Introduction

Sakon Nakhon is a nice stopover for a few days to see a province which has very little tourism. You may or may not see another foreigner during your stay. Sakon Nakon is conveniently located if you’re heading to or from Mukdahan or Nakhon Phanom.


Recommended for

  • Anyone on an Issan road trip, it’s worth stopping for at least 1 night / 2 days.
  • Anyone looking to visit a city with very little tourism.

Getting there

From Bangkok the most convenient way to get to Sakon Nakhon is by plane. If you’re already in the Issan region or looking for a little more adventure, a big bus would be our next choice. Mini vans will also head to Sakon Nakhon but we avoid them when possible due to safety concerns and they’re a little less spacious.

By bus – Getting to Sakon Nakhon by bus is very easy. You can start your journey from Mo Chit bus station in Bangkok (as usual), but other locations will also have a route that passes through Sakon Nakhon even if Sakon Nakhon is not the final destination.

For example a bus from Udon Thani to Nakhon Phanom and vice versa passes directly through Sakon Nakhon. It’s very common for locals to travel that way and they will just tell the driver where they want to stop.

Throughout Issan the provinces are interconnected by large tour buses and minivans. Each province town has one or more bus stations making it very easy to hop around from city to city. Simply turn up when you’re ready to go and book a ticket. They’re almost never full, except for busy holidays such as Songkran, in which case you may need to go ahead of time to book a ticket.

Sakon Nakhon has two bus terminals. Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is close to the centre of town while Terminal 2 is closer to the airport and the main highways. Busses going through Sakon Nakhon will likely stop at Terminal 2 and you can take a taxi for 80-100 baht to the town.

By plane – Both AirAsia and NokAir fly to Sakon Nakhon (SNO) from Don Muang Airport (DMK) in Bangkok. Both are quite similar budget airlines which have extra fees for baggage as well as booking fees. One thing to watch out for is credit card booking fees as some airlines charge you per passenger even if only one payment is being made. We really dislike that. To avoid this, select Counter Payment and pay in cash at 7-Eleven.

Where there’s 2 or more budget airlines flying to the same route it’s useful to make a flight search on each respective airlines website, enter the same dates and baggage, turn off any extra options for insurance/luggage protection and continue to the payment section. From here you’ll be able to compare the total cost including taxes and fees.

A taxi from the airport in to the town should cost approximately 100 baht. Taxis do have meters in Sakon Nakhon but they don’t always use them. One bizarre taxi I took, the meter read 150 baht but he insisted it was only 120 baht for the journey – great.

By train – If you’d like to travel by train, the only way would be to head north to Udon Thani and then catch a bus (3-4 hours) to Sakon Nakhon. Not a bad option if you want to explore one of Issan’s biggest cities.


Where to stay

Somewhere within the city will be most convenient if you don’t have a car or motorcycle to use. The nightlife, temples, markets and gyms I found were mostly in the center. Some activities such as the Lotus Pond are a little out of town though.

I stayed at The Room Boutique Hotel – which at the time of writing was very new, with plastic wrapping still on the bicycles they have for use. I mention the hotel because it was in a convenient location, they were friendly and helped me with everything from arranging taxis, motorcycles and even laundry.

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

Motorbike – The most convenient way to get around is by motorcycle. Your hotel will have a contact for rental companies as you won’t find one along the road like other destinations popular with tourists. The price should be 300 baht per day for a fairly new automatic and they may charge 200 baht for pick up and drop off depending on your hotel location. If you don’t want to leave your passport with them, there is normally a cash deposit between 1000 and 3000 baht.

Tuk Tuk / Taxi – There’s plenty of taxis around the city for you to bargain with. Taxi’s in Sakon Nakhon do have meters. If you plan to do a day of exploring, it may work out cheaper to ask the driver for x number of hours and split the cost with friends.

Bicycle – Our hotel had free bicycles for use. The town is quite small so you can definitely cover some ground this way. For most of my stay I used a bicycle to explore most days, heading to markets to find food as well as local gyms.


Nightlife

Nightlife in Sakon Nakhon is limited to a few key areas and it’s mostly quiet during the week. If you head to The LOFT Living Bar and Golden Pond Coyote you’ll have a good time. There’s several other bars in each location too.

I didn’t go, but it’s worth mentioning that if you’re a fan of Tawandang, there’s one in Sakon Nakhon but further out of town, closer to the airport.


Fitness & gym

As with most cities in Issan, there’s some great local gyms with daily rates. I went to two different gyms during my visit, both open at 2pm.

Top Fitness – This was the best gym I found. Tons of equipment, monkey bars, soccer court, Muay Thai ring, etc. The price was 80 baht per day.

M.J.Fitness – Part of a hotel, but still well equipped with water for sale. As you enter the car park the gym is at the back on the right hand side. The price was 60 baht per day. If there’s no one there, speak to the security guard at the front door.


Getting out

You’ll want to either head back to Bus Terminal 2 or the airport. The most convenient way to do that is ask your hotel to order a taxi to pick you up. I paid 120 baht to get from my hotel to Terminal 2.

Nakhon Phanom – A great place to visit both before or after Sakon Nakhon is Nakhon Phanom. It comes highly recommended for being a great place to relax along the Mekong with very friendly people. It’s just 1.5 hours away by bus and has it’s own airport to get back to Bangkok as well as a crossing in to Thakhek (Laos).

Udon ThaniUdon Thani is a common destination for locals from Sakon Nakhon. You’d be able to explore one of Issans larger cities and have more options in terms of which destinations you can visit without first heading back to Bangkok. For example you can fly all the way to Phuket, direct.


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