Floating markets are a local way of life in Bangkok. They have been around for many years and traditionally acted as a way for the locals to sell their fresh produce to those living along the waterways. These days, they are a highlight for visitors to Southeast Asia, and act more as a way for tourists to experience some traditional Thai foods and the iconic floating markets.
We were very excited to visit the floating markets in Thailand for the first time. We had tried to visit some in Vietnam a few weeks before, but ended up arriving too late, so we were determined not to let that happen again.
After spending the morning checking out the Maeklong Railway Market and experiencing a huge train rattling through, insanely close to the market stalls, we arrived at Damnoen Saduak for a completely different type of experience. As perhaps, the most popular floating market around Bangkok, it is teeming with both tourists and locals, and there is a complete sensory overload with all the different sounds, smells and things to look at hitting you all at once.
As we entered the market the air was thick and humid, almost like the heat had been trapped within the market. Everything was bright and colourful, and there were people everywhere haggling for gifts and trying the local market delicacies. Coconut ice-cream was hugely popular at the market! The market is buzzing with the sound of excited chattering and boat engines backfiring as they take off across the waterways.
We were ushered into a decorated long-tail boat that took us for a ride to experience the market from the water. The boats could comfortably fit about 4-6 people, so it was nice to be away from a larger group. Market stalls line both sides of the river, and boats in the river are also loaded up with fresh fruits and sweet treats to offer you as you float along.
Our boat driver was happy to stop at as many stalls as we wanted, and you can bet if we pointed something out, he would take us straight over to that stall. You can barter for products right from your boat, you don’t need to get out at all, which is fantastic for those of us who are a little uncoordinated getting out of a boat!
The boat ride lasted for about 20 minutes, taking us through most of the market, and then out to some of the surrounding waterways, to offer you a glimpse into the lives of the locals who live in the area around the market.
Our favourite part of the market was definitely the food stalls. After jumping off our boat ride, we took a walk across the road bridge to explore the other side of the market. The other side was definitely my favourite, with more of those iconic floating market scenes you might be looking for. It is also arguably a little bit more authentic, with less boat engines and tourist commotion, and more local boat stalls and some really delicious foods.
The markets are incredibly lively, and I would definitely encourage you to try a few different treats from the boat vendors. Their food is absolutely delicious and so cheap! There is so much noise and colour and culture in the market, it’s a great place to spend your morning. Damnoen Saduak is also one of the only floating markets in Bangkok that still attracts vendors selling fruit from their boats, due to the crowds and the popularity of the market.
Damnoen Floating Markets is just over an hour drive outside of Bangkok. The easiest way to visit is definitely on a tour. We actually jumped on a combo tour to visit both the floating markets and the Maeklong Railway Market in the same trip! It’s a great way to visit two of Bangkok’s craziest markets without any worry about public transport or personal drivers. Check out this deal of a combo tour of both markets in one morning.
Tips for Visiting Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
The best time to get there is as early as 7am, before all the tour buses begin to roll in around 9am. There can be a few boat traffic jams and time spent waiting for those who visit after 9am.
However, this is can also be dependent on what time you arrived. We didn’t arrive until about 11am, as we stopped at the railway market earlier in the morning, and while it was definitely chaotic and super busy, it wasn’t that bad at all. The craziness added to the atmosphere, and as soon as you had pushed away from the loading part of the pier, we didn’t have any issues with traffic jams.
Our boat ride was covered as part of the tour we were visiting on, but if you’re visiting Damnoen Sudauk on your own a boat ride can range in price from 200-300 baht for a cheap row boat, to 600-800 baht for a motorboat. If you’re taking a boat ride is something you definitely want to do, it’s a great idea to visit on a tour.
Getting To Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
There are a few different ways to visit Damnoen Saduak, and whilst they may seem like they’re a mile away from Bangkok, you can absolutely visit without breaking the bank.
Visit As Part Of A Tour
Thailand is the perfect place for a cheap tour. We chose a shared tour to visit the floating markets because we also wanted to visit the Maeklong Railway Market at the same time, and the price was irresistible.
You can jump on a tour to Damnoen Saduak for about $40 AUD per person or if you want to combine it with the Maeklong Railway Market, prices start from as little as $41 AUD per person (just $1 more!). Both tours include round trip transfers, English speaking guides and the longtail boat ride in the market.
For a little more of a splurge, you can also choose to take a private tour to the market, instead of a group tour.
Take Public Transport
Make your own way down to the market by public transport to explore with a little more independence. Public buses leave from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal to Damnoen Saduak every 40 minutes, starting at 6am. It costs about 50 baht one way, and make sure you check at the terminal to make sure you catch the right bus.
The bus drops you off about 1km from the market, so from here you will need to either walk or hire a boat to get you into the market. I’ve heard it’s a hard haggle to get a good price!
Catch A Taxi To The Market From Bangkok
Definitely not something we recommend, but you can catch a taxi down to the market. You will need to be super clear about where you’re going and the destinations you want to stop at, as taxis are prone to stopping at ‘rest stops’ and local gift shops, where they can earn commission if you buy anything.
Scam Warning (not applicable to all taxi drivers): Some shameless taxi drivers may quote you a very cheap fare to bring you to Damnoen Saduak but will actually take a huge commission by driving you to specific boat operators which charge you extremely overpriced longtail boat fees. The typical rate for a longtail boat could cost about 700-800 baht per boat but these operators might charge you 2000 baht per person and put you together with other unsuspecting tourists who have arrived by taxi from Bangkok.
Another common tactic of these taxi drivers is to bring you to a boat operator whom they know will quote you a high price and then pretend to be on your own side by bringing you to another boat operator with a cheaper quote (but still very overpriced). Be careful and don’t trust anyone in these situations.
Stay in Samut Songkhram
Finally, you can stay in Samut Songkhram and take a taxi or a bus from there to visit the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. The advantage to this is that Samut Songkhram is also very close to many other iconic markets, making it easy to also visit Maeklong Railway Market or the less crowded Amphawa Floating Market which are both close by.