Travelling by train to and from Thailand

Many of us dream of hopping on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway at least once in our lives, but might not have the time or money – or mental preparation – to do so just yet. And with the world still getting used to travelling amid the pandemic, perhaps planning a smaller trip closer to home would be a better idea.

Thailand has loads of awesome railroad systems that allow passengers to enjoy breathtaking views while getting from region to region – with some trains even operating across countries. 

Here are 8 train rides to take in Thailand, most of which start from Bangkok.

Note: Bangkok Railway Station is regarded as the central station for all train routes, and it’s also known as Hua Lamphong Station.

– Within Thailand –

1. Bangkok to Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Sri Sanpetch
Image credit: @gera.kash

Being a former kingdom, Ayutthaya is a province rich in Thai history and culture. History buffs can look forward to seeing centuries-old ruins of temples and palaces that used to house royals in ancient times.

The iconic Buddha face in the tree at Wat Maha That
Image credit: @natsutrip_72

Just 1.5h from Bangkok, you can spend a day admiring the sights of this old city on a rental bike without the need to stay over – perfect for folks looking for a day trip near Bangkok.

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If you’re not travelling during a Thai holiday where reservations are wise, there’s no need to book a train ticket in advance. You can purchase a ticket at Hua Lamphong Train Station in BKK and hop on the soonest train out. The journey can take anywhere from 80-150 minutes, with views of the city transitioning into a more laid back scenery.

2. Bangkok to Kanchanaburi

If you’re thinking of a quick weekend vacation, Kanchanaburi is the place to visit – a beautiful city with a dark past. It takes around 4 hours to get here from Bangkok by train, which will take you over historic locations even before you get to your destination.

Wampo Viaduct is a part of the death railway, built along the River Kwai
Image credit: Thailand Tourism Directory

Dating back to World War II, many prisoners of war and labourers were forced to build a railroad network connecting Thailand to Myanmar, known as the Burma Railway. This includes the famous River Kwai bridge.

Hellfire Pass – where a lot of lives were lost
Image credit: @kaopanrahat

Around 12,000 people died during the construction of the tracks due to cruel living conditions and welfare. This is why it’s known to many as the Death Railway. If you have time, make sure to visit the Hellfire Pass – a former railway section – to learn more about the history of this location.

Kanchanaburi is home to Mon Bridge – the longest wooden bridge in Thailand and 2nd longest in the world

On weekends and holidays, Thai Railway has a special 1-day-ride: Bangkok – Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi route – Bangkok (from ฿120, ~USD3.80). This route passes main historic sites in the province, so keep your cameras on standby.

3. Pasak Jolasid Dam Railway in Lopburi

Image credit: Mthai

Operating since 2019, the Pasak Jolasid Dam railway in Lopburi has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the province. 

This railway is also known as ‘the floating railroad’ as it cuts through the vast body of the dam, giving its passengers an impression of floating above the water.

Image credit: @blackangelnoy

Luckily for passengers, the train will make a 30-minute stop on the dam, allowing people to get out of the train and snap some photos of the surrounding landscape. 

You can book a round-trip ticket (from ฿290, ~USD9.15) for this scenic ride from Bangkok to Pasak Jolasid Dam.

4. Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Image credit: สัญญาณไฟสี 3 ท่า 

Most of us are no strangers to Chiang Mai, which is easily one of the most popular travel destinations in Thailand. But if you’ve got time on your hands and want to experience getting here from a different perspective, jump on a train from Bangkok and make your way up north.

This trip will show you just how much the journey can be as fascinating as the destination. The BKK-CNX train route will take you through breathtaking natural sceneries like jungles and mountains as well as man-made attractions like a 130-year-old- tunnel in Lampang.

Image credit: Trueid

To make sure you get to see the views, we recommend booking a ride on train number 51. This overnight ride departs from Bangkok at 10pm. This means you’ll be able to see the northern countryside views as soon as dawn breaks and enjoy the golden hour views through your window.

Image credit: Fork The Road

Spanning anywhere between 11-16 hours, the journey to Chiang Mai is a long ride, so get some friends to join you and keep you company through the night.

5. Bangkok to Hua Hin

Grab a book and pack your sunscreen and shades. This 4-hour trip will take you from Bangkok to the beach city of Hua Hin, an ideal getaway destination for Bangkokians who want to get away from the city for a bit.

Once you arrive, you can take a 10-min stroll from Hua Hin railway station to the beach – doesn’t that sound awesome?

Phraya Nakhon Cave

Although known for being a seaside town, it also has other cool spots to explore away from the beach such as the iconic Phraya Nakhon Cave. Inside, you’ll find a mystical pavilion that awaits those who seek it. Those into hiking can add the trek here to their travel must-dos.

Image credit: Living Nomads

End your day at Cicada Night Market that’s full of food carts, live music, art performances and knick-knacks to bring home.

6. Bangkok to Samut Sakhon (Maha Chai)

Image credit: ปั่นเรื่อง เป็นภาพ

Take a short train ride from Bangkok to Maha Chai station in Samut Sakhon. The journey will take you through a secret green tunnel located right in the city’s territory. 

Since this is a local train line, you’ll need to get on a train at Wongwian Yai station, which is only a 10-minute walk from the BTS station with the same name. 

There’s a train going back and forth between the 2 stations around every 40 minutes each day until 7pm, so prior booking wouldn’t be necessary. 

Image credit: Read Me

The train will take you to Maha Chai fresh market, regarded by Thais as the biggest seafood hub. This is where you can find fresh seafood like shrimp and crab, as well as preserved products such as dried squid at fairly cheap prices. 

*Bonus* Steam locomotive routes from Bangkok

The diesel head has been replaced with a steam locomotive, but the cars remain the same
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Have you ever dreamed of travelling on a steam locomotive just like a Hogwarts student in Harry Potter? You can now get a change without needing to run through Platform 9¾.

This special train runs only 6 times a year on the following special occasions and is great for day trips out of BKK:

  • Father’s Day (5 Dec)
  • Mother’s Day (12 Aug)
  • Chulalongkorn Day (23 Oct)
  • King’s Birthday (28 Jul)
  • Queen’s Birthday (3 Jun)
  • Thai Railway Establishment Day (26 March) 

The great pagoda in Nakhon Pathom
Image credit: @varan.yu

Trips cost only  ฿250 (~USD7.9) per seat and include soft drinks and snacks on board. There are only three destinations on the roster, with all being historical provinces near Bangkok: Ayutthaya, Nakhon Pathom, and Chacheongsao.

Click here for more information.

– International Routes –

7. Hat Yai to Penang, Malaysia

Beautiful Hat Yai

Hat Yai, a hotspot among locals and tourists alike, is in southern Thailand and connected to Malaysia. This allows folks from both countries to travel back and forth by train with ease.

One of many iconic murals in Georgetown, Penang

From Hat Yai, take a train (฿50, ~USD1.60) to Padang Besar station in Malaysia. From there, jump on Malaysian KTM train (RM11.40, ~USD2.70) to Butterworth Station where you can catch a ferry to Penang, a town rich with heritage and hipster things to do.   

Check out our guide to Penang and Hat Yai for fun ideas on things to do!

8. Bangkok to Singapore 

Image credit: 2morrowexplorer

Travel in the luxuriously vintage Eastern & Oriental Express from Bangkok to Singapore (and vice versa), which will keep you comfortable as it brings you across 3 countries.

During this 3-night trip, the train will make short stops along beautiful locations such as the historic River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi and a lush rural village in Kuala Kangsar, Malaysia.

Image credit: @easternoriental

Throughout the journey, passengers will enjoy 24-hour steward services, continental breakfast in bread, a 3-course lunch with afternoon tea, 4-course dinners, and free house wines and beverages. Whoa.

The Stateroom
Image credit: @easternoriental

Enjoying such an experience comes at a staggering cost of $5,628, which comes with a cosy compartment with daytime seating that can be converted into beds at night, as well as an en-suite bathroom. Those really looking to indulge themselves can spend $8,025 for the more spacious Stateroom.

To make a booking, click here.

Tips for buying train tickets in Thailand

Apart from the Eastern & Oriental Express, which is a private train operator, all trains in Thailand are being run by the state. The most convenient way to book a seat is through online here, or you can also go to any nearby train stations to buy a ticket.

We’d recommend travelling on weekdays instead of the weekends or on public holidays so that you won’t have to deal with crowds and fully enjoy your journey with some peace and quiet.   

Photogenic train lines in Thailand

Is travelling by train time-consuming? Yes. But is it a waste of time? No. 

Taking the trip can allow us to really wind back and enjoy our surroundings – a testament to the journey being just as important as the destination.

Cover images adapted from (Clockwise from Top Left): Fork The Road, @easternoriental, 2morrowexplorer

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