My time in the north of Thailand had come to an end. It was mostly laying around having a holiday, which is precisely what I wanted after a year of teaching English in Taiwan. However, in amongst the lazing I did get to experience New Years Eve in Old Town, and I went to an elephant sanctuary.
Now I’m in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and I chose to come here via sleeper train specifically so I could bring my motorbike with me and continue driving down to Phuket. Also to see what it was like!
This post will cover everything you need to know about getting a sleeper train, plus what I thought of it. At the end of the post is a quick guide.
When and how to book a sleeper train to Bangkok
If you’re in Chiang Mai you can either go to the station yourself and buy a ticket, or you can book one through the numerous tourist information places. I went to the station so I could ask about my bike.
The lady at the ticket counter spoke very good English. I told her the day I wanted to leave and she told me the prices and times the train left. I opted for 2nd class to save a bit of cash. The difference between first and second class is this: first class is double the price and you get a cabin to yourself.
If you travel 2nd class you get a choice between the top bunk and bottom bunk. I’d recommend the bottom bunk as the top one doesn’t have a window, and you need to climb up the little ladder every time you want to get in or out. Granted there’s only a few hours of sunlight when you’re on the train, but it’d probably be nice looking out the window laying on your bed while the sunlight lasted. I had the top bunk. The bottom bunk costs 200b ($6USD) more. My ticket cost 731b ($24USD) and it’s recommended to book a few days in advance to guarantee you a ticket.
What’s the sleeper train like?
This is very much luck of the draw. Some people are lucky enough to get one of the newer trains, other wind up with an older one. I think mine was middle of the road because it was clean enough, but a bit rough around the edges.
When I got on it’s just as you’d expect: it’s a train with seats facing each other in pairs. There’s little luggage racks next to the seats for your stuff. There were quite a few mosquitoes on the train, but as the train fills up they bother you less and less. My seat was big enough to sit on with my backpack next to me.
Is there food on the sleeper train?
Yes! You can choose from a simple menu of rice, chicken, French fries, curries etc. It was about 200b ($6.50USD) per meal, which is nearly triple the price of normal food, so I’d suggest bringing your own food and snacks. I bought take away fried rice, some chocolate, potato chips and bananas. I saved some bananas for breakfast as they don’t serve in the morning.
How does the sleeping work on the sleeper train?
The train left at 3.30pm and at about 6pm the staff came around and changed all the seats to beds. This was quite nice as it meant I could lay and stretch out, rather than sit awkwardly facing my fellow passenger. Each bunk had a little light, a curtain, a small pocket made of netting and all the bedding was clean, fresh and fine for the journey.
Once the beds had been made everyone disappeared into their bunks and drew the curtains, it was quite quiet.
What are the toilets like on a sleeper train?
They were fine, clean and with toilet paper. There was even a shower in it. Our train had a squat toilet that had a hole that lead straight to the tracks. As you’re relieving yourself you can see the train tracks whizzing past. I actually thought it was funny, to do a number 1 that was dispersed across about 300 meters. There’s two toilets in each cabin.
Does a sleeper train have a WIFI or internet signal?
There’s no WIFI. I did hear a rumor that the restaurant car has WIFI but I never checked it out, as I was in car 1 and the restaurant car was about 8 cars further down the train. The train passes through built up areas and through the middle of no where. My signal ranged from 4G, 3G to no signal. It really just depends where you are in the journey. There are small plug sockets on the outside of the seats that you can use for laptops and phones etc.
A pleasant journey
Some people hate the train, others love it. I thought it was cool, in fact the bed was comfier than some hotel beds I’ve slept in, plus was long enough for me to stretch out. It was quite cold on the train, they seem to blast the air con and as my bunk was top it’d flow through the roof vent straight onto my face, this would be another reason to get a bottom bunk.
The journey was pretty smooth too, no real jolting or bumping, and the cabin was relatively quiet. The lights are left on all night, so I used my shawl to cover my eyes and another as a scarf.
At 5am the staff came through and woke everyone up and folded the beds back up, so if you’re worrying about setting an alarm or missing your stop, that won’t happen. In Bangkok there are lots of taxis and bike taxis waiting to take you wherever you need to go. The train arrived at 5am, making a travel time of 14.5 hours.
Quick guide: sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok – 2nd class
Where to buy ticket: Chiang Mai train station or tourist info a couple of days in advanced.
Cost of ticket: 731b ($24USD) for a 2nd class ticket on the upper bunk.
WIFI or internet signal: No WIFI (maybe in restaurant cabin but didn’t check). Mixed signal ranging from none to 4G, depending where you are on the journey.
Power on the train: Yes, plug outlets on the outside of each seat.
Length of journey: 14.5 hours (leave Chiang Mai at 3.30pm, arrive Bangkok 6am the following day).
Sleeping: Bunk bed with fresh and clean linen, long enough to stretch out with privacy curtain and light.
What to bring: Food/snacks, jumper for the ice vortex air con.
Enjoy your journey! If you’d like to know more about Thailand please take a look at my Thailand page. How was your sleeper train experience? Leave a comment as I’d love to hear about it.