Both the city of Ranong and the entire province are rarely visited by international tourism, and they are not very popular with domestic tourism either. And this, as always, is something we love! Because it provides yet another opportunity to get off the beaten track and see the Thailand that has not yet been shaped by tourism.
Ranong Province occupies the western half of the Isthmus of Kra, the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, in southern Thailand. Its northern half is bounded to the west by the Kraburi River, on the opposite bank of which is Myanmar, and its southern half is bounded by the Andaman Sea.
Getting to the Myanmar border from Ranong city only takes a boat ride of less than five minutes. Therefore it is not surprising that Ranong has a border atmosphere, and that a strong Burmese influence can be perceived everywhere (the traveler can notice it especially in the markets, food and clothing).
Ranong is the rainiest province in all of Thailand, and (to focus on the bright side) thanks to it vegetation is extremely lush and green.
The coastal area has more marshes and mangroves than beaches, although there are some really beautiful beaches too. But those who are looking for beaches can better take a boat from Ranong town to beautiful Koh Phayam island, or to Koh Chang Noi island if you want a hippie backpacker atmosphere.
Ranong is the place to go if you want beautiful islands off the beaten track and an interesting small Thai city with almost no tourists
Ranong is not a recommended destination for those who travel to Thailand for the first time, but it is recommended for veteran travelers who already know the country’s highlights. It deserves at least a couple of days, in order to explore Ranong city and its surroundings in a relaxed way, and a few more days to enjoy the islands of Koh Chang or Koh Phayam.
♨️ Things to do in Ranong
Although Ranong is an interesting town, due to being a Thai provincial capital with little tourism, with a border atmosphere and a strong Burmese influence, it is difficult to pin down many specific places that the traveler should not miss. Just as in its vicinity you can make highly recommended excursions, in Ranong town itself we only highlight its markets and the thermal waters of Raksawarin.
No traveler should miss walking across downtown, visiting its markets or trying the delicious local food specialties, of course … But well, in fact this is true for any Thai city! Obviously there are also temples, and even the replica of an old palace (Rattanarangsan). But don’t get me wrong: the fact that there are not many specific places to highlight does not mean that Ranong city does not have its charm and interest. It certainly does, and the best way to discover them is by wandering its streets.
► Raksawarin Hot Springs
On the outskirts of Ranong there is a highly recommended hot spring area, which is very popular with both locals and tourists. There are some pools that are public and free, while at Tinidee they charge 40 THB/person and include towel, locker and showers, and the most luxurious option is Siam Hot Spa, which offers private hot tubs for 600 THB. Raksawarin hot springs open from 7:00 a.m. to 21:00. The natural surroundings along Phoemphon River are truly beautiful, and a great place to continue relaxing or have a meal, be it at one of the local restaurants or picnic style.
Ranong Night Market is next to Khlong Hat Sompaen Canal, on Kamlangsap Rd., about 200 meters above Highway 4 (Phetkasem Rd.). It is small compared to most similar Thai night markets, and the sitting area to eat is even smaller, but it is still a good option to take a walk and dine on good and cheap Thai food. The Municipal Market is located on Ruangrat Rd., and is a good place both for soaking up the local atmosphere, and for eating Thai and Burmese specialties at great prices.
I spent a few days in Ranong with my Thai partner and one of the things we loved the most was its restaurants and excelent cuisine. In Ranong you can eat really well spending a fraction of what you’d pay in Bangkok. If you want to have a romantic dinner in front of the sea pay a visit to Keinglay Ranong, an excelent restaurant to have seafood. If you want to have a cheap and amazing muslim breakfast, go to the family owned restaurant Bang Ki Roti Arab.
🏝️ Day Trips in Ranong Province
► Koh Chang Noi: Many refer to this island as Koh Chang Noi (‘small’ Koh Chang), to differentiate it from the much more popular and larger island of the same name in the Gulf of Thailand, near the Cambodian border. But the inhabitants of Ranong province know it as simply Koh Chang: the ‘elephant island’. It is an island with a hippie atmosphere, which is not even connected to the electricity grid. There are a couple of nice beaches, simple and cheap bungalows by the sea and a looooot of tranquility. Boats (THB 200, 2 hours) and speedboats (THB 350, half an hour) to Koh Chang Noi depart from Ranong city’s Koh Phayam Pier, and during high season there are usually 4 a day between 9:30 and 14:00.
► Koh Phayam: This island is part of Laem Son National Park, and is the most touristic place in the entire province, although for now it has managed to retain an undeniable charm. Koh Phayam has accommodation for all budgets, really beautiful beaches and lots of birds. Furthermore, Koh Phayam is located near the Surin Islands archipelago, an especially spectacular destination for diving enthusiasts. Ferries (THB 200, 2 hours) and motorboats (THB 350, 45 minutes) to Koh Phayam depart from the mainland Koh Phayam Pier, and during peak season there are usually half a dozen a day between 9:30 and 16:30. Here you will find more information about Koh Phayam.
► Laem Son National Park: this beautiful National Park includes 100 km of coastline, with numerous mangroves and beaches, and more than 20 islands, including Koh Phayam. This coastline is one of these little secret locations that have not yet been discovered by mass tourism. So we are not promoting a lot but if you are reading this lines and enjoy little known desertic beaches, I’d suggest you to explore all Laem Son National Park area. You can contact the people of Bangben Beachfront Resort and spend a couple of days there. They are located at one of the most beautiful and easily accessible beaches, Hat Bang Ben, next to the the Park HQ. Also, very near Bang Ben beach you will find the unspoilt Ao Koei Beach (บ้านอ่าวเคย).
This National Park is located about 70 km south of Ranong city, and the entrance costs 200 THB.
► Namtok Ngao National Park: Ngao Waterfall (‘Namtok Ngao’ in Thai) is located 14 km south of Ranong city, and gives its name to a beautiful National Park that, in addition to the waterfall, includes hot springs and mangroves. The waterfall is only a short walk from the entrance, and has water between May and December. The hot springs within the Park, Pon Rang Hot Springs, are prettier and calmer than those in Raksawarin, mentioned above. The Park can be reached in the songthaews that depart from Ranong Municipal Market and read “Ngao Waterfall”.
► Kawthoung: just across the river from Ranong City is the southern tip of mainland Myanmar. This port town is known by three different names: Victoria Point (the English name in colonial times), Koh Song (the Thai name, which means ‘second island’) and Kawthoung (the Burmese name, which is believed to be an adaptation of the Thai one).
Most travelers who go there do so just to renew their Thai visa, but it is also possible to go and visit the Burmese town on the other side of the border during the day. To get there from Ranong you have to take songthaew number 3 to travel the 5 km to the Saphan Pla jetty, visit the Thai immigration office to get the exit stamp, and take the boat that crosses to the Burmese side (150 THB per journey). If you come to visit Kawthoung, you will have to pay a 10 USD fee at the Burmese immigration post.
Snorkeling and diving
► Snorkeling: The best snorkeling in Ranong province is on the islands of Laem Son National Park, which we have already mentioned above. A full-day excursion from Ranong city, including transfer to the National Park, boat excursion, snorkeling equipment and a picnic lunch, usually starts at around THB 800, to which you have to add the 200 THB Park fee.
► Diving: in Ranong city there are quite a few diving businesses, and many of them are specialized in live-aboard expeditions of different durations (from a few days to over a week). Some of these expeditions are in Thai waters, visiting places like Richelieu Rock and Koh Tachai island, but many others cross the border into Burmese waters to places like the Mergui archipelago. In this case it is necessary to apply for a re-entry permit at the Ranong immigration office. Obviously there are day diving excursions, as well as all the usual courses.
🏨 Where to stay
There are plenty of accommodation options in central Ranong, from budget hostels to mid-range hotels. Here we recommend two good options. If you prefer to sleep in a natural environment, it is also possible to stay in the vicinity of the Raksawarin hot springs, or in Namtok Ngao National Park.
► Tinidee Hotel@Ranong
We stayed here and it was a great choice. This hotel has its own hotsprings and a beautiful swimming pool. It’s also very well located.
► Palmy Home
An excellent option for budget backpackers. The location is fairly central and quiet, while the rooms are spacious and clean, and all have private bathrooms. The price for a double room is 350 THB (fan) or 450 THB (a/c).
► The B Ranong Trend Hotel
A good 3 * hotel in a fairly central location very close to the Ruangrat Rd. bar area. A modern and stylish hotel with a small rooftop infinity pool overlooking Myanmar. Double rooms cost 1,100-1,300 THB/night.
✈️ How to get there
► By plane
Ranong airport, located 23 km south of the city, is only connected to Bangkok through 2 daily flights of the low-cost airline Nok Air, which operates from Bangkok’s Don Meuang airport.
► By bus
Ranong is connected by bus to both Bangkok and the main towns in southern Thailand (including Krabi, Phuket and Surat Thani). From Sai Tai Mai terminal in Bangkok (southern terminal) there are a dozen daily departures (price between 350 and 700 THB), and the journey takes about 10 hours.
► How to get around Ranong
Downtown Ranong is not a large area, so it can be easily explored on foot. But when you want to go a little further you will need some kind of means of transport. Several guest houses, cafes and tourist agencies rent both bicycles (50 THB/day) and motorcycles (250 THB/day).
If you prefer to be driven, in Ranong city it is not be difficult to find songthaews, either by the municipal market or flag them down on the streets. This is shared public transport, and you will have to find one that goes in the direction you want. The price is very cheap: 10 THB/person for short journeys, and 20 THB/person for more remote destinations such as the piers or the bus station.
☀️ When to go
The best time to travel to Ranong is between December and February, when the chances of rain are very low and, although it is hot (like all yearroun!), it is not the most suffocating time.
The rainy season lasts half a year, from May to October, and the wettest month is August. In April and November there is also rain, but much less. When deciding whether to include Ranong in your trip or not, take the weather into account, since as we have said before, Ranong is the rainiest province in all of Thailand … And that means it is really rainy!
The hottest season is from February to April, when the average maximum temperatures are around 35ºC. In any case, temperatures do not undergo great variations throughout the year, and tend to move between a minimum of 22-24ºC and a maximum of 30-35ºC.