How to experience Khao Yai National Park
This blog is just about the howt to visit Khao Yai national park in northeastern Thailand, including tours in Khao Yai, camping in Khao Yai and how we did it. If you want to read stories of our time there, and see some more pictures of animals we saw, try our blogs: Real Life Pokemon Go competition in Khao Yai national park and Watching elephants and gibbons in Khao Yai national park.
Khao Yai Nuts and Bolts
How to get to Khao Yai national park
To catch a bus from Bangkok to Pak Chong, the nearest town to the Khao Yai national park gates, and you need to go to Morchit bus station, sometimes known as the Northern Bus Station. Be careful here. There is an MRT stop called Morchit, but it isn’t actually at Morchit bus station. You need to come out of the MRT to the road at Exit 1, and then hail a taxi to the bus station. The taxi costs about 60 baht. At Morchit bus station, go inside and up to the 3rd floor. There are lots of desks for buses going towards Issan (the east of Thailand). Find one with ‘Pak Chong’ written on it. It’s a good idea to ask them how long it takes and what class it is. Some buses will stop multiple times on route and take ages, and some are direct.
We took a bus for around 150 baht. It took about four hours to get to Pak Chong, where we got dropped off in the centre next to the big statue of the giraffes. We rang Bobby from Bobby’s Jungle Tours, who sent someone to pick us up.
We went from Pak Chong to Nakhon Ratchasima (sometimes called Khorat), for our onward trip to see the Khmer ruins at Phimai. To do this, we went to the bus station opposite the giraffe statue, where we had been dropped off. There are two offices by the side of the road, one for minivans and one for big buses. We took the big bus, which took about an hour.
When you get back into Morchit at the end of your trip, there is a taxi rank. The queue was huge when we got there and there was a long wait, although it was very well-organised and there was no pushing or queue jumping, or any problems with the taxi driver. You can get the taxi to take you back to the BTS or MRT, or to wherever you are staying.
You can also get a minivan to Pak Chong from Bangkok. Minivans used to all go from Victory Monument in Bangkok, which was very convenient. Now they have all been moved to the various bus stations around the city. Minivans to Pak Chong go from Morchit bus station, which as mentioned above, you can reach by getting to Morchit BTS and taking a taxi. You can also get a shuttle bus to Morchit from Victory Monument. Last time we did it, it was free. The journey by minivan takes about 2 1/2 hours. It can cost a bit more than the big bus, at about 250 baht.
Another means of transport to Pak Chong is the train. Pak Chong is on the northeastern line towards Ubon Ratchitani, Udon Thani and Nong Khai by the Laos border. You get on the train at Hualampang station in Bangkok. This is on the MRT line and also connected to Don Muang airport if you are flying into that airport. The train stops at Ayuttaya too, so you could also go on the way from visiting the ruins. The journey takes 3-4 1/2 hours depending on the number of stops. Fares vary with class of ticket.
You can drive yourself to and from Khao Yai national park if you have, or hire a car. We don’t have an international drivers’ license so we can’t hire a car in Thailand, so we don’t know much about this. It’s also possible to rent a motorbike from Pak Chong to drive around the park. Make sure you have the right license and insurance if you do that.
If you want to travel independently but without transport, you can get a songthaew (truck) from Pak Chong near the giraffe statue to the gate for about 50 baht. However, there is no public transport within the park and the visitors’ centre is quite far from the entrance. You could hitchhike if there are cars passing.
As we said, we booked a 2 1/2 night stay at Bobby’s Jungle Tours, including one-night camping in the national park. This included two nights staying in one of the cabins at Bobby’s. The cabins were 600 baht each and very comfortable, with en-suite bathroom, fridge, TV and balcony, and there was wifi throughout. You can have all of your meals there and they are very reasonably priced. In total, our treks, the national park entry fee of 400 baht per day (included in the tour cost) the guide for two days and one night, camping, hire of the tent and bedding, the room and all the food and drink cost us less than 10,000 baht – $280 at the time of writing. Well worth the money.
Bobby’s seems to be very popular, and it was full the whole time we were there, which is odd for mid-week in July. If it’s full, or you want something about cheaper, people trekking with us were staying at At Home Hostel, and had very good things to say about it and the owner.
You can arrange camping in the Khao Yai national park yourself. There are two campsites and the national park office rents out spaces and also tents and bedding. It’s just 30 baht to pitch your own tent. If you haven’t got one, national park tents cost about 200 baht to hire and it’s another few baht for sleeping bags and pillows etc. If you want to do this, make sure you arrange it when you enter the park in the morning. The national park tents were full the night we stayed (and it was a Tuesday, not a weekend) and two people seemed to be sleeping in a hammock tied between two trees. That can’t have been comfortable during the storm in the middle of the night.
The campsites have wash blocks with western style toilets, as well as restaurants and small kiosks selling pot noodles, crisps, and pop. I’m not sure how long they stay open, but I don’t imagine it’s late.
You can’t wild camp in Khao Yai anymore, with or without a guide.
Non-Thais have to pay 400 baht to enter the national park. Thais get in cheaper. There is lots of talk of non-Thais being able to get Thai prices if they have a work permit or similar, but I don’t know how successful that is. Our work permits are kept by our school and we don’t like to carry them into a rainforest, so we didn’t try. Our fees were included in the tour price. If you sleep in the park, you only need to pay the entry fee once. However, if you sleep outside the park, you need to pay the entry fee every day you go in.
The gates are open between 6am and 6pm, so if you travel independently, make sure you can get out before the gates close and lock you in…..
There are clear trails laid out and signposted that you follow yourself without a guide. There are signs to take you to the various waterfalls in the park as well. The visitors’ centre has information about them and places where you can sign yourself in and out for safety reasons. Several trails have been closed both to protect the wildlife and the people. Apparently, a couple of groups got lost in the national park and had to be rescued.
A good resource for travelling to Khao Yai independently is Alex in Wanderland’s blog: The Complete Guide to visiting Khao Yai independently. I haven’t seen a more comprehensive guide. Her blog is a great source of stories and advice about Thailand in particularly, among other destinations.
Have you been in Khao Yai national park? How did you do it? If you have any recommendations you can give to readers, please leave them below.
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