My wife and I are going to be in Thailand from Jan 22 through Jan 5. We will be with a tour group for several days and on our own for the last week.
Can you help me with a few questions I have not found the answers to in guidebooks or on the net?
First, we plan to spend the week in the Hua Hin area. Question, we are looking at several moderately priced hotels in the center of the city. I know this is the busy season. If we book for 2 or 3 days, will we have trouble finding another hotel at that time of year? Do most hotels require advance payment for the entire stay? If we reserve for 6 nights and find the hotel unsatisfactory, will we have trouble leaving that hotel for another? Any moderate hotels in city center that you recommend?
Next, we plan to take a bus from and to Bangkok. I have read to take a first class government bus from Sai Tai Mai bus company Bangkok and avoid tourist buses. Is that what you recommend? When we return to Bangkok, what is the best way to get from the bus station to the airport? Taxi or Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link? Cost of each??
In the Hua Hin area, is it better to purchase tours to sites such as the Khoa Sam Roi Yod National Park , ban bang pu village, and waterfalls, or is it a good idea to hire a taxi to take us around? Do you know the cost of a half day or whole day taxi tour? Would we be better off spending a couple of nights nearer the parks (say Pranburi) and touring from there?
I would not expect good snorkeling in the Hua Hin area. Am I wrong? Speaking of beaches, is the water safe (clean) and clear near the town center?
I know this is a lot of questions, but I appreciate your time. Thanks for the help.
ANSWER: Hello Doyice,
Thank you for making contact.
With reference to your questions, the following:
Although Hua Hin does not see the number of tourists as an area like Phuket for example, it is still very popular and, given it's close proximity to Bangkok, also popular with Thai vacationers. Over the December/January peak season hotels here do get quite full. It is hard to say whether you will be able to find another hotel if you only book the first 2 to 3 days of your time here, but in all probability you will not. My recommendation will be to rather book a hotel from the start you can be pretty sure will be satisfactory. It is unfortunately the moderately priced hotels that become fully booked during the peak season. If you book hotels in advance they will certainly also require advance payment, especially this time of year. The only way to avoid paying in advance is to simply arrive at the hotel and inquire for an available room. I do not recommend this since hotels have a "walk-in" price which is much higher than if you booked in advance and secondly you could find your self on the street and without a room to stay. If you booked a hotel for 6 nights and checked out after 2 or 3 nights I can assure you they will not give your money back for the remaining nights.
I am not sure what you would term as moderate prices, but here are a few hotels which provide good, clean and comfortable accommodation in Hua Hin (3 to 4 star).
(500 meters to the beach, 300 meters to Hua Hin's shopping mall)
(exactly where you want to be. In the centre of it all, 200 meters from the beach.
(Located next to the Sirin hotel above. Perfect location)
If you cannot find accommodation at the above 3 hotels, let me know, I can send more options.
To and from Bangkok by bus:
I live in Hua Hin and have not heard that one should avoid the tourist bus. I would rather avoid government buses. The tourist bus is not the fastest, but it is the most comfortable and safest. My suggestion is to go to the Lompharaya website and book your bus transfer with them >>> http://www.lomprayah.com/e/route.htm
I travel between Hua Hin and Bangkok frequently and use an air conditioned taxi van (180 Baht per person one way). In Bangkok, take the sky train or a taxi to Victory Monument sky train station. You will see the monument when you get off on the platform. Walk in its direction and follow the stairs down to where it ends in a small market. The taxis are in a small street behind the market and there is one to Hua Hin every 30 minutes. You will see the white taxi vans lined up in the street behind the market. Just ask the person at the ticket stall to show you which taxi go to Hua Hin. You can then take the same taxi back to Bangkok from the same location where they dropped you off in Hua Hin. It is right in the centre of town. Everyone knows it, because everyone uses it. The taxi will drop you off again at the same location in Bangkok. Here you simply get on the sky train again at Victory monument station. Travel to the next station, which is Payathai (10 Baht) and at Payathai you switch to the airport rail link which takes you to the airport (90 Baht per person).
Though tour prices are advertised everywhere in Hua Hin, especially in areas where you want to stay, I never really look at it so I cannot tell you off the top of my head what the prices are. I would not recommend a taxi to take you around, but what you can do is to see what the tour prices are and compare that to the price of renting a car and do the tours your self. All the places you can go see are in fairly close proximity and easy to find. Roads have English signs and directions.
I would not stay in the parks. It is just that little too far out and away from all the city centre has to offer like markets, a moderate nightlife etc. Sam Roi Yot is only a 45 minute drive from Hua Hin centre, so its a nice day outing.
You are corcect. You will not snorkel in Hua Hin. However, there is a tour to small nearby islands where the snorkeling is very good, beaches great and you can feed the monkeys.
Swimming at Hua Hin's beaches is perfectly safe all year (no big waves, no strong currents, very tranquil water). The main beach is also very nice and has a nice atmosphere. The water is not as clear and blue as around the islands, but that is just because the bottom is sand and silt, otherwise it is perfectly fine. The hotels I mentioned above are within a 3 minute stroll from Hua Hin's main beach.
Hope the above helps. Let me know if I can help with anything else.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: George,thanks for the great information. It was a great help. We tried to get the Sirin hotel as you suggested, but it was already full. We got one nearby that was highly rated in TripAdvisor, the Hua Hin Colonade. Sounded good.
The taxi you suggested sounds great. Is it comfortable (meaning not packed in like sardines)?
I forgot to ask about ATMs and money. We usually use ATMs rather than carry a ton of cash from the US. I am sure they are everywhere. Do you know if they all charge a fee for each transaction.
Renting a car might be a good idea, but I (mainly my wife) am reluctant not knowing the roads. Maybe I could hire a driver. Do you have any idea what that would cost?
Thanks again for your help. I presume you are from the US. How did you wind up in Hua Hin?
ANSWER: Hi Doyice,
Nice to hear from you again and only a pleasure to assist.
I am actually originally from Cape Town - South Africa. I came to Thailand some years ago for a holiday and then again for another extended holiday and then finally decided to come stay here. The lifestyle just grew on my wife and I. Hua Hin was an obvious choice to me for a number of reasons including good infra structure, fairly large expat community, good weather etc.
I know the Hua Hin Colonade. It is pretty much in the centre of town and walking distance to the beach, markets, restaurants etc.
The taxi between Hua Hin and Bangkok takes exactly 14 people. No less and no more. It also fills up fairly quickly. Most Thai people use public transport and the taxi will also be mostly Thais.
The taxi is not uncomfortable, but as a golden rule, do not sit right in the back, even if you have to wait 30 minutes for the next taxi. The best spot is the seats directly behind the driver. Lots of leg space. Also, there are a number of taxi hubs for taxis to Hua Hin. Make sure you take the one from the small street behind the market at Victory monument station I explained about earlier. They do not make stops along the way to Hua Hin which can be time consuming. These one's run straight with no stops.
I definitely do not advise you to bring too much cash. It is simply not necessary. ATM's are everywhere and so is currency exchange vendors (if thats the right word) and basically all banks also exchange currencies (especially USD of course).
The fee to draw cash from an ATM is 150 Baht per transaction (a little expensive).
I am going to give you the name of a guy (Thai person you can trust). His name is Tony. Once you are in Thailand (maybe a few days before you come to Hua Hin) phone him an tell him I referred you and that you require a price for a driver. His number is +66 (0)806574689.
You can rent a car here for anything from 1200 Baht per day to 2 000 Baht per day of you rent from places like Avis. If you rent from a smaller operator, insist on a copy of the insurance and make sure you carry an international driver license (They drive on the left side of the road here). If you rent a driver that comes with his own car it would probably work out to around 2 500 Baht for the day, but Tony will give you the best and correct prices. If you do plan to phone him, let me know. I will tell him to expect the call.
Hope this helps. Take care and happy travels.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Hi George, I guess I am like a bad penny - back again. We leave in just over a week and are getting anxious.
Thanks for the information last time. A few followup questions and hopefully the last. Regarding the taxi to Hua hin: 1- We will have two suitcases. Does this pose a problem? 2- I was reading about some of the buses saying the drivers run the air conditioning very cold. Is this usually the case? If so, we will try to bring some cover. 3- I believe you said it was non-stop. Does this mean no bathroom stop?
We will plan to call Tony. Does he have a rental business?
Thanks again, Doyice
Nice to hear from you. Questions are welcome.
1.The two suitcases will not be a problem. My wife and I have traveled together with luggage on these taxis many times.
2. I have been in some of the taxis and was sweating all the way because the air conditioning was not adequate and in some other cases it was too much. I guess it just depends which taxi you get onto. However, it wont be that cold that you would require a thick jacket. Maybe just something lite with long sleeves.
3. With none stop I mean the taxi does not make several stops to pick up and drop off people, but it does stop for a bathroom break. Also, if you need a bathroom break, just ask the driver to stop at the next filling station. If nobody in the taxi understand English, the Thai word for toilet is "Hong Nam".
4. Remember to not grab the seat right in the back. You sit to straight up and not enough leg space. Try to take the seat directly behind the driver. It is the most comfortable.
Take care and have a safe journey.