Thailand has five major train lines with fan out from the capital city of Bangkok. 4 out of 5 of these train line start from Bangkok’s main train station Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal. Krung Thep Aphiwat Central Terminal is located in the north of Bangkok and is easily accessible by public transport via the adjacent MRT (metro) station.
There are five classes of seat type in Thailand: 1st Class, 2 Class A/C, 2nd Class fan, 3rd Class A/C and 3rd Class fan. For foreign visitors to Thailand we recommend booking 2nd Class A/C seats or sleeper berths. These inexpensive 2nd Class seats and sleeper berths are comfortable enough to allow you to get a good night’s sleep on longer journeys in Thailand.
Most Thai trains have a restaurant car although many passengers choose instead to buy food and snacks from vendors who board Thai trains when they stop at the station. Thai trains are sometimes delayed but the quality of the service is rapidly improving with new carriages having been introduced in 2016 and new railway track under construction. At the moment there are no international train services from Bangkok, except for a single daily train from Bangkok which crosses a short way over the border to connect with Malaysian train services and 2 daily train services from Nong Khai which travel over the border into Laos.
This is set to change in the future with plans in place to connect Thailand’s railway network with neighbouring ASEAN countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Malaysia and then onto Vietnam, China and Singapore over the next decade.
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Popular destinations in Thailand
You can travel by train from Bangkok to the most of the popular destinations in Thailand:
- Chiang Mai: The journey by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes between 11 and 14 hours depending upon which train you catch. Chiang Mai, Thailand’s 2nd city, is the furthest north you can travel by train in Thailand and the journey there passes the best scenery on Thailand’s train network with views changing from the vast flat expenses in the centre of the country through to mountains as the train winds its way northwards. From Chiang Mai traveller need to change to travel by road to reach popular destinations such as Chiang Rai and Pai.
- Nong Khai: Nong Khai is on the border with Laos, and this is the connection point for catching bus and taxi services onto the Laotian capital of Vientiane. The scenery on this 9 to 12 hour train journey from Bangkok is not as interesting as some of the other routes in Thailand and most travellers opt to take a sleeper train and arrive early in the morning for their onward journey to Laos.
- Surat Thani: Surat Thani is one of the most popular destinations on Thailand’s train network. The city of Surat Thani itself is not a major tourist destination, however, Surat Thani is the train station which connects with ferry services to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. There are 10 train services a day from Bangkok to Surat Thani and the journey takes 8 hours 40 minutes on the fastest train and over 12 hours on the slowest trains.
- Kanchanaburi: Only 2 hours 30 from Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is the location of the famous Bridge over the River Kwai built by prisoners of war during World War II. Kanchanaburi is also the connection point from the railway network to bus services to popular tourist attractions such as the Erawan National Park and the Srinakarind Dam.