In a nutshell
Although Chanthaburi is not one of the most popular provinces to visit in Thailand, those who venture here will be rewarded with an abundance of cultural experiences, beautiful nature, tropical fruit, seafood and relaxed coastal resorts.
Why go to Chanthaburi
The province has something to offer everyone, and is the perfect addition to your itinerary if you are planning to spend some time in the east.
The capital itself, often referred to as Chan, is very interesting, as it has been shaped by various cultural influences and is famous for its precious stone and gem trade. These days, most mines in the province have closed, but the gem market is still lively, with traders acquiring stones from around the world. In addition to the gem market, the capital boasts a charming old town, Thai temples, food markets and a Vietnamese-Chinese riverside quarter.
After a few days of exploring the capital, there's still plenty to do in the surrounding province. There are a number of national parks where you can hike and swim in waterfalls, including Namlok Phlio and Khao Kitchakut. Or, if you want to spend some time at the beach, you can head to the coastal towns, Laem Singh and Chao Lao.
When to go to Chanthaburi
The best time to visit anywhere on the Thai mainland is during the cool season from November to February. However, the rainy season is also a good time to visit, especially in June and July, when the rain is likely to only be for a few hours each day. Rainy season is also a good time for Chanthaburi, because the waterfalls will be much more impressive and swimming in the pools will be more enjoyable.
Where to stay in Chanthaburi
For accommodation, the town itself does not have a large quantity of options, but there are several good value options and even a small riverside resort (Wang Phla Resort). River Guesthouse is a solid option for budget travellers, whilst KP Grand Hotel is perfect for those who want to take advantage of the facilities, which include a swimming pool, sauna, massage parlour, gym, and even a karaoke bar!
If you want to visit the coast, there are plenty of resort options to choose from, especially in Chao Lao. It's the perfect place to escape for a few days of relaxation, and a good base for exploring the coast. Smile Beach Boutique Resort is a great option for those with a smaller budget, whilst families will enjoy Chao Lao Tosang Beach Hotel.
Where to eat in Chanthaburi
Thanks to a variety of cultural influences, some of the food in Chanthaburi is unique to the province, and food-lovers will have a great time sampling dishes at the various cheap stalls and cafes found around town. There are also several markets, including a night market and a fruit market, where you can taste lots of delicious tropical fruits including mangosteen, durian and rambutan. Once you've tried everything available in the capital, you can head to the coast for some more culinary delights, as it’s famous for some of the best seafood in Thailand!
How to get to and from Chanthaburi
The most convenient way to reach Chanthaburi is by catching a bus from Bangkok's Ekkamai terminal, although some buses do leave from Morchit terminal too.
From Ekkamai, buses leave every hour between 2.00am and 9.30pm. A one-way bus ticket costs THB205 and the journey duration is roughly 5.5 hours.
At Morchit, a bus departs at 9.30am and 3.45pm, and the ticket price is roughly THB210.
For minibuses, head to Thaluang road, with departures every hour and tickets costing THB220). The journey time is only 4.5 hours in a minibus, because they drive much faster, but not always that safely, so the first class buses are a better option.
There are also buses departing from other destinations in Thailand, including Pattaya, Rayong, and Koh Chang. Buses from Koh Chang take 3 hours to reach Chanthaburi, stopping at Trat on the way, and tickets cost around THB140. If you are planning to visit Koh Chang after Chanthaburi, buses only go as far as Trat, so you’ll have to transfer to another bus there. It’s also possible to rent a car and drive, and you can then use the car to explore the province.
How to get around Chanthaburi
Once you have arrived in Chanthaburi town, there are several ways of getting around.
First, there are ‘taxis’ in the form of small pick-up trucks (blue and yellow) that can be hailed at many of the major attractions. The fares are reasonable, but you should always negotiate a price before setting of on the journey.
If you just want to explore the town, it’s small enough to navigate on foot, and you’ll probably see a lot more too. Motorbikes are the best option for travelling to the coast or the national parks, and they can be rented from a shop close by to the Eastern Hotel (behind NB Snooker, Soi Thachalaep 7). The rental price is THB300 per day, THB1,000 for one week, or THB3,000 for one month. The owner of the shop will also give you a map of the area and highlight the main attractions.
In Laem Singh, motorbikes can be rented from Siri guesthouse for THB300 per day. In Chao Lao, several hotels and resorts will arrange a motorbike for THB300 per day, and many also offer free bicycle rental. However, if your resort doesn't, you can rent from a stand on the main road (by The Residence Hotel) for THB50.
Is Chanthaburi a safe place to visit?
Although Chanthaburi is considered a safe town for tourists, travellers should always be careful with their valuables, especially when spending time at the beach.
For any illness or injury, there are two hospitals in Chanthaburi town, Chanthaburi Hospital and Bangkok Hospital, but it’s recommended to go to the latter.
For general information about the town, there's a tourist booth on Si Chan Road, next to the river.