The overnight train in Thailand is a backpacker right of passage and an experience you won’t soon forget. The tracks straddle the spine of Thailand from Myanmar and Laos in the north down into Malaysia in the deep south. This is one of the most convenient ways to see the untouched beauty of rural Thailand and that in itself is worth the ride.
And despite what you might first assume, a good night’s rest is possible! Let’s say you make up for in adventure what you give up in comfort - just for an evening. Here’s our top tips for making the experience as comfortable as possible:
Getting Your Ticket
We jump aboard the overnight train on day 11 of our 21 day Thailand tour. The ride is about 11 hours from departure to arrival. Tickets are included in the package and our team takes care of bed assignments. We also help find your bed to make this process as simple as possible for you and your travel mates.
For other travellers not on the tour, you can book train tickets at most hostels, at a travel agency in Thailand, or at the train stations themselves. There are several online booking options but make sure to book early. This applies in all cases as tickets do sell out!
For The Ride The best option is to head to one of the thousands of 7/11’s in Thailand and stock up on snacks and water. You will have opportunities to purchase these as well as pre-made meals from sellers on the train. This can be a risky move to eat the pre-made meals so we advise planning ahead for the journey.
Top Tip: Eat a good meal beforehand as the ride can last up to 12 hours. There are some quick stops for food in some places but make sure not to miss when the conductor blows the departing horn!
What To Keep On Hand
A toothbrush and toiletries, for one. There are sinks in the restroom areas of the trains. These are not the most luxurious of facilities but it is nice to freshen up over the long journeys. The water is safe to wash your teeth and face but refrain from swallowing or drinking!
Your larger bag will also be in the bunk next to you. The space is tight on the train so opening and finding things in these bags can be a nuisance. Best to pack what you need in your small bag for easy access. Here is our packing suggestions:
- Material Cards (Or Games To Play)
- Charging Pack For Electronics Earphones/Earplugs*
- Lock For Baggage*
- *More on these below!
Getting & Staying
Asleep Headphones and/or earplugs are the place to start. The chugging train can be a bit bumpy and there is a horn at most stops so if you are a lighter sleeper, these items help. Each bunk also has a curtain so pulling that keeps out the light from the cabin lights. The overhead fans do rotate and the open windows provide a nice breeze into the bunks. Wear comfortable items in layers so you can add or subtract as necessary!
Set An Alarm!
Don't sleep through your stop! On the tour, your tour guides will make sure everyone gets off at the right time but for other travellers this is a definite suggestion. The train staff do announce stops but will not check every ticket so you will need to make sure you know the name of your destination. Get a general idea of the estimated arrival time so you can make sure to have an alarm (or five) set on your phone to wake you up in the case you are a deep sleeper.
Keep Things Secure
As mentioned above, we suggest bringing a lock for your baggage. A small bike lock or chain can be purchased on the cheap in Thailand or you can bring one from home. Not necessary by any means but is nice to know things are strapped in while trying to sleep so we suggest this extra level of security. We do also suggest keeping valuables such as bank cards, cash, and your passport in your small bag that will be in the bunk with you over night. Better safe than sorry, always!
Some of you will arrive fresh and bushy-eyed. For the lighter sleepers among us, this might not be the eight hours of sleep you’d hoped for but will be a unique experience that you will not soon forget. Enjoy the fresh air, soak in the scenery at sunrise, and remember this is all part of the adventure!
Have questions about the tour or what to expect in Thailand? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line! You can also follow along the adventures on Facebook to get a closer look at what to expect on tour.