The train from Bangkok to Surat Thani is a very popular way for people to get from Thailand’s capital to the beautiful parks, beaches, and resorts in the southern part of the country.
While it’s not the fastest way to make the journey, it’s surprisingly comfortable! This was our first time taking an overnight train and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.
There are 10 trains per day that leave from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station and head south to Surat Thani. The fastest train makes the trip in just under 9 hours, but from personal experience we’d expect to add at least an hour delay (and maybe even three) to that number.
Given how long the trip takes, it’s best to take an overnight train and book a sleeper seat with air-conditioning. We took the #85 Train that left Bangkok at 7:30 PM.
While it’s possible to save a few dollars buying your tickets at the station, it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time for peace of mind and make sure you get what you want. Since Surat Thani is a popular gateway to Ko Phagnan, during the days surrounding the Full Moon Parties the train can be sold out days ahead of time.
The best way to book tickets is through 12Go.Asia since they make it really easy. Their office is right across the street from the Hua Lamphong Station which makes it really easy to pick up your tickets after you’ve booked them.
We reserved two lower-level 2nd-Class A/C bunks, but found out when picking up our tickets they had to move one of us to an upper-level. Since the lower-level bunks are bigger and have a window, we received a cash refund on the spot.
In this class, there are two bunks per compartment which makes it great for couples. If travel solo, you can pay extra to have a private compartment otherwise you’ll be paired with someone of the same gender.
You’ll also have private air-conditioning control and a private sink to wash up. In the evenings, turn-down service is done by a steward who will change your seats into a bunk and prepare it with clean linens.
Price: $50-60 USD
2nd Class AC Sleeper
This is the class we booked, and it’s likely the best bang for your buck. The seats/bunks are arranged down both sides of the train car. Just like in 1st class, once the evening rolls around, turn-down service is done and you get a nicely made up bunk for the rest of your journey.
There is a curtain which gives a nice amount of privacy. Luggage storage is under your bunk, but we’d recommend keeping your valuables inside the bunk with you just to be safe.
It’s worth it to book a bottom bunk as they are more spacious and have a window. Plus you won’t have to climb up and down a mini-ladder to get into bed.
Price: $35-40 USD
2nd Class Seat
If you’re booking this class, you hopefully aren’t planning to be on the train for more than a couple of hours. You get a reserved seat, but there may or may not be air-conditioning. You’ll likely have fans running instead. It’s not bad, but if you’re doing the long haul to Surat Thani, spend the few extra dollars on an AC sleeper.
Price: $20-25 USD
Either you’re incredibly adventurous or just plain unlucky. In 3rd class, there is only bench seating. There won’t be air-conditioning and if there are fans, it’s a gamble on if they will work or not. At least you can open the windows for fresh air. Hopefully if you’re in 3rd Class it’s only for a few stops.
Price: $10 USD
Onboard the Train
Our train left right on time at 7:30 PM and was scheduled to get in at 7:06 AM the next morning. Yet we ended up arriving over two hours late at 9:20 AM.
While the delay was frustrating, we were happy to have the bunks because we passed the time by sleeping, reading, and being quite happy to lay down.
The amenities on the train are comfortable too. The linens are clean, the air-conditioning works really well, and the restrooms are better than expected — there is toilet paper, running water, AND soap! There is also a cold water shower on the train as well, but we didn’t use it.
Unfortunately, the trains don’t have Wi-Fi or power outlets. We’d recommend having everything fully charged and some movies or books on hand to help pass the time.
We didn’t have much trouble sleeping on the train either. It wasn’t the best night of sleep ever since the train stops every hour and a half or so, but we were able to get at least five hours of sleep which was much needed.
Food and Drink
As far as food and drink goes, you have lots of options here. We stocked up on a few water bottles, plenty of snacks, and picked up some Pad Thai from a street food vendor across the street from the Hua Lamphong Station.
Onboard the train, there is a dining car and several vendors will pass through the cars offering meals and drinks such as water, tea, and coffee. You should be wary of prices from these vendors though, so be prepared to bargain a bit if you choose to buy onboard.
Alcohol is not allowed on trains anymore so you can’t buy it and you’re not supposed to consume it.
So, Should You Take An Overnight Train?
It’s a comfortable way to travel without breaking the bank. We paid $72 USD total for our tickets which isn’t bad for a 14 hour train ride, especially because we had bunks with clean linens.
It’s not the fastest way to travel and you should expect to be delayed, so keep that in mind.
Even though the trains didn’t have power outlets or Wi-Fi, we still managed to survive. Since we took the overnight train we slept for just under half of the trip.
Overall, we were happy with the cleanliness onboard and how easy it was to buy tickets and find our train.
So yes, if you find yourself needing to cover some distance in Thailand, you should definitely take an overnight train.