Thai Railways Train Services travel to all Thailand’s Regions (North, Northeast, East, Central, and South), and even across its Border into Malaysia. The Big City Station ‘Hubs’ on Thai Railways are centers for many forms of transport (Air, Boat, Bus, Tuk-Tuk, Minivan, Subway, Songthaew, Taxi, and Motorbike). Some of these ‘Hubs’ (like Bangkok and Chiang Mai) are culturally interesting themselves, and have many sights to see / things to do. Other ‘Hubs’ (like Surat Thani and Hat Yai) are not so interesting themselves, but provide transportation access to common / popular destinations like beaches and borders. Many of the smaller Stations on Thai Railways Routes are culturally interesting places as well (like Sukhothai on the Northern Route). Many smaller Stations offer access to sites nearby, like Surin (Northeastern – South Isaan Line) and the Phanom Rung Khmer Temples.
Comparison And Review Of Travel Class And Comfortability
As stated above, train travel in Thailand is comfortable, safe, and relaxing, but this depends a lot on both the passenger’s needs and the class of travel. It’s very hard to find a train which has all the different available classes, but most trains seem to have at least 2 classes on them.
The Classes of train travel in Thailand range from the sheer luxury of the Eastern and Oriental Express (Bangkok to Singapore), to First-Class Sleeper, Second-Class Sleeper (Air-Conditioned or Fan), Second-Class Seated (Air-Conditioned or Fan), and Third-Class Seated (including commuter service).
‘Higher-End’ overnight services offers private, lockable, compartments with a comfortable sofa during the day. The sofa is converted into a full size bunk bed at night, while another above it is folded down from the wall. Other features include self-controlled air-conditioning, a private sink, soap and towel, inside baggage storage, and even a shower in the toilet. It’s a great choice if you need your ‘space’.
overnight service lacks many of these extra ‘comforts’ (like private compartments), but is just as relaxing and enjoyable for most travelers, and saves on one night’s accommodation. Second-Class Sleepers have open berths along the coach wall on either side of a central aisle, luggage racks beside the berths, and shared washbasins. During the day there are two facing seats, which at night are pulled together to form the bottom bunk. An upper bunk folds out from the wall above, and curtains are hung up to give you privacy. In both First and Second-Classes the beds are around 2m (6.5 ft) in length, and attendants assemble and make up the beds for you. Attendants on all overnight trains also provide printed menus with ‘meal sets’ to be served at your seat.
(Air-Conditioned) Express Service is excellent for daytime travel with comfortable reclining seats and hostess service (snacks and drinks) included in the fare. Second-Class (Seated / Air-Conditioned or Fan) Ordinary / Local ServIce is slower than the Express Service, but just as comfortable.
(Seated / Fan or Air-Conditioned) Ordinary / Local Service is a surprisingly clean and acceptable by European standards. It is usually not crowded (aside from the commuter ‘Rush-Hour’), unbelievably cheap and ideal for short trips. The seats on many Third-Class Train Services are the hard, ‘bench-style’, wooden slat type. Some Third-Class Commuter Services in Bangkok and some Third-Class Long-Distance (Rapid) Services are air-conditioned with ‘padded’ seating.
There are generally four types of ‘Train Services’ available within the classes, Local, Rapid, Express, and Special Express. Prices gradually increase (from lowest to highest) along with both speed and price. All Special Express and Express Service Trains have sleeping berth carriages (First and Second-Class Air-Conditioned), but only some of the Rapid Service Trains do. Second-Class Fan Sleepers are only on Rapid Service Trains. There is no Third-Class on Express Service Trains.
All Express Service Seated Trains (Air-Conditioned or Fan) serve delicious food, but it can be a bit pricey. All Rapid Service Trains have inexpensive, delicious Thai food available. Certain Long-Distance trains, such as the ‘Daytime Express’ from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, schedule a ‘Get out and Stretch’ stop of about 15 minutes
Bangkok – Hualamphong Station (Krungthep) – Bangkok’s Main Railway Station, Hua Lamphong Train Station, is a huge, extremely busy, steaming hot, hanger-like building with over 20 platforms, 26 ticket booths, an Advance-Booking Office, the usual distorted announcements, and two electric display boards. Hua-lumpong Station is in the center of the city with easy access to Chinatown, the Chao phraya River, Silom and Sukhumvit areas so you can save on taxi fares and travelling time. Hualamphong Station is on Rama 4 Road, 1 km West of Silom in the Pathum Wan district. Platforms in the station are crowded with luggage carts, piles of boxes and baggage, arriving and departing passengers, pushcart vendors, and various platfrom residents (dogs, cats, and beggars). The platforms inside Bangkok’s Hualamphong Rail Station resemble an ‘obstacle-course’.
Tickets for trains leaving the same or next day can be bought on the counters under the red/orange/green screens. For the Advance Booking Office, walk back towards the platforms from the main entrance, and you should see the ‘Advance Booking’ sign on the far right. Hualamphong’s Advance-Booking Office is quite well-organised. When you enter, take a numbered ticket from the machine and wait for your number to appear on the monitor. There may be a long line, so allow time to wait. There is a train plan posted, so you can select your own seat/berth when you book a ticket. You can pay by cash or by credit card. Reservations are computerized, and your ticket will have the train time and seat / berth number printed on it.
Food – If you arrive at the station hungry, don’t worry, as there are many dining choices inside. Options include coffee shops, restaurants, a cafeteria, several ‘fast-food’ outlets, convenience stores, and platform vendors. The vendors sell everything from bar-be-qued chicken and fruit to bottles of whisky, beer and soft drinks.
Station Services include several travel agencies, a ‘left-luggage’ office, a ‘Mail Boxes Etc.’ (a Mailing / Packing / Shipping / Courier Service), a ‘Rail Travel Aids Counter’ (for maps, information, timetables, answers to train-related questions), an ATM, showers in the toilets, and a Tourist Police Box. Avoid the travel agencies outside the station (there are too many to count). Hualamphong Station has a good Tourist Office. Only talk to the people working at the ‘Information Desk’. Avoid the ‘touts’ wearing very ‘official-looking’ badges who may offer to help you find a hotel. The left luggage facility is at the opposite end of the station, as you head for the station exit, on the far right.
Getting To / From Hualamphong Central Rail Station by Local City Transit – Since 2004 the station has been connected to the MRT subway system at Hualamphong Station. There is also ‘Chao Phraya River Taxi’ (see Bangkok Metro Section) access to Hualamphong Rail Station if you walk through Chinatown to Tha Ratchawong Pier, but the path is a bit tricky. The taxi stand is to the left of the platforms as you walk towards them. There is no organized ‘line’ for hiring a taxi, so you may have to fight for one during busy periods. Also, you may find even the ‘Metered’ taxis refusing to turn on their ‘meters’. If this happens, get their badge number and report them to station authorities. There are City Bus Stops next to and across from Hualamphong Station for cheap and convenient transportation to all points in the Bangkok Area, including the Long-Distance Bus Terminals. You can also use ‘Tuk-Tuks’ and Motorbike Taxi’s to get to/from the Station. (See Bangkok Metro – Subways, Sky Train, River Taxi, City Bus & Long-Distance Bus Terminals )
OTHER BANGKOK STATIONS
Bangkok – Thonburi Railway Station (Bangkok Noi) – Thonburi Rail Station is across the Chao Phraya River from Central Bangkok, so it is harder to get to/from this Station. Thonburi Station can only be reached by ‘Chao Phraya River Taxi’. There is a ‘Tha Rotfai’ (‘Railway pier’) on each side of the river, and Chao Phraya ‘Cross-River Ferries’ cross the river all day between the two piers, with songtaew (pickup-truck bus) service to/from Thonburi Rail Staion. Trips on Thailand’s Western (‘Short Line’) Routes depart from Thonburi Rail Station. The weekend-only 2nd class (Air-Conditioned) ‘tourist’ trains to Kanchanaburi/Nam Tok (Thai Railways Western Line) depart from Hualamphong Station. Bangkok-Area Commuter Rail Travel departs from Thonburi Rail Station as well.
Bangkok – Don Muang Rail Station (Old Airport) – All North / Northeast-bound trains make a stop at a small station opposite Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport (50 minutes from central Bangkok). Don Muang Rail Station is perfect for direct air / rail connections to those destinations, so you can avoid Central Bangkok altogether.
Chiang Mai Train Station
Chiang Mai Rail Station is across the Ping River (East bank) (two kilometers east of the city center), at the intersection of Charoen Muang Road and Rat Uthit Road (27 Charoenmuang Road). Chiang Mai Station is near the main Post Office. Chiang Mai Station is clean and well-organized and there are several services available inside the Station. There are two Advance Booking offices. One is at the Regular Ticket Windows, and the other is in an Air-conditioned office. There is also a ‘Left-Luggage Counter’ if you need to store your baggage for a few hours or even a few days. There are several travel agencies (use only the agencies inside stations) and an ATM. Chiang Mai Rail Station is a First-Class Service Station. There is No Train Service to destinations North of Chiang Mai. By Thai Railways Various Rapid, Express, Special Express, Express Diesel, and Sleeper Services are available from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Station to Chiang Mai Train Station. The trip takes from 11 to 14 hours depending on the Type of train Service (Local, Rapid, Express, or Special Express). The Daytime Trains have only Second and Third-Class (Fan only) seats, with no sleeping berths, and are the only trains which don’t allow bicycles. The most popular Train Service to Chiang Mai is Second-Class Sleeper, and tickets are often ‘sold-out’. Advance Booking is advisable, especially between November and March (High Season). Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance. Chiang Mai is the Final Station on Thai Railways Northern Line, and the Central ‘Hub’ of Northern Thailand. From Chiang Mai, there is a variety of bus services to/from destinations all over Northern Thailand, including Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle Area, and Northern Laos. There are many interesting things to see and do in and around Chiang Mai, such as taking an organized ‘trek’ offered by almost every travel agency.
Surat Thani Train Station – The Surat Thani Train Station is located in Phun Phin (14 km West of Surat Thani). Surat Thani (Phun Phin) Railway Station (SRN) is the Central Main Rail ‘Hub’ on Thai Railways Southern Line. Trains pass through every 20 minutes. Surat Thani is also the Central Southern Penninsula’s ‘Bus and Minivan ‘Hub’. Passengers on both trains and busses from points North, South, East, and West usually have to change busses and trains there. Surat Thani Railway Station is on the East Bank of the Tapi River in Thakham City, Phun Phin district. Surat Thani Station first opened in 1915, and was originally named Phun Phin Station (it’s actually in Phunphin). The name was later changed to ‘Surat Thani Railway Station’, due to Surat Thani’s closeness to many popular beach destinations. Services inside Surat Thani Station include a 24-hour ‘left-luggage’ room, an ‘Advance-Booking’ Office, and many travel agencies. Go to only the agencies inside the station. Surat Thani Rail Station is a dirty, hot, outdoor station with a few food/souvenir stands around. If you have to wait for service connections from Surat Thani Rail Station, there are a few tiny restaurants right across the street from the train station with hard plastic chairs, and internet service. The Queen Hotel nearby has a lounge downstairs that shows movies until 10:30 pm. Surat Thani has no tourist attractions, and its only purpose for tourism is as a jumping off / transfer hub for the Gulf islands (Ko Samui, Ko Pha ngan, and Ko Tao), or for rail / bus access to Andaman Coast destinations like Krabi, Phang-Nga, Phukett, or Ko Phi Phi. Take an Overnight Train (several daily) on Thai Railways Southern Line from Bangkok’s Hualanphong Station to Surat Thani (Phun Phin), (12 hours). These trains arrive in early morning, for convenient transfer to other train lines, boats, busses, or minivans. If you are going to Ko Tao, it may be easier to get off the train in Chumphon (for direct Ko Tao boat services). You can also get to Surat Thani by train from points South, such as Hat Yai on Thailand’s Southern Train Line. You can get to Surat Thani by train from Malaysia and Singapore as well, however the international connections may be difficult to book.
Ko Samui – If you are going to the Gulf Islands (Ko Samui, Ko Pha ngan, and Ko Tao), buying joint train/bus/boat tickets from travel agents in Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station will save you the hassle of running around to buy separate tickets. You can also buy joint bus/boat tickets from agencies inside Surat Thani Train Station.
Ferry Service – There is regular express boat, speedboat, night boat, and ferry service to Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan, and Ko Tao. A few daily ferries to/from Samui connect directy with the trains at (Phun Phin) Train Station. There are four ferry piers on the Surat Thani Coast, Ao Ban Don, Don Sak, Khanom, and Tha Thong. Don Sak Pier is the Main Pier. Ko Samui has three ferry piers – Big Buddha, Mae Nam, and Na Thon. Which boat/pier you get put on depends on what’s available when you arrive in Surat Thani Train Station. In Chumphon, there is a variety of direct boat services from the pier there to Ko Tao.
Krabi / Phuket – Local busses go directly from (Surat Thani) Phun Phin Station to Krabi, Phang-Nga, and Phuket. Buses stop and pick up people just South of the train station if you want to avoid Surat Thani City. You’ll have more transport choices if you go into Surat Thani City. The new bus terminal, used by government busses, is located just outside the city (on the way to the Phun Phin Train Station). The Talat Kaset Bus Terminal is in middle of city, and is the hub for private tour buses. The Talat Kaset Bus Terminal has two terminals, one for government busses, and one for minivans (departing more frequently).
Hat Yai Train Station -Hat Yai Rail Station is the southernmost Major Rail ‘Hub’, Depot, and Junction on Thai Railways Southern Line for both passenger and Freight trains. Hat Yai Rail Station is a large station with a large railyard and locomotive shed. Hat Yai Station is Thailand’s only International Train Station, being a Depot for both Thai Railways (SRT) and Malaysian Railways (Keretapi Tanah Melayu, KTM). Train Services Services inside Hat Yai Rail Station incude a ‘Left-Luggage Counter’, and an Advance Booking Office. The Hat Yai Train Station is centrally located for convenient transfer to Bus or Minivan Service. There are many Travel Agencies near the station, including one right across the street. When you arrive at Hat Yai Station in the morning, there are restaurants and food vendors in all of the streets surrounding the station.
Hat Yai – How To get to Hat Yai By Thai Railways
Take an Overnight Train on Thai Railways Southern Train Line from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station to Hat Yai Train Station. Hat Yai is the ‘Southern Hub’ for all trains going into / coming from Malaysia via Padang Besar, Malaysia. At Hat Yai Station, The Southern Line splits into two South-bound Branches. One goes Southeast via Songkla, Yala, Pattani to Sungai Kolok on the Thai / Malay Border. The other Branch goes Southwest to Padang Besar and destinations South into in Malaysia. There is a rail link at Sungai Kolok (last station on the Thai Railways Southeast Branch) across the Golok River to Rantau Panjang (in Malaysia), but there are no cross-border passenger train services there. Thailand Railways ‘International Express’ (Bangkok to Butterworth, Malaysia) and Malayan Railways ‘Senandung Langkawi’ (Hat Yai to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) both travel via Padang Besar (on the Thai/Malay Border). (See ‘Visa-Run’ Section and ‘International Train Service’ Section )
Trang Train Station – There are numerous Travel Agencies all around Trang Rail Station to help you plan the next part of your trip and encourage you to spend more money. Inside Trang Station, there is a ‘Left-Luggage Counter’, travel agencies, and an Advance-Booking Window.
Trang – Local Transfer Information
Trang is a ‘Mini-Hub’ for convenient and frequent bus / bus transfers, and less-convenient train / bus transfers. Long-distance rail service to/from Trang Station is not frequent, so you may find more convenient transfer times in Surat Thani or Hat Yai Rail Stations. But transfers are less-complicated in Trang than in Surat Thani, and bus / minivan service is well-organized. Check your train and bus timetables first, allowing for late arrivals. In Trang, there is frequent long-distance (Air-Conditioned) and local (Fan) bus service to Hat Yai, Satun, Ko Lanta, Krabi, Phuket, Surat Thani, and La-Ngu (by local bus / with songthaew transfer for Pak Bara and Ko Tarutao Islands / Ko Lipe ferry services). There is frequent Minivan Service to Hat Yai, Ko Lanta, and Surat Thani. Travel agencies near Trang Station can arrange travel to many other destinations.
Udon Thani Train Station – Udon Thani (Udon) began to boom in the 1960’s as a U.S. Air Base during the Vietnam War. After the war, tourists were few, until the discovery of the archaeological site at Ban Chiang (35 kilometers East) and the new bridge to Laos from nearby Nong Khai. Bus and Air Service to / from ‘Udon’ is faster and more convenient than Rail Service, but not as enjoyable and relaxing. Udon Thani and Nong Khai both have access to the same sights, however Udon Thani lacks the romantic appal of being on the Mekong River (Udon is right on a major highway). As a result, Udon Thani is less-touristed and more traditional than its neighbor. Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is about 1 1/2 hours away by bus, across the Mekong River. Services inside Udon Thani Rail Station include a ‘Left-Luggage Counter’ and an ‘Advance-Booking’ Office.