua Hin at 13:30.
Where to stay in Hua Hin
The majority of available hotels are mid to high range. In the whole city there are about 450 hotels, which can go from a simple guest house from 600 THB a night to five star hotels at 22,000 THB a night. It’s in this latter category that you’ll find one of the most amazing hotels in which to stay, the V Villas Hua Hin – MacGallery by Sofitel.
The Sofitel chain (a member of the Accor Hotels group) is quite famous and appreciated in all of Thailand; just in Bangkok in fact there are two Sofitel hotels. The best is the So Sofitel, a splendid five star hotel located near the really central Lumpini Park.
On the twenty-fourth floor there’s a bar with a view over the entire city, which has booths for drinks or elegant tables inside for a luxury dinner. It’s great to visit on a Friday night when various musical groups play live.
What to see
One of the attractions of Hua Hin that distinguishes it from other cities on the west coast is its train station, built in Thai style and making it the symbol of the city. This is a working station and offers connections both to the south and toward the capital Bangkok.
Its appeal is in the architecture: this is a little red and white house in Thai style. In the 20’s,when King Rama VI decided to build his summer residence (Klai Kangwon Palace), it also gave aristocracy to the city station, building a dedicated wing for receiving his guests arriving by train.
Another interesting attraction is the weekend night market. This market is found in the eastern part of the city, near the luxury hotels like the Sofitel and the Marriott. It isn’t a huge market, but it’s really charming and easily visited by foot. As a true Thai market it sells everything, from local foods, to clothes, little stuff and various souvenirs.
Close to the city, in the southern part of the beach, there’s a little hill called monkey hill. It can be an alternate activity to do in a morning or late afternoon.
I recommend that you go by taxi; from the city they usually ask about 100 THB, so you can see the temple at the top of the really long stairs decorated with a depiction of two golden serpents.
As the name says, the spot is inhabited by a community of monkeys that are rather tame. As is Thai custom, the local people have managed to make a business out of it by selling bags of bananas to feed the monkeys for a price of 150 THB. At the foot of the stairs, besides finding monkeys there are also counters where they sell souvenirs.
A building worth visiting is what was the summer home of King Rama VI, the Mrigadayavan Palace. Located a few kilometers from the center of Hua Hin (closer to the city of Cha Am than Hua Hin), this wonderful building is reachable by car or taxi.
Today around the palace there’s a military complex where there are also various restrooms and small souvenir shops. To visit the Per old royal residence, you’ll be asked to put on appropriate clothing: long pants and covered shoulders.
Entrance is free, but you’ll be asked to deposit a form of identification at the ticket counter. This document, whether a drivers license or passport, will be given back to you when you leave. Visits are free, there are no guided tours and you can decide if you want to go as far as the entrance to the palace (and pass through various gardens) on bike or on foot.
Daily hours of operation are from 8:30 to 16:30. It’s closed on Wednesdays.
The entire complex is made up of 16 pavilions, arranged into three main groups. Upon entering, if you go straight you’ll see the first area containing a display of photographs about the present royal family and their diplomatic relationships with other important families in the world, like Queen Elizabeth and the Obamas.
Moving on to the upper floors you can visit the king’s bedroom, the queen’s bedroom, the dining room, and receiving room (where they have an old menu hung up with French dishes used during dinners). Interior furnishings were designed by an Italian architect at the beginning of the 1900’s.
In addition to the cited activities, Hua Hin also offers the typical activities you can find in all the main tourist areas: elephant tours and cooking schools. As was already explained in our article about Chiang Mai, I strongly don’t recommend any animal activity in general.
There are however valid alternatives for coming into contact with the local community, such as participating in a Thai cooking course at the Hua Hin Thai Cooking Academy.
Personally I don’t think it’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, and wouldn’t recommend visiting the city as a tourist for those coming from far off countries like Europe and the United States. For those visitors I would opt for one of the country’s islands, or the north of the country, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Phai in particular.
The city of Hua Hin could be a valid option for those who live in cities like Bangkok and want to blow off some steam by relaxing by the sea without having to travel too far.
The beach at Hua Hin extends for several kilometers. The beach and water are quite clean.
As in the case of nearby Cha Am, it’s possible to rent chairs and umbrellas on the beach at Hua Hin for 50 THB a day per persona.
Several restaurants face the beach, offering food and entertainment until late at night. During holiday periods like the Thai new year, the city’s hotels and restaurants are swarmed by families who work in the capital the rest of the year, and during the new year (in mid-April) decided to spend their vacation week at the beach.
Things to do at the beach range form horseback riding and water sports like kite surfing, or being dragged behind a motorboat on a float in the shape of a banana.
What to see nearby
The closest city to Hua Hin is Cha Am. Cha Am is a small town located on the water as well. Unlike Hua Hin, it’s mainly snubbed by Thai tourists since there’s practically nothing to do unless you want to spend the whole day at the beach.
The beach at Cha Am is quite dirty, as is the water. You won’t see international tourists; the only people on the beach are the (really few!) locals.
[Photo Credits (Creative Commons License): www.flickr.com/photos/pranavbhasin/]