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