Thailand’s railway network has 4,070 km of passenger train track making it much larger than Cambodia’s network of 612 km of track. Thailand also operates a lot more train services. Thailand has over 400 functional locomotives compared to Cambodia’s 17.
Train Services in Thailand
Thailand has 5 major inter provincial train routes, all fanning out from Bangkok. Most, but not all, of the country is accessible by train making train travel a great way to tour Thailand. There are a wide variety of different types of train services in Thailand, many of which are extremely cheap to use with ticket prices strictly controlled by the Thai government making train travel an affordable option for lower income earners. Food and drink vendors often come onto trains in Thailand to sell their wares creating a market like atmosphere in train carriages which is one of the distinctive characteristics of travelling around by train, along with the professionalism and good humour of the employees of the State Railway of Thailand.
There are 6 basic seat types on trains in Thailand:
- 1st Class Sleeper Seats: Single or double sleeper berths in a separate compartment.
- 2nd Class A/C Sleeper Seats: Seats which transform into upper and lower bunks in shared carriages.
- 2nd Class A/C Seats: Comfortable seats in an air conditioned carriage.
- 2nd Class Fan Sleeper Seats: Like 2nd Class A/C Sleeper Seats but in a fan cooled carriage.
- 2nd Class Fan Seats: Comfortable seats in a fan cooled carriage.
- 3rd Class Seats: Bench style seats in a fan cooled carriage.
Ticket prices range from the equivalent of around $50 USD for long distance journeys in a 1st Class Sleeper Seat to around $3 USD for the same journey in a 3rd Class Seat.
Popular Train Journeys in Thailand
The most popular train journeys for tourists in Thailand are the long distance journeys on the Northern Line and the Southern Line, although there are some shorter distance services which are popular because of the scenery on route. Train travel in Thailand is only slightly cheaper than flying and often more expensive and slower than taking a bus. However, a major benefit of travelling by train in Thailand is the availability of sleeper berths which make it comfortable to travel overnight and arrive at the destination in the morning, giving tourists more time to enjoy where ever they are visiting and saving on the cost of a night in a hotel.
There are three routes in particular which are very popular with visitors to Thailand:
- Bangkok to Chiang Mai: An 11 and 14 hour journey from the capital city to the main city in the Northern Region of Thailand, Chiang Mai. This journey is best done in the day time because of the fantastic scenery on route.
- Bangkok to Surat Thani: Surat Thani is the connection point for ferry services to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, as well as the closest point to Krabi and Phuket you can reach on the Thai railway network. This 9 to 13 hour journey is best travelled overnight to coincide with onward connections the following morning to the islands or the West Coast of Thailand.
- Bangkok to Kanachanburi: A charming, but basic, train service lasting 2 hours 30 minutes and travelling through picturesque scenery to the town of Kanchanaburi, which is the location of the famous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’.