Thailand Travel Information

Travel Information

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All major lines originate in Bangkok at the central railway station of Hua Lamphong. The station is located on Rama 4 road, not far from China Town. Many buses go there as does the new Subway System (MRT), and most taxi drivers should know where it is.

Inside, above the ticket kiosks, are large Arrival and Departure displays, showing train number, destination, arrival time and platform number. Most booking staff speak English; there is also, to the left, a kiosk specially for tourists.

On the right hand side of the booking hall are advanced booking services and an information counter, where printed time-tables (in English) are readily available. In the station there are also coffee bars and restaurants, a cheap fast-food section and 7-11 convenience store.
On all platforms - probably on every platform in Thailand - independant vendors sell drinks, food, cigarettes, newspapers etc.

A few train services offer stops in Bangkok and the suburbs. There are two routes; one is Bangkok-Chachoengsao-Prachinburi; the other is Bangkok-Ayutthaya-Lopburi-Kaengkhoi. Fares are between 10 and 30 baht, depending on the distance and class. Advance tickets are available daily at all principal stations from 5.00 am to 11.00 p.m. or at the Bangkok Advance Booking Office at Hua Lampong Station from 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Trains come in a somewhat confusing variety of types: Ordinary, Rapid, Express and Special Express, with the additional feature that some are designated "Diesel Rail Cars" - where the seating section and the locomotive section are part of the same vehicle. Ordinary trains normally offer only third class seating, and seem to stop at every hamlet; the rest seem pretty much alike in journey time, and offer sometimes mainly second and third class seating and/or sleepers.

First Class
is available on many long distance services, with air-conditioned day and night compartments, each accommodating two persons. Every compartment has its own wash basin, though bathrooms are shared. Room service is available at most times.

Second Class

Second Class Sleeper
is available on most routes, and has upholstered seats which convert into bunks, one up, one down; some trains also offer a choice of air-con/non-air-con. The photograph on the right shows a typical second class seat with the upper bunk folded away.

For day-time travel, non-air-con is often a good choice, especially if you like to shoot photos out of the window, as some air-con carriage windows are re-reinforced non-opening, and after an hour or two, not very clean. Always try to get a seat away from the doors, especially for overnight travel as railway staff walk up and down constantly, as do passengers seeking the bathroom.

Third Class
is not too bad, but you are not guaranteed a seat (or upholstery on the seat), and the fans do not always work. In some carriages seats are upholstered and, if the train is not crowded (which they usually are) the trip can be quite pleasant; some trains, and most trains from Thonburi station, have wooden benches only. On the Eastern Line, third class travel is compulsory except for two trains a day to Chachoengsao, which offer 2nd class air-con.

Catching the right train
On the side of each carriage is the destination (e.g. Bangkok to Chiangmai), along with the carriage number. For second class and first class travel, seat and carriage are reserved and recorded on your ticket. For third class travel, it is often first come first served, and you might find yourself standing.

Sometimes platforms are changed at the last minute, so, if you are not sure that you have the correct train, show your ticket to the platform staff. Even if they cannot speak English, they will point you in the right direction.

Advance Booking is advisable especially for weekend or holiday-time travel. Tickets can be purchased upto 30 days in advance from the larger stations. Certain travel agents in Bangkok provide on-line booking services. This usually costs you an extra 50 Baht per ticket, but saves a trip to Hua Lamphong station.

Food is often included in the price for second class day-time travel, but is not always very palatable. Local vendors invade the non air-con carriages at stations, offering cold drinks (including beer), dried pork, fried noodles and other delights in styrofoam packs - date or time of preparation unknown.

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