From Bangkok to Vientiane by train you must first travel to Nong Khai in Thailand. From Nong Khai you then cross the Thai/Laos border at Friendship Bridge and forward on to Vientiane by tuk-tuk or minivan. Reaching Nong Khai the easiest route to take is tuk-tuk from the Nong Khai train station to the border for Laos (20baht). After crossing the border a further minivan ride will bring you to Laos capital Vientiane (50baht). Routes are well established and inexpensive. For details on VISA on arrival and the border crossing at Friendship Bridge check details here.
Three trains leave Bangkok’s Ma Station to Nong Khai each day (Northeast Line). All trains leave in the evening and travel overnight. The journey time is roughly 12-hours. Nong Khai is the final station on the Northeastern (Isaan) line so don’t worry about missing your stop. Lower berth 2nd Class Aircon would be the best option for travel. A non-Aircon seat would be ill-advised for such a long journey.
We took the train from Bangkok to Nong Khai. We booked online, printed the PDF ticket (just in case) and travelled on the 20:00 train in 2nd class sleepers. Booking last minute they had only lower berth tickets available. We arrived at Nong Khai 3 hours late. Not sure if this is the norm… but best not to hold a tight schedule.
Leaving Hua Lamphong Station (or Bang Sue now) both can be easily found by taxi or by using the MRT underground stations named after them. The stations have large areas for purchasing tickets, Thai food courts, waiting, book store etc. Train announcements are made on loudspeakers in Thai. If you don’t understand Thai check your train number and wait at the platform area. Ask stewards if necessary.
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 onboard steward to set up the sleeper beds. You can do this almost immediately after leaving Bangkok to Nong Khai.
The Restaurant Car
The restaurant cars are no longer in operation. Either bring plenty of snacks or buy from the hawkers who board the trains at stops along the way.
Before you could buy food from the Bogie restaurant at the end of the train. The food is cheap with sets all priced under 200 baht and consisting of 3 mains and fruit. Most people order snacks to their seats as waiters do a tour of the train. This is the same for breakfast in the morning. The restaurant closes at around 10:00PM and opens early.
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. The lower berth does get warm as it is cut off from air-con. The upper berth may also get cold being too close to the air-con. The upper berth is 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 a toilet. The washroom provides sinks, mirrors, tissues, soap etc. The toilets can be different in each car. One may have a squat toilet while another may have a western toilet. Just walk to the next car if you don’t fancy the squat toilet.
Nong Khai Train Station (Laos Border)
Arriving at Nong Khai there will be many tuk-tuks waiting for the shuttle to the border (20baht). For details on VISA on arrival and the border crossing at Friendship Bridge check here>>