The Kingdom of Thailand has a very good inter-province connecting railway system providing a cheap and comfortable way for Thai's and visitors alike to travel. The railway system connects with the Singapore line which runs along peninsular Malaysia. Chiang Mai is the principle northern city where the railway line finishes.
Trains connect with bus and boats to cover travel to Phuket, Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and other tropical islands of Thailand's coast. Japanese trains are mainly used. They are slower than their European or American counterparts. The 700 km, 9 hour road journey from Chiang Mai to Bangkok takes around 14 hours on most overnight trains. The comparative slow speed of the train can be viewed as a bonus for those who truly appreciate the slow rolling lush countryside, which takes them into the heartlands of Thailand. Thailand train travel is a good way to enjoy the natural scenery in a relaxed manner. If you like meeting local people and seeing how they travel then "go by train".
Thailand Train Classes
First Class contains one small private air-conditioned compartment for two persons. Each cabin includes a sink and a stow-away table. This class is available only on selected trains and tends to get booked out first. The compartment consists of two beds, one upper and one lower.
Second Class Fan or air-conditioned coaches are available in either seat or sleeper form with around 40 seats. Fan cooled sections tend to get a little hot at night and air-conditioning coaches are the more comfortable.
Third Class hard wooden bench seats suitable for only the more hardened traveller. Third class tickets are sold a few hours prior to departure. No pre-booking is possible in this class.
All classes of train have refreshment facilities and most have full catering cars with cooked meals at reasonable rates. At practically every station food vendors offer local delights from fried chicken to more exotic local delicacies.
Thaifocus train reservation system can make arrangements on 1st and 2nd class services only.
Overnight Train Sleepers
First class sleepers consist of two full size bunk beds. Second class sleepers are assembled from two facing seats to form the bottom or lower bunk. The upper bunk is a pulled down and unlocked when the beds are made up. All beds use fresh cotton sheets, pillows with cases and laundered, sealed, towel-like blankets.
Beds are set up by the train staff at around 9:00 pm and stored away again around 07:00 am. In both classes the beds are around 2m (6.5 ft) in length.
Luggage Allowance on Thai Trains
Bags are stored in 1st class passenger’s rooms. 2nd class coaches have racks beside the berths where luggage is placed. The State Railway of Thailand allowance is one large suitcase or similar and a carry on bag per passenger. Extra bags are generally not charged and the system is flexible, as staff are mainly very helpful. Bicycles and other large items can be taken on the goods carriage. Please contact us if you wish to take a large item that will not fit inside the compartments.
Safety on Trains
Travel police actively patrol every train and the incidents of robbery is extremely rare. State Railways of Thailand generally has a good safety record throughout the kingdom and the "train people" of Thailand are generally very professional about their given tasks. As with every form of public transport you should never leave valuables unattended. Bags are stored beside the seat in second class which is illuminated throughout the night.
Air-conditioned Express buses operate throughout Thailand providing access from cities and towns even to small towns and locations. Bus travel in Thailand, Bus travel is cheap but if you are on a long journey consider budget airlines or trains. You can travel all the way south to Trang area and travel to Satun to take the boat to Langkawi Island Malaysia.
Thailand has large air-conditioned buses, buses that are not air-conditioned and smaller minibuses that are air-conditioned. Make sure that you check the length of the journey and that there is aircon. Sometimes there will be an absolute bargain for a bus ticket. However the bus stops everywhere, is not air-conditioned and arrives two hours after the more expensive bus ticket which departed an hour later than your bus.
There is always a travel agency on every street corner in Thailand and so you can book your ticket with them. In fact you can arrange a combined bus and rail or even bus, rail and boat ticket. You will be issued with a receipt which is shown when changing transportation mode. Usually you will then be issued with more tickets along the route so that you can board each bus or train. Always keep that receipt.
There is a very good road network comprising many highways, designated by numbers, and 52,000km (32,300 miles) of national and provincial roads. All major roads are paved. Traffic drives on the left. Car hire is available in all main towns and cities from both international and local companies. Make sure insurance is included with the hire this is not offered as standard in Thailand. The minimum age for driving in Thailand is 21 years and the wearing of seat belts is compulsory. The speed limit is 60kph (35mph) in towns and cities and 90-100kph (52-60mph) on expressways and country roads. A national licence and International Driving Permit (IDP) are required. IDPs are valid for three months, after which a Thai driving licence is required.
When to Go
Thailand is vast and has many microclimates. In general Thailand's monsoons arrive around July and last into November (the 'rainy season'). From October the worst of the rainy season is usually over and whilst it still may rain there is usually ample sun to keep everybody happy. In fact many people prefer this time of year. From November to mid-February the rain has diminished and the temperature begins to rise into the mid 30’s followed by much higher temperatures from March to June which push close to 40 degrees.
The peak seasons for tourists are August, November, December, February and March, with secondary peak months in January and July. If your main objective is to avoid crowds and to take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, you should consider travelling during the least crowded months (April, May, June, September and October). On the other hand it's not difficult to leave the crowds behind, even during peak months. This is also the prime time for diving in terms of visibility and accessibility.