Traveling by train in Thailand is one of the most popular ways to get around. Tickets on trains are cheap, and service is efficient (although a bit slow). It’s also a wonderful way to see authentic Thailand, and not just the tourist spots. Buying a train ticket for travel around Thailand is easy. Here’s how to do it.
Purchasing Tickets Online at State Railway of Thailand Website – Unfortunately, at this time, you cannot buy tickets online directly through the State Railway’s website. It’s a service they keep saying they are going to start but, in true Thai time (read, “it may happen, it may not”), it hasn’t happened yet. You can however check times and fares of all trains traveling around Thailand, and then book on another website set up by the State Railway, or at any train station.
To check fares and times, go to their homepage’s English version, and at the top of the page look under “60 Day Advanced Booking”. Choose your departure and arrival cities.Once you click “Check Timetable and Fares’, a new screen will pop up with times of every train (there are usually many) and fare choices, depending on if you want to travel First, Second or Third class, and which train you take (Rapid, Express or Special Express trains).
Once you know the price and train timetable, you can turn up at any train station in Thailand and buy the ticket at the ticket office, or late at night, on the train itself. Or you can book online at the other website the State Railway has set up (see E-Ticket System below).
State Railway of Thailand E-Ticket System – While the State Railway has set up a separate website for purchasing e-tickets online, be aware, it’s not reliable and it’s on again, off again, ie: sometimes you can buy tickets here, sometimes you can’t.
Plus, as it doesn’t cover the majority of train station destinations in Thailand, unless you’re going to main cities like Chiang Mai or Lamphun, it’s often a waste of time. If you do want to try it out, do so at your own risk. I recommend, however, using this as a last resort and getting a ticket elsewhere instead.
Online Agents – Many online agents in Thailand handle train tickets, which is an easy option if you want to make sure you get a ticket (good for popular routes like Chiang Mai) and don’t want to trek to the train station in Bangkok a couple of days before to buy a ticket. Be aware however, online agents add a fee, which is usually 200-300 baht ($6.75-$10). Steep, considering the ticket itself often costs less than $10.
Thai Focus is an example of an online agent you can purchase tickets through. Although I’m not giving a personal recommendation, I have not booked through them, as I buy tickets at Hua Lamphong Railway Station.
Buying Tickets at the Train Station – The easiest, and cheapest, way to buy a train ticket in Thailand is to show up at the train station. If in Bangkok, I recommend taking the journey to Hua Lamphong train station and buying a ticket there. The station is gorgeous (1920s-style Art Deco) and there are many restaurants and cafes, where you can grab a meal or coffee while waiting for your train. It’s easy to get to as well via Bangkok’s MRT underground train, for a fare of around $1.
Otherwise, any train station in Thailand will sell you a ticket when you show up at the ticket office and, if you have questions, at least in major towns, ticket officers know enough English to be able to answer you. They’ll usually give you the best information on train times, journey times, fastest trains etc.
State Railway of Thailand Website to Check Fares and Timetables
State Railway of Thailand E-Ticket System
Book Train Online – ThaiFocus.com