Train from Bangkok to Vientiane July 27, 2006Posted by Guido in travelling.
Taking the train to Laos is a good option, not only to save money, but also to see some more places on the way to Luang Prabang. It’s also a relaxed way of traveling. You board in Bangkok in the evening, sleep through the night and when you wake up, you enjoy the views of the rural parts of Northwestern Thailand in the soft morning light.
You can find everything you need to know about travelling by train in Thailand on this website. Below I use some of their information:
Which station in Bangkok?
In the past trains have always left from Hua Lamphong station in the center of Bangkok. As it stands this is still the case, but the plan is to move all the departing long distance trains to a new station called Bang Sue junction station. I’ll keep an eye on it and let you know if it does.
First and second class
They’re both good. The 1st class is more private with two 2-berth compartments and wash basin. Clean bedding, soap and towels are provided. The toilet at the end of the car even has a shower. Most western travelers are quite happy using 2nd class sleepers, which are comfortable, safe, and quite fun. Berths are not in compartments, but are arranged along the wall on either side of a central aisle. I like it more than the European style compartments with six beds per compartment. The attendant will make up your bunk with a proper mattress and fresh clean bedding, and will hook up curtains to give you privacy.
How to buy tickets
You can buy your tickets at the station, but I’d advice you to reserve them in advance. In December the trains fill up and you’re not likely to get a ticket for the same day. You can do this by email with the State Railways of Thailand or via a travel agency.
To book with the State Railways of Thailand, email them at least 15 days before your date of travel on email@example.com or fax + 66 2 225 6068. Your fax or e-mail must include the journey, date, train number, departure time, class, seat or sleeper (upper or lower berth), number of passengers, your name and e-mail address, and whether you want to collect your tickets at Bangkok Airport station (Don Muang) or Bangkok Hualamphong station in the city centre. You will receive an e-mail confirmation, and you then collect and pay for your tickets at the station booking office at least 1 hour before departure. Bookings open 30 days before departure, but email bookings are only accepted more than 15 days before departure to give them time to respond.
You can also book Thai train tickets through several reputable Thai travel agencies:
These agencies will book trains for you and have the tickets waiting for you at your hotel in Bangkok, or they can send them to you by courier. Naturally, they charge a small fee for this.
The first class cabin is about $25 per person.The Second class sleepers are about $15 per person.
The train doesn’t run all the way to Vientiane. You will have to get off at Nong Kai on the Thai side of the border. This is the timetable:
|Bangkok ► Nong Khai|
|Bangkok (Hualamphong) depart:||05:50||18:30||20:00||20:45|
|Bangkok Airport (Don Muang) depart:||06:42||19:25||20:45||21:32|
|Nong Khai arrive:||17:30||07:20||06:00||08:55|
|Nong Khai ► Bangkok|
|Nong Khai depart:||07:30||09:05||18:20||19:05|
|Bangkok Airport (Don Muang) arrive:||16:54||20:33||06:19||06:29|
|Bangkok (Hualamphong) arrive:||17:55||21:02b||06:52b||07:35|
Classes: 1 = 1st class sleeper. S = 2nd class sleeper (air-con). s = 2nd class sleeper (non-air-con). 2 = 2nd class seats (air con). 3 = 3rd class seats. b = arrives in Bang Sue station
Crossing the border to Vientiane
Getting out of the train in Nong Kai you have to make your way to the border at the Friendship Bridge. At the train station you take a tuk-tuk (the small kind or Jumbo as they are called around there) to the bus station where the border shuttle bus leaves. This bus’ only purpose is to drive people across the bridge, stopping at the Thai immigration and Lao immigration. The bus leaves every 20 minutes.
The shuttle bus takes about five minutes to get from the bus station to Thai immigration and customs at the west end of the bridge. Bags are kept in the hold of the bus, while a Thai immigration official stamps your passport for 10 baht. There is no customs inspection. Get back on the bus and ride for about ten minutes as you cross the Mekong.
Just past the Lao side of Friendship Bridge, you come to the Lao immigration and customs posts. Here you take the luggage from the bus, fill out the paper work, get some nice new stamps in your passport and go through customs. You are now in Laos and your first sight is a kind of parking lot with tuk-tuks (the bigger kind). Take one that will bring you to your hotel.
You will need to bargain with the taxi drivers, but my experience is that you won’t be able to bargin down a whole lot, because the drivers seem to have fixed the rates among them.