If you only have a few days in Thailand's capital Bangkok then you must spend your time wandering around the magnificent Thai Royal Grand Palace in the historic centre of Bangkok called Rattanakosin situated on the bend in the temple lined Chao Phraya river on the east bank. If you have more time plan your visit to Bangkok's Royal Palace for the last day of your trip. Visit the other smaller historic sites and temples first. Leave the best to last
Make sure that the Royal Palace is open on the day you plan to visit. Note it closes at 3.30pm and some of the more interesting museums are closed on Saturday and Sunday. It is closed on days when the Thai Royal Family use the Palace for State functions or for religious ceremonies. Check with the tourist office, phone the palace or ask at your hotel if it is open. Local taxi and TukTuk drivers try to run a scam on tourists.
They will tell you that the palace is closed and try to take you to shops where they get a commission from the owners. 'King's Palace closed, Palace closed religious day I take you to place where you get cheap suit instead yes?'
If you do get a taxi or TukTuk that just drops you off outside the Palace walls do not believe any person that comes up to you and informs you that the palace is closed. Again they will try to get you to go where they want to take you either on a guided tour for a price or a shopping trip. Ignore them, speak to a black shirted tourist police officer or just go to the main gate to see if they are open.
Once inside the palace compound you will find the historic royal residences used by the kings, queens, princes and princesses, from 1783 until 1925. The Bangkok Royal Grand Palace complex comprises three main areas. The Inner Zone is where the female members of the royal family lived, along with princes under the age of 13.
The Middle Zone is where the King and his family lived until 1925. The main buildings of the Grand Palace are located here, These are called the Phra Maha Prasat and the Phra Ratchamontien. In the Outer Zone various government offices are located for example offices of the military officials, the civil officials, the harbour department and the royal treasury.
The Grand Palace Entrance - Tickets and audio guides
The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha are open daily from 8:30am-3:30pm. This early closing time has caught out a number of tourists. To make sure you are not disappointed get there early. Visitors to Bangkok have to pay an entrance fee. Entrance is free for the local Thai people.
The ticket allows you to visit the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha as well as the Coin Museum, and on the other side of Bangkok, the Vimanmek Mansion and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall. The Palace halls and weapons museum are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
If you want you could join one of the free guided tours in English that start at 10:00am and 1:30pm from the Entrance gate. Audio guides are available for hire. They cost 100 baht but you have to provide a surety by leaving your passport, credit card or 5000 baht.
The main public entrance to the Royal Grand Palace is from the Viseschaisri Gate, located in the middle of the northern wall on the Thanon Na Phra Lan Road. The large doors lead you south through an avenue towards the ticket office. On your left is a green lawn called Sanam Chai by the side of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Tickets and Dress code in the Thai Royal Grand Palace
At the end of the avenue, turn left to pass through the ticket office, buy your ticket and then proceed through the turnstiles. There is a dress code to enter the Thai Royal Grand Palace in Bankok. It is one of the most important religious centres of Thailand. It is full of temples. The authorities and the local Thai people expect you to be respectful. Showing too much flesh is considered offensive whilst visiting temples.
The Royal Palace staff are most fastidious when it comes to what you are wearing. You are not allowed to wear vests, sleeveless tops, shorts, see-through clothing, short above the knee skirts, slippers, sandles or flip-flops. If your clothing does not match required standards you will be instructed to go into the dress code compliance office just inside the main entrance. They will lend you the appropriate clothes and footware all freshly washed. Socks are sold for 20 baht per pair, but other items are lent for a deposit of 100 baht per piece, plus your passport or driver's license or credit card as surety.
Photography in the Thai Royal Grand Palace
Tripods are not allowed anywhere in the Grand Palace, so you may have to deposit it at the ticket office and collect it afterwards. Set your watch or phone alarm to remind you to pick it up. The no tripod rule is not too much of a problem as there are a number of walls and window sills that you can place you camera on and use its timer facility to take photographs.
There are many places within the Grand Palace as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha where photography is forbidden. This is especially enforced near the Emerald Buddha. Taking pictures of other Buddha images are also prohibited, but the rule is less strictly enforced. This is not so of the Emerald Buddha.
How to get to the Thai Royal Grand Palace
The easiest way to reach the Grand Palace is by air-conditioned taxi or Tuk Tuk. If you want to take a non-taxi route, then I'd recommend taking the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin Station (S6). From there, catch an express boat at the Central Pier (Sathorn) to the Tha Chang (N9) pier. The following bus routes Nos. 1, 35, 44, 47, 123 and 201 take you there, as well as the air-conditioned buses Nos. 2, 3, 7, 8, 12, 25, 39, 44 and 82.