Here’s how how to book train tickets in Thailand. First, there’s lots of good news about trains in Thailand. Inspired by Big Brother China’s example, Thais are on a train binge. Last year the line from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was replaced with new trackbed, rail and ties. This month the new trains–imported from and financed by China–start running. Thai Railways spent 4 billion baht on 115 new Chinese-made carriages. Instead of standalone diesel-electric engines, the new trains will be pulled by powered cars, which are quieter and more environmentally friendly. The cars are equipped with security cameras and accessibility lifts to raise wheelchairs from the platform. Train staff will be outfitted in spiffy new uniforms.
In high season most seats are fully booked well in advance. Reservations are essential if you’re traveling to very popular destinations like Chiang Mai or Surat Thani (Southern Beach access) especially for Sleeper Service.
Reservations are also necessary during national holidays like Chinese New Year and Songkran, Festivals, weekend travel (Friday-Monday)
How to Book Train Tickets in Thailand
Make sure to book on the trains labeled Special Express. You can book and buy tickets in person at stations on the phone. Dial 1690 (within Thailand) or at the Advance Booking Office, Bangkok Station (Hua Lampong)
Tel. 0-2223-3762, 0-2224-7788, 0-2225-0300 Ext. 5100
International: + 66 2 223 3762
You can’t book tickets on the Thai State Railway website but, if you don’t know how to book train tickets in Thailand yourself,you can book through an agency. We recommend either Thailand Train Ticket or Asia Discovery for booking tickets, whether train or bus, in Thailand.
Fare from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is 881 baht (£18 or $25) to 1600 baht by day through the countryside on the air-conditioned express railcar. Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by sleeper is effectively faster than flying, far less hassle, far more environmentally friendly, more of a real Thai experience, and saves a hotel bill. Think you don’t see much from a night train? In fact, the scenery on the last third of the trip up into the mountains approaching Chiang Mai is particularly good from the sleeper, watching the sunrise from the train in the morning is wonderful. And of course, the sleeper train itself is the scenery, a real Thai train with a chance to meet Thai people.
Of the sleeper options, train 1 is faster so gets into Chiang Mai significantly earlier, but train 13 will show you more of the scenery approaching Chiang Mai in daylight. Train 13/14 has no 1st class 2-berth sleepers, only ex-Japanese 1st class single-berth sleepers & 2nd class sleepers.
IMPORTANT CHANGES FOR NOVEMBER, 2016: Train 1 & 2 will be discontinued from 11 November 2016 and replaced by new train 9 & 10 using brand-new Chinese-built high-quality sleeping-cars. The modern cars currently running in train 1 & 2 will be reassigned to train 13 & 14. The ex-Japanese cars currently running in train 13 & 14 will be reassigned to train 51 & 52. Make sure to ask for tickets on the new trains!!!
Train Seat Classes
1 = 1st class sleepers.
S = 2nd class sleepers (air-conditioned).
s = 2nd class sleepers (non-air-con).
2 = 2nd class seats.
R = Restaurant car.
3 = 3rd class seats.
DRC = Diesel Railcar express with 2nd class air-con seats, meals included, but no sleepers so not recommended for overnight journeys).
Bangkok Chiang Mai Train Schedule
More Railway News
Eurasia is going rail crazy. Construction has started in Moscow of a high speed rail line that will form the first Western leg of the Trans-Eurasian Express, and Beijing is building the first Eastern leg. There’s a long, long way to go yet but, happily, when it’s completed, you’ll be able to board a sleek new train in Chiang Mai and either head south, to Singapore, or north, to Kunming.
In Kunming you’ll change trains and either head north to Lhasa, Tibet, or east to Shanghai and Beijing. I was in Kunming recently (a 55-minute flight from Chiang Mai) to check out the just-completed Shanghai link and it’s really impressive. At 220 mph, it glides along in almost total silence and the huge windows let you see everything that’s going on. A much more engaging experience–and much cheaper–than flying.
Construction of the Laos high speed rail from Mohan in China to Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng and Nong Khai started six months ago and is expected to be completed in 2020.
The Thai government has finally worked out a deal with CRRC, the Chinese rail construction company and expects to sign the final agreement next month. They’ve been negotiating terms for two years, which is quite normal for big infrastructure projects like this one. The sticking point was how much land Thailand would lease to CRRC to develop around the new railway stations–instead of having to pay cash for the whole thing. But that’s been straightened out and the future beckons.