Many people miss out on a wonderful experience by flying to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The best choice is the overnight train, which is clean, safe, comfortable and fun. If you are a couple or a family with even numbered members I recommend the 1st class cabin. If you are traveling alone and/or don’t want to share a private cabin then 2nd class is fine.
The problem with 2nd class is many people share the same restroom. Also it can get noisy if people in the car want to drink and party, which makes it difficult to sleep.
In 1st class the restrooms are shared by only a few. The porter is always cleaning the restrooms and a small shower is also available. If there are 4 or 6 persons you can open the doors between the cabins.
The food on the train is OK but a little expensive. A waiter will come by your berth or cabin and take your order and deliver your food. After dinner a waiter will return to collect your dishes and give you a breakfast menu. You then order your breakfast and tell the waiter what time you want to eat in the morning. If you wish you can always eat in the dinning car before 10PM.
When you are ready to sleep the porter will remove and store your table and make up your beds. This takes much longer in 2nd class than 1st class as there are many more beds to make. After 10 PM the porter locks the carriage doors so you will not be able to go from car to car.
Trains with 1st class accommodations depart Bangkok at 6 PM and arrive in Chiang Mai around 7 AM. There is another at 8:25 arriving in Chiang Mai around 9AM. I like the later train, as you will be able to view the surrounding mountains and canyons near Chiang Mai at sunrise. The train is very popular so tickets sell out quickly. You can purchase tickets up to 60 days in advance. There are many second-class trains so you have a choice of several departure times.
Another good thing about the overnight train is it is cheaper than flying and you save money for a nights stay at a hotel.
Travelling by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, this 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. many prefer to see the country from the ground.
Food and drinks are freely available on board, served to your own seat, at a reasonable price. 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. The beds are big and comfortable 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. First class trains do have individual cabins,. None-the-less they are comfortable and private, can be locked and provide you with your own table, sink and free drinking water. 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
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
After my massage course, I decided to take the train from Chiangmai to Bangkok, since I have an ample time. I bought the ticket a week in advance to ensure that I could still get the 2nd class airconditioned seat/bed.
Ticket cost = THB 881, saves me some bucks compared to airfare, yet I have to endure the longer travel time. BUT, the trip turned out to be more practical and enjoyable and comfortable - that is, if you really have the time.
The train carriage for the 2nd class sleeper is airconditioned and very clean, during daytime there are two 2-seaters facing each other. At night-time, the 2 seats converts to a bed, and another smaller bed on top of it. I think the lower bunk cost a little more than the upper bunk. But nevertheless, I should have taken and paid for the lower fare upper bank bcuz the train is only half full - means I could always take the lower bunk without any hassle. Because I noticed both bunks are being arranged - with bedsheets, pillows and blankets - whether there's a passenger or empty. Anyhow, honesty is still the best policy.
The train leaves on time and the steward started fixing the bed soon as the darkness fell. Another steward is roaming around to checkout passengers who wants to order meals.
The train is No. 1 SP EXP, takes about 13 hours from Chiangmai to BKK, leaving at 6pm arriving BKK around 7am, so you have enough time to take a sleep and enjoy the craddling (or bumpy) ride, watching the sunset as you doze-off ....and waiting for the sunrise right before you reach Hualamphong Station in BKK.
We got a fan cooled overnight sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Just the word fan cooled doesn't inspire confidence when you're travelling in the hot season but I was pleasantly surprised by the level of comfort on the train.
Approximately a 14 trip we were given everything we needed to make our trip comfortable. Firstly, there were fans but the train was also airconditioned. The seats were wide and comfortable and faced each other in pairs. These seats converted into beds with the end result being bunks - 2 on each side of the hallway. There was a dining car and attendants walked the halls offering drinks and food (including beer etc). The toilets (which I was dreading after having travelled in China) were always clean and there was actually toilet paper provided!
The train was an extremely pleasant way to travel and I'd definitely do so again when I return to Thailand.
The best way to get to Chiang Mai is to take the train. Hands down. It is cheaper than flying, and offers a great experience that is unrivaled by planes or cars. The train runs several times a day, but the best, in my opinion, is the sleeper car. You board at 6:00pm and head off, sleeping in a berth as you go, arriving in Chiang Mai around 6:00 or 7:00am. It takes care of your travel AND your accommodations for a night. It is comfortable, easy, and an absolutely delightful way to get across the country.
It is easy and cheap to get a tuk-tuk to and from the train station.
When we went to book a train all 2nd class seats were booked on the night rider and we had to go 1st class with our own cabin which cost quite a bit more (nearly the same price as flights). The time it took was around 10 hours which give us a chance to sleep and wake the next morning.
The downside was that we were continually handed tins of coke and meals which i presumed were part of the service, as the waiters would drop in 2 tins of coke then run off without saying a word. When we woke the next morning we found an 800baht food bill had been charged to us, it was a total scam so if you ever get the train don't accept anything you are given.
Train is a good way to go from Bangkok to Chiangmai. My mother and I took a Special Express Sleeper Train and it was lots of fun.
Train cost is 691baht one way for upper deck.
Fare includes clean sheets/bed cover and a soft nice pillow.
Ride took 13 hours...a bit slower than bus.
You may order dinner from the cabin itself...a waitress goes back and forth to get your orders. Don't expect excellent food...at best it is filling ;0).
If you have the chance, choose the lower deck as the upper deck does not have a window.
Also, reserve tickets in advance. Same day ticket is also possible (just like what we had) but there's a chance that you cannot choose the seats that you like.
A good site to check about trains around the world: www.seat61.com
Travellers heading to or from Chiangmai to Bangkok can save on 1 night's accomodation by catching a night train. There are several different classes to choose from, depending on your budget.
A second-class lower bunk sleeper in an air-conditioned coach will cost approximately 720 baht, while a second-class lower bunk sleeper in a non-air-conditioned coach will cost about 420 baht. Most of the sleepers tend to be taken up by foreign travellers.
In the morning, there will be attendants coming round to fold the beds away into seats. If you look Thai, don't be surprised if a uniformed conductor/officer comes and wakes you up demanding something loudly in Thai in a brash manner.
Copies of the train schedule and tickets can be obtained at train stations.
From Bangkok and other provinces to Chiang Mai, use the service of sleeping cars second class or first class.
I chose the second class for the price of THB 741 (US$ 19) per trip. The train depart from Hua Lampong at 19:40 and reach Chiang Mai 8:55 in the next day.
There are few trips to choose, check the schedule at the train station or their website.
If you want to go to chiang mai by train right after your arrival at the airport. Book the ticket for Don Muang(Don Muang train station is just on the other side of the road from Terminal 1 of BKK intl airport) to Chiang Mai. Don't have to take it from Hualampong main train station.
Many says that you have to book early for the tickets. But I guess it's not necessary. We took train # 1 on 29 Apr 2004 at 8:27pm. The 2nd class sleepers were almost empty. Have no idea about the first class sleeper but I believe it was not full too.
Be cautious, the train is so long that you will need a long time to reach the 1st class sleeper. Just jump into the train and cross cabin by cabin. The train will only stop for 1-2 minutes at the station.
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