Only 3 hours away from Bangkok and packed with just as much history as any other place is Kanchanaburi. Although it’s not talked about nearly as much as Bangkok and Thailand’s past capitals like Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, I really think this place deserves more credit. So in this post, I’m providing you with a template 2-day itinerary from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi.
If you have a different travel style and this itinerary doesn’t quite suit you, I hope you find the tips and pointers in this post useful for building your own epic trip!
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Getting to Kanchanaburi
Technically, there are multiple ways you can get from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi. The two best options, in my opinion, are to hop on a public air-conditioned van (like buses but better) or rent a car and drive yourself. Alternatively, you could take a train, a bus, or hire a private taxi there, but I won’t be talking about them here.
These are indeed the best if you’re traveling on a budget. A one-way ticket is only about $4; they run every hour or so. The downside of taking the van to Kanchanaburi would be you have to find your own mean of local transportation once you’ve been dropped off. Use the search engine below to find and book your van there!
There is something similar to Uber in Thailand, called GrabTaxi. Make sure to download this app so you can haul yourself a taxi easily and get charged fair rates. However, these might be more sparse outside of Bangkok. Your best bet traveling locally there are the open-air passenger trucks (called Song-Taew in Thai).
If you have the budget for a rental car, AND you’re confident enough in your driving abilities, this is another great option. But do keep in mind that we drive on the same side of the street as the UK. So, some adjustments might be needed on your part.
Tourists can drive in Thailand with a valid driver’s license in English OR an international driving permit. Don’t forget to keep your passport on you at all times.
You can look for a good rental car deal HERE.
Sample Kanchanaburi Itinerary
In the following sections, I will be listing out a sample itinerary to see vintage Kanchanaburi in 2 days. Because the Erawan Falls and Hellfire Pass are an hour and a half away from Kanchanaburi city, and one hour apart from each other, I made it an option for you to choose between the two.
Alternatively, if you have an extra day to spare in Kanchanaburi, you can stay one night around the waterfalls area and do both, then travel down to Kanchanaburi city on day 2 and explore the rest for days 2 and 3.
6:00 am – Leave Bangkok
Traveling from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi takes about 2-3 hours depending on your means of transportation. Whether you’re hopping on a van or driving a rental car, I’d recommend leaving Bangkok at 6 am at the latest.
8:30 am – Travel to Erawan / Hellfire Pass
If you’re taking the van, once you’re dropped off at the transportation hub, grab one of the taxis or tuk-tuks out front to get to the recommended tour operator’s office. I highly recommend Good Times Travel. They provide different packages for a taxi service to Erawan Falls and Hellfire Pass that will cost you less than a hundred dollars.
You can also book a private taxi online HERE to take you from Kanchanaburi to Erawan Falls and Hellfire Pass
If you have a rental car, you can navigate from Bangkok straight to the falls or Hellfire Pass.
9:30 am – 12:30 pm Explore Erawan / Hellfire Pass
No matter which one you pick, both places are notorious for vicious mosquitos and intense humidity. So I highly recommend having wet towels and facial tissue papers on hand. And insect-repellent wipes or sprays as well.
There are 7 tiers of waterfalls that you can hike to. Most people tend to stop at tier 2 or 3, but I recommend going all the way to the end and getting your time’s worth! (Especially when the last tier has the clearest and bluest water) The whole trail is about 2.5 km and should take you no more than 3 hours to get to the top and back, even if you want to take a bit of time enjoying each tier.
If you do decide to swim in any of the pools, make sure to not idle around in Stillwater because leeches are real. Either walk around in Stillwater or stay near where there is an active stream.
If you run into monkeys, feeding them is strictly prohibited. Don’t forget to “leave no trace” 🙂
Hellfire Pass is the longest cutting on the Thailand-Burma Death Railway of World War II. The pass was mostly excavated by hand by Allied prisoners of war and forced local labor. It’s become known as the “Hellfire” pass because of two reasons: The torches held up by the workers at night gave a hell-like impression, and the horrid living conditions and heavy death toll during the excavation.
The walking trail accessible to the public is about 2.5 km long and will take about 2 – 2.5 hours. Definitely make more time to explore the museum at the visitor center as well.
12:30 – 2:00 pm – Lunch
If you opted in for Erawan Falls, there should be plenty of local restaurants around and you can’t go wrong with any of the options.
If you’re walking the Hellfire Pass, I highly recommend Baan-Aaya restaurant, about a 14-minute drive away. Any Songtaew trucks waiting around should be able to get you there if you didn’t rent a car.
3:30 – 4:30 pm – Visit Ban Kao National Museum
After lunch, head back towards Kanchanaburi city and stop by Ban Kao Museum, known as the most important prehistoric archaeological site in the country.
5:00 – 5:30 pm – Stroll around the War Cemetery
This is pretty straightforward. It’s a cemetery where thousands of Allied prisoners of war were laid to rest. If you’re a history lover, don’t miss this place. It has a special vibe to it, quite the same as what you’d get when visiting Arlington in Virginia. Plus, the place is very well-kept!
After 5:30 pm – Dinner
To end your day, I recommend savoring the perfect dinner vibe and good food at Keeree Mantra. If you won’t be visiting the River Kwai Bridge the next day, you could instead opt for dinner by the river at Keeree Tara. From there, you can observe the bridge from a distance.
9:30 am – 1:30 pm – Elephants World
Unlike most elephant places you’ve heard about, there are only a handful of elephant sanctuaries in the country, where elephants are saved and taken care of instead of used for entertainment. Elephants World is one of those sanctuaries.
They have several programs you can buy, during which you will be trained to take care of the elephants; help them take a bath, prepare food for them, etc. The program length ranges from half a day to one full week.
If you’re following this itinerary, go for the half-day morning program, which starts at 9:30 am and ends with lunch at 1:30 pm, already included in the price.
2:00 – 5:00 pm – Mallika City
“Oh, it’s just a vintage town.”
Don’t make the same mistake I did and say that about Mallika City! As soon as you step inside the city gate, you’ll be taken back to 18th-century Bangkok, the early days of the capital city. There are vintage floating houses, rice fields and processing barns, an old school wooden bridge, and a market you can shop from. You can even rent a Thai traditional costume to wear before going in. And Don’t worry, this is something even the locals do!
If you’re coming in a group of at least 25 people, you can pay for dinner inside the city with Khon (Thai traditional plays) and Swords Play shows.
Afternoon Option: River Kwai Bridge
If you want to spend less time in Mallika City, you can add River Kwai Bridge instead. It is just a metal bridge, sure… but if you’re intrigued by history, this bridge has a vibe just like the Hellfire Pass. And since trains don’t run through here anymore, you can walk on it and take pictures.
5:00 – 8:00 pm – Travel back to Bangkok
And that wraps up your Bangkok to Kanchanaburi vintage adventure! Head to the Transportation Hub and catch your van back to Bangkok, or drive back!
Book your van back to Bangkok below.
If you don’t have enough time in Thailand to spare 2 days for Kanchanaburi, you can always opt for any of these day tours below as well.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of hotels and guest houses in Kanchanaburi! Below are the two best options for each budget range, six places in total, to help with your decision-making.
- Cross River Kwai (Luxury)
- With room prices usually ranging between $120-$190, this hotel is the ultimate definition of luxury. With floor-to-ceiling windows, amazing views of the river, and sleek designs, you’ll be sure to feel pampered here.
- Dheva Mantra (Luxury)
- This place is my personal favorite because of how much cultural twist is put into the buildings and design. It takes you back to the 19th-century upper-class lifestyle. Meanwhile, the price point is actually lower than Royal River Kwai, which is technically a mid-range option.
- Royal River Kwai (Mid-Range)
- Felix River Kwai (Mid-Range)
- Good Times Resort (Budget)
- I especially love the colorful patterns and decor items here.
- The Bridge Residence Hotel (Budget)
Where to Eat
Just to make it clear, the taste of food isn’t really a factor at these places 😉
- Baan Aaya
- This is an option from Tha Sao right by Hellfire Pass. They serve you dishes on cute heart-shaped plates.
- Keeree Mantra
- It’s honestly hard to beat the ambiance here.
- Keeree Tara
- If you choose to visit the River Kwai Bridge as well, this place will be especially convenient for you as it’s right there.
- Blue Rice Restaurant
- Just like the name of the place, this is where you can get dishes with Butterfly Pea-infused rice.