As with most countries, public transport is the cheapest and the most exotic form of transport. It puts you right in the front of the locals and gives you good insight to their mannerisms and culture, albeit for a short duration. Thailand is no different and its excellent train system provides this lovely opportunity to you.
Below are random things that make up Thailand’s train experience:
1) Booking a ticket at Bangkok’s Hua Lumpong railway station is a breeze. The people are so inviting and helpful that you hardly notice the language problem. You will get all your ticketing work done within 20 minutes from the time you arrived at the railway station in a confused state.
2) Booking can also be made online at Thai Railways, though a small credit card fee will be charged. If your online tickets are booked, don’t get disillusioned. There might be some tickets left that you can go and book at the train station.
3) Thailand’s railways still work on the meter gauge system.
4) Following are the options for coaches: 1st class (AC coupe berths), 2nd class (ANS 40 – AC berths or ANS 36 – AC berths in old Japanese cars), 3rd class (seats) or AC Seaters. The price is highest in 1st class and ANS40. These two are also mostly booked by tourists.
5) The various trains are categorized as Rapid, Express and Special Express. Special Express are fully air conditioned seat only trains.
6) The railway stations are very clean and have lots of open spaces. May be it is due to the lack of crowds.
7) Each AC train compartment’s AC is powered by a separate diesel generator. This throws out its fumes to the railway platform, making it a bit unbearable. If you are environment friendly, then don’t take these AC berths.
8) Having come from a country where even the local trains run on broad gauges, the meter gauge of Thai’s train system comes as an interesting set of scenes. There are 2 parallel rows of seats facing each other with luggage boxes in the middle. The lower berth is slightly broader than the upper berth, which is why they command a slightly higher price.
9) The berths are not simple to setup. Instead, they are a combination of mechanisms that are fixed during sleeping hours by the train attendant. If you are in AC, the train attendant also fixes the bedding at night time.
10) Food and drinks are also available on the train, though they are pretty expensive. Quality is fairly alright, but the price at 4 times can be put off. I would recommend that you buy your food and drinks from either the 7-11s or any of the restaurants and shops close by.
11) The trains are pretty clean and so are the loos inside, though they are designed for smaller people. The interesting thing in the loo are the flushes that are operated by your feet. They have large size wash basins outside the loos.
12) There are security folks present all through the train. Therefore, the journey can be expected to be safe. All train compartments are inter-connected and each compartment has only one-way entrance.
13) These meter gauge trains roll quite a bit, vibrate and make a little bit of noise. If you cannot sleep in such conditions, carry an ear plug with you.
14) Finally, the trains are much slower than the bus and the AC berths cost much more than the bus fare, but then it is for the comfort and leg room that you are paying for. Personally, I would take the train because it reduces my night accommodation cost and second because, I am super cramped in Thailand’s buses.
You should definitely take a train in Thailand just to simply experience it. I am sure you won’t be disappointed. I definitely wasn’t. In fact, it is my most favored most of transport here in Thailand.
Look up the Thai Railways website if you want to know the trains between destinations, their schedule, the berth/seat options and the fare.