In a nutshell
Nakhon Ratchasima, also known as Khorat (this is how we’re going to call it from now on), is the capital of one of the biggest provinces in Thailand. Located 250 km eastern of Bangkok, Khorat is an important commercial centre and a main transportation hub for all the Isaan provinces.
Why go to Nakhon Ratchasima
Attr: Arian Zwegers (cc by)
Despite being a large city with a population of roughly 200,000 people, Khorat is still a relaxed town to visit, where everything seems to move at a slow pace and people are more keen to stick to their past and traditions rather than moving on to the future.
A small expat community live in Khorat and very few travellers decide to include the city into their itineraries; as a result of that the first impression of Nakhon Ratchasima is of an unwelcoming place for western tourists with almost no one speaking English, signs and menus only in Thai and not too many interesting attractions in town; but if you scrape a bit under the surface, you’ll discover a fascinating city, with lots of stories to tell and a strong population extremely proud of their province and its history. Make it a few days stop before or after visiting the marvellous Phimai Historical Park and the stunning Khao Yai National Park, and you’ll have a chance to appreciate Khorat, its people, slow rhythm and genuine atmosphere.
When to go to Nakhon Ratchasima
The long rainy season lasts from May to October and is not is bad and wet. Do not treat it as a major obstacle to visit Khorat during those months.
During the cold season in December and January temperatures might drop a lot at nighttime, especially in some rural areas in the province; remember to bring a good jumper if travelling in this period.
If you’re visiting at the end March don’t miss the Thao Suranari Memorial Fair, the biggest festival that takes place in Khorat every year to commemorate the victory of Thao Suranari over the Laos army in 1826. For ten days fireworks, celebrations, competitions, beauty pageants, cat shows (you have probably heard before about Khorat cats – here is where they come from) and a lot of food will keep your days and nights busy.
Where to stay in Nakhon Ratchasima
The variety of choices available in Khorat when it comes to accommodation is quite surprising for a non-touristy destination. Simple guesthouses, backpackers’ favourites, stylish boutique solutions and luxurious 5 stars hotels are spread all around town and a general good value for money make this town a cheap place to sleep. There’s no need of reservation unless you’re travelling during the Suranari Memorial Fair.
Where to eat in Nakhon Ratchasima
Markets and street vendors are easy to find in Khorat and they’re our favourite choice to try authentic traditional and regional Thai dishes at extremely affordable prices. Cheap Thai restaurants where you can have all the classic Thai dishes for THB30/THB50 can also be found at every corner. Some solid options even for western food are available along with all the usual international chains at the shopping malls in town.
How to get around Nakhon Ratchasima
Despite its size, it’s still possible to explore Khorat without relying on public transport. The city centre in fact is quite compact and if you take the Thao Suranari statue (better known as Ya Mo) as your zero km, you can walk almost anywhere in half an hour from there.
If you do not want to walk, there are plenty of tuk-tuk and motorbike taxis waiting at every corner and in front of any shopping mall; motorbike taxies are slightly cheaper (roughly THB50 for any destination within the city centre). There are metered taxis but they’re still not so common and definitely more expensive. The public songthaew system covers almost every part of town from 7am to 9pm. It might be quite confusing since the signs are only in Thai but as almost all of them will stop at some point at Ya Mo during their trip, it makes things much easier. A ticket for a single journey is THB8.
How to get to and from Nakhon Ratchasima
Travelling to Khorat by train is easy and cheap. There are two train stations in town; the main one, or simply Khorat train station, is located a few km west of town on Mukmontri Rd and can be reached by songhtaew number 1. The smaller one, Thanon Chira, is centrally located within walking distance from the city centre. All the trains going in every direction stop at the both stations.
Trains from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima depart from Hua Lamphong train station daily from 5.45am to 11.30pm. The trip takes from 4 to 6 hours and tickets start from THB50 for a third class seat (a better second class seat is THB120). The train stops in Ayutthaya and Pak Chong (if you’re heading or coming from Khao Yai National Park).
Among the other destinations reachable from Nakhon Ratchasima are Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Nong Khai, Buriram, Surin and Ubon Ratchathani.
There are two bus terminal in town; the older Bus Terminal 1 is centrally located but it can be used only for buses to/from Bangkok and some smaller regional destination.
The new Bus Terminal 2 (Bo-Ko-So) is located a couple of km north of town and it’s a huge, modern bus station with buses leaving to almost any destination in Thailand. To get from there to the city centre a tuk-tuk will charge you THB60 or you can take the songthaew number 15 to Yo Mo.
Buses to/from Bangkok Morchit bus terminal leave both stations at any time of the day and night with ticket prices staring from as low as THB190. The trip takes 4 hours. Less frequent departures to/from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) are available during the day only.
Frequent daily buses head to Chiang Mai (THB600, 11hours), Hua Hin (THB350, 9 hours), Krabi (THB1000, 16 hours), Phuket (THB1200, 16 hours) and lots of many other destinations.
Buses to Phimai depart from Terminal 2 every half an hour from 5am to 10pm. The 1-hour journey costs THB50.
If you’re heading to Khao Yai, buses to Pak Chong leave all day long from Terminal 1 for THB60. Alternatively almost every bus to Bangkok will stop in Pak Chong as well.
Is Nakhon Ratchasima a safe place to visit?
Khorat is a safe place to travel even if it can be a bit discouraging at the beginning because of the lack of western tourists. People might look quite cold but when approached with a smile they’re actually extremely friendly and helpful even with their poor English.
There are hospitals with high standards and English speaking staff and the tourist police office, too.
Nakhon Ratchasima station guide
Nakhon Ratchasima - Bus
Commonly known as Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima is the third largest city in Thailand, located about 250kms northeast of the capital, Bangkok in the Isaan region, which is notable for its flat landscape and seemingly endless rice paddies. Due to its proximity to the border, Korat is also a popular transit hub into Cambodia or Laos.
It takes around three hours to reach Nakhon Ratchasima by bus from Bangkok, with frequent departures from Mochit Bus Terminal. Train access is also possible; there are at least nine daily departures from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok, a trip of five to six hours.
There are two bus stations in Korat; the main larger one is located just north of the city centre. It is also possible to travel direct to other destinations from here. Tuk tuks, metered taxis, and local songthaew transportation is available from the bus station into the town centre.
The railway station is also a little outside town, but tuk-tuks, motorcycle taxis, and songthaew are on hand. Rail service is also available for onward travel into the Isaan region, passing through the cities of Khon Kaen, Udon Thani, before crossing the border into Laos. You can also make this journey by bus, or get a bus to the Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet, a four-hour trip.
The Thao Suranaree statue is a local landmark well worth visiting in Korat, and there is also the Thao Suranaree, which tells the story of a famous battle. There are several places to stay, although most travellers chose to stay in the old moated city, close to the Thanon Chira railway station.
Nakhon Ratchasima - train
Nakhon Ratchasima Railway Station (formerly Korat until 1934) opened on November 11th, 1900 and was inagurated on December 21st, 1900 by King Chulalongkorn. The station completed its renovation on June 24th, 1955 after it was bombed down during World War II.
Presently, the station has 12 platforms and an estimated traffic of 800,000 passengers yearly. There are 18 daily trains with 12 originating from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima.
The province has another station, called Thanon Chira Junction Railway Station.
Try to find the restaurant at the lake where they serve the dishes by boat to the little huts around the lake.
Bua Yai - Bus
The Isaan town of Bua Yai sits midway between Nakhon Ratchasima and Khon Kaen in northeast Thailand, some 355kms from Bangkok. The city has its own railway station, with trains departing Bangkok Hua Lumphong to Bua Yai four times per day. Trains also run between the city and Nakhon Ratchasima.
An airport in Buriram makes it effortless to fly to the vicinity and take a taxi from the airport into Bua Yai, which is around a two-hour drive. Local buses and songthaews leave Bua Yai for towns in the area, though the only transportation between the city and Nakhon Ratchasima is by local train.
The bus station in Bua Yai is located in the city centre between Thetsaban 13 Alley and Thetsaban 4 Alley not far from the Bua Yai Ruam Phaet Hospital. There is a small waiting area and a ticket counter, but little else. The Bua Yai Sub District Municipal Food Market is just one street over from the bus station and offers fresh fruit and Thai snacks. Buses and trains can often fill up, so it is recommended to book ahead online.
Places of interest in Bua Yai include Wat Bua Yai, Wat Rat Pradit and Wat Ban Phu, though it is also not too far from Khao Yai National Park. There are a few good hotels, such as Lamai Homestay Guesthouse, Saowanee and Rabiang Mai resorts plus the Orchid Hotel.
Phimai - Bus
The northeastern town of Phimai is the location of one of the finest Thai Khmer temple complexes, which marked the western end of a historic highway from Angkor Wat. Although not on the same scale as its famous cousin, the temples bear a strong resemblance in their archaeological design.
Phimai is in the middle of Nakhon Ratchasima province and is slightly over 300kms by road from Bangkok. The town has no train station and there are also no direct buses from Bangkok. Most travellers take a bus from Bangkok to the city of Nakhon Ratchasima (usually referred to as Khorat) and then switch to another service for Phimai.
The trip from Mochit terminal in Bangkok to Khorat takes around three hours and there are frequent departures from early in the morning until late evening. Buses to Phimai leave from both of Khorat’s bus stations at 30-minute intervals. The first bus is at 05:00 and the last at 19:00. Journey times are about 90 minutes. Travellers have a choice of standard or more expensive air-conditioned buses.
Mini-buses also operate on the route and are quicker, but not suitable for the nervous passenger. Buses terminate at Phimai’s bus station on the outskirts of town. Passengers can get off or on buses near the clock-tower on Ananthachinda Road. The Paradise is one of the hotels in this central area of town.
Dan Khun Thot - Bus
Approximately 260kms northeast of Bangkok and 38kms from Nakhon Ratchasima, Dan Khun Thot district and the town of the same name are located in the west of Nakhon Ratchasima province. The town traces its history back to the time of King Taksin.
The town is best accessed from Nakhon Ratchasima, which is itself linked to Bangkok by bus from the Mochit terminal. Local transport links to Dan Khun Thot’s small bus station, located on the main road. Taxis are also available just outside the station. There are a number of places to stay outside town like the Primm Valley and Anintana resorts. The Tuscana Resort is located in the town.
Bua Yai - train
The Bua Yai Junction Railway Station is located in northern Nakhon Ratchasima province (Korat). The station calls 10 trains daily and operates 4 to 6 special trains during holidays like the Songkran festival and New Year. The station has 12 platforms.
Bua Yai Junction Railway Station first opened services 1st of May 1931. After the construction of Khon Khaen railways station, Bua Yai station became a watering and refueling stop for trains. Bua Yai has also become a juction on August 19, 1967 when the Kaeng Khoi - Bua Yai Bypass route opened.
The station used to be the dropping point for Chaiyaphum province until it was diverted to Chatturat station upon the opening of Kaeng Khoi - Bua Yai route.
Thanon Chira - train
Thanon Chira Junction Station first opened to public in November of 1922, and is the main station of Nakhon Ratchasima province. However, the station had to be rebuilt as a concrete structure after its original wooden construction was dilapidated after the Second World War. In 1934, the station became a junction railway after Khon Kaen line was completed in 1933.
The station currently has 6 platforms and accommodates an estimate of 350,000 passengers yearly. There are 4 to 6 special trains calling in this station during Thai holidays. The exact location of Thanon Chira Station is at Watcharasarit Road in Nai Mueang in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Sikhio - Bus
The tranquil Isaan town of Sikhio is located in Thailand’s northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima province. Established in 1956, today Sikhio has a population of 19,000. The bus station in Sikhio has a central location. Bus services from Bangkok’s Mochit terminal to Sikhio run daily. The trip by bus takes approximatelyfive and a half hours.
Sikhio houses several standard-class hotels and guest houses. One of the town’s top attractions is Wat Non Kum. This stunning Buddhist temple is home to Somdej Phra Buddhacharn Toh’s largest bronze golden statue. During the era of Rattanakosin, Somdej was one of Thailand’s most revered Buddhist monks.
Prathai - Bus
Located in Nakhon Ratchasima province’s northeastern region, the peaceful Isaan village of Prathai was founded during the Khmer era. The bus station of Prathai receives daily coaches from Bangkok’s Mochit terminal.
Getting around town can best be done by songthaew, which are usually available near the Prathai bus station. From Prathai, two fascinating national parks can be easily reached. The renowned Khao Yai National Park is located in the west and in the south is Thap Lan National Park. The area surrounding Prathai was already a pivotal centre in the 11th century during the Khmer empire’s rule, as shown by the historical ruins located in Phimai Park.
Sida - Bus
Sida is a town in northeast Thailand that is noted for the Buddhist temple of Wat Phra Bang Sida. It is also only 40kms from the legendary Khmer ruins at Phimai. Sida is is 350kms from Bangkok and beside Highway 2, the motorway from Bangkok to the Thai-Laos border post at Nong Khai.
Quite a few of the bus services from Bangkok heading for Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Nong Khai stop in Sida. In Bangkok the departure terminal for northbound buses is Mochit. Services depart at frequent intervals between 06:00 and 23:00. Additional buses run from Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).