Overnight Sleeper Trains In Thailand: What To Expect & Advice

4 October 2019

When travelling through Southeast Asia, nothing would fill my Instagram DMs with 'are they awful or okay?!' messages from backpackers-to-be's like a Thai overnight sleeper train.

It's a convenient and cost-effective option - cheaper than flying plus you save one night's accommodation - but if you're a first-time traveller (or female, or you've heard horror stories) then please allow me to shed some light on what they're actually like...

A common route is Bangkok to Chiang Mai or the other way around; we did both and they take 11-14 hours. It costed roughly £35/$45 for a 2nd Class A/C Sleeper at the station - prices are higher online here, although it's advisable to book in advance to ensure a seat.

You'll be allocated a seat number on your ticket, so find it when you first get onto the train - the luggage space provided isn't huge, but it's big enough for two large backpacks or medium suitcases. You can take your own food and snacks onto the train, and you'll also be offered a food menu with standard Thai dishes - I had stir-fried vegetables with rice. A table that's kept underneath your seat will be put up whilst you eat, and put away after.

At this point it'll look like a 'regular' train and everything will be business as usual until around 8pm, when the staff come to change the seats into beds. This is executed with practically military position and you'll be stood to the side as though watching a magic show whilst a Thai man expertly folds seats into mattresses and tucks in sheets.

The differences between the lower and the upper bunks aren't huge, except the lower is about 200 baht more expensive, you don't have to go up or down a ladder and it's a little wider. All bedding is provided, although you may want to wear warmer clothing (long sleeves and socks etc) as the air conditioning is non-adjustable.

The bunks are pretty cosy with a curtain for privacy and a plug socket for charging devices. Like most things in Thailand they're pretty small, but it's only one night!

Let's talk about safety. My friend had a bad experience due to begging children on the train and waking up to find that some of her money had been stolen from her bag. I, therefore, boarded my first Thai sleeper feeling really anxious and apprehensive and didn't sleep much due to fear of being robbed. I'm so pleased to tell you that nothing bad happened whatsoever - there were no children (except those travelling with their families, of course) and I didn't feel as though I were in any danger at all.

Having said that however, obviously you need to keep your wits about you - don't wave your iPhone around and keep an eye on your belongings. A good rule of thumb is to keep any valuables on your person - put your passport, laptop, cards and cash etc in your day bag and sleep hugging it or with your legs through the straps. On my second journey I felt much more relaxed, but still - don't make it easy for someone to nick your things.

There are shared bathrooms onboard and these are pretty much what you'd get on any train or airplane, except they're more 'hole in the floor' than 'action-sensor dual-flush'.

If someone has paid extra for the bottom seats then you'll be on the top bunk - I would say the bottom is comfier (it's impossible due to the ladder, but I kind of felt like I was going to roll off the top) but there's not much in it. Download some podcasts, remember your eye mask, take some lavender essential oil, tuck the curtain underneath your mattress so you're in your own little cocoon and let the motion of the train sway you to sleep!

The experience may feel alien and take some getting used to, but it's exactly that - an experience! If you go into it with a negative, wary mindset (like I initially did) then you'll probably be up all night worrying, but if you see it as a little mini-adventure (like I did the second time around) on your Thai backpacking journey, then it's actually really fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment