In a nutshell
Located right across the Mekong River from Savannakhet, Laos, Mukdahan certainly doesn’t hold the same appeal as many other Thai hotspots, but does see many travellers passing through.
Why go to Mukdahan
If you’re planning on making your way from Thailand into Laos, or vice versa, Mukdahan is an easy, straightforward place to do it. Plus, there are a few noteworthy attractions if you feel like settling in for a few days before heading on to your next stop.
Mukdahan town is known as one of the most sizeable cities along the Thai side of the Mekong River. You’ll find your fair share of markets, including the popular Indochina Market here. The area is filled with many Thais native to this part of the country, along with a decent number of Laotians, which brings a multicultural feel to the area.
Most visitors passing through Mukdahan enjoy spending some time in nearby Phu Pha Thoep National Park, exploring the night markets and temples along the Mekong, and following up with delicious, local meals. Mukdahan is for those in transit and those looking to slow things down for a long weekend. Whatever your reasons for visiting, wandering off the beaten path here might bring to light things you won’t see in other cities like bustling Bangkok.
When to go to Mukdahan
The dry season of December through April is the best time to visit Mukdahan. You’ll likely see some rain, but not nearly as much as you will from May through September. While Mukdahan stays pretty warm year-round, the dry season tends to be a bit cooler with temperatures averaging around 22-28 degrees Celsius, making exploring the surrounding area slightly more enjoyable. Expect a bit of variation, but it’s generally safe to plan for hot weather.
If you do end up in this part of the country during the rainy season, make sure to bring raingear, a good umbrella, and extra mosquito repellent.
Where to stay in Mukdahan
You won’t have any trouble finding a place to stay in Mukdahan town. There are a number of options spread throughout the area, with most offering cheap rates and decent rooms. Like other smaller Thai towns, expect friendly service, but not absolute luxury.
Take a walk along the Mekong, and you’ll likely see a smattering of larger accommodation options. The further you get from the river, the fewer hotels there are, but guesthouses and smaller budget spots are plentiful.
You’ll be hard pressed to spend more than THB1500 no matter where you stay. At that rate, expect regular amenities, furnishings, and possibly a pool.
Where to eat in Mukdahan
Many travellers are surprised by the food offerings throughout town. A mix of Thai, Vietnamese, and Lao dishes and restaurants dot the area, many serving cheap meals without slacking on the quality. We found ourselves looking forward to finding a new spot to eat each night throughout our stay in Mukdahan. The options are plentiful and nearly everything we tried was delicious.
Cheap meals can always be found at the day and night market along the Mekong River. Even better, the international variety is amazing. Curries, spring rolls, noodle dishes, and more are served, so you’ll have plenty of options.
With its close proximity to the Mekong, river fish are often found on restaurant menus. Couple that with traditional spicy flavours, and you’ll definitely have an interesting time eating your way through town.
How to get around Mukdahan
When in Mukdahan, do as nearly everyone else does and use a tuk-tuk to get around. If you’re near the centre or along the riverfront, it’s fairly easy to walk to markets and restaurants from most hotels. However, if you want a quick ride or are going a bit further afield, tuk-tuks and motorbike taxis are plentiful and cheap.
Another option for getting around town is to hire a bicycle for the day. You’ll notice several places offering rentals, and if you don’t, your hotel or guesthouse can likely point you in the right direction.
How to get to and from Mukdahan
There is n airport in Mukdahan, so if you want to fly there, you have to use either the airport in Nakhon Phanom which is 120 km north of Mukdahan or in Savannakhet in Laos which is only 20 km across the border (consider Lao visa formalities!). To keep it hassle-free, we suggest using Nok Air’s Fly’n’Ride service. For about THB900, you can book a flight from Bangkok to Nakhon Phanom and then use their bus service to travel the rest of the way. The flight will last about an hour and the bus ride closer to an hour and a half.
Alternatively, a similar service is available with AirAsia, with the same flight path and connecting bus dropping passengers off at the Indochina Market. We’ve seen tickets with AirAsia for as low as THB700.
Train travel to Mukdahan is also possible, but the closest station to town is in Ubon Ratchathani, which is about 170 kilometres away. Arrivals from Bangkok need to take a bus or hired car the rest of the way from the train station.
Because of the cheap cost of flight and bus combinations, we think plane travel from Bangkok is much more convenient and fast. Train travel from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani varies from THB95 to THB1180 with the cheapest and slowest option being a third class seat with no air conditioning and the most expensive being a first class sleeper on a rapid train.
You can also opt to make your journey entirely by bus. The main station is just outside of town and can be accessed by tuk-tuk or the popular yellow songthaew, which is a shared minibus that makes routine trips around town (about THB10 to the bus station).
The 12-hour trip to Bangkok can be made via several different buses all departing at multiple times throughout the day. The VIP bus, which is more expensive, but also more comfortable, departs in the morning and evening and shouldn’t cost more than THB850. First class buses, which are a slight step down in comfort, have a few more departure times in the morning and evening, with tickets costing around THB550. An even cheaper option are second class buses, which leave frequently throughout the day and cost about THB400.
How to cross the border to Laos
To cross into Savannakhet, Laos, from Mukdahan, hop on an international bus leaving hourly throughout the day and costing only THB50. These buses take the Friendship Bridge 2 from Thailand into Laos, making a stop at immigration for passengers to have their passports stamped, and then picking them up and continuing the journey from the other side.
Is Mukdahan safe to visit?
Mukdahan is generally safe for all travellers. Be aware of your surroundings like always, but the same applies to anywhere you travel. Keep an eye out for any possible scams connected to border crossing services. Check with multiple companies before booking bus tickets to make sure you’re not being ripped off.