Udon Thani (อุดรธานี, also Udorn Thanee) is a city in the Isaan region of Thailand. Often referred to as simply Udon or Udorn (อุดร), the city should not be confused with Ubon Ubon Ratchathani in southeastern Isaan. It is approximately 450 km (280 mi) northeast of Bangkok.
Founded in the 1890s by Prince Prajak Silapakom, Udon Thani, with a population of about 230,000, is the 4th largest city in Thailand.
Udon was home to a major USAF airbase during the Vietnam War that increased its wealth and importance. Surrounded by one of the major agricultural areas of the country, Udon Thani has become a regional hub for agriculture, commercial distribution, shopping and a fledgling tourism industry.
Because of the U.S. presence (the airbase until 1976, a consulate until 1995, and, now, a Voice of America station) many Thais were well-paid and learned English, making them more marketable to foreign labour recruiters. Udon has a large number of its citizens who have or are working overseas, particularly in Middle East oilfields. This has contributed both to the wealth of the area and its desirability as an expat destination. More than 5,000 expats from Europe, Australia, and North America have settled in the area.
Udon Thani International Airport (UTH),  currently has domestic flights to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) and Chiang Mai (CNX).
Flights to Bangkok take about one hour.
To get to town there is a "limousine service" (actually a minibus) for 80 baht/person that will drop you and other passengers to the place of your choice. If there are more than 2 of you, it may be cheaper to call a taxi (☎ +66 42 323239). Minibus tickets are available in the booth just to the right before you leave the terminal building. Taxis are not permitted to wait for passengers at the airport. Some of the hotels have pick-up service and may take an extra rider or two as space permits.
There are now two bus stations in the city. Bus station #1 is in the city centre, near Central Plaza, a large mall, and a more active area. Another is in the outskirts of town on the road in from Loei towards Nong Khai (bus station #2).
From Nong Khai, there is a bus station on Prajak Rd which has buses that go to both Udon stations. They are close in price, but they go to very different areas of Udon: 40 baht to station 1 (not preferred). Old bus, no A/C, far from the city centre, and it makes many stops. 45 baht on a newer, first class bus to station 2 is preferred.
If you end up at station 1 and want to go to station 2, there is a songthaew for 10 baht (it may be slow as it picks up other riders) or you can catch a tuk-tuk into town for around 80 baht.
Buses from Bangkok (Mo Chit), an 8-hour journey, arrive at the BKS station in the city.
Regular busses go from Vientiane to Udon Thani at the bus station in Vientiane at 08:00, 09:00, 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:30 and 18:00 and kost 22000 Kip. Best buy your bus ticket a day in advance because the busses are sold out quickly (3 hours or more before departure). The alternative to go from Vientiane to Udon Thani is a minibus with air condition for 130000 Kip (price negotiable) to the Friendship Bridge at Nong Khai and from there with another minibus to Udon Thani (300-1000 Baht, price negotiable).
Daily trains go to Nong Khai and over the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River to Laos. There are also frequent trains to Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok. The overnight express sleeper to Bangkok is scheduled for 9.25 hours but usually takes longer. Nevertheless, it is still quite comfortable and pleasant, especially when taken in a sleeping berth or compartment. A daytime express railcar to Bangkok traverses a causeway over the large and scenic artificial lake created by the Pa Sak Jolasid Dam (in Lopburi Province). Connections to the major centres of Southern Isaan (Buriram, Surin, Si Saket and Ubon Ratchathani) can be made in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) for those who like to travel by rail.
In all, there are daily daytime trains, and three daily nighttime trains from Bangkok to Udon Thani and vice versa (most of which normally originate or terminate at Nong Khai), and several local trains to other destinations, including Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat).
Navigation around Udon Thani is made easier by three large roundabouts on the central road, Hwy 2: the clock circle, the fountain circle, and the Prince Prajak Circle. It's also possible to orient yourself with Central Plaza, city centre, or Nong Prajak Park. There is a bypass road that goes around the city.
The main bus station, near Central Plaza has a taxi stand.
By bicycle taxi
Udon Thani has many samlors (three-wheeled bicycle taxis), although as elsewhere, they are slowly succumbing to the pressures of internal combustion engines.
Tuk-tuks, three-wheeled motorcycles, are readily available in most commercial areas. Negotiate a price before taking the ride. Note that in Udon Thani the locally made vehicles (called skylabs) differ from those in most of Thailand outside Isaan in that their fronts are adapted motorcycles. If you travel to Laos, you will see such vehicles (called jumbos) there, also.
Udon Thani has a bus-like network of numbered pick up trucks with 2 benches in the back songthaews; cost is 8 or 10 baht per trip (10 baht outside the ring road).
There are limited city bus routes.
You can follow the locals and hop on the waiting #6 songthaew to the bus station or take a tuk-tuk.
Bicycles are available for rent at the northeast corner of Nong Prajack Park for 20 baht/hour.
By motorcycle or car
Motorcycles or cars are for rent at numerous locations.
Udon Thani motorcycle car bicycle rentals map. http://goo.gl/maps/6FTue
Udon has a variety of sights, both in the city and the province, although most visitors make a beeline for Laos or the bronze age excavations east of Udon at Ban Chiang.
- Ban Nakha, 15 km north of Udon along Rt 2. A village famous for selling home-woven silk and cotton garments. It is somewhat commercialized but a walk back from the road into the village can net some great bargains on silk and cotton.
- The Ban Chiang archaeological dig is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 35 km east of Udon. Both buses and inter-village songthaews will drop you off at the Ban Chiang turn-off.
- Nong Bua. Another park with a lake just to the east of the railway line. It is noted for its Chinese pagodas over the lake and the dragon pole.
- Nong Prajack Park. A large recreational area within the city and the primary site for locals to exercise and chill out. Consisting of a large lake/reservoir with several small islands, it features pleasant grass areas and activities such as nightly aerobics (to Thai pop music) and feeding bread crumbs to the fish. For the more active, it's also popular for jogging around the outside of the lake.
- Phu Foi Lom Eco-Park, 40 km southwest of Udon, located high on a ridge line. Numerous trails and rainy season water falls are within the park. South of Udon is a large wetlands area/lake called Khumpawapi. In the October timeframe, traditional dragon boat races are held on the lake. Within Khumpahawapi is a city park with a large troupe of monkeys that have been living there for over a hundred years.
- Phu Phrabat National Park, 60 km northwest of Udon near the Amphoe of Ban Phue. A marvellous ridge line with numerous sandstone edifices several thousand years old. Bronze age cave paintings are also within the park.
- Udon Sunshine Orchid Farm. Famous for a variety of orchids, orchid derived perfumes, and plants that "dance to music".
- Udon Thani Provincial Museum. Excellent range of displays of the archaeological and historical past, plus geology and folk history. The museum is housed in an interesting somewhat elderly building, which was originally a girl's school. Entry by donation. Prosri Rd, in the government centre. As of 24th February 2014 the museum is closed for one year due to renovation.
Try snacks in 7-11, walk around shopping centre,
Also recommend a trip to the bus station and purchase a ticket out of Udon Thani
There is a large night market that opens about 17:00 just west of the train station.
Central Plaza, formerly Chareonsri, is Udon Thani's largest indoor shopping mall, featuring 5 floors of shopping, including a Robinson's Department Store, Tops Supermarket, Sizzler Steakhouse, KFC, Pizza Company, Swensen's Ice Cream, Boot's Pharmacy, IT products, mobile phones, Major Cineplex, etc.
UD Town, just south of the train station, is a walking mall with a food court, Tesco Lotus store, 3 different Oishi restaurants, McDonald's, Swensen's Ice Cream, Pizza Company, WaWee Coffee and numerous retail businesss.
On the eastside is a Makro store (cheap for bulk purchases) and a Big C shopping centre (groceries and department store) with cheaper prices than Robinson's.
On the bypass road are numerous big box stores: Home Mart, Global House, Tool Pro Plus, Home Products Company, Index Living Mall, Premium Outlet Mall, Tesco Lotus (x2), Big C, Tang Ngee Soon Superstore.
Throughout the city and around are 7-11s and other convenience stores. Many automobile service and filling stations have coffee shops, public toilets, convenience stores, car washes, restaurants, etc.
Street vendors abound throughout the city. Satay, noodle soup (beef, pork, chicken, and duck are common), pad Thai, som tam, grilled chicken, meat on a stick, various sweets and rice dishes are available at nearly all times.
The fresh fruit market located on the corner of Udon Dutsadi and Phonpisai Rd also offers some interesting food for those wanting to try traditional Thai food.
Udon Thani has a large range of buffet restaurants including Korean-style, cook-it-yourself BBQs in a raised dish over a charcoal burner in the centre of your table. There is one located about 2 km north of the ring road on Mittraphap Rd with great food and helpful staff, just make sure you have the number of a tuk-tuk for the return journey.
All of the shopping and strip malls have food courts and many have restaurants.
There are many Thai restaurants throughout the city. Some are small and specialize in a few dishes while others are large and have extensive menus, although sometimes only in Thai.
Western, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese food is also available.
Udon Thani has a variety of karaoke bars, beer bars, and Western bars. The area between Central Plaza and the railroad station houses some of these. Bar names and ownership are fluid, particularly for Western bars.
Many of the hotels in town have lively nightlife with restaurants and music.
There are many hotels in town. Prices vary, and as with most things, you get what you pay for. Rates can range from 200 to 2,000 baht or more per night. Apartment rentals from 1,800 baht/month. Private pool villas can be rented for catered stays of two nights or more.
Central Plaza, bus station, train station area
- Centara Hotel & Convention Centre Udon Thani (formerly, Charoensri Grand Royal Hotel), (next to the main shopping centre), . The main hotel used by foreigners. From 1,300 baht. edit
- Charoen Hotel, 549 Phosri Rd. 250 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms, and 2 suites, on a 10-acre plot surrounded by gardens and beautifully landscaped with swimming pools. It is only a few hundred metres to the southwest of the central bus station. From 950 baht. edit
- The Pannarai Hotel (เดอะพรรณรายโฮเต็ล), 19/8 Sampantamit Rd, Udon Thani (300 m from Central Plaza shopping mall), ☎ +66 88 057 6875, +66 42 345111, +66 42 344999 (email@example.com), . checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Beautiful city view with private swimming pool and restaurant. Two meeting rooms and private car park. Five minute walk to bus and train stations. Located in the middle of Udon Thani, next to night market, UD Town and Bangkok Hospital Udonthani. 1,480+ baht includes breakfast. edit
- Silver Reef Bed & Breakfast, 338/8 Prajack Rd (5 min walk to Robinson Shopping), ☎ +66 42 344081. Central, close to the bus station and Robinson complex. New, rooms have 29” TV, air-con, Wi-Fi. Cheerful theme with cartoon characters. Canadian management. 500+ baht. edit
- Top Mansion, 35/3 Sampantamit Rd (200 m from Central Plaza shopping mall), ☎ +66 42 345015 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Convenient to bus and train stations, night market, city centre, and Bangkok Hospital Udonthani. On the street with foreigner-oriented bars, pubs, and other accommodations. 450 baht. (+17.407,+102.802) edit
- Karin Hotel, Watthananuwong Rd (between Nong Prajak and Robinson/train station). Somewhat aging, but cheap and convenient location. 460-800 baht. edit
- Nuntiya Terrace, 549 Prachasanti Rd (city centre), ☎ +66 42 321282, . Central, close to UD Town. New, clean, TV, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, parking. Daily rate and monthly rate are available. edit
- Phimonrat Mansion, Phimonrat Mansion 38/9 Moo 5, Robmuang Rd, Nong Bua (crossing of Mittraphap, Nong Bua Rd 100 m east of Nong Bua Rd), ☎ +66 42 243389, . Rooms with air-con, TV and fridge, Wi-Fi inside and outside. Thai food & drinks are available (30-200 baht) and laundry is done on-site. Staff speaks little English, but good Japanese. Thai owner visited Europe extensively. 350 baht. edit
- Ruysuk Mansion Hotel, 249/1 Adunyadet Rd, . Popular inexpensive hotel for long and short stay with English-speaking management. Discount for long stayers. Wi-Fi. Air-conditioned rooms. From 300 baht. edit
- Tanita (Lagoon) Resort, 113 Baan Nong Huaw Mue, Nadee (2 km from airport), ☎ +66 81 8846334, . Nine standard air-conditioned rooms in big area surrounded by a nice lagoon and beautiful gardens. Wi-Fi. The resort is equipped with a Thai restaurant and also provides Western breakfast. The very friendly owners provide transportation to the centre or to the sights around Udon Thani. Hotel owners speak enough English to communicate well. edit
- Gecko Villa (Thailand pool villa), Um Chan, Prajak Sinlaphakhom (free transfers from Udon Thani are included), ☎ +66 81 9180500, . checkin: flexible; checkout: flexible. A private pool, 3 bedroom villa offering full board stays, set among its own rice paddies in a tranquil setting away from the crowds. Accommodates up to 6 guests. Stays at the villa include complimentary transfers from Udon Thani, Wi-Fi, laundry and maid services, and all meals taken at the villa. 6,800 baht. (17.251349,103.038143) edit
- Green Gecko (traditional Thai private pool villa), Um Chan, Prajak Sinlaphakhom (complimentary transfers from UTH airport), ☎ +66 81 9180500, . checkin: flexible; checkout: flexible. Green Gecko is a Thai villa built in the traditional style, raised on stilts and centred around a large hardwood deck and the villa's own, very private swimming pool. The villa nestles among plantations, woods and rice paddies in a tranquil countryside setting, and offers fully catered vacations. Green Gecko features two air-conditioned king bedrooms, each with a private en suite bathroom, a large living and dining room, a fully-equipped kitchen, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and an open air "sala" for al fresco dining by the private pool. 7,900 baht. (17.25033,103.03802) edit
- Paradise Hotel. Staff are friendly, but only speak a little English. Fan rooms with double bed cost 200 baht, but smells a bit funny. Includes two bottles of water per day and maps of the city. 200+ baht. edit
- Rice Paddy Villa, (25 minutes from Udon Thani, from where complimentary transfers are offered), . checkin: flexible; checkout: flexible. Looking directly over the surrounding rice fields, has a swimming pool and sleeps two to four guests. Finished in Thai-style with modern conveniences. edit
- Udon Airport Hotel, 14 Moo 1, Udon-Nongbua Lampoo Rd (50 m from airport), ☎ +66 42 346223/4, +66 42 346513/4 (email@example.com, fax: +66 42 346514), . On a 7-acre site surrounded by gardens and beautiful landscaping. 115 standard rooms, 3 superior rooms, and 2 suites. Standard rooms are air conditioned with mini bar, radio, colour TV and Internet access. From 800 baht including breakfast.. edit
- Nong Khai (หนองคาย) is well-worth a visit. Things to do there include a famous Sculpture Park, the Taa Sadej Market, and the river front festival every Saturday known as Walking Street. To get there, take a bus from either bus station in Udon: the older one inside the city (better choice) or the newer one a few kilometres distant.
NOTE: For the direct busses to Vientiane and Vang Vieng, you MUST have a valid visa for Laos in advance if your nationality requires a visa to enter Laos. If you do not have a visa and you require one, the busses will not sell you a ticket or wait for you at the border for a Visa-on-Arrival to be processed. This is true even if you can get a Lao visa on arrival at the Friendship Bridge. Their rule is "No Visa, No Ticket". Tickets can only be purchased the day of travel. You also must go to the bus station and buy your ticket in person along with showing a valid passport and valid Laos visa.
- Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is about one and a half hours away across the Mekong. There are six express buses a day direct to the Morning Market in Vientiane (80 baht, 2 hours, air-con 1st class departures at 08:00, 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 16:00, and 18:00). These cross-border buses will carry passengers who have not obtained their Lao visas in advance, but may NOT wait long enough at the border for a visa on arrival to be applied for and issued. This isn't a problem when the queues are short, but at busy times passengers who don't already have their visas may be left behind and have to continue by local bus or tuk-tuk. Alternatively you can take a minibus from the airport in Udon Thani (directly on the right-hand side next to the exit of the airport) to the Friendship Bridge for 200 Baht. Fill out the leaving forms for Thailand there and buy a bus ticket for 20 Baht to the other side of the bridge. Arrived there you may apply for a visa (photo 2x3 cm and up to US$ 40 required, depending on your country of origin!). The staff is very friendly and helpful and there are free toilets. You need another US$ to pass the barrier to be officially in Laos. From there you may take a tuk-tuk, bus, minibus or taxi to Vientiane. You should calculate at least 30-60 minutes for the border formalities, depending on the length of the queues and the availability of pens. Bring your own pen to save some time.
- Vang Vieng, A direct bus is available from the main Udon Thani bus station (Bus Station 1, near Central Plaza). The bus leaves Udon at 7 am and takes approximately 7 hours to reach Vang Vieng. This bus can also be boarded at Nong Khai (830 am departure). The one-way fare from Udon to Vang Vieng is 320 baht.