Wat Pho to Increase Admission Prices by 100% for Foreigners

Wat Pho to Increase Admission Prices by 100% for Foreigners

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One of the most popular temples in Bangkok for foreign tourists is Wat Pho, otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is because of the giant reclining Buddha that is 46 meters long and has feet inlaid with mother-of-pearl. While most temples around Thailand are free for everyone to visit, some of the bigger ones charge foreign tourists an entrance fee. It doesn’t matter if you are a Buddhist or not, if you are a foreigner you have to pay. It used to be 50 Baht at Wat Pho like all the other big temples in Bangkok. They then decided to increase the price by 100% to 100 Baht. Now comes the news that from 1st January 2015, the price will go up again by another 100% to 200 Baht. The price remains free for Thais. The argument is that Thais will make merit by donating money. But what about the Thai Muslims, Christians and Sikhs etc who also get in for free? Why is that fair when foreign Buddhists have to pay so much?

A couple of years ago, President Obama and Hilliary Clinton visited Wat Pho. One of the most popular pictures taken during their visit to Bangkok was this one where they are seen sharing a joke with assistant abbot Phra Suthee Thammanuwat. What were they talking about? Apparently they were talking about the admission price for foreigners. “Several people asked me what we were talking about when we were seen laughing,” Phra Suthee told The Nation. “At that moment, Clinton asked how many people visited the temple a day. I said that about 7,000 to 8,000 people visited and foreigners were charged Bt100 each. Clinton responded that the temple was making a lot of money and should be able to support Obama’s work in helping poor children. I replied that the US president and his entourage should instead support the temple because the visit prompted half of the temple to be closed and caused the temple to lose money.”

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This now brings us to the question of how much money these temples are making from foreigners. According to Phra Udornkanarak, each day Wat Pho has about 10,000 visitors and half of them are foreigners. So, at an admission fee of 100 Baht per head for 5,000 people, it means they make 500,000 Baht a day. In just one month they will make 15.5 million Baht. And this is just from foreigners at one temple. It doesn’t include the large donations that Thais make themselves to temples. Next year they will make a minimum of one million Baht PER DAY which is presumably tax free. This is ONE MILLION DOLLARS per month. Where exactly does all of this money go?

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29 thoughts on “Wat Pho to Increase Admission Prices by 100% for Foreigners

  1. I agree! It should be free for Thai people! 100 baht has always been a low price to visit such a beautiful temple and the reclining Buddha. I wish my own country (UK) would make more of our national heritage free for British people to see. I live in Bangkok, have done for several years and am happy to pay more because I can. It’s not greed to protect and maintain. If you don’t want to pay, don’t go and miss a wonderful place in the process.

    1. If a UK attraction were made free only for Brits, you would rightly be expected to show proof of your citizenship, e.g. a passport. Otherwise how can anyone tell from your face whether or not you are British? It ends up being visual screening, and that’s exactly the problem here. You’re charged because you don’t look ‘Thai’, whatever that is. As a side point, many museums in London for example are already free – for everyone.

    2. I have been plenty of times but if you wish to pay more then yes it’s up to you. I can also tell you that the UK doesn’t have a dual pricing system. This would not only be illegal it would also be classed as inverted racism. If it’s not greed then what is it? This is in the top 3 tourist attractions in thailand. Where has all the money gone over the years? No Sam, this is what it is greed.

      1. A lot of multinational companies in Malaysia have two salary scheme-one for Westerners and the other for locals.One of them is Shell. So, it is not wrong to implement two entrance fee system.

        1. I think people’s issues are on the unfairness of a dual pricing system (technically illegal in Thailand incidentally though even state enterprises engage in it)and questions on where the money goes. One would be naive to think it all goes on buildings.

          Multinationals are not wats and malaysia is not thailand. There’s no connection.

  2. I guess given Thailand has a split salary system, ie. local wages are much lower than expats’, I am happy to pay 200b to visit one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.

    1. What about all the rich Thais who are fabulously wealthier than any expat here? There’s enough of them, too – is it right to over-simply and say Thais are poor, expats are rich? And let’s not forget ‘foreigners’ here also includes non-western expats, i.e. regional migrant workers who in many cases earn less than Thais.

  3. People will pay because they don’t understand the dual pricing system. What is the reason behind this? Not enough tourists so we will charge more. Backward economics from a country that just sees tourists as cash cow’s.

  4. These tourist place also get support by gov which take Thai’s tax so technically some Thai pay more than foreigner anyways. That’s why expat with work permit who also taxpayer here can use their right for free entry.

    1. I agree with you to an extent – the work permit idea works in some places, though I’m not sure about Wat Pho (has anyone tried?) My official visa (I don’t have a work permit as I’m employed at an embassy) got my the local entrance fee to Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya. But why should I have to show a visa or work permit when you can just wander through because you ‘look Thai’? What’s to say I’m not a naturalised Thai? What’s to say you’re not actually from Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, China? Of course, the question still remains that if temples like Wat Pho are ALSO getting taxpayer funding, then where on earth is all the money going!?

      1. Just checked on 2pricethailand.com and seen at least two reports of expats saying they were refused free entry at Wat Pho even on presentation of their Non-Immigrant B visa, work permit, Thai driving licence and TIN tax card. Now tell me how that’s fair?

  5. Thailand isn’t the only country for this. In Russia it is the same. In St Petersburg there are some of the palaces where Russians get in for 50% and people living in St Petersburg get in for free. I wish the UK would do that.

    Having said that the National Trust yearly membership can be a fantastic thing for a family if they are going to go out there and use it.

    1. At least there, presumably (correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve never travelled to Russia) if the free admission is based on what part of Russia you live in, then everyone who wants free entry has to prove that residence? Not so here where you are profiled based on what you look like and whether the ticket seller thinks you’re Thai or not.

  6. Richard is right. Where does this money go? Some goes to charity I’m sure But 1 million a month? I don’t think so. The West should have reciprical arrangements. Thais in the UK and America are not exposed to dual pricing, can own land, and (generally) are treated as uk Citizens in the justice system

    1. Wat Pho has had extensive restoration over the past two years, which I believe are still ongoing. That’s where the money goes.

    2. Absolutely. Can you imagine someone turning up at a church, temple, museum, train station in the UK and being asked to pay, when a Brit doesn’t, (or to pay double the ‘local rate’ or more) because their face was the wrong colour, and having to dig out their passport if they wanted to prove they lived and worked there and paid tax and were therefore entitled to this ‘local rate’? There would rightly be an outrage. The only area I can ever think of where dual pricing applies in the west is in education, where again it is based on national status that has to be proven (by everyone) on the basis that if you’re a citizen of that country then chances are you’ve already contributed to the tax system and/or will in the future.

      1. Those that integrate and have a broad range of Thai friends get it. It’s the vociferous minority, in my view, on othrr internet forums that seem so out of touch. Some have been here 10, 20 years

  7. It will be 500 baht next year just to make up for the continued fall in tourist numbers. We all know that money is going into some rich mans pocket and NOT the poor of Thailand. You gotta love religion 🙂

  8. I am living in Thailand as an expat but am also aBuddhist. I tried to enter Wat Pho with my friend who is Thai but living in the UK. I showed them my Thai driving licence to establish that I was living here and not a tourist but no go. I am a foreigner and that was that. The fact that I used to be a monk(in Thailand) didnt seem relevant either. Whilst it may be a popular tourist attraction it is also a place of worship (using Western terminology) and I rwfuse to pay for entry both as a Buddhist and as an expat.

    1. Good for you! I am living here as an expat and as an antitheist.

      But I wouldn’t go to any place that has double pricing, let alone try to use my Thai driving licenses as proof that I am “one of them”.

  9. Good thing I look like Thai and will go to Wat Pho with my Thai gf… as long as I keep my mouth shut I’ll be able to enter for free

  10. A few years back I was involved in a proposed project at Wat Phra Kaew, and official door figures for there were 3000-5000 paying visitors a day. Wat Po was estimated at around 1000-2000. Which seems more likely IMO.
    There’s little point asking where this money goes, as opposed to asking where any temple money goes – Wat Doi Suthep is rumoured to be the most lucrative in the Kingdom. All Bangkok temples have a lot of money.
    First, it rarely goes to the monks, who often have to pay to live in the temple.
    Second, there will always be disagreements on where money is spent. Mostly it goes on buildings in the Wat and in upcountry temples.

  11. I am Malaysian and understand that there are places that have a dual pricing system and feel it’s unfair, but, in the past, if I really want to visit a place, I will pay for it. What I find really annoying, it is nothing to do with being local or foreign, but more to do with skin color. I am of Indian decent and so I stand out like a sore thumb. However, my Chinese friends from Malaysia or Singapore can get away by waltzing through the entrance as “they look Thai”. Now I refuse to even take poeple or recommend they go to any place that has dual pricing!

  12. At the new rate of 200 Baht per day, the temple will make a billion Baht after 3 years. That’s an insane amount of income for a temple! Where does that money go to, I wonder?

  13. 200thb are 5 euro is so expensive, for a temple that only have (with due respect) a big statue, that you can see in 10 minutes. Thats 33% of cost of Louvre museum ticket in Paris 15.00 that you barely can see in one day.So expensive IMO.

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