Transport for backpackers in Thailand is very easy, especially buses. They’re cheap and can be booked from pretty much anywhere at short notice. So it’s no surprise really that it took me a year between arriving in Thailand and taking my first train journey. I’ve still only ever only taken two now…
The first was back in November with my visiting non-traveller friends to Nong Khai, the border crossing for Laos. I decided that an overnight sleeper train would be a perfect introduction to South East Asia, we arrived 4 hours behind schedule, not exactly what they had in mind for their long planned summer holiday. My second was a month later when Kirsty and I decided to head overland to Malaysia, luckily this one went much smoother, even with the difficulty of a border crossing involved.
So what can you expect from a sleeper train in Thailand?
Firstly, unlike some of the other trains we’ve been on in Asia you actually get a decent seat for the journey. The bottom bed is usually folded up into two very large seats like armchairs, giving you plenty of room to relax without being forced to lay down right away or squeeze in amongst a dozen other people.
When you want to go to sleep, you don’t have to break your back turning them into a bed. Each carriage has its own attendant who will go around on request setting up both the upper and lower beds.
When exactly is bedtime though?
This seems to differ depending on the country, when we were in China it seemed a reasonable time was the moment the train set off, 6pm? Time for bed! Luckily it’s not quite that early in Thailand, but you will notice the attendant hanging around about 11pm trying to hint that really you should be quiet and head to bed!
Food and Drink?
If like me you’re not the best sleeper and these sort of occasions require a little ‘help’ do not despair. Waitresses? I guess that’s what they are, walk the carriages constantly offering water, beer, snacks and even full meals at pretty reasonable prices. I have nightmares about paying for a sandwich in an English train station but the prices aren’t too bad, inflated but not to crazy levels like back at home.
With all that beer you’re going to need a lovely bathroom. Well, they may be a far cry from lovely but at least they exist right? Both trains I’ve been on have had two toilets at the end of each carriage, one squat and one western style, although I wouldn’t suggest spending any reading time in there.
All bedding is provided and although the beds aren’t quite as nice as those in our luxury room on our first Chinese train they are nothing to complain about. My tip would be to get the bottom bunk for a few extra pennies as the two seats that create the bed are huge and give you almost twice the space as the upper bunk.
Don’t worry about waking up on time either as your destination is jotted down during ticket inspection and you’ll be woken up when your stop is near. Best not to chance it though hey?
Have you taken any trains in Thailand and had a different experience? Did we just get lucky?