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 is less hassle than Hua Hin's beaches or Pattaya's beaches.
Bang Saen is a sleepy town during the weekdays but it turns into a fantastic city on the weekends. 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 the day at the beach.
Nearly all of the visitors to Bang Saen are Thai. There are foreign tourists all year round but most of the tourists are still local because when comparing "Bang Saen" with any other beach around ("Pattaya or "Satthahip beaches") "Bang Saen" the the cheapest beach to travel. Though foreigners are small in number, there still 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. Most of the foreigners who live in Bang Saen work as Teachers in the Burapha's University or as local guides. 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, Body language and any other communication skill may help you out from any trouble situation. 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 Ekkamai (previously was at Victory Monument), exit no 2 eastern bus terminal. 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. Getting to to "Bang Saen" by using the van or mini bus from "Sriracha tour" is the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to get to the beach.
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 will be cost aronund 10-25 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. Don't forget to ask the driver before you get on the songthaew, Songthaews At Nong Mon are divided into 2 lines, one to Chonburi city and and another to Bang Saen (and the beach) itself.
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. Walking or cycling is recommended. Bicycle rent shops are everywhere around the beach area of Bang Saen and and they cost around 50-150 bath 1 day rent. The bicycle is the trial bike so 5-6 people can be cycling together and enjoy the ride around beach area. instead if using Motorcycle or bicycle, travel by foot is another way to enjoy the life of Bang Saen.
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.
Nong Mon is also the largest market live around the area of Bang Saen, Pick p a Songthaew at second street andride to Nong mon market is easy. The market will be fully open in the early morning and will be end around 10AM. Nong Mon market provide fresh sea food and other local produce like "Khao Larm" or "Kha Nom Jak"
Thai tourists flock to Bang Saen to enjoy fresh seafood on the ocean. The quintessential Bang Saen experience involves an extended meal (or two) eaten at a beachfront "lock," a collection of tables and reclining beach chairs served by open air kitchens. Use of a chair for the day is 30 baht per person, while recent citywide regulations have capped menu prices to ensure generally standardized pricing near the beach.
While not dirt-cheap as stalls and restaurants behind campus catering to university students, most foreign visitors will still find the beachfront prices remarkably low (generally 50-80 for one plate meals and som tum, 120-180 for a variety of standard dishes served family style, and rarely more than 300 baht for seafood specialties like curried crab or whole fresh fish). The physical beachfront menus are increasingly standardized, and while not often featuring English they do have a significant number of pictures that non-Thai speaking visitors can point to as reference.
Near Laemthaen Cape at the northwestern end of Bangsaen Beach, visitors will find a number restaurants featuring ocean views and English menus, also featuring seafood. Deeprom, near the Sez Hotel, is a local favorite with a casual atmosphere worthy of special occasions but appropriately priced for any meal.
Catering to the university crowd, there are a number of standard chain fast food and sit down restaurants including KFC, Pizza Company, and a number of Japanese restaurants in Laemthong, the local mall across from Burapha. The fourth floor of the mall features a food court with air-conditioning and non-tourist prices (typically 40-60 baht per meal). Note that vendors do not accept cash but instead, as in many Thai food courts, visitors pre-pay the cashier. The payment card can be exchanged at the end of the meal for a full refund of any unused portion.
Among locals, a very common and cheapest way to eat is in the local stands or at markets, including Wan Muk market open every evening across from the front of the university. With a large selection and prices low enough to make a foreign visitor blush, this is an excellent option for those seeking out Thai cultural culinary experiences.
Visitors seeking out luxury options can visit the major resorts, including the Tide and the Heritage.
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.