Bangkok’s Best Day Trip – Ayutthaya on a Budget!

Did you know that Bangkok was not the original capitol of Thailand?  The national’s former capital, Ayutthaya, is filled with some of the world’s most amazing temples, and a day tour to this ancient city will cost you a pretty penny. Learn how you can explore one of Thailand’s only UNESCO World Heritage Sites for a fraction of the cost. Get ready–all you’ll need is a few acorns and an adventurous spirit!

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One of the biggest lessons we learned during our 65 days abroad is to ALWAYS take advantage of local transportation. As tour companies are everywhere in Thailand, it’s easy to forget about public transportation options. By learning about the bus, boat and train options, you will save a ton and stretch your travel dollars. Below we’ve mapped out why Ayutthaya, a top tourist destination, can easily be explored by public transportation for a fraction of the cost.

Why Ayutthaya? 

Ayutthaya is a treasure trove of pagodas, impressive spires, and gigantic ruins.  In 1991 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its Outstanding Universal Value.

Bangkok has some of the most incredible temples including those found at the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, and Golden Mount (to name only a few), but we left each feeling overwhelmed with the crowds. At the sprawling grounds of Ayutthaya you’ll explore endless temples at your leisure.

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History Geeks: The region of Ayutthaya contains over a dozen ancient temples. Starting in the 1300’s, the historic town flourished and it’s believed that hundreds of thousands resided in the city walls. Sadly the region was crushed in the late 1700’s, when the Burmese kingdom devastated the area and beheaded most of the Buddha’s that adorn the numerous temples.

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Beheaded Buddha’s in Ayutthaya’s ancient temples

Traveling to Ayutthaya in a nutshell: 

  • Travel Time: Designate a full day for this adventure. And if you’d like to extend your stay there are lots of hotels and hostels within the city.
  •  Total Cost: With public transportation our day cost us $15 USD each (including lunch).
  • Mode of Travel: Train and bike
  • Attire: These are religious temples and you must cover up–no shoulders or knees, please.

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Let the Adventure Begin!

Tip #1 – Start Your Day Early

Bangkok can get hot, as in, fry an egg on the ground kind of hot. And for this reason  alone we recommend that you start your Ayutthaya adventure early.

Although you can upgrade and pay an additional fee for a train cabin with A/C, it is much costlier. By setting out at first light you can enjoy the morning breeze and maximize your travel funds.

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Travel By Train 

The train is not only the cheapest transportation option, but in it you’ll sprint past the morning traffic and can sit back and take in the views.

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Before setting out follow these steps:

  1. Select your Train Schedule–there is NO need to pre-book! We were worried about the morning trains selling out and even checked-in at the station the day prior to inquire. We were assured that there is absolutely no need to pre-purchase tickets  as its a commuter train and ample spots are available. However, do yourself a favor and review the train schedule prior to avoid a long que between departures.

Travel Tip: Look out for the ‘Express’ trains, they are the same cost and have fewer stops, allowing you to arrive in 1.15 vs. 1.5+ hours.

Once again, while you can select to travel in an air-conditioned train, the cheap 3rd class cabin which does not have AC is MUCH is only 75 cents! 

      2. Know the train schedule: http://www.railway.co.th/Home/Index

When in the site be sure to select your preferred language from the upper right hand corner, than select train travel between ‘Bangkok’ to ‘Ayutthaya’.

Train exmple

The site can be challenging to navigate, so we’ve shared the current morning departure schedule below, as of May 2019. We imagine the schedule does not change significantly as this was the same schedule provided 5 months prior.

BKK - Ayutthuya Train Schedule

On the morning of your visit arrive to Bangkok’s Central Train Station – Hua Lamphong. Don’t worry about mapping it out perfectly, just ask a local to point you in the right direction. When in doubt, be sure to download this interactive map that does not need WiFi, MAPS.ME.

Hua Lamphong is Bangkok’s primary terminal which branches out to all areas of Thailand. The station also connects with the MRT, Bangkok’s underground subway system. If staying near an MRT station, this is the cheapest way to travel to the station. If you are not staying near the subway, call a Grab (similar to Uber) or even taxi. Although fun, we found that the Tuk Tuk was the most costly to travel longer distances.

Click here to read about train travel in Thailand, and the Hua Lamphong train station.

Cost: 20 baht, (70  cents USD) — 3rd class train, one way

All Aboard!

The ride lasts approximately 1.25 – 2 hours to travel the 70+ kilometers, depending on which option you select. Sit back and take in the views!

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Arrived to Ayutthuya, Now What?! 

Once departing the train walk through past the train station. Here you’ll be swarmed with Tuk Tuk drivers who will offer to tour you around the temples. Not a bad option if you have any mobility issues, or prefer not to bike.

To secure the cheapest transportation option (i.e. a bicycle), continue to walk across the train tracks.

Travel Tip: Although you will see numerous bike rentals, wait until you are past the river before selecting.

Continue walking towards the river. At the end of the road you will see a small shack where you can buy a ticket for the boat that will ferry you across the river. If you had rented a bike prior, you would have had to pay an additional fee to cross.

Cost of Riverboat: 5 baht (15 cents USD)

Get your Wheels!

Once across the river select your mode of transportation. If you select bicycles, be sure that they provide a map of the area with a suggested route. You can also pull up the image below, and stick to the orange or blue path.

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Cost of Bike Rental: 50 baht ($1.65 USD)

Another option is to rent a motorized scooter, which will set you back 250 baht, $8, for a daily rental. Not bad if you feel confident to maneuver a scooter!

We loved the ease and flexibility that cycling offered.

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Now Comes the Fun Part

You’re here, you made it, congratulations! By bike it took us almost 15 minutes to travel to our first temple, Wat Mahathat. We saw the buses and the large tour groups following the guides, and were thankful we could explore freely. At our own pace we hopped between temples and rested at our leisure.

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The expansive area contains over a dozen ancient temples, so there is no shortage of things to see!

Must Visit: Wat Mahathat — at this impressive temple you will see a Buddha peaking it’s head amongst the roots. It is one of the most recognizable images of Thailand and cannot be missed. The mystery of how it got here is shrouded in history, and you too will feel lucky to witness.

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Perhaps one of our favorite parts of visiting Ayutthaya is that you can get up close and step into the relics.

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What to Pack? 

No need to stuff tons of snacks and water in your day pack– there is no shortage of food stands and charming cafes, all offering goodies for very reasonable prices. Ayutthaya is in fact a modern Thai city filled with archeological wonders.

Do bring, a power bank or solar charger. Check out our favorite in What’s in our Nutsack?? Our Top 5 Travel Gadgets.

Extra sunscreen and bug spray is also a must!

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After 5 hours exploring we returned to catch the 2pm train. It was an awesome day and the excursion including a lunch with cold beers set us back $15 USD each.  Not too shabby, right?

After a long day on the road we were thankful to meet our friends for a sunset dip at The Grand Eastin Hotel. When we return to Bangkok we will absolutely stay here–the proximity to public transportation, the amenities and poolside happy hour are top notch! And, the views not so bad…

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Tell us– have you been or would you like to visit Thailand? Comment below, we’d love to connect and hear about your travel plans!

Hugs and Acorns,

@squirrelmusttravel