The Ultimate Travel Guide To Kanchanaburi

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Kanchanaburi Travel Guide
NookEG18 / Pixabay

Kanchanaburi is very lush in nature, and nature adventures are more of the main highlights. Movies like “The Bridge over The Kwai” or the word “Death Railway” are thought of by people, even though its natural excursions are the main highlight. It draws tourists with its dark history of World War II when the Japanese colonials captured parts of Kanchanaburi, and imprisoned allied prisoners and forced them to build the bridge.

It is a province towards the west and 129 kilometers from Bangkok, and the third-largest province in Thailand. Although, it isn’t as popular as Bangkok, or Phuket but still remains very local. 

Its historical stories and lush nature, are the things that “Wow’ed” me, it can be tricky to plan your holiday there, because it’s huge. It has a lot to offer in history, culture, and nature, which sounds like a great blend here. This travel guide will shortcut your way to enjoy your adventures in Kanchanaburi.

Table of Content:

  1. Top Things do and see
  2. Best time to visit
  3. Getting to Kanchanaburi
  4. Staying in Kanchanaburi and 4 Day Sample Itinerary 
  5. Getting around 
  6. Where to eat
  7. Money-saving tips and suggested budget
  8. Travel Safety

TOP THINGS TO DO AND SEE

Walkthrough footsteps of World War II

Ride the train over the Death Railway-Kanchanaburi’s famous Death Railway is a reminder of forced prisoners that had lost their lives building the bridge. You can ride over this nostalgic historical landmark with guided tours, and enjoy the beautiful scenic views of River Kwai. You can take the train from Bangkok yourself to ride over the Death Railway. Check out more details in section 3.

Tour the World War II museums and walk through memories at the Hellfire Pass – You’ll find these museums around the Death Railway Bridge, the Arts Gallery and War Museum, and JEATH museum, they are within a walking distance from the bridge. 

The Hellfire Pass is a 90-minute drive from downtown Kanchanaburi, but on the way to Sai Yok National Park. Walking through the original path of the railway, you’ll see handwritten cards and Australian flags gifted to the deceased prisoners and honor their passing. The Hellfire Pass was personally the most interesting site for me that I visited, because it was very surreal to see how capable humans are.

Visit the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery – The allied prisoners were mostly Australian, British, and Dutch that got buried in this cemetery. On ANZAC Day, families of the fallen soldiers visit this cemetery for their remembrance, and pay respects to their passing. 

Adventure Excursions

Swimming at Erawan National Park – When you’re in Kanchanaburi, taking a dip at one of the emerald pools in Erawan National Park must be part of your to-do list. It has 7 tiers to hike, and some of the tiers of the waterfall are beautifully formed with limestone.

The entrance fee for adults is 300 THB ($10 USD), and kids 200 THB ($6.11 USD) for the national park. Opens every day 8.00 A.M. – 4.00 P.M. Trails to waterfalls close at 3.30 P.M. 

Explore Sai Yok National Park – Another national park that’s popular for both locals, and tourists. There are mysterious caves to explore, and Sai Yok Lek waterfall that flows into Kwai Noi. If you’re a wildlife fan, one of the rare species of bats (Kitti’s hog-nosed bat) can be found in a limestone cave.

Staying in raft houses is highly favored by tourists, and they’re highly private. There are also a good number of bungalows, and extra space to go camping.

Entrance fees for adults is 300 THB ($10 USD) and kids 200 THB ($6.11 USD). Opening hours: every day 7.00 A.M. – 5.00. P.M. 

Kayaking or Bamboo Rafting the Kwai – No doubt that the River Kwai is a very long river, and it seems like it would be a fun idea to paddle down the river. Kakaying and bamboo rafting are very popular activities in Kanchanaburi, and an eco-friendly way to explore the river. You’ll get to enjoy the scenic and rugged mountainous views, and lush greeneries along the river. It’s highly recommended to book a kayaking tour for your safety especially if you aren’t an outdoor person. 

Caving the caves – There are tons of mysterious caves to explore in the area. They are magically formed with limestone, and be awed with nature’s creation. The locals see some caves as a sacred place, like the Khao Pun Cave, caves like these, you’ll find Buddha images.

Cultural Immersion

Visit Mon Villages – There are tours that take you to local Mon villages along River Kwai. You’re able to drive to Sangklaburi, 200 Kilometers away from Kanchanaburi for an authentic Mon village experience, and stay overnight to immerse in their culture. 

Temple Hopping – Temple hopping is one of the top things to do while you’re in Thailand. Kanchanaburi has really unique temples, and the architecture is incredible. The Dragon Head’s Temple (Wat Ban Tham) is a very popular temple for tourists.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Peak Season – Thailand’s peak season has cooler weather than the rest of the year, which is around November – February, which is in every tourist’s favor to explore Kanchanaburi. However, it can get packed with people, especially if you intend to go during the weekends.

Low Season – Though, the low season saves you a lot of cash, because the accommodation rates are much lower. Best time to come is Mid – May to Early October, on the weekdays, that’s when the rainy season is around. The region is lusher, and green if you want to do nature excursions, and want to avoid crowds.

GETTING THERE

Kanchanaburi has no domestic and international airport, being one of the largest provinces in Thailand. Here are ways to get there. 

Domestic Bus/Minivan – Bangkok has two bus terminals you can get to, in order to take the domestic bus or minivan to Kanchanaburi. You can board the buses and minivans at Mo Chit Bus Terminal or Southern Bus Terminal. You can check the schedule for departures online and book your bus tickets.

Train – Trains from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi depart from Thonburi train station and it’s approximately 2 hours to reach. The train departs only twice a day during the weekdays, in the mornings 7.50 A.M., and afternoons 13.35 P.M. You can ride all the way to the last stop called Nam Tok in Kanchanaburi, which is 2 kilometers away from Sai Yok Waterfall.  

Private vehicle – You can rent cars in Thailand, even at Suvarnabhumi Airport if you would like to be a fully independent traveler, and you’re going to have to bring your international driver’s license. It can cost from 800 THB ($27 USD) – 1500 THB ($50 USD) per day.

STAYING IN KANCHANABURI AND 4 DAY SAMPLE ITINERARY 

Southern end of Mae Nam Kwai Road.

Who is it for?

● Young Backpackers

● Party people

Pro’s

● Close to nightlife and Thai food

● Most accommodations are on the riverside

● Easy for meeting people

Cons

● A lot of raft houses aren’t very fancy

Northern End of Mae Nam Kwai Road.

Who is it for?

● Families

Pro’s

● More relaxed and peaceful

● Accommodations are more fancy and cozy

● Close to convenience shops and food stalls

Cons

● Further away from the bars if you still want to drink

Sai Yok

Who is it for?

● Be with nature along the raft houses or in tents

Pro’s 

● Peaceful

● Pristine with nature

Cons

● Far from convenience shops

● Not suitable for non-nature lovers

4 DAY SAMPLE ITINERARY

Day 1:

●    Morning – Walk along the Death Railway Bridge

●    Afternoon – JEATH Museum 

●    Evening – JJ Night market

Day 2:

●    Morning – VisitHellfire Pass 

●    Afternoon – Erawan National Park

Day 3:

●    Morning – Evening Paddle the River Kwai in Sai Yok

Day 4:

●    Morning – Afternoon – Visit Mon Village

GETTING AROUND 

Bicycle – Kanchanaburi is pretty popular for exploring places by cycling. You can rent a couple of different bicycles based on your preference in the region or you can bring your bicycle on the train or bus.

Rent a Motorbike – Along the guesthouses, you can rent a motorbike for 200 THB – 300 THB ($6 USD – $9.20 USD). Just make sure you bring your motorbike international license and personal information with you, in case, you get pulled over by the local traffic patrol.

Boat – You can hire a long-tailed boat at the Death Railway Bridge, and take you to places that are offeredThe program depends on how long you want to ride the boat, usually the price starts from 800 THB ($25 USD) for six people.

Orange Songthaews – Orange Songthaews are orange trucks that do the work like taxis. You can do both short and long trips, and the rates are negotiable.

Blue Songthaews – These ones are blue trucks that do regular routes and passenger pick-ups along the fixed routes. They can be 10 THB (30 US Cents) per passenger, you can ask the staff at your accommodations. 

Where To Eat 

Downtown Kanchanaburi 

Zeb Zeb – This offers travelers the chance to try Kanchanaburi’s regional local cuisines, and is favored by the locals. The dishes are very affordable and locally priced. Most of the dishes will be around 70 THB – 80 THB ($2.15 USD – $2.45 USD).

On’s Thai Isaan – For vegans, and vegetarians, it can be difficult to order Thai food at Thai restaurants in Thailand. On’s Thai Isaan can ease your worries, because their vegetarian and meat-free dishes are a specialty from the Isaan region or Eastern region. There are other curries as well if you’d like to have authentic made curries. The prices for the dishes are mostly around 60 THB ($2 USD). 

JJ Night Market – You can’t skip the local market in Kanchanaburi, located in downtown Kanchanaburi. You’ll find a whole lot of Thai dishes and bizarre Thai snacks like fried insects. Opens every day at 6.00 P.M. – 10.00 P.M.

Sai Yok

Sommai Restaurant – Here’s a local Thai restaurant around Sai Yok if you don’t want to miss out local dishes in Kanchanaburi. The portions are quite large, and most of the dishes are for sharing, but you can order individual dishes for you.

They’re also vegetarian friendly if you’re a vegetarian.

MONEY SAVING TIPS AND SUGGESTED BUDGET

1. Avoid traveling peak season – Peak season is when rates are more expensive, and coming to Kanchanaburi is better during low season, when it’s rainy and you get to enjoy the lush green sceneries.

2. Rent your own Motorbike/bicycle – Having your own mobility that can help you save a lot of money during your stay in Thailand. You can save money and spend on attractions or other experiences. 

3. Eating where the locals eat – Eating at local eateries can save you tons of money, and after all while you’re in a different country, you can try something new that’s not available in your country. Sometimes, eating where tourists prefer to eat, the prices are different travelers and you would often come across this in tourist destinations in Asia.

Here’s a chart to help you with the costs, this is based on personal experience. Maybe you intend to spend less or more.

 AccomodationsFoodTransportationAttractionsAverage Daily Costs
Budget$7.25$5$10$10$32.25
Mid – Range$12$8$10$10$40
High Range$80$15$10$13$128

TRAVEL TIPS & SAFETY

Currency exchange – There are ATMs and banks around to withdraw your money. Be aware of the fake ATMs, and it’s safer to carry a fair amount of cash.

Looking out for petty crimes – Scams are quite popular in Thailand, especially local bars in tourist destinations. Sometimes, they won’t give your exact change back. 

Female Solo Travelers – Traveling in Kanchanaburi is quite safe for female solo travelers. You just need to be careful who you are acquainted with.

Travel Insurance, better safe than sorry – Getting good travel insurance can save you lots of issues, in case of injuries, and other issues that may occur. You can never be too careful.