Taking the sleeper train, or overnight train, in Thailand is an ideal way to travel long distances. It’s cheap, comfortable, and before you know it hundreds of miles have flown by while you’re sleeping. Plan on catching one? Then continue reading because we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Thai sleeper train!
Daytime vs. Nighttime Travel
Let’s be honest:
A long day of traveling in Thailand on a scorching hot day is not pleasant.
In fact, it may be an understatement looking back on those 14-hour trips squeezed in between sweaty locals.
There I sat, stuck on a sticky chair. Condemned to a stinking squat toilet without toilet paper. Wondering to myself how in heaven’s name I am going to survive the next 13.5 hours.
It’s uncomfortable, incredibly dull, and above all:
A waste of time.
Time is a scarce resource – because there is so much to see and do in Thailand!
Instead of sitting in a hot train, I could be lying on the beach with an ice-cold coconut or exploring an island on my motorbike.
But yes, traveling is necessary if you want to expand your horizons and see more of the country.
The solution? Traveling by Thai sleeper train!
Why traveling with the Thai sleeper train is ideal
Traveling overnight by train not only is a great experience, but it’s also very efficient. It saves you time plus an (expensive) hotel stay.
Hundreds of miles fly by while you are sleeping. If all goes well, you’ll wake up in the morning feeling well-rested and still have the entire day to explore your new surroundings.
And against all expectations, we also found the Thai sleeper trains to be quite comfortable.
As the world passes by you can lie down in a clean bed and snuggle underneath a blanket. You can close your curtain for privacy so no one can see that you are wide awake – reading your favorite book, listening to music, or picking your nose – if that’s your thing.
In the morning you’ll be awakened by the rising sun shining through your curtain. Magical!
What to expect
On the railway platform a conductor will guide you to your train, which you can board and look for your seat. You stow your luggage away and relax in your seat.
The other passengers are mostly Thai business travelers or tourists with an organized itinerary. You will not find a typical Thai in the sleeper train, as tickets are a lot more expensive than during the day.
As the train departs, a delegation of four or five conductors will come around and check your ticket.
You can grab a take away meal, purchased for 30-40 baht at the station, or try and find the restaurant car which is open until 10:00 PM. There you can choose a meal from the menu for 160-400 baht, such as curries, soup, fried vegetables with meat, vegetarian dishes, or seafood. It is not allowed to consume alcohol on the train.
You can also order meals in advance and eat in your seat – but of course it’s a lot more fun to dine in the restaurant car!
All trains are equipped with fairly clean toilets (squat and Western toilets with toilet paper) and washbasins with electrical outlets.
Each carriage has a dedicated steward who walks around at 8:00 PM to fold the chairs into a bunk beds and to make your bed.
Each bed comes with it’s own pillow and separate mattress with a clean sheet, blanket, and pillow case – which is removed from the packaging in front of you.
The bottom beds are the most comfortable, as they are more spacious and have their own window. The upper bed is a lot smaller and has no window. There are two hanging belts to prevent you from falling out of the bed at night.
Both beds have their own reading lamp, clothes hangers, and a net for storing your smaller possessions. At the bottom bed you can unfold the headrest and use it as a shelf for your hand luggage and other valuables. If that is not enough, there is more space at the bottom end of the bed to store your bag.
All of a sudden everything went quiet and all the curtains closed – we noticed this around 9:00 PM. We’re not sure of the reason why, but maybe it’s because drinking on board is not allowed…?
Unfortunately the lights are on all night, which is especially noticeable in an upper bed. An eye mask or bandana offers the best solution to this problem. Also the air conditioning will continue to run so it can get quite cold – so a pair of socks is recommended.
In the morning you are awakened by the steward (or other passengers who stumble past) about an hour before reaching your final destination.
The Sleeper Train: Bangkok – Chiang Mai
The most popular sleeper train runs between Bangkok (Hua Lamphong Railway Station) and Chiang Mai. In about 14 hours (depending on the type of train) you’ll travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai – or vice versa. You can board or disembark at the stops for Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Phitsanulok or Lamphun.
Departure and arrival times
Between Bangkok and Chiang Mai there are 3 different trains running every evening:
- Departure: 6:10 PM – Arrival: 08:15 AM
- Departure: 7:35 PM – Arrival: 09:55 AM
- Departure: 10:00 PM – Arrival: 1:05 PM
Chiang Mai – Bangkok
- Departure: 3:30 PM – Arrival: 05:25 AM
- Departure: 5:00 PM – Arrival: 06:15 AM
- Departure: 6:00 PM – Arrival: 06:50 AM
The schedule may be subject to change, so be sure to check the current departure schedule at Thai Railway Ticket before making any plans.
Update 2017: The new Sleeper Train!
Since 2017 there are brand new sleeper trains that run between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The sleeper train departs at 6:10 PM from Bangkok and at 6:00 PM from Chiang Mai, and is a lot more comfortable than the old night train.
If you want to travel on the new sleeper train, then you have to reserve tickets in advance via 12Go.Asia, as seats quickly sell out.
You pay about 1,100 baht for a second class train ticket (shared compartment) and 1,700 baht for a first class train ticket (private compartment).
Children up to 12 years are eligible for a discount, and children under the age of 3 years travel free of charge.
- Bangkok – Penang (Malaysia) – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – Singapore.
- Bangkok – Nong Khai (for Vientiane, Laos).
- Bangkok – Ubon Ratchathani (Isan/Eastern Thailand).
- Bangkok – Surat Thani – Trang – Hat Yai – Sungai Kolok (For Malaysia).
Buying tickets for the Thai sleeper train
There are several ways to purchase overnight train tickets. We recommend the following three methods:
1. At the train station
You can buy tickets for the Thai sleeper train at all major stations in Thailand. Ticket sales start from 60 days before departure, up until the day of departure itself; provided there are still tickets available.
You don’t have to buy your tickets at the departure station, for e.g. you can buy tickets from Bangkok to Surat Thani in Chiang Mai.
At the desk you must show your passport or a passport copy. Well, usually anyway; at some stations they are stricter than others – so take it along just to be sure.
2. Online via 12Go.Asia
The best site to order your train tickets online is 12Go.Asia.
At 12Go.Asia you can order your train tickets several months in advance, so you are not limited to the 60 day booking term. This is especially useful when traveling during the high season (November – February and July & August) so you can rest assured that your spot is secured.
While making the booking, you can see on 12Go.Asia how many seats and beds (or berths, as they call them) are available for each train. You can choose between first, second, and third class train tickets as well as the departure time.
When you proceed with the booking and payment process, it is clearly explained (and illustrated) what you can expect from your trip.
Costs & Payment
12Go.Asia charges 220 baht per ticket and some additional booking costs. The tickets can be paid via PayPal or credit card. For PayPal you pay a small surcharge of 3.4% + 11 baht.
It is not possible to print your own tickets. The tickets can be collected up to 60 minutes before departure at various locations. When collecting your tickets you must show the first page of your PDF voucher on your phone for e.g.
Opposite to Hua Lamphong Railway Station, on the first floor of the DOB Building (see address below). Collection is between 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM and is free of charge.
At the train stations luggage room. Collection is 24 hours a day and costs 150 baht extra.
- Chiang Mai:
Opposite to the train station at the Bossotel hotel reception. Collection is 24 hours a day and is free of charge.
- Surat Thani:
At the train station at the Parcels Office. Collection is 24 hours a day and is free of charge.
- Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok:
The collection location at Don Mueang is a bit vague – as we haven’t tried it. There should be a ticket window where the trains depart to the north. If you’re on a train going in another direction, take the taxi to Bang Sue or Hua Lamphong. Collection is between 09:00 AM – 8:30 PM and is free of charge.
318 DOB Building
+66 966 5819 27
Mon-Sun 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
If it is not possible to collect your tickets at any of the above locations, you can also arrange for them to be delivered. For delivery within Thailand, it costs an additional 100 baht, and an additional 1,500 baht for worldwide delivery. Remember to take the shipping time into account and to check with the hotel staff if they accept the delivery.
From February 2017 it is possible to order your train tickets online and receive it directly via email.
Although we have no experience with this new booking system, it does seem to be a good option. On the Thai Railway Ticket website you can quickly create an ID by clicking on the “Sign Up” button. You have to fill in a Thai phone number to continue the booking (international numbers are not accepted). If you don’t have one it’s a good idea to fill in the contact number of your hotel – or a fake one.
Next you can easily plan your train journey by choosing different routes, classes, chairs, and beds. You can secure up to four tickets per booking and pay by credit card. Once you receive your tickets by mail you are able to print them. Booking costs are between 20 – 40 baht per reservation.
Tickets can only be booked up to 60 days before departure on the website; which is a disadvantage compared to 12Go.Asia (where you can book up to one year in advance).
FAQ about sleeper trains in Thailand
When should I book tickets?
Although there are no guarantees, we recommend that you:
- Book at least 7 days before departure during high season (November-February and July & August).
- Book no later than 2 days before departure during the low season.
Which class do you recommend?
The sleeper trains in Thailand have first, second, and third class compartments.
Third class train tickets are not recommended for the sleeper train because there are no beds, only seats; so you will hardly get any sleep.
Second-class train tickets are suitable for backpackers or anyone traveling on a budget. You’ll have your own (clean!) bed and share the compartment with ± 20 other travelers.
First class train tickets are ideal for families or travelers who want luxury and privacy. You’ll have your own compartment with a sliding door that you can lock.
Which bed is best?
The lower bed is more comfortable because they are a bit wider, and you are less affected by the lights that stay on all night. In addition, you’ll have a private window, where you can see the sunrise in the morning.
In the center of the wagon you are less affected by people walking past, smelly toilets, and the noise of creaking interchanges.
And finally: choose beds across each other so that you can socialize during the journey!
What should I bring?
Store the following in your hand luggage to ensure that the train journey is as comfortable as possible:
- Warm sweater / vest
- Eye mask / bandana
- Take away meal from the station
- Fruit / snacks