Thailand boasts a remarkably diverse rail network, offering travellers the opportunity to admire breathtaking panoramas as they move from region to region, with some trains even crossing borders. The many picturesque routes criss-crossing the country are your ticket to enjoying the natural beauty and unique essence of each region.
Discover the range of rail panoramas in Thailand, the most enchanting train journeys you need to experience at least once, and the essential information you need to know before you set off.
Thailand trains map
Thailand has an extensive rail network comprising four main lines, as illustrated on the map below. The main rail hub is undoubtedly Bangkok, Thailand’s largest city and capital.
From Bangkok, you can travel by train on Thai Railways to the north, north-east, east or south of Thailand. In addition, Bangkok is home to an urban train line that is renowned for its market across the tracks.
When you look at the rail map of Thailand, you’ll notice that most parts of the country are accessible by train, with the exception of the northern region above Chiang Mai, as well as parts of the Andaman coast, such as Phuket and Krabi.
Although Pattaya is connected to the rail network, rail services to the east are generally slow. Most holidaymakers in Thailand opt for road travel if they are heading for Pattaya, Koh Chang or Chanthaburi.
The most scenic train journeys in Thailand
Mae Klong Railway Market
An unforgettable train journey in Thailand will take you on a 70km rail journey from Bangkok to Maeklong. Known in Thai as ‘Talad Rom Hoop’ (Folding Umbrella Market), the excursion to Mae Klong Railway Market from Bangkok is a popular day trip experience.
What makes this trip even more fascinating is that the railway line literally runs through the heart of a world-famous market. The wheels of the train pass just centimetres from the stalls artistically adorned with fresh fruit and vegetables, which are spread out along the edges of the track.
With the quiet rhythm of the trains approaching the market, the stallholders raise their awnings and fold up their umbrellas, lowering them again once the train has safely passed. This astonishing scene is repeated eight times a day.
You can choose to reach this place by road, car or taxi, or prefer the charm of the train. The rail adventure consists of two distinct stages, separated by a short ferry trip. Your journey to this authentic market begins on local trains departing from Wongwian Yai station on Bangkok’s BTS line. These trains will take you to Samut Sakhon also known locally as Mahachai.
From here, a pleasant stroll through a fresh produce market takes you to the harbour, where a short ferry ride will take you to Ban Laem. From here, another short train ride will take you to Samut Songkhram, the end point of this journey, and the fascinating Talad Rom Hoop. Please note that tickets are not available online or in advance; they must be purchased in person at the station on the day of your journey.
Travel by steam train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
For a real step back in time, board the historic steam train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. In fact, there are around half a dozen opportunities each year to experience steam train travel in Thailand, to various destinations close to Bangkok.
However, the journey to Ayutthaya is undoubtedly the most popular. This journey will take you straight back to the colonial era, with its authentic steam locomotives and vintage carriages. You’ll pass picturesque panoramas before finally reaching the splendid ancient city of Ayutthaya.
Steam train journeys to Ayutthaya are usually offered on specific dates: 26 March (commemorating the opening of the first public railway), 28 July (in honour of King Rama X’s birthday) and 23 October (marking the death of King Rama V).
As with other excursions, tickets go on sale 30 days in advance, but their popularity means that they are coveted and sell out quickly. The steam trains use old third-class carriages with windows that can easily be rolled down. A total immersion in the atmosphere of a bygone era awaits you.
Death Railway Kanchanaburi
One of the most moving and historically rich train journeys is along the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi. This railway winds through lush jungle and rock formations.
The remains of this line are a reminder of its role during the Second World War, stretching 415 km along the Thai-Burmese border through dense jungle and rock faces. Today’s site, 130 km of track remain, creating a picturesque route of unsettling beauty.
Seventeen stops punctuate the crossing of these rocky cliffs, with the famous Tham Krasae station offering panoramic views of the surrounding hills thanks to its picturesque path winding through a bamboo forest. The Bridge over the River Kwai has become the very emblem of Kanchanaburi.
Nestling in the heart of the city, this cast-iron bridge over the River Kwai is designed for tourists, offering panoramic views from both sides of the tracks. It is world-famous thanks to Hollywood films such as “Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) and “The Railway Man” (2013), highlighting its historical importance. This route reveals remarkable panoramic views and landmarks that tell a profound and touching story.
The Floating Train: Bangkok – Pasak Chonlasit Dam
A train from Bangkok has earned the nickname “the floating train”, thanks to its unique route. This journey begins at Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok for an exceptional day’s journey. It crosses the Pasak Jolasid dam, the country’s largest earth dam, located in Lopburi province, almost 6 hours away.
Following the rainy season, high water levels create the illusion that the train is floating above the water. This unique visual experience, combined with the panoramic views offered to passengers, contributes greatly to its reputation. The train makes a 20-minute stop, allowing passengers to enjoy the show to the full.
Trips to the Pasak Chonlasit Dam are usually organised during the cool season months of November to January. Tickets are available for purchase 30 days before departure, however, due to the high demand for this trip among Thai travellers, they tend to sell out quickly.
Bangkok – Chiang Mai
The train journey from bustling Bangkok to the serene mountains of Chiang Mai offers an enchanting route through the heart of the country. Travelling on the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai can serve as the perfect introduction to the pleasures of Thai rail travel. The night sleeper train service from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is one of the most popular choices for both domestic and international tourists.
Departing from Bangkok in the early evening, passengers can wake up to a breathtaking view of the train climbing through the mountains and jungles of northern Thailand. This route offers four overnight services between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai – Lampang
For an alternative perspective on the picturesque train journey through northern Thailand, board a local daytime train from Chiang Mai to Lampang. With the windows open and the breeze flowing in, it’s the perfect way to take in the magnificent views.
The train route winds through picturesque rural stations, crossing the White Bridge (Saphan Khao) at Tha Chompu in Lamphun province before reaching Doi Khuntan National Park. It is here that the train plunges beneath the mountains, passing through what is currently the country’s longest railway tunnel, stretching over 1,300 metres.
Adding to its charm, Khun Tan station has the distinction of being the highest on the Thai rail network, perched 577 metres above sea level. A further option would be to simply take the daytime train in the opposite direction, from Lampang to Chiang Mai, to sample a whole new facet of this picturesque journey.
Hua Hin – Prachuap Khiri Khan Coastal Train
Hua Hin is a popular seaside destination, with picturesque beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. Along the coast, this trip offers panoramic views of the ocean and stretches of golden sand. Notably, the town’s prosperous history is closely intertwined with the railway.
Among the many attractions Hua Hin has to offer, one of the most original and emblematic is the Hua Hin railway station. Rebuilt in its current state in 1926, this picturesque station is an exquisite example of Victorian-Thai architecture and is one of the oldest railway stations. It is the main gateway to the south.
A little further away from the station is the Royal Waiting Room, a magnificent teak wood edifice stained bright yellow and red. Moved from the Sanam Chandra Palace in Nakhon Pathom, this royal waiting room adds a touch of splendour to the surrounding landscape.
Is it safe to travel by train in Thailand?
Thailand boasts a well-developed rail network that is relatively safe for travellers. On the one hand, all the country’s railways and their lines are state-operated. Thai rail companies give top priority to passenger safety, which considerably reduces the risks involved.
Serious incidents are rare, and passenger safety is a primary concern for the railways. As a result, you can rest assured that the infrastructure is generally well maintained and equipped with the facilities you need for a comfortable journey. Thailand has a reputation for having one of the best metre-gauge rail systems in the world, a further guarantee of safety.
On the other hand, the moderate speed of trains in Thailand means that you can fully enjoy the landscapes and towns from your window. With an average speed of around 40 kilometres per hour, they offer an even safer experience. Travelling by train also offers the advantage of avoiding crowds and overcrowding.
Buy tickets for train travel in Thailand
In Thailand, you can buy your train tickets from the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), the national railway company. Several options are available for buying your train tickets:
Ticket offices at railway stations: You can buy your tickets directly from ticket offices at railway stations in Thailand. This remains a convenient and traditional method, offering not only an easy way to get your tickets, but also adding a touch of nostalgic charm to your rail experience.
Online: SRT also offers an online booking service via their official website: railway.co.th. This option allows you to buy your tickets in advance and choose your seats. Buying online gives you a complete overview of your travel options, showing ticket types, fares, departure, travel and arrival times at a glance. If you don’t speak Thai, the site is available in English.
Travel agencies: Some travel agencies, renowned for their expertise and knowledge of local destinations, offer train ticket reservation services. They can also sell tickets to travellers. This can be a useful option if you prefer to organise your travel through an agency.
When buying train tickets in Thailand, it is strongly recommended to book in advance, especially for busy services such as night trains and high-speed trains. This is especially true during peak tourist periods, when seats fill up quickly. Be sure to check timetables and routes before you travel to avoid any inconvenience.
Types of seat on Thai trains
In Thailand, a variety of train classes and types offer passengers different levels of comfort and service. The class and train categories are determined by various factors relating to passengers’ needs and preferences. Here’s what you’ll find out about the different classes available:
Offering the ultimate in comfort and service, this class is also the most expensive. It is available exclusively on Rapides, Express and Express Spéciaux trains, mainly for overnight journeys. Cars in this category have private air-conditioned cabins with two berths.
This category also offers great comfort, with padded seats and air conditioning. It is available on Rapides and Express trains. Second class also offers dormitory-style compartments, with rows of bunk beds facing each other. Each bed is fitted with a curtain for added privacy. It is important to note that the higher beds offer more space than the lower ones, which makes them slightly more expensive. Second class carriages are generally well maintained and include amenities such as electrical sockets.
This category is more basic and economical. It consists of bench-style seats and has no sleeping compartments. Although it is the most economical, seats cannot be reserved in advance. It is recommended for short journeys.
Types of train in Thailand
Special Express Trains: are the most prestigious categories in Thailand, being both the fastest and the most expensive. Often equipped with sleeping cars and additional amenities, they may operate non-stop between cities or have few stops along the way. With the exception of route 37 from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok, these trains only offer first and second class. Despite this, they are ideal for long-distance travel. Train numbers range from 1 to 48.
Express Trains offer a fast, comfortable service with a higher level of comfort, although they are not as fast as Special Express Trains. They are often air-conditioned and have reclining seats. Typically linking major cities and tourist destinations, these trains make more stops en route, extending journey times. If you’re looking to save money while enjoying a certain level of comfort, this is a recommended option, being cheaper than the Special Express. Express Train numbers range from 51 to 98, with first, second and third class carriages.
Trains Rapides although not particularly fast, are still comfortable. They may or may not be air-conditioned, and also connect major cities and destinations. With frequent stops, they take a little longer because of these stopovers. Fast Trains are the most common type of train in Thailand, so they are widely available. Their numbers range from 101 to 198, and they generally only offer second and third class, often without air conditioning.
Tourist Trains are specially designed for travellers, often offering picturesque views of the countryside. They can be more luxurious, offering unique on-board experiences.
Ordinary Trains are very slow journeys, using only third-class carriages. Economical, they are ideal for those wishing to minimise transport costs. Often without air conditioning, they offer single seats. They operate during the day, covering no more than 500 kilometres (312 miles). Even for short distances, they remain a viable means of travel. Train numbers range from 298 to 300.
In conclusion, train travel in Thailand offers much more than just a means of transport. They allow you to explore the country’s natural, cultural and historical wealth in a unique way. Each of these itineraries offers a different experience, but all guarantee unforgettable memories and incredible sights. So next time you’re planning your trip to Thailand, consider taking the train for a scenic adventure you won’t soon forget.