Though Hua Hin has a high status of a royal sea resort, sea is definitely not the most impressive thing about the city. Its wide beaches with shallow waters, though, cater well for families with children, and an abundance of family-oriented attractions, including Vana Hava Hua Hin and Black Mountain waterparks and Santorini Theme Park in Cha-Am, is a great plus for travellers with the little ones. But if you are an adventurous type, you will not be disappointed, either. There are a couple of worth-visiting national parks in the vicinity, a colourful Art Village and a busy night market; there are beautiful palaces and old teak houses which have been spared by the rapid growth of the city, tasty and cheap seafood restaurants and that subtle air of the beginning of the last century with its characteristic old-school charm which makes you forget about seedy bars and clogged streets, tourist traps and inflated prices. All in all, it is a destination not to be skipped off.
Being the first official Thai sea resort, Hua Hin has good transport connections with the capital. Trains, buses and vans ply the route between Bangkok and Hua Hin daily. If you are considering taking a bus, note that road traffic can be really bad – especially on Friday evening and Saturday morning from Bangkok to Hua Hin, when people are escaping to the sea for a weekend, and on Sunday evening – from Hua Hin to Bangkok, when all the Bangkokians are heading back home. Arrange accordingly. Note that you can get to Hua Hin directly from Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. Bell Travel operates VIP24 buses which go from the airport to Hua Hin. There are seven buses a day, every two hours from 7.30am with the last one departing at 7.30pm. They leave from the Gate 8 on Level 1 and take about four hours to arrive to Hua Hin bus station between Soi 96 and 98 Phetkasem Road.
There are both big buses and minivans heading to Hua Hin from different locations in Bangkok all day through. Big buses depart from Southern Bus Terminal in Bangkok, Sai Mai Tai. They are a sure bet, but can be incredibly slow. Be ready to spend at least five hours on board. The easiest, quickest and cheapest way to get to Hua Hin is by minivan. 12go.asia recommends Malee Travel vans which depart from the southern side of Victory Monument in Bangkok. You can easily get to Victory Monument by BTS and then follow Phayathai Rd towards the Monument. Malee van station is to your right, just behind the bus stop. Malee Travel sends vans to Hua Hin every half an hour from 6am till 6.30pm. The whole trip takes about three hours. In Hua Hin, vans park off Soi 88/1 Phetkasem Rd., in front of Bangkok Bank branch. Tickets cost THB180. Tip: Taking a minivan is not a good idea if you travel with a lot of luggage. Consider other options to get to Hua Hin from Bangkok instead.
Hua Hin sits on the Sourthern Line of Thai railway. Normally trains in Thailand offer a slower alternative to buses, but in case with Hua Hin it is a good idea to travel by train because Route 4 from Samut Prakan to Hua Hin is notorious for its traffic gems, and you can easily spend up to five or six hours travelling by car or by bus, while a train brings you to Hua Hin from the centre of Bangkok in four hours for sure. Another great thing about travelling to Hua Hin by train is the train station in the resort city. Even among other picture-perfect train stations in Thailand it does stand out. Arriving to this gingerbread-like train station is a pure delight – at least for us! – which guarantees you a good mood during your whole stay in Hua Hin. Any Suratthani-bound train passes through Hua Hin, but many of them sell out quickly for the longer journeys, so as a rule you have rather a limited choice of trains on offer. These include a morning #43 train which leaves Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok at 8.05 and arrives to Hua Hin before noon at 11.29am. It offers second-class AC seats only at around THB650, but they are completely ok for this brief journey. There is also an afternoon #35 train leaving at 2.45pm and arriving at 8.45pm which is also a convenient option to get to Hua Hin from Bangkok. It has second-class AC sleepers at a bit higher price (approx. THB 670) and can also be considered, as by day berths are normally folded out into seats.
PGS Charter operates chartered taxis and vans to Hua Hin any time of the day by your request. They pick you up at your hotel or other location on your choice in Bangkok and bring directly to your destination in Hua Hin. They offer Toyota Camry for 3 pax at THB3080 and Toyota Commuter for 9 pax at THB3300, which is obviously a better investment if you have other fellow travellers to share expenses.
While in Hua Hin, why not jump at the opportunity and not explore Hua Hin’s less known neighbours? Located on the same coastline, they offer totally different experience.
Prachuap Khiri Khan is an absolutely delightful destination. This quiet provincial capital oozes tons of charm. It boasts almost circle bays which you can admire from a couple of view points in the surrounding hills, unusual shell temples, a colourful weekend market, incredible sunrises over the Gulf and one of the most beautiful city pillars in the whole country. You can get to Prachuap from Hua Hin – it is only 96 km to the south – or by a direct train from Bangkok – and to our mind, the train station in Prachuap Khiri Khan, though smaller, does not have much to envy to the one in Hua Hin!
Quiet and laidback vibe reigns in Pranburi. Shallow waters kiss its skinny white sand beaches; loud music from nightclubs does not disturb tropic evenings. Sounds like a plain sleepy town, is it not? Well, to some extend it is, but it is exactly this atmosphere of a secret, peaceful place that attracts those who are seeking complete relaxation in tranquil setting to Pranburi. Walk through a mangrove forest in Pranburi Forest Park, watch bottlenose dolphins playing in Dolphin Bay from February to May, go kayaking or just soak in the serenity of a new Thai Riviera. To come to Pranburi from Bangkok, use PSG Charter. They offer Toyota Camry for three pax at THB3960 or Toyota Commuter for 9 pax at THB4180. The rates are all-inclusive (pick-up and drop-off at chosen locations, tolls and luggage); the journey lasts from three to four hours.
Hua Hin is flat which makes bicycles a convenient option for moving around the town. Note though that traffic is rather heavy in Hua Hin, especially in Phetkasem Road, so think twice before you venture out on your two-wheel horse. Scooters and motorcycles are easily available for rent at around THB300 per day. If you are not an experienced driver, it may prove a better idea to use public transport instead, as trafic in Hua Hin, as in almost any Thai resort city, tends to be chaotic. Songthaws are white and green pickup trucks which ride a set route in the central part of the city and outside it. Depending on the distance you ride, the trip will cost you from THB10 to THB40. The most useful route starts from the train station and goes as far as Wat Huay Mongkon and the floating market. Four- and three-wheel tuk-tuks are readily available around the city. Always negotiate the cost of your ride before the trip. Though not so shameless as their Phuket counterparts, Hua Hin’s tuk-tuk drivers are not a Western tourist’s best friends as far as the price is concerned: be ready to pay no less than THB100 even for the shortest of rides.
Jek Pia, a coffee shop with more than five decades of experience located at the corner of Soi Naeb Kehart and Dechanuchit, is arguably the best place in the town to have a real Thai-style breakfast. Order any kind of joke – rice porridge – from a long list (THB30-THB80) and enjoy your morning. Open daily from 6.30am till 1.20pm and from 5.30pm till 7.30pm.