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Asia

OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM BANGKOK TO CHIANG MAI – how to get the cheapest tickets!

Taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, or vice versa – from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, is a really popular option for backpackers and people travelling around Thailand! It is certainly a memorable experience, however many websites and companies WILL overcharge you for the ticket! Read on to learn all you need to know about the Bangkok to Chiang Mai sleeper train, from the price of the tickets, to which cabin you should book, to when you should book your ticket!

What time is the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?

There are three main overnight sleeper trains you can take from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Depending on which train you take, the journey time can vary between 13 and 14 hours.

Sleeper Train Departure Times

  • Special Express sleeper train number 9: 

Departs Bangkok at 18:10 and arrives into Chiang Mai at 07:15.

  • Special Express sleeper train number 13:

Departs Bangkok at 19:35 and arrives into Chiang Mai at 08.40. Both these trains take 13 hours 5 minutes.

  • If you need a later departure, Express sleeper train number 51 departs Bangkok at 22:00 and arrives into Bangkok at 12:10 (14 hours 10 minutes).

The number 9 train (18:10 departure) is the most popular one to get as it is the most modern train and is a lot more comfortable.

Where does the sleeper train depart from in Bangkok?

The sleeper train departs from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station (click to see location on map). It is located on Rama IV Road and is also known as Bangkok Central Train Station.

You can get to Hua Lamphong Station on the MRT (metro) – take the Blue Line and get off at Hua Lamphong.

Alternatively take a grab taxi (download the app), which is Asia’s version of Uber. If coming by taxi, allow extra time as traffic can get very busy in Bangkok, especially as you will be travelling at rush hour.

What is the cheapest way to buy the overnight sleeper train ticket?

Buying the sleeper train ticket at the train station is ALWAYS a lot cheaper than purchasing it online (sometimes upto even half the price!). Going between these two cities by overnight train is a staple of almost every traveller’s Thailand itinerary. Therefore you need to buy the ticket a few days before you plan to travel as they do sell out!

So if you don’t have much time in Bangkok, or want to be sure to get on a specific train then you can buy your tickets online. 12GO ASIA is a good company to buy your tickets online.

overnight sleeper train Bangkok to Chiang mai Thailand

When should I book my tickets for the overnight train?

Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a very popular route and unlike other routes where you can just turn up at the station and buy a ticket for the same day, this route sells out in advance so you need to be organised.

As soon as you know the date you want to travel, book your tickets! If you’re already in Bangkok, go to the station and buy your tickets.  If you’re not in Bangkok you’ll need to book online, and the tickets sell out a lot quicker online than if you go to the train station, especially if you want to travel in First Class. You’ll often need to book your tickets around 1 month in advance when booking online, whereas at the station you can usually buy them several days in advance.

How to buy tickets at the station for the overnight sleeper train

Only buy the train tickets from the ticket booth!! Anyone coming up to you near the entrance of the train station offering to help you buy a ticket is trying to sell you fake tickets! Just ignore them and head for the ticket booth.

**Also remember to bring your passport as often they ask to see it when you are purchasing the ticket.**

How to book tickets online for the sleeper train

If you want to book tickets online for the overnight train, visit the 12 Go Asia website – a very reliable and trustworthy site for booking transport in Asia. As I mentioned earlier, tickets are more expensive when bought online as opposed to buying them at the train station, but it can offer you peace of mind that you will get the specific train on the date you want.

Tickets can even be bought several months in advance on 12GO ASIA. It doesn’t mean that you’ll get your tickets straight away though – 12GO ASIA can only confirm the tickets 90 days before the departure. This is the rule for all ticket resellers for train tickets in Thailand.

The tickets can be sent to your hotel or address (for an extra charge) or a train station of your choice (for free). 12GO ASIA’s office, where you will collect the tickets, is just opposite Hua Lamphong Railway Station – about 30 metres away from the entrance.

Their address in Bangkok is 318 DOB building, Mahapreuttharam, Bangrak, Bangkok, 10510 (on the first floor of the DOB Building).

You can also book from the official Thai Railways website, and it is quite a bit cheaper than the 12GO ASIA website, however it is a bit more fiddly to purchase the ticket.

Can you buy tickets on the day?

It is strongly advised to purchase the tickets at least a week beforehand if possible as they regularly sell out.

Which class should I take on the sleeper train?

There are 2 classes on the train: First Class and Second Class.

Within 2nd Class you have 3 options:

  • air con + bed (sleeper),
  • air con + a seat,
  • fan + bed (sleeper).

The air con + sleeper option is the only option in Second Class I recommend and it is what we took. The cabins with the fan get pretty hot, and you definitely don’t want to go all the way up to Chiang Mai on a seat.

There is also a third class, however this can only be purchased at the station, it cannot be purchased online beforehand.

How much does the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai cost?

If purchasing the tickets at the train station:

First class sleeper: around 1.500 Baht (approximately £40)

Second class a/c sleeper: around 900 Baht (approximately £23)

Second class a/c seat: 641 Baht (£16.50)

2nd class sleeper fan: 581 Baht (£15).

Fares may vary according to availability and season (November – February and July – August is peak season). Upper berth sleepers cost a little bit less than lower berth sleepers as they are a bit more spacious and have a window.

IF BOOKING ONLINE, TICKETS COST ON AVERAGE £12 MORE THAN PURCHASING THEM AT THE RAILWAY STATION. HOWEVER IT CAN EVEN SOMETIMES BE A LOT MORE THAN THIS. BUYING TICKETS AT THE RAILWAY STATION WILL ALWAYS BE CHEAPER.

What is First Class like on the overnight train?

In First Class you have a private cabin with a sink, wardrobe, power sockets and a TV.

Is the First Class cabin worth it? In my opinion, no. Second Class was perfectly comfortable, so if you want to save money, go for Second Class sleeper.

What is the Second Class cabin like on the overnight train?

In Second Class you share the cabin with other people – like a giant dormitory. The cabin has very narrow bunkbeds on either side, with the aisle going down the middle for people to walk down.

When you get into the Second Class sleeper berth though, the top bunks will be folded up so it will appear more spacious. An hour or so after the journey begins, a steward will come round and show you how to put the top bunk down and make your bed. They’ll provide you with the bedding – pillow and pillowcase, sheet and blanket and a mattress. All will be wrapped in up packaging so you know they are clean.

The bunks are pretty narrow but it is definitely possible to have a good night’s sleep! There are a couple of straps for the top bunk to ensure you don’t fall out in the night You also have a rack for your luggage and you can close your curtain so you have privacy. Plus there is wifi onboard, a charge point by your bed, a reading light and clothes hangers.

There are Western toilets and squat toilets on the train, and there is toilet paper available, however it is always handy to carry some tissues when travelling around just in case. Usually after the steward has come round and helped everyone with their bed, at around 9pm people start turning down for the night. Whilst this seems early, it is best to try and get to sleep as early as possible incase you have interrupted sleep – people snoring or the train stopping at some stations may wake you up. It is always better to go to sleep early and wake up early ready for the next day.

travelling around Thailand

What about food?

You can buy food onboard at the onboard shop and restaurant. Naturally, the options are a little limited and a little bit overpriced but still bearable if you have no other choice. The restaurant serves the usual Thai food, however no alcohol is served on the train.

Bear in mind the restaurant/food carriage is generally only open for the first couple of hours of the journey and the last hour of the journey as you are arriving into Chiang Mai. Therefore it is just best to bring food and snacks with you so you don’t get hungry if you’re awake during the night or if you are a fussy eater.

Is it worth it to take the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?

Taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, or vice-versa, is one of those must-do things when you are in Thailand. Of course taking the sleeper train is slower than taking a plane but it is a really fun and unique experience! Plus you save money as you don’t have to get a hotel for the night, and you’re saving time as you’re sleeping whilst you’re travelling.

Hopefully you’ll sleep through the night and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to start the day! Also the train is very affordable and the scenery on the journey is also incredibly stunning.

Alternative ways to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai

FLIGHT

If you are not keen on the long train journey, want to save time or tickets have sold out, it is worth checking prices of flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, as usually they are cheaper than the train! Often you can get flights for around $20 if you book in advance! I always use Skyscanner to find the best flight deals. *Bear in mind Bangkok has 2 airports and domestic flights usually depart from DMK, not BKK which is the international airport!*

BUS

You can also get the bus, which is a lot cheaper, but a lot more uncomfortable I imagine.

DAYTIME TRAIN

Whilst it is not ideal to spend a whole day travelling on a train, you can also take a daytime train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I don’t recommend it however, as you’ll waste a whole day, and quite frankly, you’ll be hot and bored as hell and wishing you were enjoying the sunshine outside. But it is an option if everything else fails. Again, buy tickets from the rail station or from 12GO ASIA.

The tickets are a lot cheaper than the overnight train, and you’ll find more Thai people travelling on the day trains than you would on the overnight trains. The train is even quicker too than the overnight train: train number 7 departs Bangkok at 08.30 and arrives into Chiang Mai at 19.30, taking only 11 hours.

What to pack in your hand luggage:

  • Bring food and snacks with you on the train
  • Pack layers as they whack the air-con on full blast so it gets pretty cold
  • Bring some entertainment – earphones, iPad, a book, Netflix downloaded etc.
  • Pack an Eyemask as the lights are on all night in Second Class (which can be extra annoying if you are on the top bunk!).

You can bring up to 60kg onto the train (one big and one small piece of luggage), so for backpackers and travellers it is perfect.

overnight sleeper train Bangkok to Chiang mai Thailand

Are my belongings safe on the sleeper train?

I have never heard of anyone who had any problems. You have a rack to put your luggage and they also give you a little net to store personal belongings. I advise you to keep anything really valuable very close to you when you are sleeping. For example, I have a very thin bumbag that I wear around my waist under my pyjamas that contains my passport, phone, cards and money.

Most people travelling on the train will be travellers like yourself, and the odd Thai business man. It is quite unlikely you will find many other Thai people as the sleeper train is a lot more expensive than the day train, so they often take the day trip instead.

If your luggage doesn’t fit on the luggage rack, you can leave it by your bed in the aisle. Just try and have a padlock or something on it so it is secure (or just bring all your valuables into your bed).

How long before the train departs should we get there?

Aim to be there no less than 30 minutes before the train departure time. Hua Lamphong is the main railway of Bangkok and as a result it is very big and very busy! There are also some stalls here to buy snacks if you need to stock up.

If you are picking up your train tickets (for example if you booked with 12GO ASIA, you’ll need to arrive about an hour before departure to ensure you don’t miss the train as the office can get quite busy.

Arriving at Chiang Mai Train Station

About an hour before the train pulls into Chiang Mai the conductor will make an announcement over the tannoy and a steward will come into each of the carriages to wake everyone up and give you time to pack your belongings before the train gets into Chiang Mai Railway Station.

They’ll also ask you to strip the beds and return the top bunk into the folded position.

Chiang Mai Railway Station is located just outside of the Old Town so you’ll need to get a taxi or tuk-tuk to your hotel. There will be plenty of tug-tuks and taxis waiting for you as you arrive and you can negotiate a ride for about 250-300 Baht.

What time is the overnight train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok?

Departs Chiang Mai:      Arrives Bangkok:

15:30.                                  05:25

17:00                                   06:15

18:00                                   06:50

If collecting tickets from the 12GO ASIA office in Chiang Mai, the address is: 10/ 4 Railway Road, Chiang Mai, 5000. The office is located about 60 metres from the station.

Looking for ideas for your Bangkok trip? Check out The Marble Temple in Bangkok!

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OVERNIGHT TRAIN FROM BANGKOK TO CHIANG MAI - how to get the cheapest tickets!

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