In a nutshell
Ayutthaya is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand – and rightfully so. Located just 85 km north of Bangkok, it is a perfect day trip from the capital both for travellers and the Bangkokians alike.
Why go to Ayutthaya
Founded in the XIV century, Ayutthaya became one of the biggest city of the World and its beauty and power were so widely appreciated that it has been renamed the Oriental Venice. In the XVIII century Ayutthaya has been almost completely destroyed during the Siam – Burma war and nowadays we can only see few ruins left that still give us a clear idea of how impressive it should have been in the past.
The central part of the city sits on an island and the majority of the historical temples can be found in this area.
Even nowadays Ayutthaya is still considered a sacred destination for Buddhists and many people from all over Thailand, India and Sri Lanka visit it every year. Apart from visiting the ancient city, another good reason to go to Ayutthaya is the local handicraft. If you’re searching for gifts and souvenirs to bring back home, you probably want to spend at least one night in town to have some more time to wander around once all the day trippers leave.
When to go to Ayutthaya
The rainy season in this part of the country runs from May to October, and the best time to visit Ayutthaya, especially if you plan to walk a lot visiting the temples, is from November to February, when the temperature drops down quite a lot.
But do not be discouraged to visit all year round if you’re in Thailand in other period; Ayutthaya is still wonderful even during the rain that can actually be quite pleasant during a hot day.
Many festivals take place here all year round, from the Handicraft Festival in January to Bang Sai Long Krathong (the lantern festival) in November. If this is the reasons you want to travel to Ayutthaya check the calendar online before you plan your visit since the dates are slightly different every year. Two of our favourite Ayutthaya festivals are Ayutthaya Heritage Fair which is usually held in December and features absolutely amazing light and sound show (tickets THB500) and its smaller version in September which is completely free.
Where to stay in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya has a wide selection of accommodation options in budget and mid-range categories while it to some extend lacks options when it comes to luxury places.
As the majority of travellers come to Ayutthaya just for a day trip, it’s not really necessary to book in advance, unless you decide to go in the peak season.
Tip Many of the basic guesthouse do not have a website and are not listed on any of the booking websites, so the best option you have is to search for accommodation once you’re there. Ayutthaya is still fairly a cheap place to sleep, with some of the simplest rooms offered for just THB150.
Where to eat in Ayutthaya
Centuries of history and cultural exchange with all over Asia have made Ayutthaya dining scene an incredible mix of different flavours and specialties. Many travellers leave the town before the evening falls and do not even realize that they are missing out an amazing opportunity to have a truly unique food experience.
Night markets, freshwater fish, giant river prawns, traditional Thai cuisine, the famous boat noodles; all these and more can be found in Ayutthaya. If you are in the city for more than just one day and you’re missing your home comforts, you will find plenty of place offering cheap western food in the backpackers area.
How to get around Ayutthaya
Even if the main archaeological sites are quite close to each other, some of other temples to visit are a few km away, so unless you’re really fit and ready to walk for hours, we would recommend to choose one of the many transportation options that the city offers.
By far the most popular one is renting a bicycle (THB50 a day), especially if you have more than one day to wander around.
If pedalling your way under the sun is not your thing, motorbikes are also available for rent from THB200 from many guesthouses in Naresuan Road area.
Tuk-tuks and songthaeows are available everywhere and the price can be bargained depending on the distance or the time you need them, but in general we found the rates reasonable and not inflated as you could probably expect in a touristy area like Ayutthaya.
During our first trip to Ayutthaya we hired a bike to reach the temples outside the island and then explored the sites in the central part on foot. It was quite doable. On all the next visits we preferred to rent a bicycle, though.
How to get to and from Ayutthaya
The most popular starting point for trips to Ayutthaya is Bangkok. That said, you can travel to Ayutthaya by bus or train from both Sukhothai or Chiang Mai.
From and to Bangkok
The most popular and easiest way to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok is by train. Head to Hualamphong Station any time of the day and within few minutes, without need of reservation, you will be travelling. The trip takes about 2 hours and scenery you are going to see from your window is really pleasant. Third class trains are amazingly inexpensive (THB20) but they can be packed at time and you take the risk not to have a seat at all. Much more expensive second class seats (THB300) are soft-seats in air-conditioned carriages.
Once you get to Ayutthaya, walk to the ferry – just few minutes away from the train station – and get to the island for THB5.
Regular minivans depart from Mo Chit bus station every 20 minutes or so. The ride is about 2 hours and it will cost you THB70.
Tip Be aware that no minivan are leaving anymore from Victory Monument in central Bangkok. If your travel book still lists that as an option it’s because it’s just from November 2016 that all the minivans were removed to Mo Chit and Ekkamai in an attempt to reduce traffic in the centre of Bangkok.
No regular ferries cruise the river from Bangkok but several private companies offer boat trips from Bangkok to Ayutthaya and vice versa for tourists. Check with travel agencies in Bangkok for prices and schedules. There both one-day and several day options.
From and to other destinations
Regular trains depart several times a day to Chiang Mai (prices vary from THB250 to THB1000 depending on the class; the journey takes 12 hours), Ubon Ratchatani (THB200/600 for a 8 hours ride) and Nong Khai if Laos is your next destination (THB450/650 for a 9 hours ride).
Is Ayutthaya safe to travel?
Like almost everywhere in Thailand, Ayutthaya is a safe place – even for solo women travellers. The vast majority of the accidents involving tourists are motorbike accidents. Be extra careful if you rent one.
A lot of stray dogs can be found there, too, but normally they aren’t aggressive at all. If they do show some aggressive interest towards you a good tip is to pretend to pick up a rock from the ground; they usually run away immediately.