Bang Saen is a town that is famous throughout Thailand. It is the closest pleasant beach getaway spot from Bangkok as well as any provinces north of Chonburi. Most visitors typically come from provinces to the north and northeast of Chonburi. It is much closer, cheaper and less hassle-free than Hua Hin's beaches or Pattaya's beaches.
Bang Saen is a sleepy town during the weekdays. The town is a host to a major university, Burapha University. During the day, most of the people you will see are students from the university. On the weekends, travellers, families or groups of friends, come from surrounding areas or other provinces in Thailand to spend a day at the beach.
Nearly all of the visitors to Bang Saen are Thai. There are foreign tourists all year round, though they are small in number. There is a Scandinavian village in Bang Saen. There are probably around 200-300 Scandinavians living there and maybe 100-200 foreigners more on top of that.
For this reason, many menus and shop names are bilingual.
There are few services in English, but maybe 10-20% of people speak at least basic English. However, professional people generally always speak English well. But nearly everyone will try to help you if you speak directly to them. Don't be afraid to talk to anyone to get some help, if they can't help you they might find someone who can speak English. In a town like Bang Saen, it's very normal to approach anybody for help.
All of the restaurants in the shopping centre, Laem Thong, have bilingual (Thai-English) menus. Nearly all of the restaurants along the beach have English menus.
Getting in is tricky, but easy if you know the tricks. Practically, the only way in is by van or bus. Bang Saen is very close to Sukhumvit Rd. So you can take transport directly into Bang Saen, or take any transport that goes along Sukhumvit (which is usually either to or from Bangkok and Pattaya).
Bus from Bangkok:
Arrive at Bang Saen either directly into Bang Saen or to Pattaya. If you take a bus to Pattaya, you must get off at Nong Mon Markets (tell the bus driver you want to stop at Nong Mon). You can take a bus to Pattaya or Bang Saen from Mo Chit or Ekamai bus stations in Bangkok. The thing about taking a bus to Pattaya is that they come far more often and the buses to Bang Saen may only stop at Nong Mon and continue further south anyway.
Minibus stations are at Victory Monument. There are a few stations that go to Bang Saen. There is one very close to Centre One (just outside McDonalds) and there is one next to Century Plaza. They are the fastest ways to Bang Saen and usually go directly into Bang Saen and stop at either Laem Thong or near the Burapha Hospital, though it depends on which company it is. If you can't find a minibus to Bang Saen, you can take a van to Pattaya but ensure that you get off at Nong Mon (tell the van driver specifically).
From Nong Mon into Bang Saen via songthaew (red bus):
The songthaews will usually always travel to and from Bang Saen Soi (Street) Song (2). Sometimes though for special occasions they will travel to and from Bang Saen Soi (Street) Neung (1). Please tell the driver where you would like to go to. The trip is 10 baht, paid after travelling, although it could be 15 or even 20 baht when late at night.
Taxis usually cost from 700-800 baht from Bangkok to Bang Saen (excluding the expressway tolls). Expect about 500-600 baht from Suvarnabhumi Airport (excluding the 50 baht airport fee and expressway tolls).
If you are coming from Pattaya, take a bus (or possibly a van) to Bangkok and confirm with the van station receptionist and the driver that it will stop at Nong Mon. Then enter Bang Saen as stated above via a songthaew.
There are two main transportation methods in Bang Saen: motorcycle taxi or songthaew. The songthaew starts from Nong Mon, travels through Thanon Long Hat Bang Saen (it means down to Bang Saen Beach Road) and usually turns right at either Bang Saen Soi 1 or Bang Saen Soi 2 and ends up at the pier where it will travel back the same way to Nong Mon again.
There are motorbikes for rent for 200 baht available via Bang Saen Steak shop which is near Similan Mansion.
The main shopping centre / mall is Laem Thong on Long Hat Bang Saen Rd. It has a supermarket and many branded restaurants that are all bilingual or have a separate menu in English.
The shops, however, are just small private stalls and you can easily pick up bargains. On level 3 there are phone and computer shops.
The rest of Bang Saen isn't that good for shopping except for the markets. There is Wang Mook Market which is open in the evenings on Mondays and Thursdays.
A popular and locally famous market is Bang Saen Walking Street at the end of both Bang Saen Soi 1 street at the pier. Here there are 3 aisles and more. The last aisle has a variety of different and cheap foods. The first two aisles mostly have clothes and accessories.
In Bang Saen you can find any kind of food from fast food like KFC and Pizza Company to local seafood (famous Bang Saen cuisine).
Most common and also the cheapest way to eat is in the local stands or at markets. A bit more expensive are the restaurants along the streets and also at Laemtong. The only real luxury restaurant is probably to be found at the Tide Resort.
Must try: food stands at Walking Street on a Friday night. Also Krungthip on the beach road is very good.
Public drinking occurs all along Thanon Bang Saen Soi 1. The mostly northernly area of this road has a seawall and places to sit and drink. There are also restaurants here. The centre of the road is next to beach sitting spots, though on the other side there is virtually nothing. The southernmost part of the road also has a seawall and you can sit on the concrete there. Next to this concreted area are many restaurant/pubs to sit down at. You can drink at the beach any time you wish, but party goers and university students usually drink at any time during the night. You can purchase alcohol from 7/11 between 11:00 and 14:00 and between 17:00 and 24:00. Though many nameless convenient stores continue to sell alcohol after 24:00, it's best to get alcohol before midnight.
Along Long Had Bang Saen Road, but before the corner of Bang Saen Soi 2 there are numerous pubs and 2 clubs. Browse around before entering anywhere. The 2 clubs are Burdoc, which plays both Thai and English music, and Be Chic, which plays Western music.
There is a whole range of accommodation, from the cheapest being a small fan room at 150 baht to luxury hotels at 3,000 baht.