We visited the famous Grand Palace on our second day in Bangkok and were completely blown away by the colours and grandness of this place. Yes, it is crowded, busy, hot and sunny and very touristy, but I think you should switch on your inner peace and just absorb the magnificent site that the Grand palace is.
Visiting the Grand Palace can be very overwhelming, but if you plan your visit sensibly, you will have wonderful memories for life. We have only good memories not only because we planned our visit, but also the rest of the day, thanks to a little secret closeby I’ll share with you at the end of this post.
Please don’t believe the negative comments about the Grand Palace on Trip Advisor, you absolutely have to see it for yourself. It’s truly a magical place to visit. Being in Bangkok and not seeing the Grand Palace is like being in Arizona and not seeing the Grand Canyon or going to Bath and not popping into the amazing Roman Baths.
Getting to Grand Palace
To get to the Grand Palace, you can take the Silom Line (dark green), get off at Saphan Taksin Station (S6 Station) and take the exit 2. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ta Chang Pier (No.9) and walk for about 10 minutes, following the signs.
You can also get a taxi, but It’s always useful to check on the map at your accommodation and see if it’s worth it. Sometimes taking alternative ways like boat taxis which are pretty cheap in Bangkok and then walking for a couple of blocks is more cost effective and less hassle. Also you get to explore the neighbourhood.
Taking a taxi to the Grand Palace
If you absolutely need to take a cab, make sure you get one with the meter. If the driver refuses to turn the meter on, just leave the taxi and get another one, don’t hesitate. After being overcharged a couple of times, we’ve learned to check if the meter is on before even getting into a taxi.
Download Google Maps App on your phone. This is a very useful hack that Charlie’s been using. While you have WiFi in your accommodation, load the whole route on Google Maps and pin (save) the location you are going to, The Grand Palace in this instance. Even when you are out of the WiFi zone, you will still be able to load the map on your phone and track the route. Show the pin on the map to the taxi driver (with the meter).
Not only will this make it easier to see if you are going the right way, but it will also make you look like you know where you are going, which always helps from getting ripped off. Charlie will always sit at the front with the map open on the phone and make sure driver is not going the long way round.
Always track on the Google Maps where you are going. Don’t rely on others to tell you that you need to get out here. Bangkok is known for scams when a taxi driver drop tourists off nowhere near the destination, it never happened to us though. I think, for a driver to do so, he must be in a very bad mood or a passenger might have been rude to him. Always be prepared to show your destination on the map and don’t forget to smile!
Never say it’s your first time in Bangkok to a taxi driver! Say you’ve been here before and now showing the city to your friend/girlfriend/boyfriend/parents etc. Try to be as confident as possible.
When is the best time to visit the Grand Palace?
The earlier, the better! Beat the crowds by getting to the palace as early as possible, before the bus tours start piling in. The Grand Palace opens as early as 8.30am so drag yourself out of your comfy bed and air-conditioned room if you have to. Getting early to the palace is the key to having a great experience.
When we arrived at 10am it was already pretty crowded and the sun was quite high. However, once inside, I didn’t find it too crazy. It’s a pretty huge place for the visitors to scatter around, so it wasn’t so bad. As we were walking out of the palace, at around midday, the queue at the entrance was enormous, we could barely get out and the sun was scorching hot. Good job we arrived early!
Dress code when visiting Grand Palace
Make sure you plan what to wear for your day out. A strict dress code applies at the gate, especially for women. No shorts, spaghetti straps or skirts above your knees are allowed. You can get away with a scarf big enough to cover your shoulders, so make sure you have one.
If you are planning to wear shorts, again, make sure you have a scarf big enough (not see through) to cover your knees. However, there is a tent near the entrance where you can get cover ups by leaving a deposit.
I didn’t have problems with wearing sandals on my visit even though I’ve read that flip-flops and sandals are not allowed unless worn with socks underneath (oh my!). I’ve seen lots of visitors in flip flops so I don’t think it’s a major issue, however, just to be on a safe side, pop a pair of sockies into your carry on bag. Sometimes, as we noticed throughout our SE Asia travels, some rules apply to some, but not others.
Be sensible and take it easy
The best advice we can give is to take it easy. If you are not on a guided tour and are travelling independently, plan your day sensibly. Chances are it will be very hot on your visit and you will be absolutely wiped out after a couple of hours of exploring.
While inside the complex, take your time to walk around this marvellous site. If you try rushing, you will only get annoyed with everyone and everything. Sit down if you feel like it, stop moving for a moment and simply look around you. It’s not everyday you get to explore the spiritual centre of Thailand.
We found that sitting in the shade of the painted walls surrounding the palace was most relaxing. While hiding from the sun we read our Lonely Planet guidebook and planned what to see the next day. There are plenty of other places where you can rest in the shade. We did quite a few rest stops, watched people go buy and admired the impressive architecture from afar.
When we decided to visit the palace, Charlie and I agreed that we will not plan to see anything else on the day. We left the day open to ease our minds into handling the visit. A lot of people try to do too many things in one day and then have a less quality experience.
Instead, plan where you want go for lunch after your visit as you will probably be pretty hungry and thirsty.
Where to find some lunch after an action packed morning at the Grand Palace?
To start with, you should definitely stay away from all the places around the Grand Palace as most of them will be overpriced and busy.
This is the little secret I wanted to share with you. Have a stroll a few blocks away from the palace, grab a cooling mango smoothie from a street stall and make your way towards the Trok Maha That Amulet market (see the map below).
The market is only 10 minutes away from the Grand Palace so do have a stroll, don’t bother with a taxi. Walk all the way through the market until you see restaurants by the river. This is the hidden spot to have some amazing food for your lunch!
We really enjoyed the chicken stir fry and beautiful shrimp noodle soup. The Morning Glory was fantastic, so crunchy and fresh. Lunch was excellent and, including 2 bottles of water, cost us 204 THB ($ 5.83).
Things to remember:
- Plan your day carefully. Keep your morning free at least until midday, best until mid afternoon so you have enough time for lunch. Rushing through the site will make your visit too overwhelming.
- Decide how to get to the palace in advance.
- Check the distance and decide whether it’s better to take the BTS Skytrain combined with boat, a taxi or maybe you are just round the corner, a 10 minute walk away?
- Download Google Maps App to save the route to the Grand Palace from your location.
- Load the route of your destination on your phone before leaving hotel, while you still have WiFi available.
- Track your route on the map so that the taxi driver can see you know where you (and he!) are going.
- Avoid taxis without a meter. If the taxi doesn’t have a meter, catch another one with a meter.
- For the best experience, plan your visit to the palace as early in the morning as possible.
- Dress appropriately, cover your shoulders and knees. Carry an extra scarf if wearing spaghetti top.
- Not essential, but just in case, pop in a pair of extra socks in case the staff is too strict on the day about you wearing flip-flops or sandals.
- Make sure you have enough water. There is a drinking water fountain on the grounds where you can refill your bottle.
- Take it easy and take plenty of rest breaks in the shade.
- After your visit, stay away from food stalls around the market. They will most likely be overpriced and busy.
- Don’t take a taxi near the Grand Palace! They will most likely refuse to turn the meter on and will charge you double. Stroll a few blocks away from the palace and then catch a taxi.
- For lunch, wander to the Trok Maha That Amulet market to the hidden restaurants by the river. They are only 10 minute walk away from the Grand Palace!
- Have an amazing time!
Have you been to the beautiful Grand Palace in Bangkok? What was your experience? Did you enjoy it or find it too overwhelming? Let us know in the comments below.
Trok Maha That Amulet market