The best way to travel from Chiang Mai to Bangkok is by train. Read on for our tips and advice for Chiang Mai to Bangkok by train, plus how to easily book tickets.
A Brief Introduction to Train Travel in Thailand
Trains are one of the most comfortable and enjoyable ways to get around Thailand. Forget freezing in air conditioned sleeper buses that seem to think they’re transporting items that need to be frozen, and instead sit back (or lie back) and watch the serene Thai country side roll past, or read your book as an attendant comes and nicely folds down your bed for the night.
Travel by train in Thailand is low hassle, high comfort (especially on the brand new trains), and one of the best ways to take in the contrasting scenery. Plus, it’s the only way to be certain of skipping the traffic.
There’s a certain air of nostalgia, too, about Thailand’s railways: Impossibly quaint signal boxes and station managers’ offices, rising above freshly swept platforms dotted with flower pots are the order of the day, completed by a picture of the Thai royal family at every station.
Taking the Train: Chiang Mai to Bangkok
The trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok are comfortable, usually efficient, and one of the best routes to enjoy Thai train travel on.
I knew that when I returned in November last year, that it wouldn’t be long until I’d find myself back on the rails. When it comes to Train Travel in Asia, there are few countries where it’s easier or more comfortable to travel by train; the train journey over the river Kwai is unforgettable, and the best way to travel between Chiang Mai to Bangkok is by train. (We’re not biased, we promise…)
Yet unfortunately, many travellers seem to be unaware of the options, or have been tarred by experiences of being ripped off by unscrupulous travel agents. Help is at hand though, and here I’m sharing my experiences and tips for taking the Chiang Mai Bangkok sleeper train – without being ripped off! Even better, train tickets can now be bought online, saving the hassle, thanks to the ever helpful asian booking site – 12go.asia – get your tickets here.
Looking to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Night Train? The information about the trains and experience in this post about the Chiang Mai Bangkok train also apply; heading towards to Chiang Mai the super rapid express leaves Bangkok Hualamphong Station at 08.30am daily. Book your tickets now on 12go.asia here!
Journey Logistics: Chiang Mai to Bangkok by Train.
I love falling asleep on sleeper trains. I find that there’s something soothing about the motion of the train on the rails. This journey, from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, is perfect for just that.
The Chiang Mai to Bangkok train journey takes around 12 hours, if you take the express / super rapid option. There’s a choice of two express trains: one leaving at 5pm and one leaving at 6pm from Chiang Mai. There are also a couple of slower trains available that leave earlier in the day, but these tend to arrive in Bangkok in the middle of the night, and are older trains. The express trains arrive in Bangkok at 05.25 and 06.25am respectively, although both times that I’ve taken the train from Chaing Mai to Bangkok, it was about an hour late.
Either way, the length of the journey is perfect for getting a good amount of shut-eye!
A few hours into the journey, train staff come around and pull down the upper bunks, convert the lower bunks, and make-up the beds with clean linen. Both times I’ve taken this train, I’ve opted for second class sleeper: so I can’t attest to first class luxury, but 2nd class has always been a wonderful experience for me.
Arriving into Bangkok in the early morning, this time I was greeted with a ruby-red sunrise, creeping through the gaps in-between skyscrapers and flyovers as we crawled into Bangkok. Walking out into the early morning sunshine from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station provides a rare chance to see the city in a cleaner early morning light: after street life has already begun, but before other travellers are up!
I’d also enjoy doing the reverse journey, taking the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, where the early morning view is of the mountains and countryside houses surrounding Chiang Mai, as opposed to the concrete jungle of Bangkok.
Love train travel? Find some of our favourite scenic train journeys in this post.
Classes of Travel, Planning & Booking for Chiang Mai Bangkok Trains.
I recently read an account by another blogger who’d been scammed into buying two first class tickets (at a huge markup) so that she could have the first class sleeper compartment to herself and “avoid sharing with an unknown male”. A few points that will help avoid this sort of scam:
First class compartments – if you’re a solo traveller you may be paired up to share the compartment but only with someone of the same sex—solo travellers of different genders will not be paired up by Thai Railways.
Most foreigners opt for second class (air conditioned) where there are no compartments but sleepers are open plan, have privacy curtains, and are very comfortable.
Train tickets open for booking a maximum of 60 days ahead. Some companies may offer to book further out for you, but they can only actually make the reservation when ticket sales are opened by Thai Railways 60 days in advance of travel.
Which Chiang Mai Bangkok Train Should I Take?
There are several Chiang Mai to Bangkok day trains you can choose, or three Chiang Mai to Bangkok Night trains. There are also different classes of trains in Thailand, from Rapid (far from it) to Special Express. Train number 10 that departs at 6pm daily is the most popular and fastest train to Bangkok.
The day trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok generally use older rolling stick, with cheaper sitting classes available that are fan / not air conditioned. These options are perfect for those with time on their hands, want to get the most of seeing the countryside, or are after the best value seat. These trains also take longer than the faster night trains, taking up to 15 hours to run the journey with more frequent stops.
Day Train options include the 06.30 and the 08.50 departure from Chiang Mai. As you can see from the Chiang Mai to Bangkok train timetable below, only those wanting the truly scenic experience should take train number 102.
Sleeper trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok leave daily at 15.30, 17.00 and 18.00. Train number 14 at 17.00 is a slightly older version of the 18.00 express, while train number 52 at 15.30 is a slower, older version again. For those who want the chance to take photographs through an open window, the 15.30 departure is a good bet – train number 10 is fully air conditioned and has sealed windows and doors.
Where to book Train Tickets in Thailand.
If you’re already in Thailand…by far the easiest option is to go and buy them yourself from the train station. Remember to take your passport with you!
From outside Thailand if you want to book ahead, you’ll need to use an agency. The one we suggest is 12Go as recommended above, who will offer you the option to collect your train tickets later in Thailand at a hotel or nearby major stations. The same booking restrictions apply: i.e. maximum of 60 days out, but they have a minimum of 3 days before travel for tickets to be booked.
Personally I’ve always booked my tickets in Thailand, at the Station, a week or two in advance. I’ve never had a problem this way, even on the busy Chiang Mai to Bangkok route. Thai holidays and Chinese new year can get busy though, so it’s best not to leave buying tickets last minute, or leave it until the day of travel.
At December 2016 the price for a 2nd class, AC sleeper on the new express trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok was 881 Baht for a lower birth or 792 Baht for an upper birth (upper births are slightly narrower, and you don’t get a window view 😉 ).
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Why Travel from Chiang Mai to Bangkok by Train?
In short, a few reasons. Not only is train travel more environmentally friendly than flying, I find it a lot more comfortable and efficient in terms of time as well. Although the flight between Bangkok and Chiang Mai may be a short one, add on the time to get to the airport at either end, check in, go through security etc, and it’s not so short after all.
With the train I save myself the cost of a hotel for the night and the hassle of security and getting to and from airports. Being transported from city centre to city centre whilst I sleep is a pretty sweet deal.
But there’s another reason. For me, train travel is also an opportunity to see more of the local culture. Each time I’ve taken the Chiang Mai – Bangkok train, despite there being other foreigners around, I’ve chatted with locals and got to be able to enjoy what is going on around me.
This doesn’t happen on a plane. The first time I ended up trying to have a conversation with a lady opposite me who spoke no English (and I don’t speak Thai!) based on the language glossary in the Lonely Planet! The next time on the train to Trang, a lady attending a business meeting in Bangkok invited me to stay with her.
This time, from Chiang Mai, it felt like the whole train was full of social media fans (or bloggers perhaps!) who were focussed on making videos of the brand new train, which runs on the Chiang Mai-Bangkok 6pm route.
Lastly, travelling by train in Thailand is incredibly safe. I’ve taken most of the sleeper trains in Thailand by myself and have never felt unsafe on any of them.
Frequently Asked Questions for Taking the Chiang Mai Train
Which is the best Train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok?
This depends on your point of view. If you want the fastest, most comfortable train, then train 10, leaving at 18.00 daily is a good option – but book tickets well ahead of time as this is also the most popular train to Bangkok. For those with more time on their hands, we recommend giving one of the day (or part day) trains a try, which offer a more local way of travel and more time to enjoy the views.
How can I buy tickets for the Chiang Mai to Bangkok Train?
If you’re already in Thailand, you can easily book tickets at any Thai Railways train station, within 60 days of departure (we recommend booking at least a few days ahead). If you’re not in Thailand yet, and it’s within 60 days of your journey, we recommend booking your tickets online here.
Which is the Best Class of Travel?
For a comfortable overnight journey, we recommend booking Second Class Sleeper (Air Conditioned) which gets you your own berth (upper or lower) with privacy curtain, that converts into a comfortable window seat during day time. Upper berths are available at a slight discount compared to the slightly wider and more sought after lower berths.
When Should I book My Train Ticket from Chiang Mai to Bangkok?
As soon as you can, within 60 days of travel, and preferably at least in advance. If the sleeper trains are booked up, there may still be tickets available for one of the day trains.
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