How to visit Khao Yai National Park
Seeing wild elephants in Khao Yai national park in northeastern Thailand was one of the highlights of our last 18 months living in Bangkok. We put together all the information we could find about the how to visit Khao Yai national park, including how to get from Bangkok to Khao Yai, national park tours, Khao Yai wineries, a Khao Yai itinerary, and camping in Khao Yai into one Khao Yai blog.
If you want to read stories of our time there, and see some more pictures of awesome animals we saw, try our other Khao Yai blogs:
This post includes affiliate links where we get a bit of money if you buy through our link, at no cost to you.
How to get to Khao Yai National Park from Bangkok
Bus from Bangkok to Khao Yai
Buses from Bangkok to Khao Yai stop at Pak Chong, the nearest town to the Khao Yai national park gates. To get there from Bangkok 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 from Bangkok to Khao Yai will stop multiple times on route and take ages, and some are direct.
We took a bus from Bangkok to Pak Chong 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.
After our tour of Khao Yai National Park, we went by bus 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.
Minivan from Bangkok to Khao Yai
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 from Bangkok 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.
Train from Bangkok to Khao Yai
Another means of transport from Bangkok 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 Ayutthaya 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.
If you are planning to go to Ayutthaya, check out our post on how we spent New Year there, including what temples to visit: Seeing in the New Year in Ayutthaya.
Independent transport from Bangkok to Pak Chong
You can drive yourself from Bangkok to Khao Yai National Park if you have, or if you 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.
Khao Yai Itinerary
2/3 Night Khao Yai Tour
We chose a typical 3-night tour of Khao Yai from Bobby’s Jungle Tours. Other tour companies offer a very similar package. This Khao Yai Itinerary consists of:
Visiting Chao Luk Bat Cave
This trip started by a visit inside the cave to see the bats close up. It’s really important to be careful of what you touch in the cave and to thoroughly clean your hands you come out, as bats carry many diseases. However, standing in the semi-darkness and listening to all the bats call overhead is really cool.
As dusk approaches, you go outside and wait. Suddenly one bat flies past, then another, and quickly there are swarms of bats flying this way and that. It’s really spectacular.
Khao Yai National Park Trekking
Most companies run day tours into the park with a guide who takes you in both a truck and trekking to find gibbons, elephants and other cool wildlife. Lunch is taken at one of the restaurants inside the park. Visits also include trips to the many waterfalls. You can see more details on our Khao Yai itinerary in our other Khao Yai blogs.
Khao Yai One-Day Tours
If you don’t have time for a 2/3 day Khao Yai itinerary, you can visit in one day from Bangkok. This is going to be a busy day, but it is possible. In this situation, it’s best to do an organised tour, as they will have the times organised so you can make the most of your day.
The online tour company Get Your Guide has a cool looking 10-hour day tour of Khao Yai which includes some of the stuff we did including a 2-hour trek in the forest, visiting the salt lick and one of the amazing waterfalls. Find out more here: One day Khao Yai trip from Bangkok
Khao Yai National Park wineries
If you don’t just want jungle trekking in Khao Yai national park, the area is also popular for its wineries. The cooler temperature means that vines grow well there. There are several wineries in Khao Yai and they give tours and tastings.
Of course, this is much easier to do if you have your own transport, but you can also arrange a driver from your hotel if you stay near Khao Yai.
PB Valley Khao Yai Winery
PB Valley winery started back in 1989 as the first winery in Khao Yai. It now makes a range of wines. For 300 baht you can do a tour in English of the vineyards and the winery which includes a tasting. They also have a restaurant.
You can do a one-day trip to PB Winery from Bangkok as well, which lets someone else do the driving so you can enjoy the wine!
Address: 52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong, Nakhon Ratchasima
Grand Monte Estate
10 years after PB winery, Grand Monte Estate began producing wine. It now has several award-winning wines. A tour costs 450 baht and includes a tasting of four different wines accompanied by cheese and crackers. These tours currently run at 10am, 11.30am, 13.30pm, 15.00pm and 16.00pm on weekends, and 11am, 1.30pm and 3pm on weekdays. From November to February, there are more tours. There are tours on the hour from 10am-4pm on weekends and add a 10am tour on weekdays. For just under 1000 baht you can also get a set meal in their restaurants.
If you want to stay and enjoy the wine, they also have a guesthouse.
Address: 52 Moo 9 Phayayen, Pakchong
Accommodation in Khao Yai National Park
There are many different options for accommodation in Khao Yai national park. There are a range from relatively expensive hotels to cabins and hostels.
As we said, we booked a 2 1/2 Khao Yai itinerary with Bobby’s Jungle Tours, including one-night camping in Khao Yai National Park and two nights staying in one of the cabins at Bobby’s Jungle Tours. 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 trekking, the Khao Yai National Park entry fee of 400 baht per day (included in the tour cost), the guide for two days and one night, camping in Khao Yai, 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 Jungle Tours 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.
Camping in Khao Yai National Park
You can arrange camping in 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 Khao Yai 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 go wild camping in Khao Yai National Park anymore, with or without a guide.
Khao Yai National Park
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 National Park independently is Alex in Wanderland’s Khao Yai 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 particular, among other destinations.
Have you been to Khao Yai National Park? How did you do it? Have you got a Khao Yai blog you want to share? If you have any recommendations you can give to readers, please leave them below.
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