Overnight trains are a favourite amongst backpackers when in Thailand. They are a cheap, safe and scenic way to travel. Many local Thai people use the overnight trains to travel so you know they have to be good!
Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your overnight train journey…
- Book in advance, I used the website 12go.asia to book our tickets. I went with 2nd class sleeper ticket as 3rd class is very uncomfortable and the sleepers are a comfortable option. These tickets do sell out so don’t leave it too late.
- Have a warm layer, the aircon on the trains is very effective so bring a jumper and a pashmina as well as long trousers and socks.
- Bring snacks and water, there are snacks as well as dinners for sale on the train but the prices are higher than average and the choice isn’t huge. The dinner offered is very good considering you are on a train.
- Be prepared, have a small toiletry bag with essentials (toothpaste, toothbrush, hand sanitiser, face wipe, tissues etc). The toilet facilities are as you would expect in a asian train. I find the asian toilet cleaner than the western toilet.
- Have a battery pack, some trains have sockets for charging electronics but these are usually snapped up quickly so bring your own to avoid disappointment.
- Bring an eyemask/earplugs, these little accessories take up very little space but make the sleep you manage to get so much better!
So the overnight trains I have taken in Thailand are: Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chumphon and Chumphon to Bangkok. The Chiang Mai train is more comfortable than the Chumphon train and you will get a much better sleep. The Chumphon train is very chilly and I found I was still cold even with all my layers, I also heard many of the other travellers complaining about the cold. The lights are turned on and off during the night and so will likely wake you if you manage to get some sleep. The train is overall noiser and less relaxing than the Chiang Mai train but it served a purpose and allowed us to get to the southern part of Thailand without the cost of flying.
The overnight trains are a major attraction for backpackers, they are excellent value, you save the cost of accommodation for that night, you can travel while you sleep so no need to waste a day in airports, and of course a brilliant place to meet other backpackers!
When you buy your train ticket you are allocated a seat and this is adhered to so first job when boarding is to find your seat. At this point I settle in, put my warm clothes on, wash my face, get everything I need out of my bag and pack away the rest.
Shortly after boarding a member of staff with come around selling snacks such as juice, crisps and fruit. After this another person will come around with the menu you can order dinner and breakfast from. Some times I brought a Pad Thai or spring rolls from the street market but usually I ordered from the menu. I never ordered breakfast as the train usually arrived early so just had a coffee and then went to my hostel/hotel to freshen up and then I would go explore and find breakfast.
After food was served a member of staff came around to make up the beds and take away trays. Each bed had a curtain, lamp and little storage net. Every passenger is also given a blanket and a pillow so a pretty good sleep is up for offer.
Usually at this point people settle into their beds and read or go on their phones so it gets quiet. Lights are switched off after a little while and the train is usually very quiet and people don’t talk during the night.
If you are getting off at any stop along the way the staff will wake you in time for you to gather your things and disembark the train. If you are getting the train to Chiang Mai and you have a bottom bunk then I suggest setting an alarm a little early and taking in the views as you come into Chiang Mai.