The one thing I worry about when I travel, is the transport system in that country. Well, I found the Thailand train system to be both reliable and comfortable.
Bangkok – Hualamphong Station (Krungthep)
Trains to Chiang Mai from Bangkok run all day from 8h30 with the last train leaving at 22h00. Trains leave from Bangkok’s main railway station, Hua Lamphong Train Station.
What to do while waiting for train
Arrive there a few hours earlier and take a walk to China Town. You can also get a massage or just sit and read a book.
There is a “Left luggage” storage facility at the train station. Charges vary from 50 baht to 100 baht per piece. They just look at your bag and decide on the price. The left luggage storage facility is at the opposite end of the station, as you head for the exit.
Where to buy tickets
Tickets for trains leaving the same or next day can be bought on the counters under the red/orange/green screens. For the Advance Booking Office, walk back towards the platforms from the main entrance, and you should see the ‘Advance Booking’ sign on the far right. Hualamphong’s Advance-Booking Office is quite well-organised. When you enter, take a numbered ticket from the machine and wait for your number to appear on the monitor. There may be a long line, so allow time to wait. There is a train plan posted, so you can select your own seat/berth when you book a ticket. You can pay by cash or by credit card. Reservations are computerised, and your ticket will have the train time and seat / berth number printed on it.
Unfortunately you can not buy tickets online direct from the railway services. We bought ours from 12go Asia, you pay online and then pick up your tickets on your day of travel. Their office is just outside the Train Station.
There are fast foods and convenience shops inside the train station where you can buy food. You are allowed to bring your own food on board or you can buy food from the train restaurants. There’s also platform vendors that sell every kind of food from spicy to sweet, from whisky to fruit juice.
Other services in the train station
There are ATMS, toilets, showers,
A tourist police box, left luggage storage and a tourist office. For assistance, talk to the staff, they are very friendly. Just speak slowly, clearly and avoid big words as most do not speak much English.
Avoid the many travel agencies outside the station buy the tickets inside the station or go to the tourist office for help. Also avoid the very professional looking ‘touts’ wearing who may offer to help you find a hotel.
Getting To Hualamphong
You can get to Hualamphong by local train (MRT subway), local bus, boat (Chao Phraya River Tax) or taxi. If you opt for the taxi (cab), ask the driver to turn on the meter. Sometimes the drivers refuse, if this happens, get their badge number and report them to station authorities. You can also use ‘Tuk-Tuks’ and Motorbike Taxi’s to get to/from the Station. Get to the train station at least 30 minutes before departure and just head over to the platforms and find your train. The trains are usually on time.
Choosing a train class
You have the option to choose either 1st or 2nd class. In 2nd class you can choose either the airconditioned sleeper, fan sleeper or seated with fan. I prefered the fan sleeper as the airconditioned sleeper got really cold for me at night. Try and avoid the seated as it’s a long journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Reasons to travel by train
First it is cheaper than flying, it is safer than using a bus, you get to sightsee (day trips at least), you save 1 night hotel money (for the overnight train) and it’s JUST fun.
What to wear
You can wear whatever you want really, shorts/long pants and t-shirt/vest/shirt and comfortable shoes.