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Udon Thani is one of the provinces in Thailand's Northeast region, known as Isan. Its primary interests for visitors are the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ban Chiang, and the typical rural villages in the countryside, where life has changed little over the decades.
Most of the locals in Udon Thani using Isan dialect to communicate in their daily life. Thai is widely spoken as well. There are large Chinese and Vietnamese communities in Udon Thani. However, after the Thainization quite sometimes ago by the government, only the elders are able to speak in their home language. The younger generations speak either Thai or Isan among themselves.
Lately Udon Thani has been a popular place for retirement in Isan. Unlike Pattaya, foreigners moved to Udon Thani because the city is pleasant and relaxing. A lot of them are staying in the city and there is quite a number of foreigners staying in Ban Dung District. Other than that, a street in Nam Som District was named Soi Yerman (German Lane) as the German and Austrian populations in the area are quite high.
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You might experience cooler weather approximately around from the of November to early February, but still you are in the tropics.
Udon Thani Airport (UTH) has several 50 minute daily flights to Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi [BKK]) (Thai Airlines: around 2,500 baht) or (Don Mueang [DMK]) (Air Asia from 500 baht and Nok Air from 1,250 baht if booked well in advance). There are also direct flights to Chiang Mai, Loei and Phuket (Air Asia flies to Phuket with tickets often around 1,000-1,200 baht, which is comparable to a 2-night bus/train trip via Bangkok).
To get to the city there is a limousine service (actually a minibus) for 80 baht/person that will drop you and other passengers at the location of your choice. Minibus tickets are available in the booth just to the right as you leave the terminal building. If there are more than two of you, it may be cheaper to call a taxi (Tel. +66 42 323239). Taxis are not permitted to wait for passengers at the airport, but some do it anyway, asking 200-400 baht for the 4 km journey. Some hotels have pickup services and may take an extra passenger or two if space permits. Some long distance buses to Khon Kaen were seen in the airport, with numerous people boarding them. No local Udon Thani songthaews have been seen near the airport.
If you are travelling on to Nong Khai, there is a bureau straight ahead of you when you get to the arrivals hall which sells minivan tickets to Nong Khai. They have a minibus which meets most flights and for 200 baht they will load you into a minivan. It takes one hour to reach Nong Khai and if you ask the driver he will take you to your hotel, or drop you off at the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge. You can then proceed into Laos.
Daily trains go to Nong Khai (45 minutes for just a bargain 11 baht) and over the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River to Laos. Trains are also frequent to Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok. The overnight express sleeper to Bangkok is scheduled to take 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 train 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 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.
Buses from Bangkok (Mo Chit), an 8-hour journey, arrive at the BKS station in the city centre.
Buses from several companies depart at least once per hour after 08:00 to Nong Khai (50 baht (Oct 2013), 1 hour, non-air conditioned 3rd class) on the Lao border. Buses from Nong Khai may drop you off north of the city. Follow the locals and hop on the waiting #6 songthaew to the bus station or take a tuk-tuk.
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, 18:00). Some companies will not sell this trip if you cannot show a visa. These cross-border buses will sometimes 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. There is a notorious scam of foreigners charged up to 100 baht for a 2 min ride, plus 25 baht for the bridge crossing, plus tuk-tuk or taxi to Vientiane.
Buses depart around once per hour to Sakon Nakhon (100 baht, 3 hours, air conditioned, 160 km from Udon Thani, on the way to Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan).
To/from Chiang Mai, a VIP seat on a bus (e.g., Chackrapong Tour) costs 666 baht. (Dec 2014). The overnight journey takes 10.5 hr. This has to be one of Thailand's worst bus trips as roads mid-way are small, rural, and winding. Those on the top of double decker buses may get queasy from all the toing-and-froing. Also, as the mid-point is one of Thailand's more remote areas, your bus may not make the customary 20 min. break mid-way, or any break at all. Chackrapong buses drop you at the remote Bus Station 2, a reason to avoid it if you can by taking Phetprasert.
Phetprasert has three buses a day from Chiang Mai to Udon (and onto Nakhon Phanom). They leave Chiang Mai at 14:30, 17:30, and 19:30, arriving in Udon at 02:15, 05:15 and 05:30 respectively. Fare (Apr 2015) is 636 baht. Phetprasert drops passengers at Central Plaza Shopping Mall, a very good location in the centre (Mar 2015). Buses to Chiang Mai depart the shopping mall at 17:45, 18:45, and 20:45. Buy Phetprasert tickets in the city centre bus station, a 5 minute walk from the shopping mall.
To Pattaya: The 407 bus company has daily 08:00, 18:30, and 20:55 buses to Pattaya. The morning bus takes about 12 hours as the bus makes many stops. Night buses take about 10 hr. Fare is 636 baht VIP (Nov 2015). The 407 Company has its office/bus stop near, but not in the city centre bus station. It's on the corner of the main street out the front of the bus station near the 7-Eleven.
To/from Khon Kaen: Air conditioned buses and minivans depart from Udon's Bus Station 1 downtown. There are at least two departures per hour. Bus fare is 80 baht (Nov 2015). Duration of the trip is roughly 90 min for the 125 km route. Buses arrive at the Khon Kaen "Non-air conditioned bus terminal" downtown, much more convenient that Terminal 3 six kilometres from city centre.
To get from one to another place, the easiest and cheapest way will be by motorcycle taxi or Win. Other than Motorcycle taxi, there is also Jumbo, an Isan version of tuk tuk. Negotiate the fare first before you get onto the Jumbo or motorcycle.
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