The family decided to experience backpacking across Thailand last summer. Part of the experience is to travel cheaply, which means long hours in the train. As we reminisce the moments, we also come across some inside information and tips that we would like to share with you. Here are some of them.
Thailand’s sleeper trains
Train travel in Thailand is a class on its own. Thailand railways provide 3 types of sleeper trains – the reclining seat, the second class sleepers and the first class cabins. The second class sleepers is the most popular among foreign backpackers, as they will bring you to various faraway locations in the country for about 750 to 1000 THB (around 25 to 30 USD). You also get to save one night from your hotel (or hostel) cost as you spend the night travelling/sleeping in your assigned bunk bed. Two kinds of second class sleepers can be found in Thai railways: one type converts into seats facing each other during the day, while the other one is comprised of 4 bunk beds clustered in a single cabin with its own door for privacy. I think all of these trains came from Japan, as we could see Japanese signs in different areas. Trains having second class sleepers also have a car/coach that functions as a restaurant, just in case you feel the need to have a quick dinner, or even breakfast before you get off. Alternatively, there are locals that roam around selling snacks and other local delicacies.
If you want a cheaper alternative and do not mind not having to lie down throughout the duration of your night trip, you can try the reclining seat class. For about 450 THB, you can reach Surat Thani from Hualamphong Station and then catch a bus going to Phuket. It may not be the most comfortable and peaceful way to spend the night, but sometimes, the experience of having gone through it is more important in terms of collecting memories of your travels, so what the heck?!
On the other hand, if you don’t mind shelling a few more Thailand Bahts, you can try the first class cabins. I haven’t tried it in Thailand, but if it is similar to its European counterpart, then you get your own cabin for the night, including basic amenities for toilet and bath. And I think it will not be too costly, as you are, afterall, in Thailand.
Some tips that we could share when you do finally decide to try one of these sleeper trains are as follows:
(1) When choosing your seat/bed, particularly for second class sleepers, choose one that’s in the middle of the car/coach, as the ones in front (and sometimes back) tend to catch the stinky smell of the toilet and wash area (which you don’t want to experience, especially if it’s sleeping time);
(2) Bring your food with you from outside, as like airplanes, the cost of food/meal tends to skyrocket inside the train;
(3) Be prepared for long hours of travelling, and if you’re travelling with young kids, bring with you something that they could enjoy to pass the long hours inside the train. For us, we probably have tried all sorts of games we enjoyed when we’re still kids, and shared them with our children. This did not only allow us to pass time, it gave us another comfort knowing that we really had quality time “bonding” with our children. Pocketbooks also helped, as well as iPhones and iPads. It’s also comforting to realize that electric sockets are available for charging our gadgets while still on the train.
(4) Make sure to have light jackets with you as it tends to get very cold during sleeping hours.
(5) If you don’t mind getting up early, taking photos of sunrise from inside the fast moving train is also an experience that, I believe, one should have.
The main railway station in Bangkok is Hualamphong Station (MRT Hualmphong). From here, you can go to possibly all areas of the country. Of course, some of them require you to combine your train travel with bus travel (such as the case of going to Phuket). Nonetheless, you can visit Hualamphong Station and buy your train tickets either during the day of your travel, or several days and even weeks ahead.
After arriving at the station, your best bet is to inquire first at the Information Counter, located at the right side of the station near the ticket counters. From here, you can ask what you need to know regarding your destination, train timings, etc. They sometimes buy the tickets for you as well. Be sure to have enough Thai Baht with you, as the ticket counters do not accept foreign currencies.
Once you have your tickets, you can pass time at any of the food kiosks inside the station while waiting for your train (if your travel date is the same when you purchase your tickets). There is also a KFC just outside the main entrance to the station. If you have plenty of time to spare and want to go back to the city, there’s a luggage (backpack) storage at the left corner of the station near the main entrance which will happily store your luggage for several hours for a very nominal fee (I think around 40 – 50 THB).
Well, I think these tips and inside information would help you to have a better experience riding Thailand’s trains. If you have other helpful tips, just kindly put them in the comments so that others could benefit from them.
teachers for most of the last 15 years... into educational technology, e-learning and quality assurance. builds scale models of cars and robots, and experiments in photography in spare time. loves to travel and explore new places with family.
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