One of the best things in Thailand was not only staying in beautiful places but also moving around. After we discovered the beauty of train travel in Thailand, we traveled over 1.000 kilometers for 200 baht (5,8 USD). Using trains in Thailand is super simple but seems like not that many people know about it. This post will explain why trains in Thailand are so great and how to buy cheap train tickets. Don’t forget to watch the video at the end of the post!
When we came to Thailand, we also didn’t have any clue what is the best and cheapest way to travel in Thailand. Normally buses are the cheapest option but in the case of Thailand this is not true. Are you looking for a way to travel in Thailand on a low budget? The answer is train! (In case you are not up for hitchhiking which we also proved to work very well). The only bad thing is that you can’t go to every part of the country by train, like to Krabi, but the train network is still quite comprehensive.
Taking a train offers a great chance to travel with locals, see some countryside and eat cheap Thai food. This is something you won’t get in the tourist buses.
We wanted to travel from Bangkok to Hua Hin and the cheapest bus we found cost around 200 baht. But then we read on Wikitravel that there is also a train for 44 baht. 44 baht?! For a 5 hour trip! That’s only about one dollar. Unbelievably cheap.
So the next morning we went to the train station and bought tickets. And it was not a joke, the price was really that low. Later we traveled all the way to Chumphon and on the way back from Prachuap Khiri Khan to Bangkok and to the Cambodian border.
What is the secret for getting dirt-cheap tickets then? In Thailand, there are three train classes: the first, second and third class. The key is to travel in the third class. The price difference to the second class is quite notable so make sure to always tell at the ticket counter which class you want.
Why use trains in Thailand?
The most obvious reason is, of course, that train is the cheapest way to move around in Thailand. Besides that, taking a train offers a great chance to travel with locals, see some countryside and eat cheap Thai food. This is something you won’t get in the tourist buses.
Maybe the best part of the train travel is the food! You never need to be thirsty or hungry when you are on a Thai train. There are vendors walking back and forth on the train and selling cold drinks, fruit, snacks and noodle/rice dishes. Everything that we bought cost only 10-20 baht. Give a try at least for the noodles or rice wrapped in a white paper, sticky rice in a bamboo stick and sour sliced mango with chili salt.
It’s fun to observe the local people on the train and enjoy the changing landscapes: palm trees, pineapple fields and from time to time a blink of the ocean. Small villages and slums at the side of the rails. A smiling lady next to you offering a slice of her mango. That’s what the train travel in Thailand is made of!
Where to buy tickets and find the timetables
To get the cheapest train tickets in Thailand, buy the tickets directly at the train station. If you book via agents, they will probably charge extra and won’t maybe sell 3rd class tickets. The tickets can be purchased one hour before the journey at the station. Remember to mention third class when you buy the ticket.
We used the website railway.co.th to check the timetables in English but unfortunately it seems that the website has crashed for now. You can find the timetables also on www.train36.com. Note that in Thailand only ordinary and rapid trains have a third class. Express and special express trains only have the first and second class.
Example train trips and prices compared with buses:
Bangkok – Chiang Mai: 3rd class train 121 baht, bus 400-800 baht
Bangkok – Hua Hin: 3rd class train 44 baht, bus from 155 baht
Hua Hin – Prachuap Khiri Khan 3rd class train 19 baht, bus 100 baht
The cheapest train journey we had was 2 baht (0,06 USD) from Huai Sai Tai station to Hua Hin when we were visiting our friends. That’s just ridiculous! The trip only took about 10 minutes, but still. Even printing the ticket must cost more than 2 baht.
Is the third class comfortable?
It depends pretty much how high standards you have. If you are a budget backpacker who is ready to sacrifice some comfort in order to save money (like we do), this is a good option for you. The third class might sound like traveling in a cargo wagon but trust us, it’s not that bad! From our opinion, the third class offers a basic travel comfort and we were totally pleased with the trains!.
Sometimes the seats are soft and sometimes hard, depending on the train. There are fans in the wagons but mostly the ventilation works via the open windows. So yeah, it can get a bit sweaty but it’s not too bad. If you don’t travel more than five hours at once the heat is easy to handle. If you are planning to travel from Bangkok to Chumphon or Surat Thani, there are nice places to spend a night on the way, like Prachuap Khiri Khan and Bang Saphan.
The trains tend to be a bit late from the timetables so don’t make too tight schedule plans. Our trains were about half an hour late on average. Apart from that, a train doesn’t eventually take that much longer than a bus.
Sometimes the trains are also very full and it’s hard to get a seat. We never had to stand though and always found seats. Make sure to be on the platform on time, especially in Bangkok where the train routes start. This is the best way to secure a seat for yourself.
The toilets on the train are, well, basic train toilets but relatively clean. Sometimes there is even paper in the toilet which is quite rare in Thailand.
The train travel can be a bit dirty when the windows are open and something is being burned outside on the fields. A couple of times the air was filled with ash and we looked like we had been working on a field for a day. But hey, you can always take a shower afterwards. Many train stations offer showers at the price of the toilet fee (3-5 baht). At Bangkok train station you can take a shower for 10 baht.
We created a small video about our train travels. This is our first video we publish so please forgive us if it’s not perfect 😉 Remember to change the quality to 720.
Summarized, when traveling by train in Thailand, remember to ask for a third class ticket, be patient and enjoy experiencing Thailand like a local. Happy train travels!
Have you ever used trains in Thailand?