Trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and timetables

Tourists about to board a sleeper train in Chiang Mai

Tourists about to board a sleeper train in Chiang Mai

Travelling by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, or in reverse, is a popular budget means of getting between the cities. Slightly more expensive than the bus, and taking longer, the train is a much more comfortable means of travel, especially if you take an overnight sleeper.

The emergence of budget flights for 1,500 baht, or less, between Bangkok and Chiang Mai has taken the edge off train travel, but many prefer to see the country from the ground. Towards the end of 2009 the ageing rail network received plenty of negative publicity owing to a series of accidents and wildcat strikes by the union, poor public perception, mismanagement and lack of investment have put the brakes on modernising this increasingly sidelined service. Fewer travellers are using the train these days.

Invariably the train arrives in its own 'Thai time', which is usually up to an hour late. Food and drinks are freely available on board, served to your own seat, at a reasonable price (a meal and drink is less than 100 baht). However, there's no harm in picking up snacks beforehand on the station concourse.

There is adequate luggage storage and safety on the trains is, on the whole, pretty good. You are advised, however, to keep your valuables close at hand while sleeping. If your train isn't air-conditioned, it will at least have fans, but can nonetheless be quite warm. There are no individual compartments (except in first class); the bunks are lined length-ways along the carriage.

The beds are big and comfortable and if you take a bottom bunk, you can awake to the pretty mountain scenery as the train enters the highlands and traverses Doi Kuntan National Park and mountains between Lampang and Lamphun. The top bunk can be a challenge for the claustrophobic and difficult to climb into if you are slightly immobile. It can also be difficult to sleep due to nearby ceiling florescent lights, which remain on throughout the night. Beds are generally made up from 20:00 onwards and broken down about an hour before reaching your destination.

First class trains do have individual cabins, yet the 1,200 baht prices makes them poor value against the emergence of cheap air travel. Nonetheless, they are comfortable and private, can be locked and provide you with your own table, sink, and free drinking water. If you are travelling alone, however, there is no guarantee who you will be sharing with; luckily, people in Thailand are polite and friendly. You needn't worry about safety among fellow passengers.

During the busy season (November to February), or on weekends, tickets should be booked a couple of days in advance; otherwise we suggest you arrive at least an hour earlier than the second-last train, to avoid disappointment. There is a safe luggage storage facility at both stations, charging a minimal fee. With 24 hours notice a travel agent can arrange a ticket for you, saving you a trip to the station.

Although Chiang Mai train station has limited facilities, there are toilets, a comfortable concourse and food vendors. Bangkok train station has far more to offer, with plenty of waiting seats, a newsagent, supermarket, restaurants, bars, plenty of food vendors and even a KFC. Taxis or tuk-tuks are freely available at both; parking is short at Bangkok station.

Timetables published are correct as of: January 2013

All prices for second class

Chiang Mai to Bangkok train timetable

TrainDeparture/Arrival3rd Class Fare2nd Class Fare2nd Class Seat a/c Fare2nd Class Sleeper w/fan Fare2nd Class Sleeper w/aircon Fare 1st Class Sleeper w/aircon Fare
Rapid06.45/21.10231391
Sprinter08.45/20.25611
Express 14.50/05.30271431541Upper Berth 531/Lower Berth 581Upper Berth 751/Lower Berth 821
Special Express16.30/06.30Upper Berth 771/Lower Berth 841Upper Berth 1,253/Lower Berth 1,453
Special Express17.55/07.00Upper Berth 791/Lower Berth 881Upper Berth 1,253/Lower Berth 1,453
Sprinter21.00/9.10611
Local Diesel departs to Nakorn Sawan Only9.20/19.4585

Chiang Mai Railway Station: Charoen Muang road (east of the city, across the river), tel: (053) 244 795, (053) 242 094, (053) 245 364.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai train timetable

TrainDeparture/Arrival3rd Class Fare2nd Class Fare2nd Class Seat a/c Fare2nd Class Sleeper w/fan Fare2nd Class Sleeper w/aircon Fare 1st Class Sleeper w/aircon Fare
Sprinter Special Express 08.30/20.30--611---
Rapid 14.30/05.10231391-Upper Berth 491/Lower Berth 541--
Special Express Nakorn Ping 18.00/07.15----Upper Berth 791/ Lower Berth 881Upper Berth 1253/Lower Berth 1,453
Special Express Sprinter 19.20/7.40--611---
Special Express 19.35/9.45----Upper Berth 771/ Lower Berth 841Upper Berth 1253/Lower Berth 1,453
Express 22.00/12.45271431541Upper Berth 531/Lower Berth 581Upper Berth 751/Lower Berth 821-
Local Diesel (from Nakorn Sawan only) 05.00/14.4785-----

Hualampong Railway Station: Cnr Phra Ram IV Road / Kung Kasem Road, tel: Hotline: 1690, website: www.railway.co.th.

About the Author

Andrew Bond is a travel writer who has been living in Thailand and writing about the region for more than 10 years, contributing to numerous local magazines and major web travel brands. He travels around South East Asia by tuk-tuk, bicycle, cyclo, jeepney, taxi, moto, elephant or foot in search of new smells, sounds, sights, and atmosphere. Share your travel bits with him on Google +

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