If you’re planning to visit northern Thailand, don’t miss the Instagram-famous White Temple, aka Wat Rong Khun. Read this post for 11 tips for making the most of your visit to this incredible temple.
Wat Rong Khun is a weird and wonderful place that every visitor to Thailand should experience. It is an equal parts bizarre and incredible temple outside the city of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand.
“Also known as The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is the brainchild of a Thai artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat. It’s literally his life’s work: construction began in 1996 and isn’t expected to be completed until 2070, when he’ll be 115 years old.”– from Thrillist
On our visit to the temple, we were surprised and bemused by the inherent craziness in the design. It is as much a modern art piece as it is a religious building, as tacky as it is beautiful. One thing is for sure though, if you’re in the area, The White Temple is well worth a visit.
If you want to make the most of your visit to Wat Rong Khun and want to get the best photos, read on for our guide to…
Visiting Wat Rong Khun — 11 Tips for The White Temple
Tips to Start The Day Right
1. Arrive early.
If you’re under your own steam just set an early alarm and get there for 8am when the temple opens. If you’re taking the bus, or hiring a tuk-tuk (details of all of that below), then make sure you tell them you want to go early.
The crowds get crazy busy and it gets hot pretty early. You don’t want to be caught out in the midday Thai sun!
2. Stop for coffee at Doi Chaang. Drink locally!
If you start your day in Doi Chaang coffee shop near 75th Anniversary Flag and Lamp Park that opens at 7am. This is great place to stop for local coffee before you hit the temple.
As a bonus, the coffee is grown in the mountains around Chiang Rai and Wat Rong Khun. Double bonus, they also offer breakfast (but not for vegans).
More Thailand goodies!
Take advantage of our best Thailand travel advice, grab our Thailand itineraries, and plan your trip to Ayutthaya.
Tips for Getting To Wat Rong Khun
3. Bus to Wat Rong Khun, aka the White Temple, from Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai
It’s easy to get to Wat Rong Khun temple by public transport.
From Chiang Rai
There is a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus station.
Here are the details:
- Price 20 THB ($0.65 USD)
- Travel time around 30 min
- Departs platform 8 (but always check with the driver or at the ticket counter)
The bus to the temple drops you off a short distance away from the temple, on the other side the highway. There is a light at the intersection, so crossing the highway is easy.
To get back, cross the road the temple is on, walk down to the highway, turn left and find the wooden bus stop gazebo in front of the police kiosk. Flag the first bus you see. They come every half hour or so and the journey back is another 20 THB.
From Chiang Mai
If you want to get to Wat Rong Khun from Chiang Mai, there are lots of bus tours you can book with your hotel or hostel. Cost is roughly 450 THB ($14 USD).
To combine a trip to The White Temple, The Black House, and The Blue Temple from Chiang Mai, check out this highly-rated tour.
4. Hire a Scooter or Tuk Tuk to Visit Wat Rong Khun
If you want to get to the White Temple from Chiang Rai but don’t fancy taking a bus, you can rent a scooter for the day, or hire a tuk-tuk for a few hours.
You can arrange for a tuk-tuk to pick you up around 7am for the roughly 35-minute ride out to the White Temple. Pre-arrange for your driver to wait for an hour or 90 minutes (that’s lots of time to wander around the temple) and take you back. You should be able to organise all of this for roughly 400 THB ($13 USD).
If you want to feel the wind in your hair (under your helmet), rent a scooter for about 250 THB (~$8 USD) a day. We have heard good things about ST Motorcycle Rentals at 1025/34 Jetyod Road, near the Clock Tower.
Tips for Getting Into the White Temple
5. Bring a sarong
It’s essential as a mindful traveller that you dress appropriately when visiting Thai temples. At Wat Rong Kunh (also known as Wat Rong Kung, Wat Rong Kun, etc) cover your shoulders and wear pants or a skirt that covers your knees.
Unlike other temples, where they will remain silently offended if you dress disrespectfully, at the White Temple, the dress code is strict. If you don’t have your knees covered, they will give you long skirt or sarong to cover yourself.
6. How to buy a ticket
If you book a tour to The White Temple, it will likely include your entry cost. Make sure you know in advance if it does.
If you make your own way to the temple, you can pick up your ticket when you arrive at the temple. There is an easy-to-spot ticket booth at the entrance which will most likely have a queue of tourists.
Admission for foreign tourists is 50 TBH ($1.60), Thai nationals get in free.
7. Wat Rong Khun Opening Hours
The temple is open between 8am and 5pm daily. Come early to ensure you have enough time to enjoy the views before the bus tours start rolling in!
Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Visit to Wat Rong Khun
8. When should you visit The White Temple?
Go early on a weekday. Weekends are crazy at the temple!
The White Temple opens at 8am, so be in the queue for tickets by that time. Why? The temple has thousands of visitors each day and you don’t want all of them in your photos. Also, it’s quite hard to appreciate the strange beauty when hundreds of school kids are running rings around you.
9. Photo tips for The White Temple
Midday sun is terrible for your travel photos. If you get there early, and you’re lucky, the light just might not be too harsh on the white walls of the temple. If you arrive around 7am, you can take photos of the exterior before the temple opens and before the tour buses arrive!
If you’re shooting photos on your phone, I recommend using a camera app that lets you easily change the exposure. You’re going to want this when the sun is bouncing off the temple!
I use Camera+ on my iPhone. It’s pretty easy to use and you can even shoot in RAW with the app, giving you more editing possibilities later on. To edit photos, we use Snapseed and Photoshop Express.
Don’t Miss These “Secret” Spots
10. The Predator & George W. Bush
Don’t step on Predator rising out of the temple grounds. But also don’t miss seeing it, because what other temple do you know that features an alien from a blockbuster film?
Inside the temple, keep an eye out for the paintings of pop culture icons like Hello Kitty, Spider-Man, the Terminator, Neo from The Matrix, the Twin Towers, and George W. Bush. (OK, those last two might not quite qualify as pop culture!)
Have we mentioned it’s a very weird place?
11. The Bathrooms!
Don’t miss the bathrooms. Everyone raves about them. They’re in the gold building before you leave the temple. We won’t spoil the surprise by giving you too many details. Just make sure to check them out!
Tours we Recommend in Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai Kingdoms of the North Bike Tour
Want to do your own bike tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai? Grasshopper Adventures makes bike touring easy so you can focus on seeing the sights. Cycle the country knowing your hotel is booked, your luggage is waiting for you, and amazing meals are on the way.
Learn to Cook Authentic Thai Food
We know you’ll be loving Thai cuisine as you travel around the country. Why not take some of those amazing flavours home with you? You can, by joining a cooking class in Chiang Mai.
Where to Stay in Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai
Where to stay in Chiang Mai
- Hostel: Arch39 Minimal Art & Craft, funky hostel & hotel, rating 8.5/10, $6 dorm bed, $37 family room
- Budget: The Entaneer Poshtel, modern hostel & hotel, rating 9.6/10, $13 dorm bed, $34 king room
- Mid-range: Villa De Hun, French-inspired boutique hotel in the old city, rating 9.0/10, $36 queen room
- Luxury: Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel And Spa, modern comfort in Colonial home, rating 9.1/10, $250 double room
Where to stay in Chiang Rai
- Hostel: Mercy Hostel, spacious bright hostel with pool, $6 dorm bed, $20 double room
- Mid-range: Nak Nakara Hotel, hotel with poolside Lanna style rooms, rating 9.0/10, $52 double room
- Luxury: Mora Boutique Hotel, 4-star boutique hotel, rating 9.6/10, $77 double room
Find more great hotels with our favourite hotel booking site, Booking.com.
We went to Wat Rong Khun as part of a much longer adventure — 19 amazing months on the road cycling through 22 countries. If you’re interested in travelling by bicycle, or just want to know more about off-the-beaten-path Southeast Asia and Europe, check out our cycling stories.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J
Get 101 Travel Tips
Get our free ebook, 101 Travel Tips for Mindful Adventurers. It’s packed with our best tips for saving money, planning for travel, booking flights and accommodation, traveling sustainably, and staying on the road for longer! We ask for your email address so we can send you an email about once every month with our latest travel tips, destination advice, and personal stories about life on the road.