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Thailand forum

Help with trains

Posted by Sparts on 7/9/2011 at 02:18

I don't know why people find it so hard to work out train travel when abroad, but I appear to have fallen into the same trap :)

My plan was to travel from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi , spend a couple of days there before heading to Surat Thani (then Samui). They are all on the same line (albeit Kanchanaburi appears to be on a branch off the main south line).

So am I right in thinking I can do the following:
Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, Kanchanaburi to Nakhon Pathom , Nakhon Pathom to Surat Thani (overnight sleeper). Do I need to go to Nakhon Pathom to get the train to Surat Thani or does it somehow run through Kanchanaburi?

I have no experience using trains in Thailand and I'm at a loss to what the difference is between the different train types, Express etc as they all seem to take mreo or less the same time. Perhaps some are "nicer" than others?

Thanks as always :)

#1 Sparts has been a member since 5/6/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 167
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Posted by frasmc on 7/9/2011 at 03:06

The Man in Seat 61 has pretty comprehensive coverage of the train system in Thailand. I've found it very useful in the past.

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Posted by Tilapia on 7/9/2011 at 03:14

Hi Sparts,

Yes, you can do that. You're correct in that K-buri is on a different line, but it joins (or branches off) at Nakhon Pathom . So, having said that, you have to return to Nakhon Pathom from K-buri to get the train south to Surat.

Here's the timetable for southbound trains ...

I forget when you said you were going, but you should probably take care of your tickets when you arrive in Bangkok. You can do this at any railway station, so if you plan on taking the train to K-buri from Bangkok (Thonburi), you can sort out your tickets there (at the Thonburi station) when you are on your way to K-buri. I would not take a chance on going to Nakhon Pathom expecting to get a sleeper berth or two for the night when you plan on leaving.

You could also do this at the station in K-buri.

The old State Railway of Thailand website had a legend that explained what each train was that was leaving at certain times. For example, it said if it was an Express Train, Sleeper, 3rd. Class only, etc. You can tell from the schedule whether or not it's an express, and most trains leaving in the evening are going to have sleeper cars.

Travel agents will also book tickets for you for a service charge. I've found that they don't charge that much. Others may disagree. I've also booked in remote town/village stations where everything is done with carbon copy paper. No computers!!!

Train travel in Thailand is quite good and very convenient except for the fact that the trains don't go to very many places throughout the country. It's a great way of going long distances, though. They are inexpensive, pretty comfortable and fun, especially the NE line night train to Nong Khai and the eastbound line to Ubon Ratchathani.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,490
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Posted by exacto on 7/9/2011 at 08:36

As Tilapia says, you'll need to return to Nakhon Pathom from Kanachanaburi to catch the onward train to Surat Thani .

The train times don't seem all that different, but I do recall a slightly better quality of train and service the higher up the train schedule you claim. But more important than the train speed is the class of seat you've booked, and that second class overnight sleeper is the minimum I'd go for a long trip like the one to Surat Thani. The third class train will be fine for BKK to Kanachanaburi. Just remember that the train to Kanchanaburi starts at the Bangkok Noi Station in Thonburi, not terribly far from the Khao San Road area.

Also like Tilapia suggests, I'd book that Nakhon Pathom to Surat Thani berth as soon as you possibly can to make sure you get the date and time you want. And I've never thought that the service charge from the travel agents was all that much either considering the convenience. Have a great trip.

#4 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,626
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Posted by Sparts on 8/9/2011 at 01:42

Magic, thanks for the help - as always.
I was going to book online before I went anyway so that should take care of that - the missus has decreed that I can spend no more than 2 days in Kanchanaburi :) Spoil sport that she is!

#5 Sparts has been a member since 5/6/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 167
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Posted by exacto on 8/9/2011 at 02:34

since you are travelling with the missus, you might consider booking a first class sleeper compartment for the trip if they are available and within your budget. i like them because there is a small sink for washing up, a door that latches, lights that can be shut off when it is time to sleep, larger berths, more room for baggage, and the extra privacy and security that comes with all that. best of all, the aircon operates on those little nozzles just like on the airplane, so you can adjust the cabin temperature-sort of.

two days in kanchanaburi will be pretty good. you can still see and do a lot in that time. if you are into such things, remember that there are two allied cemeteries to visit. both are memorable and worthwhile, but the smaller one across the river gets fewer visitors and can be a much more personal experience. have fun.

#6 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,626
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Posted by Sparts on 12/9/2011 at 06:52

Ok, I'm very puzzled by all this.
If I go onto the Thai Rail website I cannot book tickets to Kanchanaburi . That is not an option. I then looked to book tickets to stations past Kanchanaburi but appear to have failed in that attempt also - again they are not an option.
Has anyone actually tried to book online for that particualr route? Feeling kinda foolish as this seems like such a noobish question, but I'm sure I won't be the first or last!

Ahh, or is it as simple as there is just no need to book for that route and so you can't?

#7 Sparts has been a member since 5/6/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 167
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Posted by Tilapia on 12/9/2011 at 08:02


I would say that unless you are planning on heading to Kanchanaburi on a Thai holiday weekend, there is absolutely no need to book in advance. And if you are going to be in the country several days before you head south, then I wouldn't worry about that, either. That is, unless you are going to be arriving and moving around during the Christmas and NY holidays. Then you may have some trouble getting a sleeping berth heading south. Just get your tickets sorted out as soon as possible after arriving.

I don't know anyone who has had success booking tickets in advance online. And I've never bothered. I see this changing in the future, though.

Also, should the unlikely scenario arise where you actually cannot get a sleeping berth on a night train south, then there is always the bus option. I don't recommend making the trip in one go, though. Bust it up with a stop or two along the way. There are some nice spots en route where you can break your journey.

#8 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,490
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Posted by exacto on 12/9/2011 at 10:43

The train to Kanachanaburi is a 3rd class only train, so no need to book ahead. Just buy a ticket and hop on and hope you get a seat.

If it were me, however, I would try to book ahead on the train down to Surat Thani, particularly if I needed to travel on a specific day. There are a few travel agents in the Khao San Road area that will do this for you via their website for a fairly modest fee. You can then pop in and pick up your tickets once you arrive. I used Charlie Connection for this the last time and it worked well.

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Posted by Nixxypie on 13/9/2011 at 00:05

Hi there. I just thought I'd share this with you in case you would consider a different route to Kanchanaburi depending on what you wanted to see... I paid 900 baht for a 2 day 1 night trip to Kanchanaburi which included minibus from Bangkok (took about 2 hours), war cemetry, Jeath War museum, bridge over the River Kwai, train ride over the bridge and along Death Railway (had to pay an extra 100 baht but it was so worth it) lunch which was one of the best meals I had in Thailand, elephant riding for about 15 minutes, bamboo rafting, overnight stay on a floating raft hotel - basic but lovely on the river, dinner, then the following day we went to Erwan National Park (extra 500 baht) and swam in the waterfalls in the morning before returning back to Bangkok. It was one of the best trips we did in Thailand and well worth the money, I would recommend it to everyone. And because transport is included it takes the hassle away from having to find buses, taxis, trains etc and especially when you're only limited to 2 days it means you can see almost everything. Hope this helps.

#10 Nixxypie has been a member since 27/4/2011. Posts: 55

Posted by Sparts on 15/9/2011 at 05:59

Thanks Nixxypie, thats certainly given me something to think about. Too late though as I have booked my train through to Surat Thani using and also my bus and ferry tickets. They were very efficient and are delivering my tickets to my hotel in Bangkok for me (no extra charge) . Lets see if they can follow it all through and get them to me now they have my money :)

We've also booked the first nights hotel in Bangkok (at an old favourite) and the first few nights in Samui, opting to book at a travelfish recommendation - Samui Honey on Choeng Mon. Stuart, I'd be interested to know if you've ever been back here? I'll let you know how I get on with it anyway. After a quick email exchange negotiating prices we got a pretty good deal I think, relative to those advertised anyway.
To me that is enough planning, we'll just leave the other 9 nights to chance.

Thanks for your help chaps. Really itching to go now, can't come soon enough!

#11 Sparts has been a member since 5/6/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 167
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