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Top tips to avoid the crowds at Grand Palace
Grand Palace is one of the most popular destinations and is usually a number one must-see place in Bangkok. Not surprisingly, it receives millions of tourists annually. To get the best of your visit and avoid crowds on place, just follow our tips:
1) Arrive early. That’s the easiest way to beat the crowds. The place is almost always calm until 9 AM, and it get packed very quickly after, once the tour groups start arriving on place. Be at the entrance a bit before the opening time (8:30 am) to be sure to get inside one of the first. That will also allow you see the place before it gets too hot.
2) Head to Wat Phra Kaeo (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) first thing: later in the day there will be a queue to enter, and this famous temple will be cramped with tourists. In the morning, on the contrary, you may enjoy it in peace and calm before the groups arrive.
3) Move clockwise while visiting the sites. Check the map you’ll get at the entrance and discover the sites in clockwise order - that’s how most tourists and groups move inside. First, it will be easier to move in the natural flow. Second, if you’re lucky enough - you may be ahead of others during your whole visit (as most will use the same route).
4) Arrive properly dressed. The dress code is strict: neither men nor women are allowed inside without their elbows or ankles covered: forget about shorts, leggings, tights, skirts and see-through blouses. Put something light and long, you can backpack a pair of shorts to change after your visit. If it’s too hot or you forgot about the clothing - you can rent sarongs at the entrance (it’s free, but you’ll need to leave a deposit). The only worry in this case is the queue that may be quite long - especially around lunchtime.
5) Come on a weekday. Though there are almost as many tourists on weekdays than during the weekends, mornings tend to be less busy. Another bonus is that some audience halls are generally closed to public on weekends, while you may get inside during the week.
6) Avoid visiting the Grand Palace during peak periods. One of the main festivals - Songkran (the Thai New Year) takes place in mid-April, and the attendance is usually higher around it (on the Songkran Day itself the Palace is closed). Christmas and New Year holidays also see a big increase in visitors’ number and better should be avoided.
7) Avoid peak hours. If you didn’t manage to get up early to see the Palace before the groups’ arrival, consider doing it during another off-peak hours: the second best option is to wait until mid-afternoon. Most groups and tourists leave the place after 2:30 PM, and last admission is at 3:30 PM (while the site remains open until 4:30 PM). Coming at about 3 PM will let you beat the crowds, but you may feel yourself in a rush to be in time to see everything before closing. You may also try to arrive a bit before the lunchtime - when the morning groups have left the place and the afternoon ones haven’t arrived yet - somewhere around 10:30 -11:00. Consider however that it may be very hot at that time.
Photo credits to Blue Li via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
- Although there is a number of entrances, you can only enter via the main one (as tourist).
- Consider spending at least two hours inside.
- Take a big bottle of water with you and drink regularly to stay hydrated.
- Bring a bag that is big enough to put your shoes inside. Before entering the temple, you’ll have to take your shoes off. Though there are some shelves in front where you may leave yours, some cases of theft have been reported. So wearing designer shoes is not recommended unless you have a bag to put them inside and take it with you.
Ticket price: 500 Baht.
The ticket gives you access to:
- The Grand Palace (valid only the day of ticket’s purchase).
- Vimanmek Mansion Museum (valid for 7 days from the date of purchase)
- The Royal Thai Decoration and Coin Pavilion.
Opening hours and closure days
Opening hours: from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (last entry at 3:30 pm). The audience halls in the Grand Palace are closed on weekends. The Royal Pantheon in Temple of the Emerald Buddha is only open 1 day a year, on April 6.
Although the Grand Palace’s complex is never fully closed, there are times when some parts of it are off-limits to tourists due to royal ceremonies. Below is the calendar of closure days in 2015:
Palace is closed all day (Temple and its Chapel with Buddha remain open to visitors):
- January 1 (New Year’s Day),
- August 12 (HM the Queen Sirikit’s Birthday Anniversary),
- December 6 (The Royal Birthday Anniversary of HM the King).
Palace is closed all day (Chapel with Buddha is closed for visitors):
- April 15 (Songkran Day),
- December 5 (The Royal Birthday Anniversary of HM the King).
Palace closes at noon (Temple and its Chapel with Buddha remain open to visitors):
- April 2 (HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s Birthday Anniversary),
- May 3, 4 (Coronation Day Anniversary),
- May 31 (Royal Commencement of the monks),
- June 9 (King Rama VIII Day),
- July 4 (HRH Princess Chulabhorn’s Birthday Anniversary),
- July 28 (HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday Anniversary),
- September 24 (Mahidol Day),
- October 23 (King Rama V Day)
Palace closes at noon (Chapel with Buddha is closed for visitors):
- March 4 (Makha Puja Day),
- March 5 (The Royal Ceremony of Changing the Costume of the Emerald Buddha),
- May 5 (Coronation Day Anniversary),
- June 1 (Visakha Puja Day),
- July 30 (Asalha Puja Day),
- July 31 (The Royal Ceremony of Changing the Costume of the Emerald Buddha),
- November 26 (The Royal Ceremony of Changing the Costume of the Emerald Buddha).
If on your way to the Grand Palace you hear thai people saying that the Palace is closed, don’t give up immediately and proceed to the ticket booth. It’s a common scam: those can be, for example, tuk-tuk drivers that will offer to take you to another “must-see temple” or to the city (they will stop at jewelry factories, souvenir shops, where will get commission for the overpriced low-quality goods in case you buy something). Go and ask directly in the ticket office: even if it’s true and you came during one of the days of closure, you may still see the Temple and make photos.
Photo credits to Jan Albrecht via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Best time of the year to visit the Grand Palace
Bangkok’s climate sees three main seasons through the year:
- cold: December through February, with mild and comfortable temperatures and humidity;
- hot: March to May, the hottest months of the year, when the heat may seem unbearable;
- rainy: from May to November, with high humidity and common rains (though those are usually short). September is usually the wettest month.
The tourist high season lasts from late November through mid-April. Peak periods include Christmas, New Year, Chinese New year and Thai New Year (Songkran). These are the busiest times, with hotels often overbooked and ticket prices at their highest. December sees the highest numbers of tourists through the year.
July and August is a secondary peak season.
To avoid the crowds, visit Bangkok from April to June or in September- early October, but be prepared to local weather in this case.
Consider traveling in March, May or June for the best crowds/weather ratio. June is the calmest month of the year in terms of tourists, the rains don’t last long and they are not as heavy as in September, for example.
Photo credits to Tom Page via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo credits to Saad Faruque via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By boat: the most enjoyable route is to take the BTS Skytrain to Taksin Station. From here take a Chao Phraya River Express boat to Tha Chang Wang Luang Pier. It is a short walk from the Grand Palace public entrance.
By bus: lines 1, 3, 6, 9, 15, 19, 25, 30, 32, 33, 39, 43, 44, 47, 53, 59, 60, 64, 65, 70, 80, 82, 91, 123, 201, 203