In a nutshell
130 km west of Bangkok, close to the border with Myanmar, Kanchanaburi is a perfect few days’ escape from the traffic and chaos of Bangkok.
Why go to Kanchanaburi
Set on the banks of the river Khwae and surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and natural parks, Kanchanburi is the place to be if you want to explore the wonderful nature of Thailand.
It’s also an important historic district: tourist from all over the Word come here all year round to visit the infamous river Khwae Bridge. Built during the WWII, the bridge is part of the Burma – Siam railway that caused the death of approximately 100000 people during the construction.
Kanchanaburi has also become a backpackers’ Mecca in the last 10 years, especially for those who are willing to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that you would normally expect in a river town.
Travellers come to Kanchanaburi attracted by the natural beauties, the cheap and tasty food, the sightseeing opportunities, the authentic atmosphere and the chilled out nightlife. Many of them come here planning just a short visit but end up staying for weeks, months or even more. Immerge yourself in the Kanchanaburi vibes for a couple of days and you’ll easily understand why.
When to go to Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is worth a visit any time of the year. During the rainy season (late May to October) heavy storms might hit the town, usually at night time, but as result of that the natural beauties will be at their best.
December and January might be quite cold at night and there’s no need of air-con to have a comfortable sleep. If you’re planning a visit at this time, don’t forget a jumper for the night.
April is the hottest time of the year but it’s also Songkran time. Thai people here know how to celebrate the Thai New Year and you’ll never forget being part of it.
Where to stay in Kanchanburi
Kanchanburi has a wide range of accommodation that will fit any possible budget. You can find the majority of the guesthouses and hotels in the tourist area of Mae Nam Kwae Road.
The most characteristic option is the floating raft houses on the river Khwae where you can find a double room for as low as THB250. For a mid-range room with air-con and private bathroom expect to pay THB600. Plenty of options also for the higher budgets with some of the best resorts being out of the tourists’ area in more peaceful and quite parts of the city.
What to eat in Kanchanaburi
Generally speaking the food in Kanchanaburi is exactly what you would expect before visiting Thailand: tasty, cheap and…spicy!! You can find all the most classic Thai dishes, the superb Isaan cuisine and also Burmese specialties (the Myanmar border is just 50 km away).
The local night markets are the first place to go and try the tasty and authentic Thai food. In Mae Nam Kwae Road you will find many stalls offering simple food for as low as 20 baht and cheap restaurants serving Thai or western food. Close to the bridge some upscale restaurants will serve delicious freshwater fish and seafood right on river.
Getting around in Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is quite a big city but the main tourist area can be easily covered on foot. Motorbike taxis are always available and will take you anywhere in town for THB50/THB100.
Songthaews are also found everywhere and are usually quite cheap.
Motorbikes can be rented for THB200 per day. Remember to wear a helmet: riding a motorbike is quite dangerous in Thailand and the police will target foreigners without the helmet. The fine is usually THB300.
If the day is not too hot renting a bicycle is also a good option: they come for THB50 a day.
Getting to and from Kanchanaburi
From and to Bangkok
The easier but more expensive way is to get a taxi. Expect to pay from THB2000 for a one-way ride from anywhere in Bangkok and a little more (THB2200) from Suwarnabhumi airport. Same prices for the way back. The journey will take just a little more than 2 hours if the traffic is not crazy.
Many buses leave every day from the two main bus terminals in Bangkok. From Southern Bus Station (Sai Tai Mai) there’s a bus every half an hour from 4am to 10pm. From Northern Bus Station (Mo Chit) buses leave every hour from 5am until 4pm. The ride will last from 3 to 4 hours. The ticket is THB80 for a second class bus or THB110 for a first class one. The same tariffs are applied for the Kanchanaburi–Bangkok route with the only difference being the last bus leaving Kanchanaburi at 7pm.
Another option is taking a shared minivan (THB130) leaving from Mo Chit Bus Terminal that will stop in Kanchanaburi at the bus station. They leave as soon as they have enough passengers, usually every 15 minutes. They’re quicker than the bus but they might be quite uncomfortable especially if you’re sitting at the very back and you have to carry your bag on your knees. On the way back some of the guesthouses and all the major hotels will organize for them to pick you up in front of the entrance for 150THB.
The last option is catching the train that leaves twice a day from Thonburi train station. The ticket is THB100 and it takes three and a half hours. The train station in Kanchanaburi is 5 minutes walking from the area where all the guesthouses are.
From and to other destinations.
Direct buses to/from Chiang Mai run three times every day. The journey is approximately 11 hours and the ticket is THB600.
If you’re next stop is Laos, an overnight bus to Vientiane is also available every day at 7pm for THB490. It will take 12 hours and will stop In Nong Khai on the Thai side of the border. Vientiane is 20 km away and once crossed the border public buses are available.
Shared minivan to Hua Hin departing from the bus station are available multiple time every day.
Safe travel in Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is a safe place to travel. Just use common sense and don’t leave valuables in your room if you stay in one of cheap guesthouses. Few thefts occurred in the last years. A tourist police office can be found close to the bridge.
For any medical problem a public hospital and some private clinic are available.