In a nutshell
If you’re looking to visit a province with hardly any foreign tourists, then Rayong could be exactly what you are looking for.
Why go to Rayong
Although foreigners are scarce, the coast is popular with Thai tourists, who make the two hour drive from Bangkok to escape the city and enjoy some beach time. The beach stretches for at least 40km along the coast (although some of this is private or deserted), so even when it’s busy, there’s still plenty of room for everyone.
The town itself is also worthy of a day trip, thanks to an eclectic mix of Thai temples, Chinese shrines, and a French colonial old quarter. There are also several markets to explore, such as the Tapong Fruit Market, which is bursting with tropical fruit during the rainy season. However, if you just want to relax on the beach, it’s best to use Ban Phe as a base, or stay in one of the numerous beachside resorts. The main beach areas are Mae Rumphueng, Ban Phe and Laem Mae Phim, but the most beachside resorts have their own private beach too.
In addition to exploring the old town quarter and visiting the coast, Rayong province has several other attractions, including a waterpark for small children, a national park, and a small amusement park called Strawberry town. The national park is great for hiking, swimming in waterfalls, and enjoying some nature. The other two attractions will provide some fun, but are mostly just good places to go if you have some extra time on your hands.
When to go to Rayong
Because Rayong is mostly a beach destination, it’s best to visit Rayong during the dry and cool season from November to February. But, if you want to sample tropical fruit as well, the early part of the rainy season (June and July) sees some of the heat disappear and it will most likely only rain for a few hours, and not every day.
Where to stay in Rayong
As mentioned above, most of the accommodation in Rayong along the coast is in the form of midrange and luxury resorts. For budget accommodation, it’s best to stay in Ban Phe, which is home to several cheap guesthouses focused on attracting the backpacking crowd heading onwards to Koh Samet. In Rayong town, the accommodation isn’t particularly impressive, but there are several comfortable options, conveniently located close by to the bus terminal and old town (e.g. Casa V1 and Central Place).
Where to eat in Rayong
Surprisingly, Rayong has a good variety of international restaurants, despite the low numbers of foreign travellers. There’s a Korean restaurant, a steakhouse, a bierhaus, and if don’t mind the journey, an Indian restaurant just outside of town. Of course, there are also plenty of Thai eateries, including the local favourite, Naidol Makham Thao.
Rayong is also very famous for its fresh seafood, although the best quality can be found on the coast. However, if you’re not planning on visiting the coast, check out Laem Cha Reon. It’s close to town, the seafood is great, and they have a large terrace with great sea views. Along the coast, the number of seafood restaurants is overwhelming. In the Ban Phe area, good choices include Talay Rayong and Baan Rabeang Mai (just west of Seree pier).
How to get around Rayong
Getting around Rayong town is pretty simple, as you can easily walk around the main downtown area where the majority of restaurants, cafes and accommodations are located.
If you want to do a bit more exploring, Caza V1 hotel rents both bicycles and motorbikes, or you can hail a motorbike taxi or songthaew. Both of these are also useful for reaching the coastal areas of Mae Rumphueng and Ban Phe. Laem Mae Phim is a fairly long journey, so it would be better to hire a motorbike or take a minibus.
How to get to and from Rayong
Rayong’s popularity with Thai residents is partly due to it being one of the closest beach destinations to Bangkok, only two hours east of the capital. Its popularity also means that there are regular public buses running between Bangkok and Rayong throughout the day.
The intercity bus departs from Suvarnabhumi Airport between the hours of 6.00am and 9.00pm, and tickets can be purchased at the Intercity Bus Counter. Buses also depart from Ekkamai bus terminal regularly throughout the day, between the hours of 4.00am and 10.00pm (all bus journeys take roughly 3 hours). Unfortunately, buses between Bangkok and Rayong now terminate at a new bus terminal 10km north of Rayong. Some minibuses will take you along the main road to the city centre, but not all.
Other bus destinations include Pattaya, Chonburi, and Chanthaburi.
Rayong is connected by direct bus routes to the north and northeast of Thailand, including such provinces as Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, Nakon Ratchasima and Ubon Ratchathani. The Yellow Bus, Nakhonchai Air and other major bus operators serve Rayong.
Alternatively, if you don’t want the hassle of catching a bus, driving is relatively easy, as most of the journey is on the main highways. A car will also make it easier to reach the coast, although there are taxis and songthaews available if you choose to get the bus.
There is an airportThe U-Tapao airport, sitting half-way between Rayong Town and Pattaya, has a handful of domestic flights, including Rayong to Chiang Mai and Rayong to Phuket. An international flight from Rayong to Kuala Lumpur has been recently added by Air Asia to its regional network. With the plans to enlarge U-Tapao, more and more airlines are expect to come.
Is Rayong a safe place to visit?
Although Rayong is considered a safe province for tourists, travellers should always be careful with their valuables, especially when spending time at the beach.
For any illness or injury, there is a large hospital in Rayong town, located between Sukhumvit Soi 39 and Soi 41. However, Bangkok is only a short bus or car journey away, and is probably the better choice for anything serious. If in doubt, contact your travel insurance provider, who will recommend a hospital.