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Travelling on the Sleeper Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Are you one of those travellers that want to add a sleepover train experience to your list of travel experiences?
The romantic notion of train travel resides in many of us filled with wanderlust. From the tales of the Orient-Express to Trans-Siberian adventures, our travel wishes often included a train voyage of some kind.
Read on to get the full details about taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
I have attempted so many times to include train transportation in many itineraries to no avail. Even during my last visit to Australia, the fantasy of crossing this vast nation from Brisbane to Melbourne captivated me, but the exorbitant prices outweighed the experience by tons, to the tune of 3 times the cost of airfare! As it’s often the case, when one starts to compare the pros and cons and pricing of train fares to other available options, airfare and buses generally win with better time delays to the destination and, of course, better rates.
Time to explore the potential options to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train.
What you’ll get from this post
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Which Sleeper Train to Choose
By researching the Internet, SEAT 61 prevailed in providing the most valuable information about my locomotive travel aspirations. The infamous site is a treasure trove of detailed timetables, fares and route options, including the overnight Bangkok to Chiang Mai train. Pretty much a one-stop click for all you need to know information on train travel…to anywhere.
From the information obtained, it seemed a relatively easy process and the prices were quite affordable. Even though the fare was in the same price range as a flight to Chiang Mai, taking in consideration sleeping on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai saves one night of lodging, the 13-hour transit rides provides some fun and some out-of-the-box activity to the ”been there done that” list.
With that in mind, I started analyzing the options for routes and dates that would best fit into my travel schedule in Thailand. You can buy your tickets at the train station prior to your departure but being a pre-planner type, I wanted to book in advance to ensure decent sleeping arrangements for the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, this is Thailand after all and I didn’t want to just wing it and end up with 3rd or 4th class seats!
In-depth research revealed Train #9 as the best option.
This train was quoted as the best one to take because it uses the new high-quality built sleeping cars introduced in November 2016 and therefore sounded like the perfect choice. Click on the link above from the Bangkok Post (provided by Seat61) which gives great information about all the amenities per class plus a 2 min. audio detailing the services such as the diner car, the new kitchens and aircraft type restrooms.
The first-class offering features private cabins with air conditioning, a sink and a mirror, and second-class tickets on the overnight Bangkok to Chiang Mai train basically provides two seats that face each other, which are then converted into a top and bottom bunk bed with curtains for privacy.
Inside the new 2016 trains from Bangkok Post
Aircraft restrooms and communal sinks
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Book ahead… First-Class fills up quickly!
To my great dismay, the first-class berths of Train #9 were all sold-out for my potential dates, so second-class would have to do. The worries about sleeping arrangements were quickly put to rest after viewing this short video demonstrating the making of the beds.
Even though train #9 is much newer, this video still illustrates the same quick and efficient process.
How to book online your Bangkok to Chiang Mai train
Purchasing online with the recommended 12Go online service, my reservation for the train departing at 18:10 and arriving in Chiang Mai at 07:15 was done efficiently. No need to feel hesitant about purchasing train fares online from a local Thai service. The 12Go booking process was fairly easy and coherent with properly written English emails detailing how to go about each step of their process.
After selecting the route and other add-ons such as insurance, you receive an email confirming the booking and its inclusions. The email documentation clearly states that this is not a voucher and supplied you with a little map and directions to their office. As below, a picture was included for visual reference to find the tickets pickup location.
Two second-class tickets totalled 2354 Thai baht including insurance, roughly $70 US
12Go offices are located across the street from the train station you depart from and I strongly suggest that, given the choice, get your tickets the day before your departure. Picking them up an hour before boarding time as we did had not factor in the CRAZY Bangkok traffic. Overall, I can recommend 12Go services and wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them.
To this day, it still remains a mystery to us, how our Uber driver could have made any money with our fixed fare for a 45-minute route that covered the 4 km from Sathorn to the Hua Lamphong Station. (Get 5$ off your first Uber Ride with this link) .Adding to the being late situation, once we got the office, a few other travellers were in front of us but one particular foursome was holding up the line, they didn’t have the proper documentation with them. Mid-forty Canadians — go figure!
After picking up your tickets, you can cross ‘’under’’ the street in a tunnel to the train station, you’re finally on our way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in a sleeper train.
Cutting it short but finally getting to into our seats 20 minutes prior to the departure time, I was happy to have brought some snacks with me since we didn’t get a chance to scout out the vendors selling water and light meals at the station. The train was brand new and very clean and does have a diner car if you need a light meal.
Standard luggage and 2 Pacsafe Venture 25 GII backpacks – a must have for safe traveling – fit fine under the seats. Do plan for a change of clothes readily available in your carry-on with easy access to your toiletries. And of course, make sure to keep your valuables such as passports and money with you in bed.
Relaxing playing a few games of cards while neighbours, the same mid-forties Canadian couples from the ticket office were trying to remember how to play cribbage. Early in the evening, around 8-9pm, the staff came around and started the bunk conversion. Standing up for the 2-3 minutes it takes for them to convert your seats into berths, a seamless and remarkably smooth process.
Settling in with the curtains drawn up on the bottom berth, poured ourselves a nightcap from these smuggling rum runners (be careful, alcohol is technically not allowed onboard) comfortably watching a movie previously downloaded on our device.
Time flew by quickly, and before you knew it, nightclothes was on, teeth were brushed at the communal sink area and it was time for lights out. Sleeping relatively well, thanks to earplugs (never travel without them) woke up rested, ready to tackle Chiang Mai.
Good to Know Before you Book…
Upper bunk is narrower so its fare is a bit more economic (50-100 baht less.)
If you are couple, consider reserving the lower & upper berth of the same side of the train. That way, when they start converting the seats into bunks, fairly early in the evening, you can still share the bottom one as a lounger.
Book in the middle of the train car so you wont get as many disturbances from the restrooms and interconnecting doors.
Bring headphones so you can watch a movie on a device of your choice.
Thai Trains have ban alcohol consumption aboard since 2014 so if you want to indulge, consider rum runners and be discreet about it.
Have an early supper before boarding or bring snacks. The food option were very limited and overpriced on board
There are communal sinks outside the restrooms perfect for brushing your teeth 🙂
Be respectful of your neighbours and keep the noise down.
Don’t forget a head or reading lamp if you expect to do some reading.
Earplugs are a wise accessories to keep conveniently close by to insure a proper night sleep.
If you get cold easily make sure to have extra layer readily available in your pack, they do crank up the AC
Don’t wait too long to book, the good sleeper cars fill up quickly
Was the overnight Bangkok to Chiang Mai train a fun experience?
You bet it was. My only regret was not being able to enjoy the scenery or landscape of the route since traveling at night.
Would I do this again?
Absolutely! And I are looking forward to more opportunities of using trains as a mode of transportation during my next travels, wherever they may be.
Have you taken the overnight Bangkok to Chiang Mai train?
Please share your experiences, comments or questions below…
Please share your experiences, comments or questions below…