Hua Hin is only 2.5 hours from Bangkok by car and has become a very popular beach destination for family vacations, retired expats and simply put, an all around older crowd.  I was 90% set on living in Hua Hin based on the available English teacher opportunities but after spending a week testing out the city I could not picture my youthful soul fitting in with any aspect of the town.

Would I recommend visiting Hua Hin?  Yes, but the city is clearly geared toward older expats that wish to vacation there or use it as a second home.  As for adventure seeking backpackers, no I would not suggest going out of your way to visit Hua Hin unless you really want to see the Kings Palace.  Hua Hin is one of those cities people either love or hate.

That is just personal preference because I did meet one young German who has been living and working there for a year and said he absolutely loves it.  My recommendation is to weigh the pro’s and con’s then see for yourself.

 Pro’s of Hua Hin

  • White sandy beaches
  • Clean streets
  • Growing art scene
  • Western bars and restaurants
  • Plenty of golf courses
  • Luxury family resorts
  • Kings Palace is in the city center
  • Several nice markets

Con’s of Hua Hin

  • Senior city filled with European retirees
  • Tacky tourist attractions
  • Expensive compared to standard Thai prices
  • Lack of character in the main city center
  • Aside from the local markets and street vendors there were not many authentic restaurants

*Bottom line: If you are looking for a quiet beach town filled with mainly expats over 50 years old then this is a great spot to retire or vacation.  If you are young and looking to teach English in Hua Hin then it may also be a good fit.  I met several people in town who were young and taught English as a foreign language and they loved living in Hua Hin.  But if you are a young backpacker just passing through I wouldn’t stay longer than one or two nights.

 Best Places to Stay in Hua Hin on a Budget

Usually I only focus on budget hostels, hotels and guesthouses in my snapshots of cities around the world but Hua Hin deserves special treatment since it is a town that primarily caters to an older crowd with deeper pockets.  Among all the fancy beach resorts and expensive hotels, there are several options to accommodate backpackers and flashpackers.

Jenny House: I stayed here for 5 nights and enjoyed every moment of it.  Jenny was so incredibly helpful and she was there every morning to make us a home cooked breakfast.  Her guesthouse is located smack dab in the center of Hua Hin next to everything.  The rooms were very clean, included air conditioning, cable tv, private bathrooms and free wifi that was very fast.  Overall, a great place to stay in Hua Hin if you are on a budget but still looking for a comfortable stay.  The private room I stayed in with a double bed cost 700 THB/night but if you stay longer than a few days Jenny will knock the price down to 600 THB,

*Note, the guesthouse is right next to the Muay Thai boxing arena so every Tuesday and Saturday night you will hear noise until about 11 PM.  Not a big deal!

Jenny House Hua Hin

jenny house hua hin thailand

Les Bobo’s Backpacker Hostel: Budget travelers that want to stay in the city center without spending a fortune will love this hostel.  Overall a pretty basic hostel but they do offer free wifi and with the location, you are in walking distance to everything.  You can rest your head for under 600 THB/night.

Damrong Hotel: This hotel seems to be geared toward Thai’s on a budget.  The staff knew basic English and the style of the hotel was outdated but for 300 THB per night you can’t ask for much.  If you want air conditioning it will cost you 500 baht per night.  Overall, a decent budget hotel.

Hua Hin House: You can rent a standard double room here for 700 THB per night or spring for the bigger deluxe double room for 1200 THB.  There is nothing particularly special about this hotel other than the surrounding bakery’s down the street.  If you can grab a room for 700 baht I’d stay it is worth it.

German Bread and More: A Euro style guesthouse located in the heart of Hua Hin.  Clean rooms, friendly staff and the best part is you will wake up to a delicious breakfast.  Overall, a great choice for places to stay in Hua Hin.

The Fat Cat Guesthouse and Piano Bar: Most every night you will be accompanied by music from a soothing saxophone on the ground floor.  If you are looking for a unique atmosphere on your visit to Hua Hin then this is an excellent budget option with rooms under 600 THB per night.  The rooms are small but with live jazz music, wine and a relaxed atmosphere at your fingertips you won’t spend too much time in your room anyway.

Luxurious Places to Stay in Hua Hin

Centara Grand Beach Resort: This historic resort was designed by an Italian architect and constructed in 1923.  It is known as one of the nicest and most impressive resorts in all of Thailand.  There is a reason Hua Hin was put on the map as a luxury beach destination and this resort set the precedence.  If you’re looking for a top notch stay on your visit to Hua Hin and don’t mind shelling out 20,000 THB per night or if you’re lucky during the off season you can find deals on booking sites for as low as 4,000 THB per night.

Hilton Hua Hin Resort: When first opened in 1992 the Hilton was the only hotel to give the Centara Resort a run for its money.  The good thing is, they both offer completely different experiences.  The good thing about staying at the Hilton is that almost every room has a big balcony with a view of the sea.  My favorite part was the sky bar and restaurant.  In addition to their fine dining experience they also offer a fitness center, full service spa, tennis courts and an attached brew pub on the street.  Overall, this is one of the best spots to stay in Hua Hin if you want western comfort for between 4,500-7,500 THB per night. Prices fluctuate depending on the time of the year so your best bet is to look on Booking or Agoda to score the best deal.

Baan Bayan Beach Resort: This quiet resort sits on a quiet beach toward the South of Hua Hin.  It is perfect for a romantic getaway and prices start at 3,000 baht for a standard double room and go up to 5,500 baht for deluxe depending on the season.  Overall, a good option if you prefer a calm atmosphere. They even have their own cafe, swimming pool, spa and community lounge chairs.

Best Places to Eat in Hua Hin

If you are looking for food in the city center expect average Thai and Western food at inflated prices. However among all the tourist traps there are several restaurants and markets that offer delicious food at an affordable price, you just have to know where to look!

Nightmarket: Most definitely the best place to find cheap food in the city center is at the night market on located in the center of town and runs up Petchkasem Road to the railway line and opens at 18:00.  Pad Thai will cost about 40 THB and you can grab fresh seafood and BBQ for under 100 THB.  Also, some of my favorite street food vendors were on Soi 55/1.  Just walk around and look for the food stalls set up selling the same stuff you would find at a restaurant for a fraction of the cost.

night market hua hin

Cool Breeze Cafe Bar: A great spot for lunch or dinner especially if you catch them during Happy Hour. They offer buy 1 get 1 Sangria and their house wine is only 100 THB per glass.  Their happy hour runs from 4-7 PM where you can also get buy 2 tapas get 1 free.  Overall, a great spot in the city center near the beach for reasonable prices and attentive service.

Saeng Thai Seafood: Perhaps one of the best spots in town for seafood. With the fishing pier a stones throw away you best believe the food is fresh!  Enjoy the beautiful view of the sea while you choose from just about every type of seafood you can think of.  Although it is not cheaper then the market, I enjoy spending a little extra for dining with a view of the water.  Overall, one of the best seafood dining experiences you can get in Hua Hin.

The Baguette Hua Hin: A fantastic spot for lunch. I ate here 3 times because I love sinking my teeth into freshly baked bread with imported meat and cheese in between.  It is a 25 minute walk from the city center located right on the main strip. In addition to sandwiches they offer pastries, cold drinks and an assortment of other freshly baked good.  If you are craving a fresh sandwich, go to the Baguette!

Cicada Market: This was my favorite market in Hua Hin without question.  It was organized, clean and they offer a large selection of food and drinks.  You’ll have to take a taxi or scooter to get there but trust me, it is worth it.  You’ll find some of the best grilled seafood, Korean BBQ, pad thai, fried mussels, Italian dishes and other Thai dishes being served fresh right in front of you.  The Cicada Market is open from 4-11 PM on weekends only including Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

German Bread and More: Serving up some of the breakfast in town and they also offer a small selection of baked goods.  They are a guesthouse but if you are in the neighborhood in the morning then stop in and you won’t be disappointed.

Best Happy Hour in Hua Hin

Cool Breeze Cafe Bar: In addition to being a good spot for food, Cool Breeze offers buy 1 get 1 free drink specials on sangria, their wine is 100 THB/glass and you can order 2 tapas and get 1 free.  Happy hour at Cool Breeze is from 4-7 PM.

Red Piano Restaurant and Wine Bar: Tucked down a side street in the city center this is a great spot to stop in for happy hour.  They offer buy 1 get 1 free glasses of house wine in a classic European atmosphere.  Overall, a good spot to grab a glass of wine and relax in style.  Happy hour at Red Piano is from 4-7 PM. View their full menu here.

Father Ted’s Irish Pub & Steakhouse:  They offer reduced prices on beer and wine during their happy hour.  I went there and ordered a Chang beer at happy hour for 70 baht and it came out in a huge glass equalling two beers.  They have live music often and the food was good for the price.  They just opened in December of 2015 and have already gained popularity with their Irish food and drink menu.  Overall, a good Irish pub to watch sports, listen to music or mingle over a few pints of beer.

Elephant Bar: A fancy lounge bar at the Centara Grand Beach Resort.  If you want an upscale early 20th century experience then you will find fancy cocktails being shaken and stirred here. Overall, a very fancy bar best suited for those with money to spare or celebrating a special occasion.  If you are a nomad backpacker saving every penny then run far away.

Ye Olde Buffalo Tavern: Established in 1996, Buffalo Bill’s just celebrated 18 years of serving up some of the best food and drinks in town. It is the longest running public house house amongst a fast changing resort town. They are in a great location close to the water but far away enough from the tacky tourist spots smack in the center of the city. Overall, this is a good spot to grab a drink and a bite to eat for happy hour. The rustic wooden deck and tranquil lighting drew me in from walking down the street.

White Lotus Sky Bar: Ok, so they don’t offer happy hour but if you want to sip on a fancy cocktail and enjoy one of the best views in town then it is worth splurging once on your visit. This bar is located at the top of the Hilton Hotel and offers the best view of both the city and sea while you sip your fancy cocktail. A beer will cost you 200 THB and cocktails closer to 300 THB. It is expensive but you are paying for the view. See their restaurant menu here.

Hua Hin Brewing Company: If a premium burger and beer are what you are after then this is a good spot in the city center. They offer beer towers with three of their locally brewed beers and the usual suspects. Overall, a good spot if you are craving some local brew but prices will be higher than surrounding bars and their happy hour changes constantly so you will have to go in person to inquire about their specials.  See the full drink menu here. 

All the Markets in Hua Hin

Cicada Market: It is the most popular market in town for a reason. Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 until 11 PM. Connecting local artists, musicians, performers, designers and cooks to tourists, expats and the local community. You’ll find just about everything here that you would at a traditional farmers market and more. It is divided into four venues: Art A La Mode, Cicada Art Factory, Amphitheatre and Cicada Cuisine. I highly recommend any visitor of Hua Hin to check out the Cicada Market at least one night on the weekend. You can find detailed information here.

Nightmarket: A short walk from city center located on both Dechanuchit Road and Soi 72 that runs between Petchakasem Road and the railway station road (Liap Thang Rotfai), interrupted only by the intersection with Sa Song Road. A popular spot to find cheap food and shopping.

Grand Market: You’ll find more locals than tourists here which means authentic food at lower prices!  Located at the Grand Hotel Plaza, just a short walk south of the town centre and adjacent to the San Paolo Hospital. Held nightly except Monday and Tuesday, it starts around 5 pm and closes at 11 pm.

Chat Chai Market: This is where most of the locals go to buy their produce. It opens at 5 AM and is finished by 2 PM. If you go early enough you’ll see many monks in orange robes along with a steady steam of motorbikes delivering food and ice. A good market to find inexpensive produce including fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, fish and a variety of strong spices. Located close to the Night Market on Sa Song Road.

Pae Mai Market: Another popular spot for locals to buy cheap food, electronics, clothing and motorcycle gear. Located on the Riab Khan Khlong canal road close to the golf driving range. They are open from 5-10 PM and the busiest day is on Tuesday. Closed between Thursday and Sunday.

Dinosaur Market: Located close to Soi 56 this market is a good spot for fresh produce. Only open Wednesday and Sunday but they do have a reputation of having a wide variety with good prices.

*For more information on all of these markets you can visit Hua Hin Local Markets.

Best Things to Do in Hua Hin

Hua Hin Beach: This is what attracts residents from Bangkok, expats from Europe and retired folk from around the world. The white sandy beaches are nice and offer a perfect amount of wind if you enjoy kite or wind surfing. The water is not as clear as the beaches in Southern Thailand but for the most part they are kept clean. Grab a lounge chair and order a fruity drink and you’ll fit right in with the crowd here.

Hua Hin Hills Vineyard: Travel 45 kilometers west of Hua Hin and you will find 560 acres of vineyards in a beautiful setting. If you like wine, then why wouldn’t you stop in and take a tour? They have an upscale restaurant that overlooks elephants and locals working in straw hats. It is a scene out of a romantic comedy  and you will enjoy every minute of it.

Hua Hin Train Station: That’s right, the train station is worth a visit all on its own. Arguably one of the oldest and most eye appealing train stations not just in Thailand but of Southeast Asia.

What Kaho Takiab: I haven’t seen too many gigantic Buddha statues located on the beach so this one took me by surprise when looking for the temple. Measuring 270 meters high, the twirling staircase will lead you to up a rock cliff to enjoy beautiful views of the sea. Also known as Chopsticks Hill or Kaho Takiab.

Saxophone Lounge: If you like having a drink accompanied by jazz music then you’ll love this spot. It can be a bit difficult to find so realize that it is 2 km from the main road. Glasses of wine start at 140 baht and they offer indoor and outdoor seating. Overall, worth checking out for night in Hua Hin.

Hua Hin Market Village: This is a market, mall and grocery store all in one. You’ll find everything you need here including a variety of restaurants including all of the large chains. They have a movie theatre, Tesco and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Ocassionally they will have a local farmers market with fresh local produce. It is worth visiting on your next trip to Hua Hin but don’t expect it to be an authentic local experience.

Golf Courses: There are five golf courses in and around Hua Hin. I didn’t play while on my visit so I can’t offer much advice on good courses. You can find detailed information all the golf courses here.

Thai Boxing Match: They host fights every Tuesday and Saturday starting at 9 PM at the Thai Boxing Garden and ending around 11:30 PM. If you’ve never seen a match then it is most definitely worth checking out. Located right in the city center, tickets cost between 400-600 baht. You can also stop by during the day to watch them train.

You can also catch a fight at the Grand Sports Stadium located close to the Grand Hotel and Night Market. Catch a fight on Friday night and additionally Wednesday in the high season. Tickets are between 350-600 baht.

Cicada Market: It is the most popular market in town for a reason. Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4 until 11 PM. Connecting local artists, musicians, performers, designers and cooks to tourists, expats and the local community. You’ll find just about everything here that you would at a traditional farmers market and more. It is divided into four venues: Art A La Mode, Cicada Art Factory, Amphitheatre and Cicada Cuisine. I highly recommend any visitor of Hua Hin to check out the Cicada Market at least one night on the weekend. You can find detailed information here.

How to Get to Hua Hin

The most popular route is traveling from Bangkok to Hua Hin so most of these options are specific to this route with the exception of a few.

By Train: The train station is smack in the center of Hua Hin so it is very convenient for travelers to go by rail. It is one of the most popular routes from Bangkok but it is not the fastest. It is only a 2.5 hour drive from Bangkok by car or bus but the train stretches it out to 5 hours. Personally, I prefer traveling by train because I can read a book or get work done on my laptop without getting motion sickness. However if you are short on time and would prefer to go by bus it will be quicker for about the same price.

If you buy the ticket directly from the train station it will cost you 150 baht for a 2nd class seat with a fan only. The cost from a local travel agency is 250 baht and honestly it is worth it. It will cost you time and money to go all the way to the train station separately a day or two in advance.  My favorite website for train transportation can be found here.

train to hua hin thailand

By Bus: Depending on traffic, a bus will take between 2.5-3.5 hours. A non VIP bus will cost around 300 baht and they are comfortable enough for such a short bus ride. Departure times from Bangkok Suvannabhum Airport are: 07:30, 09:30, 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 17:30 and 19:30.

Basically, there are buses leaving every hour on the hour from Bangkok to Hua Hin from several locations around Bangkok. You can take a VIP or non VIP bus from downtown or the airport. I recommend asking your guesthouse what pickup location is closest and going with that option. Unlike other parts of the world, booking transportation is best done in person in Thailand.

By Taxi: It is possible to take a taxi from Bangkok to Hua Hin covering a distance of about 200 km. It will cost you about 2,000 baht but if you have the extra dough to shell out then go for it!

By Minivan: This is almost always my least favorite option when traveling. I only do it when absolutely necessary because you never know what is going to happen and well. Average cost is about 250 baht but there be careful of getting scammed. Sometimes the driver will stop short of the final destination and announce “final stop” but if the local Thai’s stay in the minivan then beware. They do this so that you will be forced to hire a taxi that will take you the rest of the way for an extra 150-200 baht. Don’t fall for this scam. Make sure they drop you off city center of Hua Hin near the train station.

By Boat: There was once a ferry that ran between Pattaya and Hua Hin but that was discontinued in 2011.

hua hin transporation

Bonus Travel Tips for Hua Hin:

  • Getting around: The cheapest way to get around town is by Songthaew. It will only cost you 10 baht one way and they run all throughout the main spots in town. If you want to go outside of town then you can negotiate the price. A scooter rental cost 200 baht per day. If they ask for more, don’t budge unless you want a brand new scooter with higher than 120 cc.
  • Spending Money: It is possible to budget your money in Hua Hin but it is not as easy as most other cities in Thailand. Opt to eat at the day and night markets along with with choosing a budget guesthouse for your trip. My audience primarily consists of budget backpackers so I cater to them.
  • Catch Happy Hour: You can find some great deals at happy hour which will allow you to experience some of the fine dining at half the price. My advice is to grab a drink or two during happy hour then have dinner at one of the night markets if you are traveling on a tight budget.

I hope this snapshot of Hua Hin serves as a helpful travel guide on your next adventure. Happy travels!

Snap out of it, live free!