I’m still WAY behind on posts.
(I’m pretty sure I’ll be behind the entire time. This place is so inspiring I just want to write all the thing all the times.)
But while this is fresh in my head, I want to update you on getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train.
Once again, I relied heavily on Google and healthy dose of ‘fuckitall’ to just get out there and try find this stuff on my own.
I managed to get the best possible price and for the easiest way to travel.
I always start my research in blog posts, not travel reviews. They’re usually more how-to oriented. You just have to make sure they’re as current possible.
That site is incredible. It has everything you could possibly want to know:
- Train times & fares for popular routes
- General information for train travel in Thailand
- International trains & buses from Thailand
I know you all absolutely LOVE my writing, but I’m not going to rehash everything on that site. Seriously, I can’t say this enough; I’ll probably even say it again in this post, but that site is absolutely superb.
What I want to talk about is 1% of the details that are not on that site, which I think is on purpose so he doesn’t have to update every time one tiny thing changes.
Avoid Buying Your Train Ticket Online
As an American, you’ll be tempted to make it easy on yourself. You’ll follow some links you find online. You’ll find some websites that sell tickets to Chiang Mai, and you’ll think, “Cool! I can just buy online and use my credit card.”
The websites will pose as an official online ticketing source (until you read the fine print) and look very good and easy to use (for a reason — to get you to use them), but they are simply ticket agencies. More aptly named: online scalpers. I’m not even going to link to them here because I don’t want you to use them. There are only 2 or 3, but many sites will lead you there.
They buy blocks of tickets every day. Especially for the common and most sought after trains to Chiang Mai (#1 and #13). Once they sell their blocks, they will say that the train is sold out.
So then you may think you’re shit outta luck or resign to booking your intended trip several days later.
Not only are the trains not actually sold out, but the agencies will try take you for more than the tickets are worth.
For the 2nd Class Sleeper train to Chiang Mai (best, fastest, most popular):
- They will only sell you a ticket for a lower berth (bed), which is more expensive because it’s bigger than an upper bed. You’re not even guaranteed to get the lower once you actually show up to the station, so you may be paying more for a smaller bed.
- There’s a 200 baht service fee.
- Another hidden fee. — I’m not sure where it is, but the price I was quoted online was still more than the difference of what I actually paid in person plus the 200 baht fee.
The actual Thai Railways website is only in Thai and very confusing. I’m not sure you can even buy tickets directly online from them so don’t even bother. Take the extra 30 min. to an hour to buy your tickets in person at the Hua Lamphong train station.
Getting to Hua Lamphong Train Station
Getting to Hua Lamphong is going to be ridiculously easy, assuming you stayed at one of the three main destination areas —Phra Nakhon, Silom Road, or Sukhumvit Road.
Staying on Silom Road, it’s a very short walk to the Si Lom MRT (subway) station. Just two very short stops and 19 baht later, you’re standing directly in front of the ticket window.
If you’re staying in Phra Nakhon, you might just be able to walk there or take a tuk tuk. I’m guessing it’d be about 20-30 baht if you know how to bargain.
And lastly, if you decided to stay somewhere along Sukhumvit Road, you would simply take the BTS train system to the Sala Daeng BTS station, and then get on the MRT at the same Si Lom station I previously mentioned.
Buying at Hua Lamphong Train Station
Once you get off the MRT, follow the signs for the Hua Lamphong Station. Don’t worry, they’re in English and super easy to follow. You’ll emerge from underground and be greeted by tuk tuk drivers, cab drivers, and glorious street food vendors. But still you need to walk another 50 yards to enter the actual station.
No matter how prepared you are for buying your ticket (basically just knowing you want to go to Chiang Mai on the #1 or #13 train), I still suggest talking to a helpful stewardess. For one, the two that approached me were cute. For two, they’ll point you to the exact ticket window you need to go to once you explain you want #1 or #13 for Chiang Mai.
Ticket Cost from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
When I looked online, I was quoted 1,151 baht ($34.07). Still a pretty reasonable price when you consider you’re traveling 13 hours overnight with a bed, air conditioning, and food and drink options. But when I showed up in person, it was a much different story.
For all the same ammenities (it is the same train afterall), the lower berth was 881 baht and the upper berth (plenty big enough for a small dude like myself) was only 791 baht ($23.41).
You may think, “c’mon, bro, are you really freaking out over $10?”
In the U.S. $10 is probably worth the convenience, especially with our technological capabilities and being able to just show our phones with ticket confirmation at the check-in station. But in Thailand, you HAVE to have your printed ticket. So even though you buy online, you still have to go pick-up your paper ticket or risk having it mailed to you. (And there are no refunds and no re-issuing if it gets lost, stolen, or demolished.)
Also, $10 in the U.S. is basically worth nothing. But in Thailand, $10 is 338 baht. That’s about 2+ days worth of living expenses or one night in a hostel.
All in all, buying my train ticket to Chiang Mai cost 38 baht for my roundtrip MRT token, 791 baht for the train ticket, and about 45 minutes of my time.
If you just follow all the info here and all the info on the Thailand Train website, you’ll save yourself about 3 hours of research or potentially a long, somewhat frustrating conversation with a Thai person, asking for help and directions.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.