I will be flying into Bangkok on 15 October and intend to go to Chiang Mai. I want to go as soon as possible but I have read that getting a train may take a few days if you don't book beforehand. Is this right or will I be able to go straight from the airport and catch a train to Chiang Mai?
#1 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107
You will almost definitely be able to get into 3rd. class. If you are taking an overnight train, bunks usually sell-out, but that time of year is not yet high season so you may be able to get a spot.
Go to the station after you arrive and see what's available. If there's nothing, then head to Morchit and hop on a bus.
Where will you be going after Chiang Mai ? If it is back towards Bangkok, then you could book a flight to Chiang Mai and try to catch the train on the the return trip.
Like Tilapia says, you will almost definitely be able to get into 3rd class, but I wouldn't recommend it, particularly on the overnight trip. Misery.
Check out the State Railway of Thailand website to see how the departure times from Bangkok match up with your flight arrival times. Be sure to allow time for clearing customs and immigration and the trip from the airport to the train station too.
Were you planning on the overnight train trip, or is the day trip (12-14 hours either way) okay too?
You could also try to book the train ahead of time using a Bangkok-based travel agent. Many of them will even mail the train tickets to you in your home country.
If you have never been to Bangkok before why not spend a few days in the city? This way you could get your train tickets in person or through a travel agency My recommendation is the overnight sleeper where you arrive in Chiang Mai early in the morning and have the whole day ahead of you. With the overnight sleeper train you also save paying for another night in a hotel.
I read a lot of travel forums from travelers who want to leave for "other cities" as soon as they get to Suvarnabhumi. Then the next question is usually "do I have enough time to make the next flight from Don Muang or will I be able to catch my train on time?" Why not relax a bit and see Bangkok then go to some other city? Bangkok is the capital city and worth a visit! (Choose a hotel near the Skytrain route so you can get around town easy and cheap. The Skytrain connects to the subway and the subway connects with the national train station.)
Same for the return to Suvarnabhumi "do I have enough time between flights to get to the right airport, will I have enough time to get to the airport if my train/bus/plane arrives at such and such a time?" Spend the last night in Bangkok and not worry about last minute connections breaking down and you miss your flight back home. A last night in Bangkok will give you some time for last minute shopping, perhaps a dinner cruise and set you up for an easy ride to the airport. Just a comment.
#4 sirhalberd has been a member since 30/12/2007. Posts: 295
Thanks for the tips and websites.
exacto - I am intending to do a bit of northern travel(Tham Lot, Soppong, Nan) after Chiang Mai and then return to Bangkok so that I can turn south to some beach like Ban Saphan Yai. I intend to take a bus to Nong Khai and should be able to catch a train from there. But nothing is really scripted and I may end up spending most of my time at places like Hua Hin, Trat, Koh Chang and maybe the other nearby islands of Ko Kut and Ko Maak. I have 6 weeks so I'll be able to play it by ear when I get there.
sir halberd - I hadn't thought about the skytrain. I had been to Bangkok in 1997 before it was built and the thing that put me off Bangkok was not that it was not worth seeing but that it was so hard to get from one place to the other.
I was intending to spend the last night in Bangkok, or maybe the last two. Or I could spend the 2nd-to-last day at somewhere close to Bangkok(Kanchanaburi) so that I could spend a final full day in Bangkok. Your tips of shopping and a dinner cruise sound a good bet. Hopefully I'll have a bit of money left so I can treat myself to one of the better dinner cruises and I can get myself a few shirts. The 5 I bought 11 years ago are still going strong but a few more wouldn't hurt.
#5 mic59 has been a member since 30/7/2008. Posts: 107