The Thailand Arrival & Survival Guide Get prepared

Ubon Ratchathani

Ubon Ratchathani (อุบลราชธานี) is Thailand's easternmost province. It borders both Cambodia and Laos, and features virgin rainforest, stunning waterfalls, misty mountains, and wildflower blooms.

Wat Sirindhorn Wararam - Ubon Ratchathani
Today 28° 24°
Wed 22nd 28° 25°
Thu 23rd 31° 25°
Fri 24th 33° 25°
Sat 25th 33° 27°
Sun 26th 32° 27°
Mon 27th 33° 27°
Tue 28th 32° 27°

Introduction

Ubon Ratchathani is an important province in the south-east of Isaan with a diversity of activities and attractions from nature, hiking, nightlife, cool coffee shops, along with some strong history and culture. It is also home to the annual ‘Candle Festival’. The city is considered one of the four major cities of Isaan and there is a popular University.

It borders both Cambodia and Laos and the Mun River runs right through the center. There is also a major airport making it a perfect destination to fly to for a few days.

The main draws here are Sam Pan Bok as well as the National Parks for the stunning waterfalls. It’s worth noting however that waterfalls are generally dried up during the dry season and Sam Pan Bok is under water in the rainy season. Depending on the amount of rainfall it could still be possible to do both – but check in advance.


Recommended for

  • People looking for a bit more adventure in Isaan
  • Travelers wanting to explore some authentic Thai culture
  • Nature lovers

Getting there

By bus – Buses run from Bangkok and most other provinces at regular intervals throughout the day. They will drop you off in the north of the city where you can take a taxi or tuk-tuk into the center. There may also be a songtaew available. The journey from Mo Chit in Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani can take up to 12 hours. You could take a VIP night bus and save on a night’s accommodation if you are okay with sleeping on a bus.

By plane – There is an airport in the heart of the city center with numerous flights going in and out throughout the day. There will be taxis available outside to take you to your hotel. Ubon Ratchathani also has Grab.

By train – The train station is in the south of the center. There will be taxis and tuk-tuks available outside. Ubon Ratchathani is at the end of the North-Eastern line from Bangkok and trains run at a few different times in the day and will take 10 hours or more. It can be a pleasant journey through the countryside but you may want to opt for an airconditioned carriage for a more comfortable ride.


Where to stay

The best place for you to stay is in the city center. From here, you can take day trips out to other parts of the province. There are numerous hotels to choose from so you shouldn’t have any problem with finding somewhere good to stay. If you are traveling during the Candle festival in July, you may want to book in advance.

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

Songthaew – There are a few different songthaews circulating the city. They are a cheap way of getting around but can be difficult to know which one to take. Your hotel may have a Songthaew map available or at least some help using them from the location you are in.

Tuk-tuk/Samlor – You will find these chilling on a lot of corners of the city. Tell them where you want to go and they will have a fixed price. They are both 3-wheeled vehicles with a carriage for passengers but tuk-tuks use a motorbike and Samlors use a bicycle.

Taxi – You can take a metered taxi. If you see one drive past with a light on in the front window, flag it down. Or ask your hotel reception to call one for you. An easier option is to use the Grab taxi app. Enter in where you want to go and it will give you a price you can agree on before accepting.

Motrobike/car rental – It could be worthwhile renting a car for a few days to explore the province. They are available at the airport and usually the best place to hire from. There are also motorbike rental shops in the center. Your hotel may be able to direct you towards one.


Nightlife

The nightlife in Ubon Ratchathani can get busy on a weekend. There is a popular nightclub called ‘U-bar’, which has an indoor area with music and an outdoor area. There are other bars and restaurants along that same road.

If you are looking for a pub that is not so local, the ‘Wrong Way Cafe‘ serves Western food and it has a pool table.


Fitness & gym

You won’t have any problem finding somewhere to get a workout in. There are a few gyms scattered around the city. Type ‘fitness’ into Google Maps and look for a place with good reviews near your hotel. We went to a place called Home Gym. They had two separate rooms, one with air-con and one without. It was 40 baht to use the room without air-con but you will have to pay more to use the other room. It was cheap and had more equipment than one person could ever need.


Getting out

As Ubon Ratchathani has a major airport, your options for onward travel are plentiful. But if you are traveling on land and not heading into Laos, we would recommend going west into Sisaket, Surin and Buriram. Surin is famous for its elephants and the Elephant Festival whilst Buriram has Songkran celebrations which will top any city in Thailand as well as a famous football stadium and international race track.

Your other options are Yasothon and Amnet Charoen to the north, which would make a nice stop off before heading further into Isaan.


Photo gallery

When to go

Most of Thailand falls in to the generic high and low season categories, including Ubon Ratchathani.

High season - begins in November and runs through to February, bringing cooler temperatures, lush greenery from the previous months of rain, good air quality, and less rain. The downside is larger crowds and sometimes higher prices for tours, flights and accomodation.

Low season - begins in July and runs through to October. During low season the temperatures are higher, the chance of rain and storms are higher. That doesn't mean it's a bad time to visit though, if you can be flexible, there are deals to be found on flights and accomodation.

Destinations like Ubon Ratchathani in both northern and north eastern regions can be significantly cooler during the high/cool season than central and southern provinces like Bangkok or Phuket. It's a welcome and noticable change in season which may require a wardrobe change, especially at night.

As Ubon Ratchathani is in the northern/north eastern region, it's important you consider the smokey/burning season which affects the north, north east and sometimes central/eastern provinces. You can find more information for current and historical air quality on aqicn.org.

Need more? Read our post discussing the best time to visit Thailand.

Where to stay

Instead of recommending hotels, we think it will be more useful to share our process so you can pick based on your own critera for location, budget and style.

We always start our search on either Booking.com or Agoda. They have an easy to user interface and have some extra benefits for "Genius" and "VIP" users. You can also sometimes pay with credit card in advance if you're playing the cashback or air miles game.

Process:

  1. Search for specific province, city or town.
  2. Apply rating filters for a minimum rating or either 7, 8 or 9.
  3. Apply other filters: budget, fitness, breakfast, etc.
  4. If you have a specific location in mind, use map view to browse and make a final selection.

If there are too many properties available to choose from, increase the rating filter for less, higher rated selections.

Final notes: Prices are dynamic. Check the same hotel on both Booking.com and Agoda to see which has the best deal at any given time (go through to checkout to make sure all VAT and service charges are factored in). You can go one step further by calling the hotel and checking the price for booking directly. In our experience this saves money 50% of the time but you have less guarantees.

Emergency contacts

Knowing an emergency number could save your own, or somebody elses life. Take a photo or save these numbers on your phone:

Police & emergencies - 191
The most important number to remember. If the operator is unable to speak English, call 1155 (below).

Tourist Police - 1155 or (+66) 2308-0333
This hotline is available 24 hours a day and they will all speak English. This is an important phone number to remember - They will help you out with any concerns or questions you have and can redirect you to the correct number you may need.

Public Ambulance - 1669
Dialing this number will connect you to a public ambulance service, which will dispatch a vehicle to your location. The average response time for urban areas is around 10 minutes, but may take up to 30 minutes in rural areas. English-speaking staff should be available to assist you.

Fire Department - 199
In case of an emergency such as a house fire, or forest fire, call 199 for the Fire Department to be dispatched to your location.

Highway Police - 1193
If you plan on driving in Thailand, then you may end up needing to use this number if you break down in an unsafe place etc.