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Wanderlust Blog of the Year ’13
Author: A Potato in a Rice Field
Time: Departs 14.45 – arrives 12.55 (once daily)
Train Class: 2nd class air-con sleeper (only)
Price: Upper Berth – 1,120 baht Lower Berth – 1,210 baht
Bangkok to Malaysia by Train – Where to buy train tickets:
For cross border train journeys it is best to book in advance either at Bangkok train station (Hua Lamphong) or through their specified tour agents. If you plan on travelling to Hat Yai or with the borders of Thailand, tickets can be booked online at www.thairailticket.com. Online reservations are for domestic / Thai destinations only.
We took the train from Bangkok to Butterworth in June 2012. Below describes the train, the journey, the border crossing (VISA) and forwarding to the island of Penang, Malaysia. Here is one of our two tickets. We bought both upper and lower berths on the 2nd class sleeper. The lower berth is wider and has a window.
Bangkok Train Station can be easily found by taxi or using the MRT (Hua Lamphong stop). The station has a large area for purchasing tickets, food court, waiting etc. Train announcements are made on loud speakers in Thai. If you don’t understand Thai check your train number and wait at the platform area. Ask stewards if necessary. If staying in the area check the map here.
During the day the sleeper beds are hidden away and individual seating is provided. Plenty of room and comfortable. The seats have space underneath to hide larger baggage, backpack, suitcases etc. If you plan on sleeping early ask the on-board steward to set-up the sleeper beds.
You can buy food from the hawkers sneaking on at different stops along the line. They sell random items from beers to fried rice. The train also has a restaurant car named ‘Bogie Gourmet’ restaurant. The food was surprisingly cheap with dinner sets all priced under 200 baht and consist of 3 mains and fruit. Food can be ordered to your seats where a small table can be set up.
When needed ask the train steward to set up your sleeper beds. One bed is pulled down from the roof while the second is made from the seats below. Both top and bottom berths have curtains for privacy. The lower berth has enough space to fit two people and has a window to watch the night go by. However, it does get warm as it is cut off from air-con. The upper berth may also get too cold being to close to the air-con. It is also smaller and slightly cramped. It can be quite hard to sleep with the sound of rickety rails, hooting horns and the occasional passerby.
At the end of each passenger car there is an open washroom and toilet. The washroom provides sinks, mirrors, tissues, soap etc. The toilets are different in each car. One may have a squat toilet (pictured) while another may have a western toilet. Just walk to the next car if you don’t fancy the squat toilet.
Bangkok to Malaysia by Train – Border Crossing
In the morning at roughly 08.00am the beds are put away and the train arrives at Hat Yai. This stop lasts 30 minutes as the restaurant car and engine car both decouple and the engine car replaced.
At the Malaysia border (Padang Besar) the train stops for a further 30 minutes for passport control and immigration. Malaysia offer VISA on arrival to both us (British and Thai). No charge.
Butterworth is an industrial area. Not worth staying longer than necessary. An easy 5 minute walk from the station finds the pier for Georgetown (Penang). ATMs are not so easy to find so you may want to exchange money on arrival (booth at station) or find yourself on a 1km trek into town for the nearest Maybank. The boat to Penang costs 1.5RM (15baht) and the journey takes around 20mins. On arrival you will find taxis waiting and the popular area to stay is the Unesco sites in and around Chulia and Muntri Street. Don’t expect to find taxis using meters and opt to pay a fixed price of no more than 15RM in the Georgetown area.