The first train line in Thailand was completed over a century ago. Locomotives have been extended to most of the country, and scenic railway routes are still one of the best ways to view the country.

Thailand can see the potential in railways again. There is talk of a high-speed rail line in Thailand, and the largest rail hub in Southeast Asia is in Thailand.

Thailand's rolling stock isn't that advanced, but trains run by the State Railways of Thailand are usually on time, comfortable and charming.

If you aren't in a rush, trains offer good legroom, great Thai food, gorgeous views, and quirky experiences. The train journeys in Thailand are listed here.

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The Bangkok train arriving at the Samut Sakhon Railway Market
For a truly novel experience, take the Bangkok train direct into Samut Sakhon Railway Market © paul sarawak / 500px

1. Mahachai Line

The start and end are 50 miles apart.

The commuter line is one of the best in Thailand. In the middle of a wet market, it begins and ends.

You can start at the Wongwian Yai train station in Thonburi, which is just across the river from the capital city of Thailand. You can see houses, temples, and shops from the window. There are palm trees, patchwork rice fields and marsh filled with canna lilies along the route.

As you enter the area, the farmland is no longer there. You will reach the harbor after disembarking and walking through one of the busiest fresh markets in the country.

You'll take the ferry across to Baan Laem, where you'll board the train for Samut Song Khram. You will see a lot of busy market stalls. When the train arrives, the stalls are set up directly on the tracks and must be emptied quickly. The scene is wonderful.

Crowd of people walking by rail track of old railroad bridge on river Kwai. Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Walking across the Death Railway Bridge near Kanchanaburi is a moving reminder of the horrors of war © Pavlo Vakhrushev / Getty Images

2. Death Railway

The start, end, and distance are 258 miles.

The Death Railway is Thailand's most famous train line and was built during the World War II. Allied POWs and conscripted workers started construction in October 1942. Poor hygiene, lack of medical equipment, and brutal treatment by camp guards were some of the factors that led to the deaths of over 12,000 POWs. TheHellfire Pass was the most dangerous section of railway construction due to the eerie glow of their torches.

This is the most beautiful train trip in Thailand. The only steel bridge built in Thailand at the time was the Death Railway Bridge near Kanchanaburi city.

The trains that run the Death Railway have no air-con or wooden benches and are 3rd class. There are stops for a short visit to historical sights and a cave.

Old train crossing Tha Chomphu Bridge in Lamphun Province. Old white bridge. Northern
Wake up to stunning countryside views on the sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai © Tanes Ngamsom / Getty Images

3. Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai

The start and end are in Thailand.

The classic Thai train journey can be found on the first long-distance train route.

The route is a good place to try a train. The majority of the journey is at night because they leave in the afternoon. You will be able to see a glimpse of the northern Thai countryside in the morning. In particular, keep your eyes open as the train passes through tunnels and the forest of Doi Khun Tan National Park, which is just south of Chiang Mai.

You are likely to travel on one of the new trains if you book a more expensive ticket. This particular route is popular with tourists and you should purchase your tickets as soon as possible.

Sunrise view over Hua Hin Beach in Thailand
Go to sleep on the train in Bangkok and wake up to the sunrise at Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand ©TONIMD / Getty Images

4. Beach Train

The start and end are in Thailand, with a distance of 131 miles.

Although sea views are rare in the Gulf of Thailand, there are some beautiful scenery, including salt flats. Thailand has a history that goes back to the 19th century.

There is a train station on the route. The red-and-white icon was built in 1926 and features carved wood pillars and trim. The station is a major source of pride and imitations of it can be found all around town.

The inside second class sleeper cabin of Thai new express train with bedding
Bed linen is also provided in the second-class cabin on the overnight sleeper train to Nong Khai © Phoderstock/ Shutterstock

5. Night Train to Laos

The start and end are both in Thailand.

The international route crosses the Mekong River into Laos and is a great opportunity to try out Thailand's overnight train service. In the morning, when the sun is shining, you can see the tiny villages and endless rice fields that make up Thailand's rural northeast.

You can cross the so-called friendship bridge after a stop in Nong Khai. You will need to take a taxi or tuk-tuk the rest of the way to Vientiane.

A high-speed train connecting these two destinations is in the works and is expected to be completed in the year 2028.

Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train stopping at Bangkok Railway Station
Recall the golden era of train travel aboard the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express © Jiradelta / Getty Images

6. Eastern & Oriental Express

Start, end, and distance are 1100 miles/1800 km.

The dining car menu might be lacking. The Eastern & Oriental Express is a private train that connects Thailand and Singapore. Passengers on the three-night, four-day journey reside in sumptuous private cabins and may spend a lot of their time in the Observation, Dining and Bar Cars.

Excursions in Thailand and Malaysia are included in the journey. Twice a month, the E&O runs between Thailand and Singapore.

Tips for buying train tickets in Thailand

  • You can buy train tickets online via the clunky SRT website, but if you’re in Bangkok, it’s much more efficient to head directly to Hualamphong Station and purchase tickets in person. 
  • Avoid touts in and around the station, who will try to redirect you to travel agencies.

The article was published in August of 2021.