Introduction

Nakhon Phanom is a quiet, relaxing and friendly town in the Northeast of Thailand, bordering Laos and running along the Mekong river. Scattered coffee shops, reliable internet, cheap hotels, plenty of transport plus super friendly locals make this a great destination for a short trip from Bangkok or part of a longer Issan trip.

The people of Nakhon Phanom are friendly… On a different level to other busier destinations such as Bangkok or Phuket. The locals are very proud of their town and will go to no end to suggest things to do, places to see and local food to eat. You can join the ‘Nakhon Phanom Talk of the Town‘ Facebook Page which is mostly in Thai but there are a few people who will do their best to help you with any questions you have in English.


Recommended for

  • Anyone looking for a non-touristic Thailand experience
  • Anyone looking for a relaxing town to drink coffee, chill and eat good food
  • A stop off before or after rock climbing in Thakaek
  • A border run to Laos to get a new entry stamp

Getting there

Nakhon Phanom is a very convenient destination in Thailand. We recommend flying in direct from Don Muang airport with either Nok Air or Air Asia. The airport is just 30 minutes outside of town and a minibus will shuttle you to your hotel for 100 baht.

By bus – Bus prices from Bangkok range from approximately 350 to 800 baht and are quite comfortable. We’ve heard that the ‘VIP’ bus is the best and we always recommend taking a big bus over a minivan for comfort and safety.

A night bus is available and may be beneficial for backpackers even if the price is similar to an airplane ticket as it will save costs on a night of accommodation.

By plane – Several airlines fly to Nakhon Phanom. We used Google Flights to find out which carriers fly and a rough cost, then we went to each respective website to get a quote directly. We chose Nok Air over Air Asia because after the booking fees and 20kg baggage it was 200 baht cheaper with free seat selection and a free water. Prices vary depending on the day, time and any holidays. Our one way flight cost 1,500 baht.

After entering the arrival building there’s one baggage claim, a toilet and some seats to wait for your baggage. After you pass through the second door, directly in-front of you is a booth to buy a ticket for a minivan in to Nakhon Phanom town (100 baht). If you’re staying in this approximate area, the van driver will drop you off at your hotel.

If you are arriving late or there’s no van, a taxi should cost 200-300 baht to get in to town, about 12km away.


Where to stay

The general area you want to stay in is somewhere in proximity to the Clock Tower (หอนาฬิกา) It will be easier to get there from the airport, easier to get around, find food and get out again. This is the rough area:

Nakhon Phanom

We don’t recommend any specific hotels unless we stayed there and it was clean, safe and good value for money. We can recommend NP Residence in Nakhon Phanom. We paid 590 baht per night for a twin room with tea and coffee making facilities downstairs and bicycle rental. We chose this hotel because the rating was above 8/10, it was affordable and we knew the van driver would know where it is.

NP Residence

We find our accommodation on Booking.com by first searching for the town or province and our dates, we then filter out any rooms with a score lower than 7 or 8 (depending on availability) as well as any rooms out of our budget. After this, we open the map and hover over all of the pins in the rough location we already decided we want to stay in. Hovering over the pins gives us the price for x nights plus the review score. We click on each pin to open those hotels in a new tab, review them and book our favorite.


Getting around

Bicycle – Nakhon Phanom is a very bicycle friendly city with a 75km bicycle track running along the river – if your hotel does not provide a bicycle they will be able to recommend the closest place to rent one. Rental prices start from as low as 50 baht per day.

Motorbike – The easiest place to rent a motorbike is from your hotel. If they don’t have motorbikes they usually have a contact that does.

Rental car – As with most airports, rental cars are available on arrival. We prefer to book this in advance and find the best price with rentalcars.com./

Tuk Tuk / Taxi / Songtaew – A variety of taxi options are available. Your hotel is usually able to call one in advance, though we prefer to flag one down and negotiate a price.


Nightlife

Although it’s a small town, nightlife in Nakhon Phanom is quite lively and friendly. Some nights it’ll keep you going until at least 3am. Bars are dotted around the city, but the popular spots to visit before midnight are all located around the Clock Tower (
หอนาฬิกา) and officially close at midnight. They’ll usually turn off the music and start shutting the doors but people will still be drinking and talking amongst themselves.

After midnight your options are reduced to after hour discos and Thai style venues with live music. Although intimidating at first, people are accommodating and friendly.

Hornarika – Busy most nights we were there with locals and live music. This is the best choice for some food and drinks along the river or walking street before midnight. Other bars and restaurants are opposite and close by.

AEC – After hours club. Best on the weekend after other bars have closed at midnight.


Fitness & gym

Google Maps shows a small number of gyms around the town but Big Daddy Gym is the one we used and enjoyed. It’s a fully equipped gym, open air and reachable by bicycle from the town. At the time of writing the price is 40 baht per day. Protein shakes are 40 baht and they have water for sale.


Getting out

After you’ve soaked up the friendly atmosphere of Nakhon Phanom your options are plentiful. Unless you’re driving, you’ll need to get to either the Nakhon Phanom airport by taxi (200-250 baht) or to the bus station by tuk tuk (40 – 60 baht from inside the town).

Laos – The bridge in to Laos is in town, this is a perfect opportunity to visit Laos or reset your visa if needed with a short trip to Thakaek.

Bangkok – Take a flight back to DMK Bangkok and connect to any other destination with a budget airline.

Sakon Nakhon – Take a bus west to Sakon Nakhon.

Bueng Kan – Head north by bus to Bueng Kan – Thailand’s newest province.

Mukdahan – Head south by bus to Mukdahan.


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