In a nutshell
Located 150 km south of Bangkok, Phetchaburi is one of the oldest cities in Thailand.
Why go to Phetchaburi
Attr: David McKelvey (cc by)
Thought to be founded around the 10th century, Phetchaburi gained importance and prestige under the Khmer Kingdom before becoming a strategic town during the Sukkhothai and Ayutthaya Empires. Nowadays it is a quiet and small provincial capital town sitting on the banks of the Phetchaburi River and is often overlooked by Western tourists.
And it is a shame as within just a couple of hours drive from Bangkok there is a perfect out-of-the-beaten track destination offering the adventurous visitors several impressive Khmer temples, a Royal Palace dominating the city from the top of a hill plus two other royal palaces nearby (this is why Phetchaburi is called often Mueang Sam Wang, the city of the three palaces) and a couple of caves just few km out of town. On top of that if you have some extra time, drive some 20 km east of town and you’ll find yourself on the shores of the Gulf of Thailand featuring some of the nicest beaches you can find in proximity of Bangkok while in the western part of the province, bordering with Burma, Kaeng Krachan national park, the biggest natural park in the country, is luring all nature lovers with 3000 square km of wonderful mountains, forests and jungle.
When to go to Phetchaburi
The best time to visit Phetchaburi is during the cool and dry season between November and March. April and May are normally quite hot while in June the rainy season starts. Compared to other places in Thailand the rain is less frequent and less strong, making it still possible to visit during these months without any major issue. If possible avoid September which usually gets more precipitations.
Every year around mid-February the Phra Nakhon Khiri Fair takes place; this is the main festival in town and for five days ceremonies will celebrate kings that have ruled over Phetchaburi in the past centuries. It’s a good opportunity to learn a bit about the town’s history, to taste a lot of regional food and to admire the local girls participating in the annual beauty pageant.
Where to stay in Phetchaburi
Accommodation in Phetchaburi is plentiful with some really good options in the low budget range sitting on the western side of the river; several guesthouses and hostels will give a place to sleep for less than THB500. A couple of alternatives can be found in the mid-range budget for those who want a bit more comfort and style than a simple wooden guesthouse. An upmarket hotel close to the night market will satisfy anyone searching for a bit of luxury.
Where to eat in Phetchaburi
Phetchaburi is a small heaven for foodies with hundreds of years of history reflected in the culinary tradition of the city with a lot of regional specialties that can be commonly found at low prices in one of the many simple Thai restaurants and street stalls.
The proximity to the Gulf of Thailand guarantees fresh seafood both in town or in seaside villages which are a perfect day trip from Phetchaburi. There are not so many options for those seeking for Western food, though; other than KFC at Big C shopping centre and a couple of pizza joints a bit out of the city centre there’s nothing else to choose from.
How to get around Phetchaburi
The city centre evolved along the banks of the Phetchaburi River, but it is quite compact and easy to cover on foot.
Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, the main attraction of Phetchaburi, is on top of the hill visible from everywhere in town and it is located two km to the west. Tuk-tuk and motorbike taxies will take you there for THB60. There is no regular taxi service in town. Motorbikes can be rented in many places starting at THB200 a day.
How to get to and from Phetchaburi
There is no main bus terminal in Phetchaburi and all the buses coming from and going to Bangkok will stop on the main road (Phetkasem Road) in the western part of town, roughly 1,5 km from the river. From there a motorbike taxi will take you downtown for THB50.
Buses and minivans from Bangkok depart frequently from Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) and the three-hour trip will cost you THB160. Vans are usually a bit quicker but also a lot more uncomfortable if you have big backpacks.
Many of the VIP buses running down south from Bangkok to Krabi, Phuket, Ranong, Surat Thani and Trang make a quick stop in Phetchaburi – ask the schedule from your guesthouse if you need one of these.
To get back to Bangkok, the easiest way is to use the minivans’ service. All of them depart from Big C shopping centre, 5 km south of town, where you can get by a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi for less than THB100.
Daily departures are available to Hua Hin (THB80), Cha Am (THB40), Kaeng Krachan National Park (THB100) and Ratchaburi (THB80). Many of the companies offer a pickup service from some of the guesthouses downtown at a slightly higher price (THB10/THB20).
A better alternative for long distances is to get a train. The train station is located 1 km northwest of the city centre and can be reached on foot or via a short motorbike taxi drive. Several departures are available every day to/from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong train station with ticket starting around THB50 for a third class seat (THB90 for a more comfy second class). Note that there are slow trains between Bangkok and Phetchaburi which can take as long as 5 hours, so make sure to ask at the counter before you purchase your ticket.
Daily departures are available to Hua Hin, Chumpon, Surat Thani and Trang.
Is Phetchaburi a safe place to visit?
Phetchaburi is a safe and pleasant town to travel. If you rent a motorbike always wear a helmet and use common sense especially on the main road where traffic is consistent all through the day.
The main danger here comes from the monkeys which can be really aggressive. Do not tease them and do not feed them. If you feel that the animals are getting nervous at your sights, it’s a better idea to retreat.
For any emergency two hospitals are available.
Phetchaburi station guide
Phetchaburi - train
Normally 4 hours away from Bangkok, going to Petchaburi by train is the easiest when you are coming from Hua Lamphong Station. There are rapid trains, special express, express and diesel rail-cars that call in Hua Lamphong Station. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, there are no ordinary trains that travel Hua Lamphong - Petchaburi.
However, if traveling on a tight budget, there are 3rd class trains bound to Petchaburi that passengers can catch in Thonburi's Bangkok Noi Station for less than 50 THB without any surcharge fees.
Phetchaburi - Bus
Situated around 75kms southwest of Bangkok, Phetchaburi is the capital of the province of the same name. The city is on the main Route 4 heading from Bangkok to the south of the country, and buses from Bangkok and the south pass through frequently throughout the day and night.
Travellers can catch air-conditioned, VIP buses from Bangkok’s Southern bus terminal, with the journey lasting approximately two hours. Buses from other southern cities such as Cha Am, Hua Hin, Krabi and Surat Thani run regularly each day. Local buses also run between the provincial towns and further afield in the south.
Phetchaburi’s bus station is just a few hundred metres from the main road. Here, travellers can stock up on local food or nip to the nearby 7-Eleven and buy snacks for the journey. Tuk-tuk and songthaew drivers are always at the ready to take you to your next stop after getting off the bus.
Another way of getting to Phetchaburi is to take the train from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong station. Trains run from 08:05 until 22:50 at regular intervals throughout the day and the journey usually takes between two and a half and three and a half hours. Whether taking the bus or train, it’s best to pre-book online to ensure you have a seat as this is a popular route.