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Train


Thailand's Railway system offers a safe, comfortable and almost punctual transportation. Whenever possible we take the train, even it is slower than traveling by bus.
Bangkok is the central hub of State Railway of Thailand (SRT) for the whole country. There are four major routes from Bangkok: the northern line, the northeastern line, the eastern line and the southern line. From these main routes spur tracks branch off again. The Thai railway routes includes 4487 km.
The State Railway of Thailand is trying with better service offers to convince passengers to switch from bus to train travel. The new and comfortably equipped railcars, Express Diesel Railcars (short: EXP-DRC or Sprinter) which operate on the routes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Phitsanulok, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Surat Thani, are as fast as buses.

Furthermore the first and second class offers the same service as good air-con buses, namely reclining seats, blankets, video entertainment, food, drinks and board personnel that serves food and drinks. These trains are often fully booked, so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance. However, the shorter traveling time and the good service is shown in the ticket fare: a ticket for the EXP-DRC costs about 25 % more than a ticket for the Rapid Train.
The comfortable Special Express Trains (EXP. SP) operate on routes to the South and to the North. Two trains run once a day from Bangkok to Sungai Golok at the Malaysian border (about 22 hours traveling time) and to the border in Padang Besar (about 18 hours traveling time). From here you get a connection straight to Butterworth (about 5 hours). This train is also called International Express. Two luxurious and new trains operate between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (about 13 hours). They are equipped with first and second class wagons, air-conditioning or fan, sleeper. The train to Sungai Golok comprises third class as well.
There are ordinary Express Trains (EXP.), which operate on two routes: There is one train daily in both directions from Bangkok to Trang (about 14 hours traveling time) and to Nakhon Si Thammarat (about 15 hours). Another train goes once a day in both directions from Bangkok to Udon Thani (about 11 hours) and to Nong Khai (about 12 hours). They offer second and third class, sleeper and some second class carriages are equipped with air-conditioning.
Rapid Trains are rather old fashioned trains with second and third class wagons. They run several times a day from Bangkok to many destinations and back. The second class offers sleepers, a few have air-conditioning. The seats are uncomfortable, the food is reasonably priced.
Slow trains or Ordinary Trains (Ord.) stop in every village. They only have third class wagons, partial with wooden benches and during peak hours or at the weekend they usually are packed. They are not listed on the English timetable. Very often these trains are delayed, as they have to give way to other trains.
Diesel Railcars (DRC.) are very slow, they only operate to Kanchanaburi and Nam Tok (River Kwai), to Aranyaprathet at the Cambodian border and on shorter routes in the Northeast.
Fares and Supplements
Thailand's train system reflects a three-class society. The fare does not only influence the traveling comfort but the traveling time as well.
Supplements:
● Special Express Trains: 80 Baht
● Special Express 35, 36, 37, 38: 100 Baht
● Express Trains: 60 Baht
● Rapid Trains: 40 Baht
● Air-Conditioning, second/third class: about 50 to 80 Baht
● Sleeper upper/lower berth:
   Special Express Train, second class: 130 to 150 Baht/200 to 240 Baht
   Rapid Train, second class: 100 Baht/150 Baht
● Air-conditioning, second class, stewardess: about 100 to 130 Baht
● Air-conditioning, second class, Sleeper plus: 120 to 140 Baht
● First class, air-conditioning, per cabin for 2 people: 400 Baht, for 1 person: 300 Baht
The first class Night Trains offer a very comfortable journey corresponding with a rolling hotel. However, the 2-person cabin is slightly narrow, it consists of a bench for sitting, which can be converted into a upper and lower berth. It is equipped with a sink, air-conditioning and bed sheets. The window cannot be opened. In the morning coffee is sold by the service personnel.
In the second class the beds are pulled down at about 8 pm (about 1,85 m long), they have clean white bed sheets and they are separated by a curtain.

In Express Trains the lower (and more expensive ones) berth is 75 cm wide (the upper berth only 60 cm) and they offer enough space to sit upright. Furthermore the lower ones do not have the fan next to the head. In the older Rapid trains the seats are often worn out and therefore the lower berths are not really flat.
The seats of the second class without sleepers are badly upholstered – only recommended if no other options are available. The carriages offer a sufficient amount of sinks, sometimes they are  even equipped with a shower, but it is not always clean.
The food offered in the train is not especially recommended, the prices vary depending on the class of train.
The most reasonably priced dishes are served in the Rapid Train, the most expensive ones in the Special Express. The waiters hand out menus (in Express Trains: dinner for 120 to 150 Baht, breakfast for 75 Baht) and sometimes you can ask for a menu with less expensive dishes (starting from 25 Baht respectively 60 Baht). Board personnel serves drinks and snacks to the passengers during the day.

Only few trains have a restaurant wagon (early reservation recommended!). The food is normally served directly at your seat, which is equipped with a fold-out table. At many train stations simple curries or fried chicken with sticky rice are offered for little money. The sales people either stand next to the train or they enter inside.
Mobile traders sell drinks at day time. In many carriages large plastic bottles with drinking water are available. No smoking in all trains. The first class and some second class wagons have opaque windows and air-conditioning. In carriages with fan the windows are mostly opened – besides the draft you will get a dust layer as well!

Unfortunately the trains are pretty slow, however this is not a big matter when traveling at night. The advantage is all over the world the same: traveling by train is safer and more comfortable. Most trains offer motorcycle or bicycle transport.
Tickets
Tickets for Rapid and Express Trains can be bought up to 60 days before departure at the Advanced Booking Office in every train station. Travel agencies can arrange reservations for train tickets as well. Especially on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays trains tend to be fully booked. It is advisable to purchase the ticket as early as possible.
Visit Thailand Rail Pass
This Rail Pass for foreign tourists costs 1500 Baht (Pass A, plus supplements for Express Trains and sleeper) or 3000 Baht (Pass B, including sleeper and supplements). The Pass offers unlimited traveling during 20 days in second and third class trains. For 3 long distance journeys ??. Information at www.amazing-thailand.com/SRT.html and in the Advanced Booking Office in Bangkok's Train Station Hua Lamphong, phone 02-2247788.
The up-to-date train time tables for the most important trains in English language are presented in this website. You find them at each tourist destination in the chapter “travel arrangements”. Only very seldom they are available free of charge at the ticket office in train stations.
At www.railway.co.th/English/Time_PDF.asp you can download and print the train time tables as well.
It is recommended to book tickets for long journeys several days ahead. The night trains are quickly fully booked. This is very easy with the Thai computerized reservation system: all tickets are sold up to 60 days prior to departure in all large train stations. However, if you have to cancel your journey, only half of the ticket price is reimbursed.
You can order tickets for air-conditioned trains from your home country with Asia Discovery at www.asia-discovery.com (section Thailand: “Train Schedules and Fares”). The train tickets will be delivered to your hotel in Bangkok, if in downtown, free of charge, against prepayment and a service fee of 200 Baht for each ticket. Asia Discovery can also courier the train tickets to your home country by DHL at an additional fee depending upon the country of destination.
Dubious travel agencies have already reserved train tickets that did not exist (especially some travel agencies on Ko Samui are infamous for that)! If you want to be sure, it is recommended to buy the tickets early at the train station. It is better to always keep an eye on your luggage (especially your hand luggage), in order to protect from theft. You can easily secure your luggage with a round bicycle lock at the metal ladders and the baggage rack.
Joint-Tickets
On the routes Bangkok-Phuket-Bangkok, Bangkok-Krabi-Bangkok, Bangkok-Ko Tao-Bangkok and Bangkok-Ko Samui-Bangkok the SRT offers so-called joint tickets in co-operation with Songserm Travel Agency. They can be booked at Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Train Station and in several travel agencies. These joint-tickets include train, bus transfer and for Ko Samui and Ko Tao the Express Boat as well. This is a pretty comfortable option, also you will be sure not to miss your next connection.
Eastern & Oriental Express
A highlight for well-heeled railway fans is the Eastern & Oriental Express that travels between Bangkok and Singapore (1943 km), every two weeks or once a month in low season. The journey takes three days and two nights. Ticket fares start from US$ 2210, 126 passengers. The train stops among other places in Hua Hin, Surat Thani, Butterworth/Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

On the route from Bangkok to the South the train makes a detour across the bridge over the River Kwai in Nam Tok. There are additional departures on selected dates from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Passengers may also join the train in Kuala Lumpur and Butterworth.
The interior design of the carriages reflects the style of the twenties and thirties. This luxury train which was originally built in Japan for service in New Zealand was completely renovated in Singapore. The trains consists of 13 sleepers, two dining cars, one saloon car with bar and one observation car located at the very end of the train.
Reservation at www.orient-express.com

The International Express runs between Bangkok and Butterworth (Penang)

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