With slightly over 4,000 km of passenger railway track, Thailand’s railway network is only slightly smaller than Myanmar’s which has around 5,400 km of track. On the whole, train services in Thailand are faster and the carriages better quality than those in Myanmar.
About Thailand Trains
Thailand has five major intercity train lines, and many more suburban railway lines particularly in the Bangkok area. The longest train line in Thailand is the Southern Line which runs from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok in the far south of the country near the border with Malaysia. The Southern Line passes through many popular destinations such as Hua Hin and Chumphon, where passenger can connect with ferry services to Koh Tao which is the main scuba diving centre in Thailand. The next longest train line is Thailand is the Northern Line which connects Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The third longest railway line in Thailand is the Northern Eastern Line which has two branches, one running northward to Nong Khai, on the border with Laos, and the other eastward terminating in Ubon Ratchathani.
The other two intercity lines run to Kanchanaburi and Nam Tok in the West of Thailand, and to Pattaya and Aranyaprathet in the East of the country near the border with Cambodia. Express trains and sleeper train operate only operate on the three longest intercity lines. Train services on other lines tend to to be more similar to standard trains in Myanmar with fan cooled carriages in fairly slow moving older trains. Tickets for the most basic seat types in Thailand, which are in 3rd Class fan cooled carriages, cost the equivalent of around $1 to $3 USD depending on the length of the journey. Tickets for 1st class sleepers berths in Thailand cost the equivalent of $40 to $60 USD per person, again depending on the length of journey and also the type of train.
Popular Train Journeys in Thailand
Train travel is a popular option for tourists in Thailand, and local travellers with limited incomes. Middle and higher income earners in Thailand tend to prefer to take low cost flight or bus services as they are quicker than travel by train and often cost about about the same amount as a 2nd or 1st Class train ticket. What makes train travel popular with tourists is the views you get from the train and the option of travelling overnight in a sleeper berth which allows passengers save on the cost of a night in a hotel and arrive early in the morning at their destination.
Of the many train journeys you can take in Thailand, the three most popular journeys are:
- Bangkok to Chiang Mai: An 11 to 14 hour journey first across the flat central region of the country and then through more spectacular scenery of hill, forests and lakes.
- Bangkok to Surat Thani: A journey of 9 to 12 hours which takes passenger to the Southern Province of Surat Thani where they can either board ferry services to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, or travel by road westward to popular destinations such as Phuket and Koh Phi Phi.
- Bangkok to Kanchanaburi: To Kanachanaburi itself the journey takes about 2 hours 30 minutes which the option of staying on the train and passing over the famous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, built by prisoners of war during World War II. The journey to Kanchanaburi is very pleasant passing through a largely rural landscape.
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